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“Bike Race”: OPB show will tackle Williams project

Posted by on July 20th, 2011 at 12:48 pm screenshot

The popular Oregon Public Broadcasting radio show, Think Out Loud, will tackle PBOT’s North Williams Traffic Safety Project tomorrow.

Here’s how OPB sets up tomorrow’s one-hour discussion:

“North Williams Avenue in Portland has become a controversial street in the last few months. Currently, on the one way street, there are two lanes for cars plus a bike lane, but the bike lane often overflows as cyclists leave downtown at rush hour. The Portland Bureau of Transportation planned on transforming one of the two car lanes into a wider bike lane, but the project has been delayed. That’s because some in the historically African-American neighborhood felt that the project didn’t adequately address important issues like gentrification, equity and race.”

The show plans on tackling a “perception in some quarters that the City of Portland is more concerned with increasing bicycling than it is with helping minorities.”

Unfortunately, in their blog post, OPB includes a myth about bicycling that continues to perpetuate and poison discussions citywide. They refer to a recent Skanner article where an African-American man said, “…bike lanes will get $600 million over the next 20 years, but there is half a million for gang outreach for the next two years.”

As I hope we all know by now, it is factually incorrect to say that the City is spending $600 million on “bike lanes.” That number is simply the sum total of the wish list of projects included in the 2030 Bike Plan and no such funding commitment has ever been made. (Unfortunately, The Skanner isn’t the only local paper to allow this falsehood to perpetuate.)

That quibble aside, I’m glad that OPB is taking on this sensitive and complex topic.

I’ve accepted an invitation to be in-studio for the show and I look forward to the discussion. To weigh in and be a part of the conversation, chime in over on the Think out Loud blog.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • andy July 20, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    To make another apples-to-oranges comparison: motorized transportation will get almost $23 Billion in state funding over the next 20 years (based on 2009 funding levels), but there is half a million for gang outreach for the next two years.

    And when was the last time you heard of a gang doing a bike-by shooting, anyway?

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    • Spiffy July 20, 2011 at 3:01 pm

      sounds like we’re funding gang violence by investing so much in roads for them to drive by on and shoot people…

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    • cycler July 22, 2011 at 7:18 am

      Actually there have been several bike by shootings in LA, and at least one in Boston this summer

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  • rider July 20, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    FY12 Multnomah County Gang Programs total budget- $2,939,784. Then there are additional city, state and federal programs, but no need to let reality intervene here. And not that it is in any way relevant to how many lanes there are on Williams.

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    • -J July 20, 2011 at 5:58 pm

      I think part of the problem is that new infrastructure is a very tangible outcome of capital investment, whereas the investment in gang outreach is not as tangible. Mostly it seems to go to hiring people to mediate issues and provide neighborhood connection to PPB , not constructing things. They should not be seen as mutually exclusive though – this is a false choice. But changing the streetscape is by definition changing the feel of a neighborhood , and I think this is what the backlash is about. After all, much of that area of Albina/ Portland was seized from the black community by eminent domain through “urban renewal” for the creation of Legacy Emanuel Hospital. Look into the history.

      On a related note, I think the project that City Repair did this year at the VBC on the corner of Williams and Fremont is really a positive addition to the neighborhood. There are now community markets there during “bike rush hour” some days – I encourage you to stop on your way home and support the local community (and sweet potato cupcakes are tasty !)

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  • NW Biker July 20, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Maybe I live in a bubble, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how a bike lane is a racial issue. I’m defintely going to want to see this show.

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    • q`Tzal July 20, 2011 at 2:52 pm

      As long as active transport projects unjustly go to primarily white wealthy communities over poorer ethnically diverse communities there will be a perception that these projects are only for rich white folks.
      As long as bicycle and pedestrian projects are shunned as racist they are kept out of the community. Then everyone can point to improvements in predominantly white areas as proof that these projects directly represent racist intent.

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      • Ron July 20, 2011 at 3:00 pm

        I can see this about street car, but bike blvds? Sidewalks? Max? All these investments have benefitted neighborhoods that could be considered poorer or ethnically diverse. Now gentrification is a problem but it just seems to me that cycling infrastructure could have enormous positive impacts in ethnically diverse communities. Here is local and federal government looking to make a large investment in this neighborhood and a group of people feel like that won’t be beneficiaries, why is that? Why are most of the bike riders I see white? Is the car culture more valued in certain communities? Why is riding a bike seen by some as elitist? I see lots of homeless people that get around on bikes in this city which I think is terrific but quite honestly I see very few people of color on bikes and I’m curious why that is.

