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Should we move forward on Williams? If so, how?

Posted by on July 22nd, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Traffic on Williams is a mess.
(Photos © J. Maus)

As you can tell if you’ve been reading my many responses to reader comments, emails, and Twitter messages, the N Williams Avenue project has weighed heavily on my mind in recent days.

Corner store in North Portland-1

Many of us have shared thoughts about how institutional racism and gentrification intersect with bicycling in Portland and to what extent — if any — they should impact this traffic safety project. I want to keep that conversation going; but what about solutions?

How can we productively move forward from where we are today? Can we take our energy and concern about racism and gentrification and use it toward making things better? Should this traffic safety project even move forward? Or, has the racism issue completely superseded it? Is it possible to work on both things — the race issue and the traffic project — at the same time?

Personally, I don’t think this should be an either/or discussion. The community has a golden opportunity to deal with two major issues that everyone agrees need to be addressed: traffic safety and social injustices of the past that continue today.

I think we, as a city, can and should move forward on both of them… And we shouldn’t just kick the can down the road because the process and the conversations might get tough.

I’ve shared some of my ideas below. I’d love to read yours…

  • PBOT should continue the great conversation that started Wednesday night and expand it into a larger racial understanding/listening project that includes more community members and opportunities for people to share histories and perspectives. Perhaps they can work with the Boise Neighborhood and the new Office of Equity to make it happen.
  • Part of that new/renewed effort could include PBOT and the neighborhood coming together to host a series of street-based community events. The events would bring all road users together to hear speakers (black leaders, new residents, and urban historians), mingle and get to know one another — outside of their vehicles. One example would be a bike-by museum of the excellent “Portland’s Lost Black Neighborhoods” exhibit. There could also be guided rides for anyone to hop on a bike and experience the neighborhood on two wheels.
  • To give both issues — racism and the road project — the space and time they deserve, wouldn’t it make sense to separate them? I’m not saying the roadway project should completely ignore the history of injustice in the neighborhood, it should continue to be a part of the process, but I don’t think it’s wise to make that complex issue the central driving force of the project.
  • PBOT and the community should agree to a set of expectations about what exactly needs to be done before the traffic safety project can move forward.
  • If it’s agreed that the traffic project should move forward, let’s re-start the effort to implement some of the changes that have been vetted out by the community.
  • PBOT should immediately begin racism and gentrification sensitivity training for all project staff and consultants.

Those are just some ideas. This is an important project and no one has all the answers. If we’re going to get it right — and we absolutely must get it right — we need to continue to share our ideas and perspectives.

As always, I welcome your constructive criticism and feedback.

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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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cyclist
Guest
cyclist

Jonathan,

To resume the conversation you exited in the last thread, I’d like to give you an opportunity to respond once again to the idea that you might make some sort of compromise with folks who want to maintain a traffic lane.

You accused me of playing “gotcha” by quoting your earlier statements* and concluding that you are unwilling to make compromises in your position to help strike a N Williams deal. Can you explain what compromises you are willing to make on this particular project?

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

cyclist,

I did my best to respond to your comment on that over on the other thread.

You say I’m “unwilling to compromise” but I’m sorry if I just don’t understand what you’re trying to get at. Perhaps you missed my comment that I’ve linked to above. Thanks.

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

What I’m saying is that the residents don’t want to remove a travel lane and you do. What sort of compromise solution would you support that would increase safety in the corridor without taking away a travel lane?

That’s what I’m getting at.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

Bicycle lanes are travel lanes. They’re just reserved for people who don’t have a motor but do have a pair of wheels.

booger
Guest
booger

This is a patently absurd statement. We’re not talking about removing a traffic lane, but repurposing a traffic lane. Furthermore, I’m a resident of this neighborhood, and I want to see the project move forward, so please don’t try to speak for me. Some folks here want the project to move forward, some don’t, big surprise

sd
Guest
sd

I am a resident of this community and I want the project to move forward.

Marginalized communities have been denied health promoting infrastructure like bike lanes and safe streets for far too long. This is evidenced in clear observable health disparities. I hope that “cyclist” and the few individuals that oppose these changes realize that the health of their community and their children is more important than fast car traffic on Williams.
It is ironic and tragic that opponents of the changes on Williams are protecting the old street design that occured without care for the NoPo community and denouncing an investment of resources into a street design that improves health and safety for the local community.

JR-eh
Guest
JR-eh

Dude. Just call the guy and ask him. His number is right on the site. You are derailing possible solutions by dominating the comments. You give the publisher too much credit/power. He is just reporting on the issues and advocating for improved safety.

The city has proposed to maintain one auto traffic lane because it will not change the car throughput while it will improve the safety environment for peds, businesses and people on bikes and in wheelchairs.
As part of the larger city transportation plan, I think this ought to be done. Williams is not an appropriate cut through.

jeff
Guest
jeff

cyclist…I’m not sure Maus has much, if any, influence on whether or not the Williams changes go through. He’s just reporting the issue. Seems your ire is just a tad bit misplaced.

Machu Picchu
Guest
Machu Picchu

To be fair, Jonathan was pushing back pretty hard on comments by the co-guest on Think Out Loud. He was definitely taking a stand (and seems to be continuing it here) which sounds like: keep the project going, and keep the community/race issue separate. That’s activism, not just journalism. His prerogative, to be sure, but not “just reporting” as you suggest.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

I can’t help but to think that given the context of the situation, having grown up in that neighborhood, won’t be construed as extremely condescending and lacking insight in that neighborhood.

Mark Allyn
Guest

My comment was a bit late on the other article, but could we suggest that one of the elements of this project would be to impose a hard freeze on any gentrification related evictions in the area.

Andrew Seger
Guest
Andrew Seger

What does that even mean??? No one’s actually been, “pushed out” and the city lacks an legal means to prevent selling houses to white people. Discrimination based on race for rentals is already illegal, although the city could certainly do a better job enforcing it (eg, http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2011/05/a_portland_housing_audit_finds.html)

The thing for me is that we have money for our neighborhood right now to spend on safety improvements. Not a whole lot of money but enough to make some changes. If the neighborhoods want to push for a full street redesign and a larger amount of money from the city that might be one option. Doing nothing is another, though I don’t think it’s a very good one. Third we could implement some incremental changes, like eliminating one travel lane, and continue this good conversation with the upcoming other projects in our neighborhood, such as the Dawson Park updates and the Lower Albina/Rose Quarter portions of the Central City plan.

In the meantime you’ll find me in the right travel lane on Williams. I feel bad about making you wait if you’re in a car, but I’m not endangering myself or anyone else by using the inadequate bike lanes on Williams.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

Folks are being pushed out of not just the neighborhood in question, but the entire Portland Metro area, and not just on the basis of race, but rather that of economic status. There just isn’t a lot of affordable housing around, and in the Williams area, is some of the last remaining affordable housing in the area. Not everyone is rich and can live in Alberta or Hawthorne or west of the west hills.

Removing affordable housing and replacing it with mixed use yuppie magnets is blockbusting based on economic status.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Portland needs more affordable housing for sure. The only way to accomplish that is to build denser housing…like whats happening in Williams right now. If we really cared about housing prices we’d relax the zoning height restrictions and allow taller buildings. Somehow I feel like this would not be welcomed by the older african-american residents.

But my point was that specifically banning gentrification evictions is both illogical, illegal, and immoral.

Hugh Johnson
Guest
Hugh Johnson

Sorry but sounds just like “the projects”. Not sure that’s where Portland wants to be.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

Hugh, there’s a huge difference between well-made multifamily dwellings and “the projects.” The fact is that there’s a lot of demand for housing in inner Portland, causing both single-family homes and apartments are being bid up to high prices/rents. We can’t fit very many more single-family homes into inner Portland, so multifamily housing seems like a good solution.

I think some work on how to make units in multifamily buildings foster “neighborliness” like front porches and front yards on single-family homes do would be worthwhile though.

