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Armed with legal training, the ‘Bike Swarm’ plans petrol protest

Posted by on February 27th, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Event flyer

The PDX Bike Swarm is alive and well. Since we last checked in with them, they’ve been holding regular meetings and have swarmed on a number of occasions.

On Wednesday, the bike swarm plans to take a major role in Occupy Portland’s “F29” protests. Specifically, the swarm plans to use their bikes to “blockade” and swarm local gas stations. According to organizers, the goal is to, “bring awareness to the fact that BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell made over $73 Billion in 2010.”

Here’s more from the Swarm’s Facebook page:

“Join PDX Bike Swarm for an unprecedented paradigm shift, a display of velocipede direct action techniques, and also a dash of preposterous tomfoolery as we spread a jovial message of a lifestyle free of the combustible engine.”

The Bike Swarm’s “Tour de Petro” is part of a larger day of action aimed at a shutdown of major corporations. Occupy movements in 70 cities around the country are planning a variety of protests.

Last week, a group of Bike Swarm regulars got an education about how to protest by bike. Local lawyer Charley Gee informed the activists about their legal rights while bicycling.

Bike swarmers listen as lawyer Charley Gee outlines how to bike in protests without breaking the law.
(Photos © Katherine Ball)

Bike swarm organizer Katherine Ball says they discussed tactics they can use to ride within the law, but also prevent and slow down traffic from entering gas stations. One of the legal tactics is called the “chainsaw.” They’re keeping the strategy secret, but given my understanding of chainsaws and pacelines, I assume it would be performed by constantly rotating a line of riders that takes up a lane and blocks vehicles from passing through.

Check out PDXBikeSwarm.org for more info on the Tour de Petrol. You can also join them in the big march planned for 1:00 on Wednesday that leaves from Waterfront Park.

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

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Jerko
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Jerko

It’s kids like these that make me not want to be a part of the portland bike community this is really immature.

Jerko
Guest
Jerko

Also makes one wonder what would happen if a bunch of drivers blocked the entrance to your local bike shop to prevent you from buying petroleum based tubes, tires, and brake pads.

Uncle Muscles
Guest
Uncle Muscles

I can’t think of a worse way to exacerbate already-strained bike/car relations in Portland. These protests aren’t the way to get people to start using alternative modes of transport in the city. It’s only outcome will be pissing people off at bikes for weeks and having absolutely no impact on the global oil market. Fantastic

Jerko
Guest
Jerko

I have to agree with Uncle Muscles.

Indy
Guest
Indy

What a horrible horrible idea. This will eventually get people killed (needlessly) that think they are doing something progressive.

This just isn’t the right climate to hold this type of protest.

The political alignment of Occupy protesters and bikers that want better biking facilities doesn’t seem quite on the same level.

Quentin
Guest
Quentin

Blocking access to local gas stations is not an effective way to decrease fossil fuel dependence. This will only serve to antagonize and annoy drivers and reinforce negative stereotypes about cyclists. It is infuriating that oil companies make obscene profits while holding our transportation infrastructure hostage, but blocking cars with your bike is just plain juvenile.

TonyT
Guest
tonyt

Specifically, the swarm plans to use their bikes to block access to local gas stations. According to organizers, the goal is to, “bring awareness to the fact that BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell made over $73 Billion in 2010.”

Actually you’ll just bring awareness to the fact that some people on bikes can be self-centered jerks.

Seriously, this is a horrible idea.

Andrew Kaiser
Guest
Andrew Kaiser

I’m all for protesting. Heck, I’m all for protesting right in front of a gas station. However, blocking access to said gas station is a REALLY bad idea. All it will do is create anger and resentment.

dirt_merchant
Guest

I agree it’s a poor idea. Not much bang for the buck here, and you can BET YOUR LIFE that the local media will give this all kinds of overhyped car/bike war coverage.

Simply riding your bike is the best solution here.

Anthony
Guest
Anthony

Cool! I was JUST trying to think of a way to get more drivers to harass me on my daily commute. Thanks Bike Swarm!