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        • was carless July 20, 2011 at 10:51 pm

          Perhaps they view that only wealthier white people have the time to spend bicycling around, a perceived pastime rather than mode of transportation.

          Reminds me of China banning cycling in Shanghai. They obviously see cycling as regressive.

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        • Kronda July 21, 2011 at 12:03 pm

          Ron, there’s a difference between benefitting ‘the neighborhood’ and benefitting the neighborhood *residents.* If the poor people are priced out of the neighborhood (as has been the pattern over the years), well they’re not getting much benefit out of all the improvements are they?

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      • BURR July 20, 2011 at 3:15 pm

        The irony of course is that the Williams bike lane goes right through the heart of a poorer, ethnically diverse community.

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        • beth h July 20, 2011 at 4:34 pm

          An “ethincally diverse” community where people of color continue to work within a cultural framework where car ownership is a major socio-economic goal, and where bicycle transportation for adults is seen as reflecting poverty and therefore something to be avoided.

          Until we figure out how to make lower-paying [mostly service industry] employers locate their businesses close enough to lower-income housing so that poor families don’t have to depend on cars to get to and from work, we won’t even begin to crack the tip of this cultural and racial iceberg.

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  • Ron July 20, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    I think some funds specifically directed toward cycling outreach in minority communities would be money well spent. Shouldn’t be that hard to make the argument that economical and varied transportation options could greatly benefit minority populations. Leaving that aside though everyone benefits with more cycling infrastructure, business, residents, poor, wealthy, drivers, peds, and public transport users. Plus everyone that likes to breath air.

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    • BURR July 20, 2011 at 3:15 pm

      Hasn’t the Community Cycling Center already been doing this for years?

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  • q`Tzal July 20, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Shine the light of public inquiry on isssues of corruption and civic greed.
    If people want the economic prosperty that comes from continual growth then they will have to get used to the idea of change to accomidate said growth.

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  • craig July 20, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Jonathan, will you please clarify? Think Out Loud is a radio show, correct? Commenters seem to think this will be on TV.

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    • q`Tzal July 20, 2011 at 5:31 pm

      9AM weekdays on 91.5 FM.
      Generally intelligent conversation that occasionally degrades in to an absolutist/no-compromise shouting match: not nearly as divsive and ameturish as BBC’s “World Have Your Say”.

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  • q`Tzal July 20, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    Perhaps transportation equity will come when >99% of the population can no longer afford to own or operate an auto.

    This has been your Sunshiny Thought(tm)for today.

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    • -J July 20, 2011 at 5:42 pm

      And then again, perhaps transportation equity will come when there are a variety of affordable, safe modes (including car-share, bike share, bus, rail) for personal travel, and connections between modes.

      I think the inclusive perspective acknowledges that use of independently operated vehicles (whether they be powered by liquid fuels, electric motors, or leg power) are part of the future.

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      • captainkarma July 20, 2011 at 6:56 pm

        Livable wage jobs would go a long way toward helping out.

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  • Joseph E July 20, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    The Portland police budget is $164 million a YEAR, or over $3 billion dollars in the next 20 years (almost as much as the CRC). It’s silly to complain that not enough is spent on policing.

    I wonder if that $164 million a year would be more effective if there were more cops walking thru neighborhoods, interacting with people on the street, instead of driving by behind their cruiser windshield, and if police used bikes and motorcycles for traffic enforcement, instead of paying for so many cars and gas.

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  • S July 20, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    Bike lanes do not cause gentrification…but they are, to be sure, a result of it. You can discuss and dissect and argue about it forever, but a thinking person will not deny that, currently, bike culture–vocal, advocating, geeking-out bike culture–is primo Stuff White People Like.

    If persons of color residing near Williams are wary of bike infrastructure, it is because it serves as a tangible symbol of this very insidious truth: racism and classism are still so entrenched in our society that a neighborhood simply cannot improve without it being colonized by the haves: predominantly white/white-culture-emulating/of-color-but-“colorful” in ways that don’t offend/challenge/threaten white people; well-/over- educated; affluent. It may not seem logical, but in a way, it makes sense.

    BTW I am a white, over-educated, not-too-affluent, bike-commuting geek…

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    • spare_wheel July 21, 2011 at 9:44 am

      the real estate industry uses bike infrastructure as a major selling point to “creatives” and empty nesters. i would not be surprised if new bike infrastructure directly contributes to increasing housing costs.