Nickey Robo
Guest
Nickey Robo

While this sounds logical in terms of supply and demand, I don’t think there’s much evidence to back it up. Think of the densest neighborhoods in Portland… the Pearl, Nob Hill, South Waterfront. Are any of those affordable? Hardly.

TonyT
Guest
tonyt

I second that. What DOES that mean?

Impose? How?

How do you define what a gentrification related eviction is?

Paul
Guest
Paul

The Pearl has more affordable housing buildings than any neighborhood in Portland.

jeff
Guest
jeff

I’m still confused as to how a single bike lane (essentially a strip of paint) has anything to do with the history of “racial injustice” in the neighborhood. Some here will probably tell me I’m missing something, and yes, I’m missing something. I have yet to hear any specifics however. Its easy to spout off blanket bullet points and emotionally charged rhetoric. Would they prefer more car traffic? What are these ‘social injustices’ everyone keeps talking about? Is there something the long time residents would like to see first, before this proposed change in infrastructure? Would they like to be more proactively involved in the decision making (last nights meeting was NOT an example of how to go about integrating)? Honestly, I just don’t get it.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

jeff,

that’s a good question.

The reason this project has become embroiled with that history of racism is because some people in the neighborhood feel like it’s just another change that they are not comfortable with and that they did not ask for.

One person explained the sentiment that exists as, “First they took away our houses, then they took away our businesses, now they want to take away our street!”

One woman at the meeting the other night said bluntly, “This is just another example of SOSDD (Same old stuff, different day).”

But it’s not that clean and simple. Some people who have been very vocal about the race issue have also said they don’t support any loss of motor vehicle access on Williams. Others have said they don’t currently feel there’s anything wrong with the street to begin with.

So, it’s complicated… and it’s made even more complicated in my opinion, because PBOT is in a position where they have to solve not just a complex traffic situation, but they also have to solve even more complex socio-economic-historical issues.

jeff
Guest
jeff

I’m always puzzled when I see communities that are so resistant to change (under the guise of ‘progress’) because I’ve seen the long term results of such resistance. Infusion of new people and new money are the only two things that help keep a community alive. There are examples of making either choice all over this country. I personally love new things in my neighborhood, I embrace change and infrastructure “improvements” whenever I see them occuring in S.E. PDX, whatever they are or whichever specific group they may cater more to (Powell just received ADA compliant street crossings, I was stoked for my neighbors confined to wheelchairs). I didn’t bitch, I didn’t bring up decades of injustice for physically disabled folks. No, not everyone is like me. I still don’t get it. If folks want to air grievances (for reasons I still don’t get), a PBOT meeting is the wrong platform to do so.

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

Remember, when they built I-5 through the middle of North Portland that was change under the guise of progress. That made a lot of people really happy, and the people in the immediate vicinity very unhappy. This of course is not nearly the same magnitude as the I-5 debacle, but you’re using the same language they used, and I hope the above example illustrate why this community might be resistant to change after having been sold the same “progress” bill of goods before.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

“They” are doing it again. It’s called the CRC, and we don’t want it either. I’m white, and that is not going to make a damn bit of difference.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

It’s not the bike lane specifically. Just a guess, but I bet it has something to do with being perceived as being part of redevelopment efforts that have gone in along Williams, displacing affordable housing and neighborhood shops with substantially more expensive housing and shops that are only of interest to people in a far higher tax bracket.

captainkarma
Guest
captainkarma

If I-5 cut-thru could be prevented by hardwired hardware solutions, perhaps traffic levels on Williams would be such that bike lane safety would not so desperately need improvement. Could that be the compromise “cyclist” would desire?

Andrew Seger
Guest
Andrew Seger

If I-5 cut through could be eliminated we wouldn’t need that second travel lane at all. Would that be a compromise “motorists” would desire?

BURR
Guest
BURR

regardless of the traffic diverted from I-5, the current bike lane on Williams is inadequately sized to safely accommodate all the cyclists using it today, and it needs to be wider.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

To that end, moving the I 5 bypass route for cyclists to Interstate Avenue and making that a bike boulevard might be an easier win, since motorists already have a difficult time on that street, and take it out on cyclists and pedestrians trying to use that space currently. Williams is a bit more car-centric having more motorist lanes, so keeping the existing Williams bike lane and making Interstate the easier through route for cyclists seems like a no-brainer.

Chris Smith
Guest

I believe decision making on this project can proceed as soon as the local community feels they actually have an appropriate voice and level of power in the decision-making process. I don’t think we’ll get to that place if we position gentrification as a “separate issue”.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

Chris… Again. I did not say say gentrification should be a “separate issue”. Like I said in the post, it should remain a piece of the project, but a smaller piece that it is right now. … and then perhaps PBOT should spin off the existing race talks into a larger and more appropriate forum where they can happen concurrently with the traffic project. Heck, maybe they even report back to the traffic project to help inform the outcome.

But I like what you said about how the decision making might proceed once a certain “level of power” is reached. i’m not sure what form that would take — Chair of the SAC perhaps? — but it’s interesting.

Alexis
Guest
Alexis

Chris — I feel like this is a middle position that I’ve heard a couple of very thoughtful people articulate, but it’s not very clear to me what it entails, and I’d like to understand better what you think it would mean, or how you think we’d figure out what it would mean.

The worry that keeps coming up for me is how to continue addressing both the concrete safety issues and the larger social issues together and in parallel, so that forward movement is possible. RIght now it seems like a real possibility that the project will be halted by an ill-defined objective of the neighborhood “having an appropriate voice and level of power in the process” that can never be achieved because it’s never defined and agreed on, and that’s an outcome that seems useless to me on all counts — no agreement on how to correct the problem in the future, and no progress on dealing with the specific situation.

Also, I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated the BikePortland comments section as much as I do with the posts on this project. There are a lot of informed, able, and valuable perspectives floating around here.

Chris Smith
Guest

Alexis – the simplest mechanism might be to expand the stakeholder committee to include significantly more representation from the community members expressing concern. But I doubt the correct answer will be simple 🙂 We should be engaging with the community members and the existing SAC to try to figure out a good structure.

Joe C
Guest
Joe C

I think something falling between what both Chris and Jonathan are proposing is the best way to move this project forward. Ultimately, this isn’t a bicyclist project, this is not an anti-auto project; it’s a safety project. (If anyone may benefit most from it, it’s pedestrians–which we all are.) A calmer Williams will be safer for everyone biking, driving, walking & otherwise using it. Period.

We (Portlanders of all classes & colors) can expand and continue the larger, macro dialogue taking place around this project. This dialogue should include robust and frank discussion of race relations in this city. This discussion can include grievances over the initial process that drove this project, and the iniquities inherent in it and other, historical processes.

But this discussion needs to take place at the City Hall / Office of Equity level, not PBOT’s. And, as was pointed out elsewhere in these comments, the dialogue could seek to address iniquity in the practices of PDC, developers, the banks, police, businesses, speculators, landlords, local hospitals, etc. These dialogues need to have teeth–i.e., they shouldn’t just be gab sessions, but should result in real, tangible actions, changes, programs, policies that benefit the communities which have seen active divestment over the decades, especially this one.

At the same time, more outreach and bridge-building between the active transportation community and the historic community could occur. Whether this is more of the kind of work CCC has been doing, a promotion of Sistas Weekend Cyclers or push for/creation of similar groups, donating bikes to places of worship and installing racks, doing free bike safety seminars for the community, volunteers shuttling churchgoers from their cars in bike taxis, organizing carfree/active transpo events or events celebrating the street’s vibrant history, or just sitting down to talk with residents in living rooms, businesses, churches & public spaces around N Williams, I don’t know. But I think with time, patience and a lot of elbow grease, we can make the case that these changes will not be and are not a “white value.” Health and safety are universal. We have a fantastic opportunity here. Right now the perception of bicycling in this city is at the “Lance Armstrong” stage. As Jan Gehl says, if we want Copenhagen, we have to prove to citizens who aren’t young white males clad in Lycra that biking and walking are a good fit for them, too, and we have to show that it’s the case by making streets safer and more human scale.