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

The best way to “protest petrol” is to smile and wave as you ride past your local gas station. Blocking access is just going to piss people off. Most drivers already understand that the oil companies make obscene profits. Only the most ignorant, extreme right-wingers think that “greenies” are responsible for the high pump prices. This will accomplish absolutely nothing.

Zaphod
Guest

Please re-think. I need the streets to be safe as I ride for business, for pleasure, for transport of my children. It seems, from posts here, that not only will you anger motorists you will also alienate those you’d assume are inherently on your side: cyclists.

BikeEverywhere
Guest
BikeEverywhere

I’m just an average middle-aged woman trying to getting to work and back safely on her bike.

Please stop making me look bad.

Suburban
Guest
Suburban

“Fear” is one threshold required for PPD to use crowd control tools. They may have already received reports that Anarchists with weapons will be among those protesting… It is reasonable to be fearful of Anarchists with weapons; so.. that’s how it goes.

Dan Kaufman
Guest

Hey, I totally get the concern here. Last thing we want to do create any more animosity. We can leave that to the Oregonian.

I won’t speak for the swarm but let me clear things up as I understand them.

First, and for the record, the plan is not to blockade. This will not be antagonistic. It WILL be clever. Swarm can and will move on. So, FEAR NOT! We will not be putting gasoline companies out of business on F29. It just won’t be business as usual.

BikeF29

If you’d like to discuss your concerns further please join me for #BikeCheck at 9pm on CrankMyChain.tv you can call 503 683 1666

Doug
Guest
Doug

Why not just swarm gas stations with hybrids?

Elliot
Guest
Elliot

That’s funny, the people in the photo look like they’re in their 20s and 30s… I got over this stuff when I was 16. I guess these folks didn’t ever finish working out their childhood angst.

This is a waste of time that will only create more divisiveness between everyday people. ***deleted by moderator*** tactics like these will turn potential allies into enemies.

If you really want to get people out of their cars, how about striking up a conversation with people at the pump about how expensive gas is, then hand them a coupon to a local bike shop?

Hart Noecker
Guest

America is addicted to oil. It’s time for an intervention. It’s okay, America, we love you, but we need to have a little chat about all that petroleum you’ve been abusing.

Peri
Guest
Peri

If all y’all haters want to change bike swarm tactics, get off your asses and come to bike swarm.

J_R
Guest
J_R

Seems like a good way to make even more motorists hate cyclists even more than they already hate oil companies. Seems like a really great strategy for making friends.

The bike swarm will be letting motorists with “Share the Road” llicense plates through, won’t they?

Giro Protagonist
Guest

If people can’t stop for one second to consider why they should’t buy gasoline then how can we expect them to consider it any other time. We will end up block”AID”ing the gas stations by buying gas and tipping the attendants. We aren’t terrorists, take a chill pill folks.

Zed
Guest

The presentation is improving, the word may need some rewording, but the cause was always inspiring:

awareness to inequality.

I imagine more of you will be joining us this summer at $5 a gallon.

In fact, you should even do it better in true Portland ethos.

Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
Guest
kiel johnson

Looking forward to it!

kernel loose-nut
Guest
kernel loose-nut

EVERYTHING IS FINE. YOU DAMN PROTESTERS NEED TO SHUT UP AND GET JOBS.

DO OUR STRUGGLING ECONOMY SOME GOOD: GO SHOPPING.

EVERYTHING IS FINE, GO BACK TO WORK.

twistyaction
Guest
twistyaction

Counter bike-swarm if you care enough to not have these people on bicycles represent you as a cyclist.

o/o
Guest
o/o

O.O

Tourbiker
Guest
Tourbiker

Critical Mass v2.02 …bad Idea regardless of legality.
Swarm OPEC if you need to revolt.

J_R
Guest
J_R

Apple made billions of dollars last year, too, and its the largest company in the world. Apple’s market capitalization is $460 billion with Exxon Mobil in number two spot with market capitalization of $396 billion. Check it out at: http://www.theonlineinvestor.com/large_caps/

It seems bike swam should go for Apple stores.

-sent from my iPhone

Randall S.
Guest
Randall S.