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    • BURR July 21, 2011 at 11:26 am

      and let me guess, you live in North Portland and ride Williams everyday?

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  • Freerange_idiot July 20, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    This whole race argument that’s being used against improved bike safety is absolutely wrong. It makes no sense whatsoever. None!

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    • Jimmy P July 21, 2011 at 9:45 am

      This. While it’s being tossed about as an infrastructure problem, or a parking issue, it’s first and foremost a safety issue. I’m amazed at the low rate of serious injuries (to all – drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians) on this stretch of road considering the amount of traffic, the types of traffic, and the speed. Some of it’s the people doing the traveling, but I think most of it is just luck. And while the city and organizers are forming 1,000 committees to talk about this, people everyday are dealing with the consequences of a less than ideal safety wise situation.

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  • craig July 21, 2011 at 9:05 am


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  • Dole July 21, 2011 at 9:28 am


    Some feedback for Maus’s public speaking delivery. You should slow down your rate of speech and enunciate more clearly. Your message will be better heard if you say fewer words at a more manageable pace.

    You sound upset, angry, and a tad bit arrogant. I don’t hear any of the wonderful friendliness and fun that is the bike portland I know. That is one of the most important things you can bring to any public discussions.

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    • Steve Scarich July 21, 2011 at 10:03 am

      I gotta agree; as a long-time bike commuter, Jonathan’s delivery style does not help our cause. You seemed to want to paint the Reverend into a corner and ignore the impact that reducing car lanes will have. I finally ‘got’ the issue when the one black bicycling commuter pointed out how reducing car lanes would force more cars into the neighborhoods. We cyclists have to understand our impact on all communities.

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      • craig July 21, 2011 at 10:50 am

        I believe it’s standard practice for PBOT to collect traffic data on adjacent streets before and after a change such as the proposed reconfiguration on Williams.

        In this case, I hope they’re planning to do that before/after data collecting.

        I would expect that car traffic would shift to side streets, but only temporarily for those who have grown accustomed to using Williams as an arterial alternative to I-5 or MLK. But after a short time, I think that those people would drive to greener pastures when they learn that cutting through side streets is slower than the alternatives.

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 21, 2011 at 10:56 am

        Thanks Dole and Steve for the feedback. I know this issue front/back and it’s very near/dear to my heart and I know I am guilty of letting my emotions rule sometimes. That’s just how I am. That’s why I’d make a bad bureaucrat or politician because I speak how I feel (which unfortunately isn’t acceptable these days).

        Please remember that I don’t see my views as representing “our cause”. That’s for the BTA or PBOT or the CCC to do. I am there to represent my own opinion… and it’s an opinion based on a unique perspective that is, i feel, more well-rounded than anyone else at the table.

        And yes, I have a healthy ego around this project because of that well-rounded perspective. Call that arrogance if you want.

        I think I understand the City’s motivations, I intimately understand the bicycling experience AND the driving experience, I understand how traffic issues impact n’hoods, and I care deeply and I’m very aware of the racial issues going on (I’ve covered them/interjected myself into them several times in the past and I’ve lived in North Portland not far from Williams for 7 yrs).

        If it seemed like wasn’t nice to Mr. Waddell, I guess I’m guilty… But I am extremely frustrated by this entire process (and by other PBOT projects that are also derailed in controversy and the continued bike PR problems being created by City Hall ).

        I remain convinced that mixing too much of the racial history/gentrification issues with a transportation project like this is a big mistake… and we’re living the consequences of that mistake right now.

        To be clear, I don’t think it’s mutually exclusive. I think it’s possible to be against the motivations behind the delay and current quagmire of this project, while still being aware of the long-standing racial issues in this n’hood. Yes, we as a city need to have more meetings/conversations like we had last night. But I don’t think they should happen — to this extent — on a PBOT project that was conceived to fix a broken street.

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        • Steve Scarich July 21, 2011 at 11:48 am

          Thanks for not getting defensive about our critiques, Johathan…I realize it must be tough to stay cool and ‘nice’ when you have a microphone stuck in your face. You do bring up an interesting point when we’re having these discussions. Everyone involved (particularly when on something like a live radio show) should be required to state their priorities right up front. Of course, you should not be exoected to speak for all of ‘us’, whoever that is.