I live on N Williams. I walk on N Williams. I see it from eye-level every morning, afternoon and night. If N Williams changes, everyone wins. If we channel our passion and outrage into positive, constructive action, we can secure the changes necessary for a safer street, and a better city!

(Sorry for length. Past 1am the virtue of brevity is often forgotten.)

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Right or wrong gentrification and racial issues apply not only to this project but to EVERY government project.
Silly as it is to try to apply it to politics: logic dictates then that we argue gentrification and racial issues for EACH and EVERY thing the goverment does,

OR

We have a single discussion about this issue, how it applies to all decisions and attempt to arrive at a agreement/compromis of some sort such that daily governing doesn’t grind to a halt.

halfwheeled
Guest
halfwheeled

Chris nailed it on the head: too many white folks are commenting who are not part of the immediate neighborhood. What percentage of locals are on this discussion? IMHO, very few from what I’ve been reading.

I’m a minority, lived in the area for 30+ years, and been a cyclist for almost just as long. Never have I heard my neighbors push for more bike lanes.

So the question is: Has there been a grassroots “neighborhood” movement pushing for more bike
lanes? No.

From what I have been hearing, it’s the mostly white bicycling community that want changes.

Matt
Guest
Matt

You could like at it like cyclists are the minority in the world of traffic flow and simply pursuing their rights. Doesn’t matter where any of us live.

Champs
Guest
Champs

If the community’s got much larger concerns than transportation, then it needs to go to the mayor’s office. PBOT doesn’t do redress for social injustice.

BURR
Guest
BURR

good point, but the mayor’s also the transportation commissioner, so what difference would it make?

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

BURR brings up an important point… I think some bike projects in Portland are more difficult to get traction on and prone to controversy precisely because Mayor Adams is in charge of PBOT… especially in a run-up to an election.

Champs
Guest
Champs

Maybe Adams needs to step up, I just know that it’s not where (possibly perceived) institutional racism should be addressed. There’s nothing PBOT, Parks and Recreation, the fire department, or Animal Control can do alone to take on a systemic problem.

Patty Freeman
Guest
Patty Freeman

I think the Williams safety project needs to continue with the African American community at the table. And I think the bigger conversation needs to move to the Mayor’s office, and have PBOT, PDC, etc. at the table to develop a strategy to ensure that the African American community has a voice in the priorities set for Portland.

Steve B
Guest

I like the sound of that! Great suggestion.

sabernar
Guest
sabernar

But why just the African-American community? You need to also include the Hispanic community, the Asian community, the Jewish community, etc.

middle of the road guy
Guest
middle of the road guy

You are suggesting that 5% of the population should have more than 5% of the say?

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Nice photo of the existing traffic conditions.

dan
Guest
dan

Is the bike lane on Williams slammed during the peak commute all year long, or just during the summer?

rider
Guest
rider

Even when not slammed with bikes the narrow traffic lanes, coupled with the narrow bike lanes and dooring lane, it’s not safe. I ride this route year round and I have many times found myself with a bus hugging the white line to my left and a car door opening to my right. Right now there simply isn’t enough real estate to accommodate bicyclists safely. The issue is exacerbated in the heavy summer bike traffic, but it doesn’t go away when the rain comes.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

Most cycleway facilities are slammed year round in the city.

dan
Guest
dan

This is only anecdotal, but I have to disagree about my route into work: Lincoln –> Ladd –> Madison. It’s rarely crowded, and never in the winter. In the winter I sometimes have the whole bridge to myself.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

I gotta wonder if you’re hitting those at off-peak times.

Mindful Cyclist
Guest
Mindful Cyclist

I think the main reason Williams is so crowded during rush hour is because it is the easier way to access N. Portland. Mississippi, Interstate and Greeley all have pretty steep hills to climb.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

Portland has hills. If you didn’t want hills, you’d live in Kansas. :oP

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Hills there too; no mountains though.

Topography of American Great Plains (including Kansas): Sahara sand dunes with grass on top. Steep grades around ancient river basins.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

Apart from the grind that is the hill on Greeley, you have four lanes of high speed (some 55+) traffic and a major freight terminal.

It’s more miserable than riding 30 through NW.

OnTheRoad
Guest
OnTheRoad

I am bewildered how postponing the development of an expanded bike lane (including the loss of a car traffic lane) would do anything to rectify historic racism.

Have the people in this neighborhood not heard how the increased traffic and pollution levels caused by the Columbia River Crossing project would affect the health of this corridor’s residents? Why don’t they raise their voices about those negative health issues rather than the improved health and safety environment engendered by more bicycle traffic and a more calmed arterial shopping street?

BURR
Guest
BURR

the bike lane is a much smaller and easier target than the CRC

dirt_merchant
Guest
dirt_merchant

You said it. Bicycle projects are an easy and tangible target. AND we want to listen and include everybody too.

David Parsons
Guest

I’d suspect it’s not just historic racism, but ongoing racism in the form of “make it easier for young white professionals to get into and out of the area, and then the property owners can shove the current (black) tenants out and rake in the dough selling and/or renting to well-heeled white folk.”

Terrible traffic and inaccessability to bicycles make the neighborhood less desirable, and thus preserves the existing community.

sabernar
Guest
sabernar

and we want to keep neighborhoods less desirable because…..???

middle of the road guy
Guest
middle of the road guy

That was the exact reason I moved into North Portland….specifically so I could force another minority out. Sure, I could have bought a nicer home in the suburbs, but the institutional racism manual that all white guys are given at birth dictated that it was my duty to live in a less safe neighborhood just to that one more minority could be disenfranchised from the house they were letting fall apart.

Edie Spencer
Guest

Actually people in that neighborhood have raised concerns regarding those very issues…only to be ignored because no one wants to see how racism and classism contributes those issues.

middle of the road guy
Guest
middle of the road guy

Part of that conversation should include WHY the community has let things fall apart.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

Likely because you don’t have the neighborhood churches making noise about it on Sundays and Wednesdays.

andy
Guest
andy

If we are talking about the gentrification of an entire neighborhood, why is the discussion only focused on Williams? Why not MLK? Why not Mississippi? Or any of the east-west streets? I don’t know the mode share for the neighborhood as a whole, but I would guess that at least 80% of the traffic is by automobile, and that’s probably being generous. That’s 80% of the white, middle class population taking advantage of a quick commute from downtown. That’s 80% of the white, middle class population looking for a good parking spot along one of the commercial strips. If we are going to have a discussion about gentrification and transportation, then we need to look at the neighborhood as a whole, not just the one street with a relatively high percentage of bike traffic.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

Because the damage has been done to MLK and Mississippi already, and the odds of being able to fix that against the desires of profiteering land developers and their friends in government are somewhere between 0 and and matching all five numbers and the powerball on a 9-figure jackpot.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Ironic that bikes and affordable transportation are considered part of gentrification. Also ironic that most of these bicyclists probably have less annual income than the noisy residents dwelling on the past. Another irony is associating (literally) poor bicyclists for past racism by an entirely different (wealthy) generation. Yet another irony is that all parties involved in this discussion (including myself) are disgusted at past racism and the people that enabled it.

But I know these loud neighborhood “activists”. They come in every hair color, height and shape. This has less to do about race and more to do about an established population opposing change, in any form. This is also about a generational gap. While I don’t want to forget about the errors of our elders, I don’t think this “conversation” about race with the current younger generation is moving us forward. Quite the opposite. I’m hoping racism, in all forms, dies with the last generation.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

Part of it is the image put out by a lot of the cyclists in this city. You don’t find many folks just going about their business on a bike. What you do find a lot of are hipsters right out of the stereotype catalog using a bicycle as a fashion accessory and Lycra-clad, special-clipless-bike-shoes wearing gearheads. As a result, it’s really hard for the average Joe of any stripe to relate to cyclists in this city, even when you are an average Joe cyclist.

