When I first heard about West Hills resident Eric Nagle’s effort to ban skateboarding in the West Hills, my first thought was: Is Zoobomb — and by extension, bicycling — at risk? Even though bicycling down the hills around Washington Park and the type of skateboarding Nagle is concerned with are different activities; it’s clear that for him, there is no distinction.
A series of emails from Nagle to the City obtained by BikePortland through a public records request, show that, contrary to his public stance so far, he is painting his concerns with a wide brush that includes not just skateboarding but bicycling and Zoobomb as well.
As we shared earlier this week, Nagle has pushed Commissioner Randy Leonard to propose an ordinance (to be voted on at City Council later this month) that will ban skateboarding on a significant swath of roads in the West Hills. Both Nagle and Leonard have said they are not concerned with Zoobomb and that they are focused solely on skateboarders who, according to the proposed ordinance, “use neighborhood streets as a venue for an extreme thrill sport, and not as a means of transportation for which the streets were designed.”
In emails over the past two days, I asked Nagle whether his efforts to ban skateboarding might bleed over into raising red flags around Zoobomb and bicycling. Nagle assured me that he felt Zoobomb, “Isn’t a big deal” and that he’s appreciative that the “ride like a ninja, not like a pirate” ethic has been adopted by the majority of people who do it. “Neither I, nor anyone else, to my knowledge,” he said, “is trying to end Zoobomb, now or in the future, for bikers.”
But that public stance is at odds with communications he’s had with the Portland Police Bureau and PBOT. Recent emails show that Zoobomb is clearly in Nagle’s crosshairs.
On February 17th of this year, in an email to PPB Central Precinct Officer Hilary Scott that was cc’d to a PBOT staff person, Nagle complained about the annual Zoobomb Century event planned for this Sunday. Nagle lamented that Mayor Sam Adams doesn’t take a firmer stance in ordering a police crackdown on Zoobomb. “Ever since Sam Adams told the police to leave them alone, it’s been a free-for-all in our neighborhood,” he wrote. Nagle added that, “… every Sunday night, at 10:45 pm, after most people have gone to bed, a pack of bikers and skaters blast down our streets, yelling and blowing stop signs.”
On Monday (June 11th), Nagle again brought up his concerns with the Zoobomb Century event in an email to PBOT neighborhood traffic safety specialist Greg Raisman:
“… one of the events advertised on the Pedalpalooza calender is a Zoobomb Century race on June 17… the organizers have no permit for this event, which will involve bikers and, presumably, skateboards, racing down the streets of Arlington Heights all day long, starting at 10 a.m., on a Sunday when tourist traffic in the neighborhood will be particularly heavy… PBOT is one of the sponsors of Pedalpalooza. Can you tell me why PBOT is promoting illegal events like this?”
The leaders behind Zoobomb have an admirable track record of safety, collaboration with the Portland Police Bureau, PBOT, and the Mayor’s Office. As evidenced by this BBC special and a major piece of public art devoted to it downtown, Zoobomb has enjoyed a respected place in our city for many years.
By raising questions and concerns about the downhill bicycling that occurs in the West Hills, Nagle seems to hope that his success in pushing for a skateboarding ban will spread to a crackdown on “bikers” and Zoobomb. If it does, that would be a very unfortunate consequence of his neighborhood safety crusade.
The ordinance is scheduled for a vote in City Council on June 27th.