the McMenamins on W Burnside —
so why would the company stall a bike
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)
Some people in the community have reacted strongly after seeing the name of McMenamins General Manager Christopher Robbins on a letter calling for the halt of a PBOT project to improve bike access on SW 12th Avenue in downtown Portland. Frustrated that the project is stalled indefinitely, some have fired off emails to Robbins and I have seen the word “boycott” pop up in comments and on Twitter.
It’s easy to see why McMenamins — operator of many popular pubs, breweries, and hotels throughout Oregon — is a target. Not only did they support a letter that questioned the need for improved bike access on 12th, they also have an entire page on their website about how bike friendly they are. Making matters worse for some is that 17-year-old Tracey Sparling was run over by a truck and killed in October 2007 while waiting for a red light right outside the door of a McMenamins pub on West Burnside and 14th.
“Having a ghost bike right outside your front door for a couple of years and then still opposing bike safety is the height of callousness,” wrote one commenter yesterday.
At least two readers emailed the company directly to express their displeasure. One of them, Ken S., wrote to Robbins:
“It has come to my attention that you recently co-signed on a letter to PBOT and Mayor Adams in opposition to the planned bikeway on 12th Ave downtown. Frankly I’m shocked… Am I going to have to also start asking my friends to stop patronizing your establishments? What gives?”
Another reader, “spiffy”, sent the company an email with the subject line: “Why is Christopher Robbins not bike friendly like McMenamins claims it is?”
I’ve contacted Robbins to ask for a comment. I haven’t heard back, but spiffy did. Below is the full text of Robbins’ reply (emphasis mine):
I do, and McMenamins does support bike lanes and the cycling community. I have personally commuted by bike from St Johns to Crystal Ballroom and know the need for bike lanes. We have many employees that bike to work and want them to have a safe alternative to the car lanes. When we opened the Crystal Hotel McMenamins tried to install a bike corral on Stark between 13th and 12th to encourage cyclists and less driving, but it was been rejected by the city [PBOT disagrees with that]. We have added more bike racks to safely secure bikes wherever possible at all of our locations. My main concern with the proposed bike lane is a fear that we end up with another fiasco of an intersection like we currently have at 14th and Burnside. As you are probably aware a woman was tragically killed at 14th and Burnside and the city’s reaction (accidentally) was to create a confusing bike lane that turned into potentially more lethal intersection. I sit in Ringlers and witness the confusion of drivers and cyclists unfold daily. I have even taken to personally trying to inform drivers that they are in a parking space thinking it is a turn lane. We have recently witnessed a biker crash into a pedestrian crossing the street at this location.
My intent was not to stall the process but to garner more information as to how the proposed bike lane will work and to hopefully avoid potential dangers to cyclists. Bike lanes can errantly cause a false sense of security and we need to ensure that what we build now will not contribute to that.
Please feel free to call me to personally discuss this.
So, it seems like Robbins has some very real concerns about, not the idea of bicycles using 12th, but the specific way that PBOT would go about making the changes. I think the BTA (who is eager to keep on their “Bikes Mean Business” message and see this through to a positive outcome for everyone) and the City should be pleased to read this. It gives them an opportunity to flesh out some designs and share them with McMenamins, the other business interests that have expressed concerns, and the public.