Joe Adamski
Guest
Joe Adamski

The backlash regarding Williams is really frustration about gentrification issues being directed towards bike commuters. Missing in this backlash is the City, PDC, the ranks of developers, large and small, speculators and bankers, the folks that actually had some actual involvement in gentrification.
I can understand the frustration some may feel about gentrification. Directing it at bike commuters is striking out at a visible symptom, not the cause. I suspect it is because the bike community has been much more adept at their voice being heard, and the City responding than those who opposed the gentrification happening in their neighborhoods, and did not get any meaningful response from the CIty.
Cyclists had nothing to do with what happened in North and Northeast regarding gentrification but are somehow being asked to sacrifice their safety and a safe and convenient route to atone for a perceived wrong committed by others.

BURR
Guest
BURR

well stated, Joe!

dwainedibbly
Guest
dwainedibbly

PBOT is not in charge of dealing with racism or gentrification and, as such, it is not going to be able to do much about these issues. Given the frustration expressed, I have no doubt that there are problems, I just don’t see how the PBOT plans for North Williams are going to be able to address 90+ years of history.

Barney
Guest
Barney

Just scrap the plan for Williams and move on to the next project in line. Let entities other than PBOT deal with the “social injustice” issues and don’t waste time on unwilling participants in improving the community. Maybe they will come around some time in the future!

Hugh Johnson
Guest
Hugh Johnson

so sad if it comes to that.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

No kidding. Easier and cheaper to move on and deal with bigger fish to fry, like getting the dedicated bicycle infrastructure that isn’t tied to existing motorist infrastructure out of Parks & Rec’s claws and into PBOT’s…

Suburban
Guest
Suburban

Agreed. Just operate your vehicle in the wider lane, and put planning energy into another street that needs safety upgrades.

TonyT
Guest
tonyt

I think that this is an example of a community that struggles to be heard, finding an opportunity to stonewall something so that they can demand to be heard.

As the woman at the meeting said, “I understand what you’re saying, I’m just pissed.”

She doesn’t really have any real justification for opposing the safety improvements other than that she’s pissed about the past. And because the city IS changing the way they do things, and IS inviting the community to offer input, she, and others exploit the city’s desire to improve things, by standing in the way to protest how they USED to do things.

I understand that these issues are complex, but the hijacking of traffic safety issues to seek redress for previous wrongs is short-sighted and frankly immature.

rootbeerguy
Guest
rootbeerguy

if NE Portland were entirely white, i am sure some people in the neighborhood would object to that PBOT plan. 50’s and East Holgate are good examples. Anyway, landlords imposed higher rent so they could replace non-desirables with better tenants. A few years real estate market In Portland was ridiculously high. NE houses were cheap to buy. Guess who: white people bought and spruced them up. But the certain group of people felt slighted by whole thing because they did not have opportunity to better themselves. Banks historically denied them to get loans for home ownership and business. Job discrimination. Low pay jobs. landlord slums, etc… They feel stuck like a broken record. How could they go forward with the whole sh+t? That is why they feel we do not understand their struggles.

Chris
Guest
Chris

You are correct, good explanation, but this seems a lot less to do with race and more to do with wealth. I’m sure whites felt the same resentment if they were pushed out of their neighborhood by the ”haves.”

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

I might be red, but I still feel that way about most of this city.

Chris
Guest
Chris

When I was looking for a neighborhood I wanted something in Portland, close to my work, low priced, and family/bike friendly. Over the years I have lived here I am seeing young families move into my neighborhood en mass, probably for the same reason I did. The neighborhood is drastically improving; shops are moving in, community groups are forming, and crime is down.

I didn’t realize I was such a horrible person!

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

How much higher are rents now than they were before the neighborhood was redeveloped? Would you have considered it before that? If you answered anything greater than zero, or no, respectively, then pat yourself on the back for being part of the problem and being proud of it.

Mindful Cyclist
Guest
Mindful Cyclist

Chris: Gentrification goes well beyond a couple of white families moving into a minority neighborhood. It is about developers buying houses on the cheap and flipping them. Or, buying up an apartment complex, landscaping the outside, slapping in IKEA kitchens and calling it a condo.

Then comes the Yoga studios, the restaurants, and coffee shops that really never fit in the neighborhood before, but will still set up shop since the rent is cheap.

Also, crime rates didn’t go down. They just moved.

Sam
Guest
Sam

Come to the NE 8th and Holman intersection in Woodlawn this Sunday to meet your neighbors and celebrate the new painted intersection. Fun starts at 2.

Alison
Guest
Alison

I have been reading all of your comments and I think turning this into a racial discussion is not only unnecessary, but counterproductive. The residents of the N. Williams neighborhood should have a say and a place in the discussion about any issues in their neighborhood, especially when it comes to removing an entire lane from this major artery and replacing it with a bike lane. It really doesn’t matter whether their skin is white, black or purple, for that matter. If it means a major change in their neighborhood, they should be involved in the discussion and the decision-making process–period.

Charley
Guest
Charley

This project should go forward as planned. PBOT is not capable of righting the centuries’ many wrongs against black people, and the safety of the cyclists who ride the substandard facilities on Williams shouldn’t be held hostage. If these neighborhood activists are “just pissed,” then there’s nothing PBOT can do, except to let them vent their anger.

They don’t seem to have any solutions (other than encouraging transportation wonks to attend hug and cry sessions), so let them have their anger, and then get on with making the streets safer for people, white or black or whatever.

Maybe, eventually, they’ll turn their attention to tackling gang violence or economic stagnation. With so many new businesses opening in the neighborhood, why not focus on getting young black people into all the new jobs? Then maybe they could afford to stay in the neighborhood and stem the tide of apparently predatory white people.

Kronda
Guest

Jonathan,

I like your idea of community based events. I doubt the people who think everything is just fine on Williams have ever ridden in the bike lane at 5pm.

Riding the mile in the other shoe so to speak would be a good start towards moving people towards dealing with reality instead of perception not based on experience. I’d be willing to take passengers on the Dummy, for those too intimidated to ride it themselves.

On the other side, you’ve mentioned several times that you feel PBOT staff should go through sensitivity training. I’m wondering if you’ve ever considered doing the same?

You keep saying that you’re sensitive to the race issues, and I do believe you mean well– but from where I and a lot of other people (not just black people btw) sit, you seem to be steeped so deeply in the middle of your white privilege that you can’t see it, any more than a fish sees water. Personally, I find that attitude more frustrating than being refused service in a restaurant (yes, that has happened).

You said, “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.”

Maybe not, but I think you could get a lot closer than you are now. This might be a good place to start.

If this project is ever going to succeed, I think it will start with everyone putting aside their assumptions, at least temporarily, and being willing to step out of their entrenched ideas before we talk about compromising.

KJ
Guest
KJ

That is a fantastic link. Thank you for sharing it. I wonder how many people will check it out.

halfwheeled
Guest
halfwheeled

THANK YOU KONDRA!! You eloquently said what was on my mind, and didn’t have the words to put it in writing.

I too think Maus means well and is a stellar individual in the cycling community, but there definitely is a racial disconnect that prevents a meaningful dialog on this issue.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

“I too think Maus means well and is a stellar individual in the cycling community, but there definitely is a racial disconnect that prevents a meaningful dialog on this issue.”

halfwheeled,
Thanks for those kind words. Like I asked Kronda, can you please share with me more specifics/examples on why/where you think there is a “racial disconnect.”

Also, I disagree w/ you that I haven’t facilitated “meaningful dialogue” on this issue.

