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“Bike Race”: OPB show will tackle Williams project

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

OPB.org 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 welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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andy
Guest
andy

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?

rider
Guest
rider

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.

NW Biker
Guest
NW Biker

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.

Ron
Guest
Ron

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.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

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.

craig
Guest
craig

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

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

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.
/s

Joseph E
Guest

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.

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2011/02/portland_police_chief_submits.html

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.

S
Guest
S

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…

Freerange_idiot
Guest
Freerange_idiot

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

craig
Guest
craig

LISTEN LIVE NOW ON OPB RADIO:
http://www.opb.org/listen/player?mode=#

Dole
Guest
Dole

Interesting.

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.

S
Guest
S

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.

roger noehren
Guest
roger noehren

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.

Ron
Guest
Ron

Kronda
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.

brett
Guest
brett

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.

Kronda
Guest

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.

Matt F
Guest
Matt F

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.

Kronda
Guest

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.

roger noehren
Guest
roger noehren

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.

marshmallow
Guest
marshmallow

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.

Kronda
Guest

“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?

Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
Guest

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?

JRB
Guest
JRB

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.

John Landolfe
Guest

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: http://daily.sightline.org/2011/04/04/who-bikes/

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.

Kevin Kaufman
Guest
Kevin Kaufman

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.

roger noehren
Guest
roger noehren

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.

phil
Guest
phil

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.

dragonboy
Guest
dragonboy

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.