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  • S July 21, 2011 at 9:43 am

    We need to focus more on how the African-American community could be approached with an eye towards the specific issues that they face…entrenched poverty and limited options (thanks, again, to institutional racism) shape their lives in ways that white/haves cannot possibly comprehend…what comes to mind right off the bat: gentrification–>need to move further away from workplace–>longer commute–>less incentive to bike.

    I have been bike-commuting 17 miles a day this past year, and will be doing 22 a day starting in the fall. I am 44, white, in good health and pretty good shape, and I still find it a drag from time to time. Due in part to poverty, there is a higher prevalence of obesity (and the diseases associated with it), which would make it even harder to get started riding a bike…even though it could, in the long run, help reduce it and improve health overall. (The Holy Grail is an effective method of communicating these benefits to those who are most resistant to it, but for whom biking could solve so many health and economic problems.) But to even get started bike commuting is hard enough for anyone used to having a car; if you pad onto that preexisting health problems and longer/possibly more dangerous commute, it’s even harder.

    There is a LOT of value in switching to bikes…burns fat, saves money, calms traffic, saves the planet…but you aren’t going to change minds unless you address each community’s specific needs and whatever obstacles exist to getting people on bikes. Unless and until that happens, bike culture’s association with white gentrification will persist, and no inroads will be made.

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  • roger noehren July 21, 2011 at 11:58 am

    I missed this morning’s “Think Out Loud”, because I was listening to KBOO’s simultaneous show on the CRC boondoggle, but will listen to its rebroadcast this evening.
    When I moved to Portland in 1981 bike infra-structure was focused on “boulevards” such as SE Ankeny (the only one at the time, though Harrison & Salmon were established soon thereafter).
    Then for some reason, the focus shifted to painting bike lanes on streets that were generally considered “car-streets” (I think the rational was to make cyclists more visible to drivers or something).
    Since I’ve never enjoyed the fumes and anxiety associated with motorized traffic, I continue to travel on quieter neighborhood streets and only use the bike lanes when they happen to be on arterial streets that it is expedient to ride on to get to my destination w/o going miles out of my way.
    I’m delighted that there has been a return to the concept of designating streets that lend themselves to bicycle travel as “boulevards” or “greenways”. If automotive traffic were prevented from using these streets for more than very local access they’d be even better, especially for less confident riders.
    If however arterial streets also have their capacity (for motorized traffic) significantly reduced, it will no doubt cause the excess to be dispersed into the neighboring streets (unless they are diverted away from them).
    Given that N Williams is an extremely popular bike route, especially during the evening rush hour, it seems reasonable to increase the capacity for cyclists , especially since MLK jr blvd parallels it only a few blocks away. This would necessitate removal of parking or turning one of the car lanes over to bikes (at least during rush hour).
    Turning Rodney into an official “greenway”, with a light &/or crosswalk at Freemont (and preventing all but local motorized traffic from using it) wouldn’t hurt either.
    I don’t consider this a race issue aside from being part and parcel with gentrification. Despite the work of the CCC, B.I.K.E. and the amazing Major Taylor cycling has not yet been embraced by people of color in great numbers, but the diversity evident at the recent No Po Sunday parkways was encouraging.

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    • craig July 21, 2011 at 2:16 pm

      The project engineers have collected data that shows that car congestion on Williams is rush-hour-only problem, and that during the remainder of the day car volumes are quite low.

      The well-substantiated belief–or shall we say “fact”–is that a significant proportion of rush hour traffic on Williams consists of cars avoiding the congestion on both I-5 and MLK.

      Once car capacity on Williams becomes constrained, that traffic probably will–at first–divert to residential side streets, but that should very quickly prove a greater nuisance and delay for cars than sticking with the primary northbound routes on I-5 and MLK…

      …It’s not only a hope or a theory–it’s a consistently repeated observation. When streets are made slower, safer, and less accommodating for through motor traffic, cars look for more faster and more convenient alternate routes.

      Those remaining cars that aren’t deterred, probably DO belong there because they’re commuting from work to residential North and Northeast Portland. Their commute should be much quicker and easier once the non-local traffic is pressured to stick to the main northbount routes. Same goes for residents living near Williams itself.

      Streets should end up being be safer, more accessible, and more pleasant for local residents.

      Another alternative: START TOLLING THE EXISTING CRC NOW 🙂

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      • Joe C July 23, 2011 at 12:27 am

        Great analysis. Dead-on, Craig.

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  • Ron July 21, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Ron, there’s a difference between benefitting ‘the neighborhood’ and benefitting the neighborhood *residents.* If the poor people are priced out of the neighborhood (as has been the pattern over the years), well they’re not getting much benefit out of all the improvements are they?