Perhaps you missed my interview with Sharon Maxwell-Hendricks a few months ago? Or my previous reporting on this exact issue several years ago? Or the reporting from Williams project meetings where I shared verbatim comments from people opposed to this process/project so that a larger swath of the community could hear and try to understand their concerns?

I would love to hear your thoughts about how I could present this issue better so that more meaningful dialogue could result.

Thanks.

Natalie
Guest
Natalie

Thank you for posting this link! It’s frustrating when people think that racism is this dichotomy–you either are or you aren’t (and the same goes for sexism, homophobia, classism…). Prejudice and naivete go hand in hand–just because you aren’t a hater doesn’t mean you “get it.” Now if only OregonLive commenters could read this article…

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

Hey Kronda,

Thanks for your comment and your thoughts on this. I would really like to hear a specific example of how you think I have practiced the type of “liberal racism” that is described in your link.

I am open to your criticisms and I want to understand them better and be a more effective reporter/community leader… I consider myself very honest and open to seeing/acknowledging my shortcomings and I would like to understand in more detail why you think I have racial disconnect.

If you can point to something specific that I’ve said, perhaps that would help.

Thanks.

Esther
Guest
Esther

I know you’re asking Kronda and her opinions may differ vastly from mine. But thre are a few ways the discussion has gone, which leave a sour taste in my mouth. (I actually have tried not to follow it too closely- I border on having anxiety disorder and it works me up too much). Not all of it is you specifically Jonathan, a lot of it is commenters, but I see you tweeting links to comments that promote some of this. And of course, this is all very much IMHO.

1. “Hey! look! Black people bike TOO! See, here’s a picture! That means bike lane= GOOD FOR BLACK PEOPLE!” No, I am not saying you have said that explicitly, but there is a LOT of this “bicycling IS equitable –> good for poor & black people –> black people SHOULD LIKE IT!” talk flying around.
Yes, I think everyone reading bikeportland would agree that bicycling is generally good for health, the environment, increases equitable income and expense distribution etc etc etc., and yes, people of color bike and we DO need to put more of a spotlight on them & their needs (and I feel like you try to do this Jonathan!); but that doesn’t mean it is the highest priority as The Solution for people.

So people make (to us) specious comparisons to money that’s spent on gang reduction or education or potholed roads in Cully or whatever. Yep, apples and oranges in terms of funding, BUT to a lot of people, having your family members-especially your teenage/20something family members-in danger of being killed daily (and worse, having the police, another taxpayer funded enterprise, totally ignore you when you file reports, as happened early in the case of Yashawnee Vaughn; or even having them killed or put in terrible danger BY police, see also Calbruce Jamal Green, Aaron Campbell, Keaton Dupree Otis) IS a bigger deal than trying to lose weight or prevent some future semi-theoretical diabetes by bicycling.
That’s just an example, and I don’t claim to speak for anyone who is black or part of that community, but I feel like the response that “you are comparing apples or oranges, one is one pot of funding, this other is another source of funding” minimizes VERY REAL life or death issues for some people. Minimizing is not a way to be an active listener or to work towards partnership. And no, throwing numbers around doesn’t just fix it.

1a. When Proposion 8 banning gay marriage in CA passed, tons of people blamed it on black people being religious and turning out the vote and black people voted for it at a higher percentage yadda yadda yadda. Yet somehow a similar measure in oregon passed with a white majority; even if all black people had voted against 8 it still would have passed; a majority of whites voted for it; etc. There is this perception that one minority group should then be able to see how difficult it is for another minority group (in this case, bicyclists) and therefore identify/support their cause or needs. I feel there is some of this going on as well.

2. Equity discussions shouldn’t be put in a separate room from other discussions. Equity is a meta discussion but it should be a component of EVERY “real” discussion. It has to be integrated, not just shuttled over the Office of Equity to fix.

It is not fair that developers and private homeowners/landlords and investors and all those people who built up Williams with a lot of $ and drove up home prices DIDN’T have to talk about or answer to equity in the same way, but that doesn’t mean that transportation (or any of our publicly/taxpayer funded projects) get to leave out that component of the discussion. People get into saying that every transpo improvement discussion in Portland, e.g. Holgate, would get bogged down forever if they had to answer these kinds of questions. Maybe, but I find it specious to compare projects like outer Holgate, which hasn’t changed AS significantly in the last 20-30 years (everywhere has changed, don’t get me wrong), to a neighborhood like Williams which has experienced severe/extreme class AND race stratification (and racism and gentrification) both in the recent past and for the last half century or more. Ignoring that the neighborhoods around Williams are VERY DIFFERENT from other parts of Portland and has an entrenched history of white people coming in, saying they know what’s best for everyone and taking land away from black people, …well, doesn’t taking a car lane away seem an awful lot like that? Even though “we know” it’s really different? (Even though BLACK PEOPLE BIKE TOO! … see #1.)

3. Honestly, speaking as a mixed white/POC person, some of the comments I see on here are truly chilling in their narrow mindedness/racism. I think you would do well to make a bigger effort to fight back against those or comment distancing yourself (and the rest of us). Like people saying “well I see an awful lot of black people jaywalking” or Jay’s comment above bascially saying black people need to STFU. They border on Oregonlive shit.
LIke it or not, you are a journalist and an activist, and though you and I agree there is no singular monolothic “bike community,” you are a spokesman for what other people perceive to be the “bike community” and you’ve recently been on 2+ radio shows speaking to that end. Your site is BIKE PORTLAND. People who don’t care about or don’t even like or support bicycling infrastructure are referring to this site to gauge how those of us who support bicycling infrastructure feel….and it sickens me to think that I could be associated with some of those comments.

Thanks for listening.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

thanks Esther,

I’m really learning a lot by yours and other people’s comments. I appreciate you taking the time to share those thoughts.

One thought about the comment from Jay that you reference. I re-read his comment, and I don’t see it the same way as you do. As moderator I want to let everyone express themselves. I realize some people’s opinions do not sound very nice to others… But in Jay’s case I hear frustration and — although it is close to my delete threshold — I feel it deserves to stay up.

I really am trying to check my liberal/white privilege perspective as I make editorial decisions around this story so I appreciate your comments as always.

Thanks.

biking mom
Guest
biking mom

I’m curious about what tangible, concrete complaints people have expressed, besides general feelings of annoyance at “SSDD”, gentrification, emotional expressions. I think if we can get to nuts and bolts about what specific concerns exist that would be a way to find middle ground. I wish I’d been at the meeting. For instance, were there business owners there that are concerned about less parking for their businesses? That is a tangible problem that we can at least start to problem-solve.

I’ve heard that some of the church leaders that were there expressed concern that some of their attendees would not be able to park close to their church. Is this correct?

At first glance, it would seem that safety for many, many people on Williams trumps a handful of people’s right for close parking. However, I do think this is a logical outreach from the past. Many churches in NE have long-time members that used to live in the area, and for one reason or another no longer live in the area. I’m sure some of them were pushed out when eminent domain happened with Emmanuel and/or rising rent costs. So they come back to the one tie they have to the neighborhood, their church. I know that many of these folks are elderly and/or not in great health and really do need to park close.

This to me is a reasonable and valid concern. We should certainly do what we can to preserve these community members ties to the area. It was bad city policy and racist policy that helped drive them out and that was unfair. Though it may seem to folks at PBOT and other city-types that its unfair to give special exception to church-goers to park, I think that in light of the fact that in the past folks of color in the area got a particularly unfair deal, its fair enough they get special consideration now.

I don’t think its logical to say that because of rotten past history, we can’t move forward with a much-needed safety project. I think it is logical to say that it is appropriate to give area residents, who were treated badly in the past by the very same agencies, should get special consideration now.

For instance: creation of a special parking lot for church-goers with a shuttle bus, paid for with a combination of funds from various sources.

I also like the idea of a community mural detailing the history of the area, along Williams.