Honestly, this seems a little to me like trying to solve the crack issue by blocking access to crack dealers. I understand the problem, I understand the urgent need to fix it. This isn’t the fix.

Stretchy
Guest
Stretchy

Can’t wait to see the swath of graffiti, vandalism and, broken windows that always seem to accompany these occupy protests.

Hart Noecker
Guest

PDX Bike Swarm Tour de Petro solidarity demonstration with #F29 National Day of Action Against ALEC (A.L.E.C.)

On Wednesday 29 February 2012 concerned cyclists and Occupiers in Portland, OR will take part in a coordinated National Day of Action to Shut Down the Corporations:

http://www.shutdownthecorporations.org

http://www.pdxbikeswarm.org

The bike swarm has specifically chosen area gas stations as their target. No station local or corporate will be ignored by the swarm. Locally-owned stations may, however, “get off easy”. The bike swarm will be demonstrating within its legal rights and with no plan for an illegal blockade.

Occupations have been preparing a variety of decentralized actions in response to Occupy Portland’s call to target the American Legislative Exchange Council.

We specifically call on people to target corporations that are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The biggest corporations in America, like ExxonMobil, Bank of America, BP, Monsanto, Pfizer, and Wal-Mart use ALEC to buy off legislators and craft legislation that serves only the interests of corporations and not people. They then duplicate and spread this corporate legislation in Washington, D.C. and in state legislatures across the country.

http://occupywallst.org/article/f29-occupy-portland-nati

ALEC has worked on behalf of oil companies to undermine climate change proponents (Source)

See here for more about why we protest corporate power and how ALEC seeks to erode our democracy, undermine workers rights and attack unions, destroy our environment, obstruct efforts to address climate change, undermine public education, pursue destructive agricultural practices and fuel the prison industrial complex:

Feb 29th: Shut Down ALEC from Kontra on Vimeo.

Contact Hart Noecker: Phone 517.202.1322 or e-mail the swarm at pdxbikeswarm@gmail.com

Follow on twitter @PDXbikeswarm and hashtag #TourDePetro

NW Biker
Guest
NW Biker

I sincerely hope that my car engine isn’t “combustible.” I’d be very unhappy if it caught fire while I was driving. 🙂

Lance P.
Guest
Lance P.

This is just a bad idea. This is just going to add to the ‘O’ bike vs. car flame. Is this really want you want? How will this help the city or the progress bikes have made over the years? How about a better idea. Don’t by gas, ride your bike to work/store/play and then talk about how peaceful and stress free it can be. Do this enough and some of those people buying gas may join you/me one day.

Stretchy
Guest
Stretchy

I’d also like to point out that the headline for this post begins with the words, “Armed with…” This is hostile language and serves only to raise the tension between cyclists and drivers for the sake of a gratuitous headline.

Granpa
Guest
Granpa

What better way to perpetuate the “Us vs. Them” conflict between cyclists and drivers than to deny drivers their transportation fuel with a taunting, gloating cycle dance. All the better that many of “them” will be bandana masked like criminals. This campaign of annoyance will not even put a blip on the radar of the oil companies, but it will disrupt the lives ordinary schlubs (“Us”) You could not do better to turn hapless housefraus and feckless office-men into bike haters if you wrote editorials for the Oregonian.

For the fun of it, run your swarm at a gas station on 82nd st in Clackamas County, That is the epicenter of Portland’s car culture. It would be too easy to swarm the Chevron in the liberal, guilt ridden NW at Lovejoy and 21st.

Stretchy
Guest
Stretchy

This whole thing reminds me of those, ‘Nobody buy gas on Feb 29, that’ll show those evil oil companies we mean business’ emails that circulate every so often. They never suggest to do anything to reduce your actual consumption though, therefore having no effect on the big evil oil companies bottom line.

So, if you blockade the gas stations, drivers will still buy gas. Except, they’ll actually be burning more gas while they sit idle in the roadway trying to get into a gas station. So, instead of buying 10 gallons from the big evil oil company, they’ll be buying 10.1 gallons. That extra little bit of gas burned while idling will further contribute to global warming without actually producing anything of value (ie. moving someone from point A to point B.) The big evil oil company will reap just a few more pennies in profits that I’m sure they’ll use to back republican candidates and, do other nefarious things.