    I think you make a very good distinction Kronda. But isn’t it possible that these investments would enable many to give up the very catch-22 necessity that makes them poor (car)? Study after study shows that our buying, fueling and repairing a motor vehicle gobble up a huge portion of family budgets. Transit and cycling infrastructure enabled my family to go to one car which saves us a great deal and enables us to live closer to the very enhancements that we’re talking about. To blame the investments for pricing lower income folks out of their neighborhoods is to miss the point I think… namely that there is HUGE unmet demand in this country for walkable neighborhoods that are close to transit. People come from all over the country to Portland for that very thing whereas in many countries these investments have been made pervasively and there aren’t the same skewed demands that we have here. We (as a country) should be expanding transit, cycling and walkability in every community but the politics (right wing) won’t allow it. I value the diversity in my neighborhood and that is one of the primary reasons we chose the house that we did. I only hope that we can find a way to make these important investments while keeping that diversity alive.

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    • Kronda July 21, 2011 at 1:01 pm

      I agree with your points but the problem is that the process is backwards. Yes, cycling can help poorer communities, but if you don’t first educate them and create buy-in then just bulldozing the changes in isn’t going to be welcomed or helpful.

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    • craig July 21, 2011 at 2:27 pm

      Me too. Converting my family’s transportation from full-time minivan to walk+bike+transit saved our budget big time, to the tune of about $550/month.

      We replaced an $850/month habit–our single car ownership with all costs equalized–with a $300 one–zipcar + costs for keeping bikes for 7 people in good shape.

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  • brett July 21, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    I wish the show had allowed more time for this discussion. You can download the episode now from OPB’s Think Out Loud site. As I commented there:
    The opponent of safer vehicle travel and neighborhood-friendly streets continually framed the bike lane proposal as “taking away” something from the neighborhood. This is exactly the rhetorical tactic used by Fox, Rush et al to stir up opposition to equity and in fact was used (as today’s media manipulators know) to foment white hostility to redressing historic racial inequity in the South during the civil rights movement. Tell people someone is taking something from them (tax money for welfare, car lanes for bikes, whatever), and they’ll get angry and act irrationally, which is exactly what the demagogues want.

    Permitting Portlanders who choose to get around by bicycle (which benefits the city and neighborhood in all sorts of ways that cars don’t) the same kind of choice to travel safely that car drivers have always had redresses a historic inequity. It’s not taking anything away — it gives neighbors more and safer choices. As study after study has shown, if you give people safe ways to cycle to nearby destinations, many of them will replace some or many car trips with bike trips, thus reducing congestion.

    As Jonathan noted, and as the city’s studies have confirmed (despite the opponent’s claim that such information can’t be determined — it can and has), the only people who have anything taken away are non-resident commuters who are improperly using the street for a purpose that harms the neighborhood by increasing congestion and decreasing safety.

    The new plan makes the neighborhood more walkable, safer, gives neighbors more choices about mobility, and makes it more economically equitable by giving neighbors who can’t afford to drive and maintain a car or second car the same choice of safe travel as more affluent car owners. Why are the opponents against safety, equity, and choice?

    None of this denies the real consequences of gentrification, which need to be addressed. The city’s racist history certainly explains some of the sensitivity and hostility this safety project has encountered, as the minister and some commenters here accurately noted. That’s understandable and needs to be addressed with educational and outreach efforts. But as Jonathan tried to point out, making the neighborhood less safe is the wrong way to do it. Gentrification is much bigger than this project and should be dealt with in an appropriate arena where something can actually be accomplished without further endangering neighbors’ safety.

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  • Kronda July 21, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Mr. Waddell was asked if he thought Williams was inequitable today (re bike/car access). Answer was no.

    Jonathan said: “Conversations about gentrification have no place in conversations about transit planning: there’s a place for these and they should not be together.”

    For the record, I think both of these points of view are equally misguided. Wish I had time to write my own blog post about why.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 21, 2011 at 1:55 pm


      i don’t think the quote of mine you used is entirely accurate. Obviously, a general understanding of the social issues around a transportation project are important to discuss within the project… But the scope and depth of the issue and how large a factor it has begun to play in the Williams project is the problem IMO.

      I have followed this project since Day One and the issue of race and gentrification has been a part of the discussions. Black people are on the SAC and have attended the meetings and the open houses. PBOT staff have referenced the social issues on Williams repeatedly during meetings.

