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Mayoral candidate Hales’ Facebook ad: “He’ll fight for bikers!”

Posted by on January 20th, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Portland mayoral Candidate Charlie Hales isn’t being shy about positioning himself as someone who cares about bicycling. He’s running ads on Facebook that show him in a bike helmet alongside these words:

“Charlie Hales supported bike lanes and infrastructure in Portland before it was cool. Like his page to see how he’ll fight for bikers!”

It’s an interesting strategy, since “fighting” for “bikers” isn’t exactly the public opinion slam dunk you might think it is here in Portland.

Hales must be aware that current Mayor Sam Adams — who has frequently donned a helmet and done on-bike photo ops — has taken a lot of heat from residents who (mistakenly in my opinion) feel like he’s just a puppet for the all-powerful “bike lobby.” I’ve noticed time and time again that many of Adams’ detractors — or just people who have a particular beef with an issue — will attach their anger at him to bicycles. This is due in part to communications and PR gaffes made by Adams which have led to bike issues and bike-oriented road projects becoming unnecessarily controversial, then sensationalized by the local media and ultimately turning what should be a positive and exciting civic vision into a toxic political football and public scapegoat.

But I digress. Let’s get back to Hales’ ad…

What I also find interesting about it is that when I interviewed Hales’ competitor Jefferson Smith earlier this month (will publish it soon), he explained (rather well I thought) why he feels he’s the best messenger to promote bicycling precisely because he’s not a “biker” himself.

Personally, I love seeing politicians on bikes and talking about bikes; but I cringe when I see them overtly courting “bikers” and talking up a looming “fight.” I’m tired of fights and of Portlanders seeing “bikers” as a special interest that needs to be fought for in City Hall.

How about you? What do you think about this ad/strategy?

For more on Charlie Hales’ ideas about transportation, read my interview with him last month and stay tuned for interviews with Jefferson Smith and Eileen Brady.

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  • Elliot January 20, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    This talk of “bikers” from the mayoral candidates makes them sound out of touch. “Bicyclist” is the consensus label used by bicycle advocates, by a landslide.

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    • Spiffy January 20, 2012 at 2:15 pm

      he’s been supporting bikers before the term cyclist became cool…

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      • craig harlow January 24, 2012 at 4:43 pm


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  • lil'stink January 20, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    Just so long as he doesn’t fight for mountain bikers, because they don’t count in the hierarchy of Portland cycling.

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    • sorebore January 23, 2012 at 11:50 am

      I feel ya, but the truth of the matter for me is that off road cycling has always been the outsider sport for big kids as it should be! Be proud O’ muddy one!! I ride any thing and every thing when I am fit, and to honest, subsect quibbling is counter productive. Besides, there’s no real hierarchy, is there?

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  • Scott January 20, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    When are the Razor Scooter people going to get some love?

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    • sorebore January 23, 2012 at 11:40 am

      Do not ride one at the skate park if you are over 8.

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  • 9watts January 20, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    take one – good: That it is considered wise/necessary/sexy to ally oneself as a candidate with those on two wheels is considered is all for the good. Better than appealing to the trucking lobby or building trades ‘I will fight for the CRC.’

    take two – regrettable/pragmatic: Carving the city’s residents up into camps, voting blocks, and the language of fighting is unfortunate but perhaps a sign of the kind of campaigns we get–or of the zero-sum realities of transportation funding?

    take three – slick: Politicians for the most part are opportunists. This is about getting elected. He/anyone making such promises may or may not deliver.

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  • Evan Manvel January 20, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    I think it’s fantastic that a mayoral candidate is promoting his pro-bike credentials.

    And it may not be a slam-dunk with all Portlanders, but poll after poll show most Portlanders support improving bicycle transportation. The vocal anti-bicyclist minority is small.

    Maybe he can massage the message a bit — but it’s great to see him standing on our side.

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  • Spiffy January 20, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Facebook has ads? thank you AdBlock!

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  • beelnite January 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    J-Maus, you are ON FIRE!!! I love the second paragraph… that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. I think I know who these “local media” persons might be, but…

    I digress…

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  • Jessica Moskovitz January 20, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Hey J. Maus,

    I would love to talk more about this. I’m Charlie’s campaign manager. While I agree that the ad should have said “bicyclists”, and not “bikers”, I don’t think that this ad assumes a looming fight – nor does Charlie.