So, congratulations on helping get Dick Cheney elected “oil dictator for life” in 2012.

DK
Guest
DK

“bring awareness to the fact that BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell made over $73 Billion in 2010”

-Really?
-So what!

It’s not illegal for a business to make a profit. If you want to protest
-the destruction of our environment through the burning of fossil fuels
-or the security issues that arise from dependence on foreign oil imports
-or the inequities in our transportation infrastructure
-or the tax incentives given to the already profitable oil industry…these issues carry weight.

Protesting a business’ right and ability to make a profit…Ridiculously silly.

Andrew K
Guest
Andrew K

I really like one of the ideas mentioned above.

Instead of going out and annoying drivers, why not head to gas stations and hand out coupons for commute bikes? PDX Bike Swarm could partner with a local bike shot (or several…) and hand people a coupon for 10% off a commute bike.

So instead of of coming accross as compative you instead gain friends and people sympathetic to your cause. Even if someone just crumples up the coupon and throws it in the back seat they aren’t going to drive away thinking, “what jerks!” In fact I imagine most people would put some real thought into it if they’ve just spent $50 or more putting gas in their car and then suddenly get presented with an opportunity by a friendly person handing out a coupon.

Even if only one or two people end up taking the coupon and buying a bike for the first time it will have more of an impact over annoying everyone.

As an added bonus it would drive some business to bike shops improving our local economy. It would be a win/win all around!

It’s not too late to change your strategy guys.

Lazlo
Guest
Lazlo

Thanks for the advance warning, I’ll make sure to fill up my tank today.

TonyT
Guest
tonyt

If shifting perceptions and enlightening people is the objective, this completely unscientific forum/focus group should demonstrate that this action will entirely miss the mark.

Those planning this can dismiss the naysayers or they can see us as giving you a pretty good idea of how this will be received.

This is a PR effort. On this forum the swarm folks should be able to rally support pretty easily. But somehow the vast majority of people here find this idea misguided at best.

Rethink this. I’m off to ride my bike to work. In my opinion that’s the best PR possible.

Merckxrider
Guest
Merckxrider

Is it possible that these people are provocateurs on the payroll of Fox News or the Oregonian?

Dan
Guest
Dan

bike swarmers: if this is how bikeportland.org readers respond to your protest plans, imagine how poorly understood your message will be at the gas stations tomorrow. please come up with a more positive way to communicate your thoughts on this issue. the oregonian & tv stations don’t need more us vs them fodder. thanks.

kerry
Guest
kerry

I hope y’all plan on writing a note to Big Oil because I assure you, they won’t notice this. The 99% will, though. You know, the little guys. How is irritating people supposed to help?

I second the motion to protest at gas stations with signs focused on the price, and bike shop coupons. “Tired of $50 a gallon? We can help!” What if we doubled our bike share this summer? Big Oil might actually notice that (probably not, but a girl can dream)

Ultimately, though, campaign finance reform. When they can can use their profits to buy politicians and stop transpo options, or anything else for that matter, we the people will NEVER succeed in changing anything.

Blake
Guest
Blake

This bikeswarm idea is the worst approach. I don’t even think I can think of a more effective way to make drivers be rude and inconsiderate and feel justified doing it than this.

Dan Kaufman
Guest

Reminder: There is perpetual war going on over energy resources. It is also directed against our environmental and economic well being. It’s directly caused by seriously ignorant and corrupt energy policies/practices that WE ALL play a large role in.

The Obama administration, Governor Kitzhaber and The Oregonian, and many the commenters here may like to wringing and waving hands about it. I am done waiting quietly. Peak oil HAS happened, climate change and massive species die-out ARE real!

Reminding people of our energy disaster is a not a public relations campaign. It’s shock therapy. Don’t like the swarm tactics? Do it better!