      There is a degree of inclusion of those issues on the project already and I think that is great/fine. My issue is that now we’ve tipped the scale into having race and gentrification be the primary driving force behind the outcome of the project — which I think is very unfortunate.

      I don’t want this to be a fight or a controversy, but I feel someone needs to stick up for traffic justice and for facts and for bicycling — because I feel it’s the most accessible, most humane, most affordable, and most community-building mode of transportation there is.

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  • Matt F July 21, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    I listened to the whole show. And I don’t mean to be harsh Jonathan, but I think you missed a real opportunity…because you are too emotionally involved with this issue. It is your neighborhood after all. (Not that I would have done any better.)

    You weren’t going to win a convert by convincing Mr. Waddell of the merits of a bike lane. The only chance you had was putting yourself in his shoes. The man just wanted to be heard; to be listened to…and you didn’t listen. I think that’s what this whole issue is about. The minority feels that they are not listened to; not respected; have no power. Time after time, change is thrust upon them for which they have had no say. So now they don’t want changes, any changes, thrust upon them…even if it may benefit them. In some ways this is a culmination of events over the last 10, 20, 50 years. They don’t trust that these changes will be good for them. Can’t you see why they might think that?

    Next time, listen more, see her/her point more, put yourself in his/her shoes more, be less emotional…and you may get where you want.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 21, 2011 at 2:35 pm

      Thanks Matt. I did listen to him, and I’ve listened to many people about this topic in the past. I have interviewed and grappled with this issue several times on this site in the past and have done quite a bit of listening.

      your comments assumes I don’t know what this is all about. I absolutely understand that this isn’t about a bike lane and that this is simply some people in the n’hood saying “Enough is enough!”

      I do see/hear the points of people who are opposing the project, and when I hear things that are simply factually incorrect I want to point them out because I don’t feel it’s wise to try and have a productive conversation on a shaky foundation that’s based on falsehoods and other biases.

      I will never fully understand the racial issues on this street to the depth that I think some feel is necessary because I am white.

      I understand the issue clearly. I did not experience the racism myself and I don’t live with it everyday. But what next? What level of understanding is required before the street can be fixed? Seriously. The way those in opposition have set this up is that until the gentrification stops, no changes can be made. That doesn’t seem very fair to me. Sorry.

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      • Matt F July 21, 2011 at 2:38 pm

        Good points.

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      • Matt F July 21, 2011 at 2:45 pm

        I don’t know what the realistic answer is.

        And while Mr. Waddell and his community have the need to be listened to…they also must recognize that they must forgive and then get involved to move forward.

        It seems like there has to be some kind of apology/reconciliation/forgiveness process. I don’t know.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 21, 2011 at 2:48 pm

          thanks matt,

          i hear you.

          i don’t the answer either! I find it too bad that some people are holding this street project hostage while setting demands that are very hard to meet.

          like other bikeway gaps/problems in our city, I see this as an urgent public health/safety issue. This isn’t about “bike advocates want” this or that… this is about our City delivering a basic, core service (safe movement of ppl on public right of way).

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      • Matt F July 21, 2011 at 2:48 pm

        One last thing. Your response above was what you should have explained to him. Especially that last paragraph: “I understand the issue clearly. I did not experience the racism myself and I don’t live with it everyday. But what next? What level of understanding is required before the street can be fixed?”

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  • Kronda July 21, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    What Matt F said.

    Here’s a wacked analogy: From the time I understood what smoking was, and how bad it was, I begged my mom to quit. She tried a few times, but always went back. She knew it would be better for her to quit, but she put it off because it was too hard, wasn’t the right time, she didn’t want to gain weight from eating to compensate…etc.

    Know when she quit smoking? When she was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.

    For 20, 30, 50 years, the people of color in N/NE Portland have been trying to be heard when it comes to city projects, then when affluent/white folks come in, all of a sudden there’s money for business loans, housing improvements, transit etc and the people who were asking for those things in the first place are priced out of the neighborhood and don’t get to enjoy the benefits.

    I have been bike commuting in this town since I was 12 years old. I am absolutely on the ‘side of bikes,’ would love to see improvements on Williams. But if drawing this line in the sand is what will finally force people to deal with this issue in a meaningful way–then I’m happy to keep dodging cars for a few more years. All of which is summed up by a tweet I made last night.