    Charlie is an infrastructure geek – something you know first-hand from your interview. And while that means he is often associated with streetcars, it hasn’t translated into his being associated with many projects that make Portland a better place for bicyclists. (See this video for a bit on Charlie’s work on the East Bank Esplanade: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTXOnabgemc&feature=youtu.be)

    So yes, as a campaign, we really do want Portland’s bicyclists to know what Charlie has done to make Portland a more livable, bike-able city. And to know that infrastructure that works for all forms of transportation is his expertise. Is that pandering? I don’t think so, but it’s OK if you do, we aren’t going to agree on everything. Charlie will stand up for bicyclists … and skateboarders, and transit riders, and pedestrians.

    If there is a better way to reach out to voters about their own interests, however, we are completely open to suggestions

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    • Joe Rowe January 22, 2012 at 3:12 am

      Hey Jessica. You said he Charlie is an infrastructure geek. Great, then have him look at the 8 photos about a big safety risk to bikes in this PDF.


      I saw Charlie at Friends of trees today. I’m asking him to spend 2 minutes crafting his infrastructure suggestions to: safe@portlandoregon.gov

      Then post his letter here. That would show me he cares in practice, not just theory.

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  • Alison Graves January 20, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    When we (the Community Cycling Center) were doing community outreach as part of our Understanding Barriers to Bicycling project we learned something interesting about the term bicyclist. When we asked people at community events if they were bicyclists time and again we heard, “oh, no. I’m not a cyclist. I just ride my bike.”

    While I was attending the Youth Bike Summit in New York City last weekend, I was struck by how many youth used the term biker.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 20, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Jessica, Alison, and others,

    I think you might be misinterpreting my use of quotes around “bikers”. I used them because it was a term in the ad, not to make any type of judgment about the word itself.

    I actually prefer bikers over bicyclists….but that’s not the point!

    The point is that labeling anyone by a mode of transportation is inherently unproductive and unneccessarily divisive in my opinion.

    I prefer, and suggest, that we focus on words like “the community” and “the transportation problems we face” and how making a city that is more amenable to bike riding is simply how we do business because it just makes sense. No fight. No labels. No winners. No losers. No opportunities for ginned up “controversies” by he haters and their allies in the media.

    But my post and thoughts really weren’t about Charlie’s use of words, it was about the ad in general and the things is represented to me.

    Thanks for your comments.

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    • mark kenseth January 22, 2012 at 9:51 am

      Yes to all that. We don’t form a group for car/automobile owners and call them “automobilists”, “automos”, “mobilists”, “auters”, or whatever. Perhaps some call themselves an “auto-enthusiast.” Just because I get around by bicycle mostly doesn’t mean I’m a “bicyclist”…whatever that means.

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    • sorebore January 23, 2012 at 11:55 am

      Cyclist’s pedal, Bikers use throttles. I know because i do both…. And as far as I am concerned, Its all just kissin’ babies the way all politicians do.

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      • sorebore January 23, 2012 at 11:57 am

        oh, and BTW, I prefer Motorcyclist to Biker,FWIIW.

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    • Aaronf January 23, 2012 at 12:01 pm


      I think your use of “quotes” looks completely sarcastic.

      Personally, I think using sarcasm quotes in general can be fun, and part of effective communication.  To go back later and claim that you were just using the quote marks because it’s the term used in the ad doesn’t make sense.  You had just quoted the full ad.  Nobody was going to be confused about where the usage came from. 

      In this same article you used the same sarcastic quote mark style while referencing the all powerful “bike lobby.”  In the case of “bikers” you use quotes not once but four times in the article!  If you don’t like the term, or you wish nobody ever used any terms, (because you think prescriptive language usage solves problems somehow) I encourage you to quote the ad and then explain yourself honestly and openly usng the terminology you prefer.

      Either you are a poor communicator, or you don’t want to hold yourself accountable for your writing.  I’ve read this defense from you over sarcastic quotes that just seem to be consistently “misinterpreted” by your readers multiple times now.  Maybe you should restrict your quote marks to full sentences until you decide to take credit for your sarcasm when you employ it.

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 23, 2012 at 12:05 pm

        Thanks for that advice and feedback AaronF. It’s very helpful. I agree that I need a better way to communicate in these situations… But I can assure you that my use of quotes in this story was not meant to be sarcastic at all.

        My annoyance with using certain terms in my stories makes it messy to write sometimes, especially when quoting someone using such a term. I appreciate your feedback and will definitely be more careful next time around.


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  • anthony sands January 20, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Bikers ride Harley’s. but that’s not really the point. We need someone that can get projects done with out fighting.

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  • dwainedibbly January 20, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    I prefer “people on bicycles” because it emphasizes the people. Bicycling just happens to be something they are doing at the time.