——- IF YOU ARE COMING TO TOUR DE PETRO——
Consider bringing a gas can. Many of us will be (GOD FORBID) buying gas in an act of cognitive dissonance and civil obedience.

craig harlow
Guest
craig harlow

BIKE SWARM, PLEASE RECONSIDER.

This is a blatantly aggressive bike vs. car activity, as the riders are provoking motorists who are trying to access a gas station.

Riders are using their soft bodies to try physically blocking out 2-ton steel rolling machines. There is high potential for lots of BAD to come of this. You may feel that you have your legal bases covered, but that assurance will be no consolation if/when one of the swarm is swatted by a car.

Josh C.
Guest
Josh C.

And we wonder why individuals are throwing carpet tacks on the Williams street bike route.

Merckxrider
Guest
Merckxrider

I’m not starving and it would be worth $50 for me to ride my bike past this lame attempted blockade to whip out the Visa and pay for someone’s gas–just to annoy the hippies.

Jesse
Guest

I keep hearing the same “arguments” set up towards Occupy and protests like these, but I think people are failing to realize that these are protests and in particular protests of the civil disobedient type.

They are not suppose to be 100% legal, they are not supposed to be pleasant, they are not supposed to be specific. People are mad, we are being ripped off and this is a way to show our anger and show people that a LOT of people are angry and then maybe you’ll ask why are there so many angry people. Once you get that through your head, arguing that protesters aren’t doing things legally or nice is moot. It’s not the point.

Arguing that the bikes to be used to block gas stations have petroleum products in themselves is a false argument called deflection. It’s matter or scale, anyone reading this website should know that. Just because a person can’t be 100% petro-free doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try to reduce.

Arguing that “they’ll make biking look bad” is also a false argument because it brings up the idea that all cyclists are the same and have some sort of cycling dogma, club passwords and secret handshakes. Some of us ride bikes for fun, commute and necessity. Others do it for all those reasons and as a way to reduce carbon use. And some of THOSE might be angry enough at some of the largest corporations in the world raping the earth may decided to be angry and protest them directly. Anyone who is mad at ALL cyclists because of these few are idiots. Anyone who wants to play it safe and stop this sort of action because of the perceived blow-back shouldn’t leave their house then in order to avoid life, action and consequences.

KRhea
Guest
KRhea

It’s amazing how much good this misguided energy might provide if directed in different direction. It’s more than obvious that these folks want to be on the 6pm news with their acts of civil disobedience instead of doing something that might just really throw a drivers mind into a tail spin like handing them a coupon and saying “have a nice commute to work”. Sometimes the softest sound makes the loudest noise…
And now to read that he’s asking everyone to bring to gas can with them…wow, anyone else think that one of the “fringe” riders might get the “cool” idea to light one of those or throw it or drop it and let it run into the closest drain etc etc.
Does anyone remember the quiet acts that raised the most awareness like, simply sitting at a lunch counter or merely riding in the front seat of a bus or going to school or drinking from the wrong fountain or even driving after dark. None of those acts “screamed” anything. They were quiet ways of doing normal things that made a point loud and clear.
A couple days ago this site was crazy over the Oregonians headline targeted at bikes/cyclists. Many folks said how it would continue to cause friction between drivers and cyclists and maybe even up the ante so to speak. We were all up in arms ready to rally against “the man” and here we are a couple days later getting ready to interfere with folks who are doing their best to survive, driving to a job they feel lucky to have in this economy in order to provide for their family(s) in a car that requires gas from stations who are legally selling it. They want to get to work on time so they don’t get fired or reprimanded and they need $5 worth of gas to get there and they’re dealing with folks on bikes “circling the wagons” in an effort to slow them down. Wow. Doesn’t make any sense to me to affect innocent people’s lives to make your statement.
As someone mentioned way back in this thread, it’s legal to sell gas, it’s also OK if you choose not to buy it or use it.
I’ll be sure and thank the swarm the next time I’m riding home, in the bike lane, with a front and rear light, helmet on, using hand signals, not running stops signs and I STILL get yelled at or called a name for simply riding my bike due to your freakin’ swarm.
To the person who had the coupon idea , nicely done, you should be leading the swarm…in the right direction.