    Jonathan, I know you mean well, but your “We’ve talked about this/included a few black folks in the process so let’s move on already” attitude is precisely the kind of thinking that has landed us where we are. I think you’re concerned, but I don’t think you really understand where the other side is coming from and until there’s more of that, you’ll have a hard time bringing folks around.

    You don’t get to brush away years of systemic injustice with a few community forums.

    And yes, it is unfortunate.

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    • Phil B July 21, 2011 at 2:58 pm

      Perfectly stated!

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 21, 2011 at 3:00 pm


      you are misrepresenting my opinion.

      i absolutely am not saying, “We’ve talk about this, now let’s move on”.. I just think the problems you lay out are not suited for this particular public process.

      Why not move the project forward — and make the roadway access changes all of PBOT and a majority of the community want/need — and then launch a separate process to continuing talking about the racial issue?

      If this is about the race issue, I would think everyone would agree to that. But I know it’s not. Fact is, a few ppl at the table — and those talking a lot about racial injustice — simply don’t want the one-lane option and the widened bikeway. They — whether on purpose or not — are using the racial issue to influence PBOT and stop the project from happening. I think that’s unfair and I think it’s a bad precedent for PBOT to set.

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      • q`Tzal July 21, 2011 at 10:08 pm

        The telling fact is that the racial issue has existed for years and will continue to exist for years whether or not this or any other gentrifying project is completed here.

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    • phil July 22, 2011 at 2:13 pm

      “deal with this issue in a meaningful way”

      Like what? What are you proposing? Specifics. Define the goal so we will know when we get there.

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  • roger noehren July 21, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    How about eliminating parking from N Williams during the afternoon rush hour. This is common practice on other congested streets (except it’s generally to accommodate more motorized traffic).
    It would create sufficient space for all the cyclists w/o taking away a lane of traffic.

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  • marshmallow July 21, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    I’m not white. I’ve been riding around portland and feel right at home amongst the majority white cyclists. It’s the only time I don’t stand out amongst white foks as I’m in a helmet and sunglasses. Maybe people should harden up and give it a try.

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  • Kronda July 21, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    “Why not move the project forward — and make the roadway access changes all of PBOT and a majority of the community want/need — and then launch a separate process to continuing talking about the racial issue?”

    I can see how frustrated you are that this project is being held up. Now apply that to trying to be heard around the race/gentrification issues and multiply it by 100 years. How long do you suppose people should “wait a little longer” and “just let us do this one thing and then we’ll get to you” before being totally fed up?

    Do you really think that will work when there is clearly no historical basis for trust?

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    • marshmallow July 21, 2011 at 3:52 pm

      There was also no internet and social networking back in the day. Things change. Ugly people like me gotta get over being ugly and let the world progress and join in someway. We can’t sit here and pout. Let’s ride bikes.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 21, 2011 at 4:28 pm

      I’m not saying we should wait at all. The meeting last night shows that the listening and understanding project around race/gentrification has already begun. Let’s keep it going! But let’s do it separate from a much-needed roadway project that is funded and ready to go right now.

      Yes, I really do think that will work. Make the City commit to doing it as requirement for the roadway changes to be permanent. I also think the community should ask that PBOT project staff go through a racial sensitivity program that is collaborative and community based.

      We have a new Office of Equity in City Hall.. what a perfect place for this effort to take root.

      Again… I want to take as much time/resources as possible to help the community heal around the race issue… And we need to do it yesterday. … But it’s absolutely counter-productive and it helps no one to hold the road project hostage to that work being done.

      People will continue to mistrust PBOT no matter what they do… and this project is a perfect example of that. PBOT has been absolutely committed to n’hood consensus before moving this project fwd… But ppl simply don’t trust them still. Even last night a woman basically called Michelle Poyourow (project consultant) a liar when MP said no decisions had been made on the Williams project (which is true!).

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  • kiel johnson
    kiel johnson July 21, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    Jonathan, thanks for taking a stand on this and speaking up. I think you view is somewhat complex but after reading your responses to these posts I get it and completely agree with it.

    Holgate was about class and when the meetings about what to do on that street became about class they missed their purpose and little got done. It was only once the focus got brought back to the safety aspect that the city won over folks. That community is safer because of it. There are still issues of class in East Portland but they were never going to be solved in those heated meetings.

    Bike advocates do a lot more than most other interest groups to bridge these class and race divides and you have been doing a great job promoting these conversations on bikeportland. I can’t remember the last time the Oregonian mentioned the Sistas bike group. There is no other city that teaches bike safety to 40 public elementary schools or has a Community Cycling Center that has great conversations about race and hands out that many free bikes to low income neighborhoods.