    This is in no way an endorsement, but I think Jefferson Smith has the right idea. If we are not seen as a special group then it makes it easier for other people to relate to us and, perhaps, join us.

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  • Doug Klotz January 20, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    I’ll vouch for Charlie’s support for alternative transportation when he was on Council, specifically for a connected grid in new subdivisions (no cul-de-sacs), and for pedestrian friendly commercial buildings, two issues I was working on at the time.

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  • anthony sands January 21, 2012 at 3:33 am

    “people on bicycles” you must be joking. If you are walking you are are pedestrian, if you are driving you are a driver or a motorist, I am a ”people on a computer”. We are special and not just because we don helmets sometimes!

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    • sorebore January 23, 2012 at 11:58 am

      Are we special?

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  • A-Dub January 21, 2012 at 8:00 am

    I think this likely a very targeted ad. Wouldn’t surprise me if it was only shown if you had a certain set of “likes” and “location”. My guess somewhere in your profile you’ve liked “bikeportland” or “cycling”. And also indicate that you live in “Portland”. I put quotes around these because it is user generated information that you’ve provided to Facebook and that they are using to target ads.

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  • wsbob January 21, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    Area leaders and politicians make a big mistake in not sufficiently emphasizing that the net effect of their support for bike and pedestrian infrastructure is infrastructure that relieves motor vehicle congestion.

    Adams was and still is kind of an easy mark for ridicule. So the cute and cuddly bicyclist references haven’t always worked so well.

    Hales seems like he can be an easy going guy, but also, tougher and more resilient than Adams, so maybe his ‘…fight for bikers!’ line will work out.

    Whatever the approach is though, it’s definitely important not to fuel the idea that infrastructure for bike travel is some sort of great sacrifice of motor vehicle travel infrastructure. Excessive motor vehicles use has nearly completely filled all major thoroughfares and routes. Use of bikes for travel can offer some relief from this congestion.

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  • Jessica Moskovitz January 21, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    A-Dub has it right. We are running a number of ads at the moment, highlighting different aspects of Charlie’s history – a reminder, if you will, of what Charlie has done to make Portland the place we know and love.

    There’s an ad about civic leadership, about the arts, about the streetcar, about small businesses, neighborhoods, and even brewers. Given the way facebook ads work, I think you’ve probably been only seeing the bike ad (there are two)(I could be wrong).

    I am totally with you (and speaking for myself) that the city has slipped a bit into a “bikes v. ….” mode in the last few years. The best options are the ones that work for the people of portland, not one subset. And our modes of transportation shouldn’t pit us against one another.

    We, as a community, do face transportation problems – in particular, the big problem of bringing the sort of walkable/bike-able/liveable neighborhoods we enjoy in the inner Portland area out to all of our neighborhoods. Doing what’s best for all of Portland’s neighborhoods is going to take someone who fights for what’s right (no Water Avenue Ramp, for example) for the future of Portland. That includes fighting for bicyclists.

    That’s why I chose to work for Charlie.

    Facebook ads are challenging – there are only so many characters to work with – but I see your point. Luckily, we can edit them at any time! So feel free to give us feedback, any old time.

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  • 007 January 21, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Go Charlie Go.

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  • Hart Noecker January 21, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Bikers ride Harleys.

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  • rain panther January 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    Noeckers ride noecks.

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  • Alex January 22, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    I went to a house party for Jefferson Smith today. Of note: his house party coordinator, Amanda, who I believe is full time staff, is a 100% bike commuter. This includes this weekend over which they’re having 7 parties all over town. Props to her.

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  • OnTheRoad January 23, 2012 at 5:45 am

    No matter how much Charlie vaunts his support of bicycle projects, I still can’t get past that he was one of the prime forces behind streetcar development.

    Which has been one of the worst-thought-out infrastructure “improvements” to affect bicyclers in years.

    And after his city council years, Hales went to work as a consultant at a firm that does streetcar projects across the nation.

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  • Andrew K January 23, 2012 at 7:46 am

    I was at the Equity Foundation luncheon this past week and Charlie was there talking with people. I was actually quite impressed by the fact that he wasn’t shaking hands and saying, “Hi I’m Charlie I want your vote.” Instead he was just…talking…and asking people’s opinions about what we can do better, in this case about equality. When he approached the group of people I was there with most of them didn’t even know he was a candidate for mayor.

    I’m still undecided at this point who I’m voting fore, but Charlie took a step in the right direction for me at that moment.

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