What I would like to see, however, is some sort of outreach effort FROM the city, not just neighbors and activists. City officials, from PBOT on up, helped in the push-out gentrification process. Not just banks. The city has a duty to make extra effort now when they carry out projects in this area.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

if we want to right the wrong we need to lower property values, not build fancy new infrastructure that helps inflate them. and this is not a safety issue, its a convenience issue. there are plenty of alternative routes for people who feel that williams is unsafe.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

THIS. I wish we could +1 individual comments, because this wins the thread over and over.

Mindful Cyclist
Guest
Mindful Cyclist

BINGO! This is very much a convenience issue more than a safety issue. As I stated before, Williams is simply the least physically demanding way to access NoPo. I take different routes home on my commute and occasionally will take Williams (but turn off at Tillamook) and see what the bike traffic is like. I also just go out at times for a ride at non-peak hours and basically have the bike lane to myself.

If the cycling community really wants to make it safer and wants to remove the comment complaints about the dooring hazards or playing leap frog with Trimet buses, let’s make it easy and build a bike boulevard on NE Rodney. Not much change to existing infrastructure and put one of those crossings like they have on SE 41st and Stark (http://tinyurl.com/3dje6ke) or even a HAWK crossing. The door hazard will go down, you will breath less exhaust, and there are no buses.

I don’t feel like asking bike commuters to go 400 feet out of their way is too much to ask to avoid some hazards that we cannot change. And, before I get hit with “but, what if my destination is on Williams?”, this is to ease the bike traffic concern of people commuting to their residences. If you are heading to Tasty and Son’s, take the cross street closest back to Williams or use the existing bike lane.

Mindful Cyclist
Guest
Mindful Cyclist

That crossing would be on Fremont.

peejay
Guest
peejay

How, exactly, does the city reduce property values of a neighborhood? And how, exactly, do the property owners — including the original black residents — go along with this?

There is one tool the city has to prevent a community from being priced out of their traditional neighborhoods, and that is to allow for the kind of density that takes pressure off housing costs in spite of rising property costs. Anything else would be unworkable, or unfair to those who actually want to improve their neighborhood.

Hugh Johnson
Guest
Hugh Johnson

I grew up in North Portland and for years lamented the run down houses and boarded up old buildings. Seems like sour grapes from a very vocal group now that things have improved.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

that “vocal minority” should be happy to have been forced out of their neighborhood by tax payer-funded real estate development projects. their new apartments in gresham are far nicer than the run-down old pdx homes on tree-lined streets they used to live in.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

/sarcasm

sabernar
Guest
sabernar

I agree with some of the above commenters: this seems more of a class issue than a race issue. Replace them with a poor Hispanic neighborhood or a poor white neighborhood, and they’d probably be treated the same way. Wealthier people still would have bought up cheap real estate and opened up businesses in low-rent districts, pushing out the poorer, more established community. It might not be race that’s the issue, but class.

Shawn Kolitch
Guest
Shawn Kolitch

There seems to be an assumption that “the residents” of the Boise-Eliot neighborhood have a particular view of resisting improvements in bicycle infrastructure. This is not the case. For better or worse, gentrification started a long time ago in the Boise-Eliot area. Therefore, a large fraction of Boise-Eliot residents do not share the same views as the vocal group that opposes the elimination of a car lane. I am among them and so are many, if not most, of my neighbors. We all live one block from NE Williams.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

No doubt this is probably a representative opinion for anyone who grew up in Boise-Eliot or lived there prior to various gentrification efforts. Granted, what the neighborhood was prior to that wasn’t anything wonderful, but at least it wasn’t trying to be a Disneyland version of itself. I’m a pretty firm believer that if the neighborhood wasn’t severely wronged by the Minnesota Freeway, and the MLK and Mississippi redevelopments, adding another bike lane to Williams would have been a no-brainer non-issue today.

(I remember when Boise-Eliot were two different adjacent neighborhoods; I was born into that neighborhood and my middle name is Eliot)

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

“This project should go forward as planned. PBOT is not capable of righting the centuries’ many wrongs against black people, and the safety of the cyclists who ride the substandard facilities on Williams shouldn’t be held hostage.”

The gentrification and “cleansing” of nopo is not a century old wrong! It is a very recent abysmal failure by a city that pretends to have progressive values but is really entirely aligned with the interests of developers, lenders, brokers, and the wealthy “creatives” they cater to.

Charley
Guest
Charley

I guess, alternatively, the city could refuse to improve any element of a minority-majority neighborhood: refuse to improve schools, transportation infrastructure, public safety, parks, you name it. Then the property values would stay down, and the economically depressed would have nowhere in the neighborhood to work. Then, I suppose, they’d rightfully complain that the city has showered money on wealthy neighborhoods, in order to raise their standard of living, while ignoring the plight of the minority neighborhood. It’s a classic Catch-22. If the city tries to lift the neighborhood up, the neighborhood will be more attractive to non-black house buyers.

grimm
Guest
grimm

I kind of agree with this, PBOT is in a sort of lose lose.

Do you want safety improvements (obviously some people on here do)? Ignoring improvements sounds more like SOSDD than not doing them. Frankly, you don’t always get what you want. And we don’t even know what you want.

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

While the accusations of racism seem misguided, I’m still not sure removing a traffic lane is an ideal solution. Getting rid of a car lane 24/7/365 to accomodate high volumes of bike traffic that really only occur for two hours every weekday? At almost every other time of day, the current bike lane is perfectly adequate.

I know a lot of commenters roll their eyes at the mention of sharrows, but not just blot ’em up the right auto lane and call it done? Drivers will be aware that bikes will be jumping into their lane and cyclists will know that it’s allowed– though completely optional.

NF
Guest
NF

The car lane is also only need to accommodate volumes two hours every weekday. All things being equal, shouldn’t the city be prioritizing the more effective, efficient and mode of transportation?

As for ‘jumping’ into the car lane to pass others, that rarely happens. Most of the time, people dangerously split the lane to pass. Taking the lane on a high-volume and speed road is also not for the faint hearted, and will not reach the interested but concerned riders.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

maxadders
While the accusations of racism seem misguided, I’m still not sure removing a traffic lane is an ideal solution.

A bicycle lane is a traffic lane. So are bus lanes, tram lanes, taxi lanes, fire lanes and any other kind of restricted lane you can think of.

Justin Morton
Guest
Justin Morton

I just want to say that the issue of gentrification is not unique to Portland. It is something that is taking place in almost every major city in America.

Ross
Guest
Ross

I think we are fortunate to have a bike like on a street like this….many cities do not.

Edie Spencer
Guest

In my research for my documentary, The Rose Quarter and construction of several highways destroyed a number of working class neighborhoods, many of them with African American residents. Vanport was flooded and not rebuilt- instead turned into a industrial dump. So, the idea that racism, classism and PBOT policy can be separated is a big NO. It seems foolish to think that residents that have a very long and distrustful history with City Hall and PBOT is going not bring up past injustices.

In terms of the bike lane, were people in the neighborhood itself consulted or polled about this? Judging by the reaction and language used in describing the meeting a couple of nights ago, it seems that it was not. More frequent bus service and links to downtown and Beaverton seem to be the desire here- so that people can get jobs. There is also desire for patrols, lights and tree trimming as well. Bike lanes are seen as part of the transport link issue.(this is based on my own research of the area over the past year for my film project.)

Neighborhood streets are not merely conduits to get to point A to point B. They are also social spaces. Regarding these people as nothing more than inconvenient obstacles is precisely the issue that grips the community here. By going on about bike lanes without tying that in with the needs of the community AND recognizing historical mistrust, bike advocates who would like to see biking improvements will not win allies.

We are going for a gestalt here, not just one point.

middle of the road guy
Guest
middle of the road guy

Edie, race is a secondary factor. Highways always go in to the areas with the lowest property values…and there is little incentive to rebuild a poor neighborhood when things are destroyed.