    Keep up the good work!

    How do we bring the Bureau of Equity into the conversation on race?

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  • JRB July 21, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    I think I have to go with Maus on this one. These are separate issues. If you want more money for programs to prevent gang violence, singling out traffic safety projects for criticism is not particularly productive. You have to look at the whole pie before deciding that a particular slice is too big. It seems to me that folks are upset about the proposed traffic improvements are really upset about other things and are tired of not being heard. The Williams project is one of the rare times that somebody is asking them their opinion about something and they are using the opportunity afforded.

    I have to also disagee with Kronda in equating racism and gentrification. Telling people where they should or should not live or trying to control the character/demographics of neighborhoods does not combat racism. Saying that white people should stay out of black neighborhoods because it drives up property values sounds eerily like the reverse of preventing African-Americans from moving into white neighborhoods because it allegedly drives property values down.

    We have a long way to go before achieving racial equality in this country, but I just don’t see improved biking/ped facilities through a predominately black neighborhood of being symptomatic of racial inequality. The fact that communities of color dispropotionately host polluting industries, that people of color do not have the same access to education or other opportunties, that public and private investment in communities of color are disproporationately lower are symptons that racism is alive and well and is what the conversation needs to be about.

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  • John Landolfe July 21, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    I think gentrification is a real, legitimate issue. That said, it has nothing to do with biking. Truly poor people cannot afford to drive a motor vehicle. This is born out in the stats on bicyclists:

    I live on Williams. Black people bike on Williams. Poor people bike on Williams. People choose not to see this. Racism and inequity are real issues and it’s a sad disservice to the victims of these social problems when the terms are applied frivolously to unrelated issues. If people want to live in a fantasy world where car-designed streets better service the poor and non-white, Williams is surrounded by many dozens of such streets. Go live your fantasy.

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  • Kevin Kaufman July 21, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    I lived in the Elliott neighborhood a decade ago and support an increase of bike lanes across the region. I’m sincerely interested in the topic but don’t know you can ‘stop’ gentrification. Additional transportation options should help lessen the blow. Perhaps we can work to provide bicycles to long-term, disadvantaged residents of the areas we improve access to bike lanes. Otherwise it does seem to be catering to a specific segment of our community.

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  • roger noehren July 21, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    I just visited the Think Out Loud page on OPB’s site and read some of the mostly informative and interesting comments. One that I thought pertinent to this issue from a strictly traffic management POV (ie not considering race & gentrification issues) was this from Joe Ped:

    ” Every time I-5 is backed up directly west of Williams (during evening rush hour), Williams is also backed up. Many of the cars have Washington license plates.

    The idea that Williams is “balanced and equitable now” is untrue, given the 30% of cars going over the speed limit and leapfrogging, posing a danger to all users, and only 15% of street space being allotted to 35% of users.

    I walk on this street every day. As a person whose primary mode of transportation is on foot, the current conditions on Williams are in no way safe, balanced or equitable. Major change is needed.”

    I hope that he doesn’t mind me reposting his comment here…

    I had trouble streaming the show It cut out whenever I tried to do anything else – including reading the comments), so am glad that it is being rebroadcast at 9pm this evening.

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    • Joe C July 23, 2011 at 12:39 am

      I don’t mind you reposting at all, Roger! Thanks for doing so, and thanks for being part of the conversation.

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  • phil July 22, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Lots and lots of nonsense being retailed here. The problem with all the calls to “address the issue” or “be heard” etc. is that they are too inspecific to act on. A concrete demand like “Let’s hold a four meeting where x, y, and z get to speak to elected officials a, b, and c” can be done. But I don’t see anything that concrete.

    All the calls to “be heard” are too vague to know how to achieve them. What would being heard today mean? In short, the need to be heard will never be satisfied, no matter how many meetings you have.

    This is just delay and protest with no other options put forth.

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  • dragonboy July 22, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Step 1: Listen carefully. Understand the history and issues. Try to empathize with what the African American community has gone through

    Step 2: Determine what are the specific, concrete actions that can be done to satisfy people who feel on the outside looking in of this active transportation and road safety project

    Step 3: Incorporate these actions into the process and move forward.

    Its frustrating to wait. i get it. But this project is too important for the city of Portland to get wrong. Better to achieve a quality project that incorporates as many peoples concerns as possible than to ram this though and risk a backlash.

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