When they plan highways in Norway, who is getting displaced?

dmc
Guest
dmc

I can’t afford to live in my old neighborhood. :\

Hooper
Guest
Hooper

Make Williams Car Free!

Harvey
Guest
Harvey

What if we gave (out of our $600 million taxpayer funded bicycle dollars) bicycles to all of the long time residents of the neighborhood, inviting them to participate in the activity that we all seem to think is so important.
This could include tricycles for the older adults, and even those multi-person four wheeled bikes to the local churches.
Get the neighborhood riding.
I would imagine that some of the larger bicycle companies would be happy to turn out some asian made inexpensive units at a very good price.

If we can’t beat ’em, have them join us.2500 bikes would cost less than $250,000. It worked for Ikea, go out to Cascade station and you see a ton of them locked up at the bike racks.
http://consumerist.com/2010/12/ikea-gives-out-bikes-to-12400-employees.html

Chris Smith
Guest

Harvey, putting aside the fact that there is no pool of $600M approved by taxpayers, your questions raised important points of how complex this issue was.

When in a private meeting I suggested more outreach to help the African American community realize more of the benefits of cycling (more affordable than auto ownership, health benefits, etc.) I was accused of stuffing my culture down someone else’s throat.

There is ample reason for distrust of “good ideas” from the majority culture (even if they are indeed manifestly good policy from my point of view and yours).

There are also subtler issues. I can show up in my workplace in casual street clothes that are suitable for low-effort cycling. But it’s been pointed out to me that many African Americans feel they have to show up to work neater and more put together than their white co-workers due to historical prejudices.

Several centuries of discrimination leave lasting effects that are pervasive and can’t be easily dismissed. That’s why we need to slow down this process and make room for a lot more trust-building and empowerment.

Yo Mama
Guest
Yo Mama

Improved bike lane accessibility on Williams isn’t accessible to all. It’s systematically rooted in race/ethnicity and class. Therein lies the problem.

I have been in the neighborhood for 20 years. As a very poor bike commuting single mom, I raised my kids here. We can’t afford to stay, and my kids will never be able to afford to buy into the area. We remember the CCC when BL started it and depended on its resources. We remember the first Critical and Kidical Masses from all those years ago. We took advantage of the cheap food at the local markets on Killingsworth St and 15th Ave, and with the great food deals at the local burrito joints, I could take my family out to eat on $8.

Now for the current shops in the hood, as wonderful as they are, I can’t afford fabulous wheels from the wheel shop. I can’t afford a bike from that awesome bike builder. I can’t afford Yoga at whatever studio and I can’t afford to eat at Pix Patisserie or drink at the Lompoc. I can barely afford coffee at the place next to the fancy pubic hair waxing studio.

It is an issue of racism where racism intersects with class issues, ownership, and entitlement. And the racism is very current as well as historical.

The recently displaced and at-risk residents of the neighborhood we all love to love can’t benefit en masse from the recent and proposed changes. I don’t want to move to Gresham or Vancouver. This is my home, but rents are still going up.

PS. Neighborhood people of color have always depended on bike transportation. More jobs just tend to be much further away now.

Harvey
Guest
Harvey

All I am saying is that bicycles are fun, give people bicycles so they can have fun, and join in on the fun that is already happening, and then maybe they will want williams to be fun too. It’s a good ol’ buy the vote scheme, simple and tidy.

No need to face race and history here.

dmc
Guest
dmc

I share your thought/Idea/dream Harvey.

sd
Guest
sd

The Williams restructuring is a correction of prior road design that disregards the local nopo community.

The Williams design now, divides the residential, small business area with fast-moving traffic. The members of the community, which include myself and my family, are negatively impacted by its current design. If one wanted to argue that streets are designed with lack of respect for marginalized or traditionally black communities, Williams current design would be a great example of racism or classism in city planning.

The changes proposed for Williams correct these prior wrongs. They are an investment in the health and quality of life of the local community. The vocal opponents should consider the well-being of the people they consider their community.
The negative health impacts of city planning that disregard the needs of impoverished communities is well documented. Primarily, design flaws decrease active transportation and access to essential services. The changes proposed for Williams are a step in fixing these flaws that were engineered into Williams during Portland’s unsavory history.

I am concerned that the vocal oponents that have opposed this project know more about being vocal oponents than they do about the health of their communities, transprotation infrastructure, basic facts about the project or racism and gentrification.

Lazy Spinner
Guest
Lazy Spinner

So much hand wringing and armchair sociology involved with this! If you fear the hills on the other routes in North Portland then:

A. Improve your fitness and learn to freakin’ climb!
B. Get an e-bike or a triple
C. Deal with N. Williams since it is your choice to take this “easier” route.

I have to commute over the West Hills, where’s my dedicated bike tunnel under Washington Park?! I shouldn’t have to have burning quads or be sweaty!

PBOT should just let this project slip into obscurity and work on the next one in line. If the neighbors don’t really want it then so be it. I am sypmpathetic as this is just another example of the city spending a great deal of time and money to make a few more caucasian trendsters happy while losing sight of the big picture. Maybe in future years we can all slurp our synthetic applesauce at the nursing home and debate whether the slighly revised 2030 Bike Plan now called PDX Social Justice, Equality, and Green Byways 2060 plan will ever get built for our grandchildren?

Joe
Guest
Joe

Yawn.. City needs to mothball transportation projects in this area since residents refuse to even discuss the transportation issues, and put the limited dollars to better use elsewhere. It’s unfortunate, but hey, it’s not hard to find a pressing transportation need elsewhere.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Then they will complain even more…

But seriously, what kind of percentages are we talking about here? Is the majority of the community against this? Or are we just dealing with a few vocal folks, here.

elle
Guest
elle

It’s sad to see some area residents so in the grip of the victim mentality that they would oppose concrete actions to improve the neighborhood. Someone called it immature. It is. It’s childlike. You cannot succeed if you think like that. And indeed, they havent. Many other non white minority groups have immigrated to the US and been successful. That “you just don’t understand my pain”‘ attitude is deadly. I shudder to think of subjecting kids to that. Break out of that rut.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

its vey sad to see the entitled and wealthy denigrate the people they have uprooted and marginalized.

dmc
Guest
dmc

these are assumptions.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

*woosh*

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Assuming that the cycling community is “wealthy” is rather silly. Most the riders I see on Williams/Vancouver do not look “wealthy”. I would say middle class. They might even earn as much as the people complaining about being marginalized, but they don’t waste money on cars.

are
Guest

interesting use of the word “immigrated”

dmc
Guest
dmc

+1

marshmallow
Guest
marshmallow
Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

Hugh Johnson
Sorry but sounds just like “the projects”. Not sure that’s where Portland wants to be.

The difference between what Portland has but has been losing continually since the 90s isn’t “the projects.” Nobody’s suggesting tract high-rise apartment housing disconnected from the community at large like “the projects.” Just quit eliminating the quality low-cost housing that currently exists just for the sake of “cleaning up the community.” That almost universally results in higher property rates, which in turn, gentrifies the neighborhood.

Like it or not, Portland is not made up entirely of rich, white people. Tulsa figured this one out 70 years ago; I’d like to think that Portland is less about class warfare than the south, but the redevelopment of the MLK corridor suggests otherwise, and I’m pretty sure the folks along Williams are afraid they’re about to get worked over like the MLK strip.

Mike
Guest
Mike

Is improving a community considered gentrification?

Mindful Cyclist
Guest
Mindful Cyclist

Depends on what you mean by “Improving.”

The neighborhood residents getting together to pick up trash and cover gang graffiti: No

Outsiders coming in and flipping houses or doing other (sometimes tax-payer funded) renovations: Yep!

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Reallocating a car travel lane to bikes would seem to fall on the decided “no” part of the line for me. Which is kinda where this debate is centered around, isn’t it?

bumblebee
Guest
bumblebee

It seems that emotions are playing much too heavy a role in this controversy. If this proposed project makes the residents feel marginalized and oppressed then, by their estimation, it must be wrong, and it’s their duty to fight it. It’s a mistake to allow emotions to dictate safety measures. I have to wonder if they aren’t trying to derail the improvement to N. Williams simply because it’s within the scope of their power to do so.

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

Consider for a moment the residents in the area don’t consider these changes an improvement. Maybe that will help you to understand why they’re fighting the change.

halfwheeled
Guest
halfwheeled

Exactly, maybe its just me, but I have yet to see a local movement for changes to Williams. If anyone has seen otherwise, please do let me know.

Jay
Guest
Jay

I’m a 32yo white college-educated gay male who lives in Nob Hill and sometimes uses Williams for weekend/recreational riding. Look, I mean no disrespect but I’m not someone wracked with “white guilt” who tiptoes around issues like this because I’m afraid of offending people. I’ve had more than one brush with a few people in Portland who claimed to be so liberal and tolerant but who’ve basically spat on my rights one way or another.

I understood the tone and the meaning behind the comments and the issues brought up at the recent meeting by certain black “civic leaders” but like most of you, I was just a tad annoyed after a while that these issues, while valid, were being brought up at a meeting whose main purpose was to discuss a bike lane. At no point, did I ever actually “get” from these leaders that they didn’t want the bike lane. So I think we can stop debating about whether or not PBOT will build one. I did however, “get” from these people that they were upset about the changes to the N Williams neighborhood and about how they feel they’ve been systematically denied a voice in any discussion regarding changes to the neighborhood.

The problem is that no one in the meeting had the balls to say “hey look, thats sad; but that isn’t why we’re here, so unless you have an opinion about whether or not we should build this, kindly shut up.”

(I can see the shocked looks on your faces)

A bike lane on Williams has nothing to do with race and “social injustice.” And I’m sorry but that meeting was the WRONG place to try to give a voice to these concerns. N Williams has ALREADY “changed” demographically nearly 10 years ago so I’m not sure why these “black civic leaders” who hijacked the last meeting suddenly just now noticed that.

Also, I really am getting sick and tired of how gentrification is such a bad thing when it displaces black people but its not a bad thing when it “cleans up” a formerly dangerous neighborhood that had been full of white people (Pearl District, Nob Hill, Fairview, Wood Village)

The fact of the matter is that gentrification happens. And you only truly have power over “where you live” when you OWN your home. Getting your rent raised is unfortunately, part of the capitalist society we live in. If you want rent that doesn’t go up; live in one of the WAY-TOO-MANY rent-restricted new properties that keep springing up downtown. That, (and this is directed at the poster “Andrew”) is where all the “affordable housing” is now.

Thanks

middle of the road guy
Guest
middle of the road guy

+1. Well stated. Sadly, it means more coming from you as a gay man that it would coming from me as a straight one.

Mindful Cyclist
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Mindful Cyclist

“(I can see the shocked looks on your faces)”

That is an embarrassed look on my face since I am also a gay white guy and people are going to assume I feel the same way.

Being from a minority group doesn’t mean you know what’s best for people of other minority groups.

Maybe the gays and lesbians that fought against the inclusion of homosexuality as a mental illness should have just been told “hey look, thats sad;” but that isn’t why we’re here and we don’t care if feel marginalized, so “kindly shut up.”

Kristen
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Kristen

Very nicely done, Jay. Thanks for posting.

cyclist
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cyclist

The Pearl District was never dangerous, it was an old industrial district that got emptied out when manufacturing jobs left the city center. If you can’t figure out the difference between what’s happened in the Pearl and what’s happened in N/NE Portland then perhaps your college education didn’t serve you very well.

Julien D
Guest
Julien D

Oh give me a break. The Pearl District was a crack den when I first moved to Portland back in 1996; abandoned warehouses, homeless people sleeping on the streets and in those abandoned buildings and drug deals happening in plain view. Nob Hill (the NW 23rd area) where I live now used to be (back in teh 70’s) a a run-down, hooker-boulevard populated by mainly truckdrivers and transients–mostly white–since hey; this is Portland.

The point I’m trying to make (and the one that I’m quickly losing patience with most of you about, given your apparent “white guilt”) is that you dont get to claim a neighborhood belongs to you when you’re a renter. Sorry; but you can’t–and that applies to EVERYONE–black, white yellow or green. If you don’t own your home and the real estate values around you suddenly jump because of neighborhood improvements and “urban renewal”–you can bet the person who owns your property is either going to sell it; forcing you to move or your rent is going to skyrocket. If that happens to you..OH WELL. If anything; this is just another incentive into home ownership. If you’re not able to afford to buy your home in that neighborhood anymore..you move. Thats what the human population living in cities has done for years–we’re just now making an issue out of it because a specific group of people is currently being affected by it. How is that fair?

I’ll give you an example of other forms of “gentrification” that I too could make an issue out of if I want to but the same principle applies. Downtown is now rife with “Section 32” housing. Housing that is “rent-controlled” into rents that are far below the real “market value” for property that is in such a great location. However, the owners of these properties get countless tax benefits and apparently are able to make more money reliably by keeping these properties at such a low rate. The problem is the “income requirements” to live in these buildings are so ridiculously low that any person making at least a livable annual income or better doesn’t qualify to get in! On the other extreme; almost all of the other properties downtown that AREN’T rent controlled have some of the absolute HIGHEST rents on the market. My point—the chasmic socio-economic disparity among downtown residents has also created a “forced out” feeling when trying to live downtown but I’m not bitching to the local government that my rights as a citizen are being trampled or that I’m being discriminated against — it just boils down to economics; so what gives the few blacks left in N Williams the right to claim that this PBOT project is trampling their rights? It has nothing to do with recent departure of some of the “original residents” and it isn’t “forcing out” the few left from this population.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

Your memory fails you; it was a sketchy place when the brewery was there.

jim
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jim

has anybody brought up the question of gentrification on the cully project? I know that there are a ton of immigrants that live there. Personally I think it must be nice to have a sidewalk to walk on now instead of having to either walk in the street or in the dirt/gravel/ mud puddles. many of those people do walk as they dont have cars, or some ride bikes…
I would be happy if the city made improvements in my neighborhood and I didn’t get a direct bill for it.
With the increase in property values in the Williams neighborhood a lot of people have cashed out and moved to nicer places that they couldn’t afford before all the gentrification started.
If they were smart they would jump on this now while it is available. The news is reporting that the east side of the city where 25% of the people live are not getting their fair share of money spent over there.
The city still needs to deal with what to do with all of the car traffic? It will be years or perhaps never before crc happens. so how do they fix I-5 and keep those cars from using the north south streets for cutting through?

Hooper
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Hooper

Make Williams Car Free or at least give one lane to bikes and buses. It will help the local area because at present it is Clark Count commuters trying to beat the jam on I-5 that cause problems on Williams. Make it difficult for cut through commuters then you make it easier for locals.

bumblebee
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bumblebee

cyclist
Jonathan,
To resume the conversation you exited in the last thread, I’d like to give you an opportunity to respond once again to the idea that you might make some sort of compromise with folks who want to maintain a traffic lane.
You accused me of playing “gotcha” by quoting your earlier statements* and concluding that you are unwilling to make compromises in your position to help strike a N Williams deal. Can you explain what compromises you are willing to make on this particular project?

I came across this bit of wisdom from G.K. Chesterton: “Compromise used to mean that half a loaf was better than no bread. Among modern statesmen it really seems to mean that half a loaf is better than a whole loaf.”–from “What’s Wrong With the World,” originally published in 1910 but still applicable today

Natalie
Guest
Natalie

Really productive blog post, thanks for keeping the conversation going. This is such a tough issue but the fact that so many of us aren’t shying away from it is incredibly encouraging.