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Meeting could spark formation of a “more assertive advocacy group” in Portland

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

The first step is showing up.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Many Portlanders who care about bicycling want to find a way to create more urgency for bike-friendly changes. As we’ve been reporting since May, Portland — once a biking beacon that other cities aspired to — has lost its mojo. With our largest bicycle advocacy organization, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), choosing to take a more conservative role, some in the community want to start a new advocacy group.

When Alex Reed moved to Portland in 2007, he thought that “There was so much excitement around bike it felt like everything was destined to get better.” Now that he’s “not seeing much progress,” the 29-year-old southeast Portland resident (and father) has planned a meeting this weekend to discuss the possible formation of a new group. “Are you frustrated at the lack of progress on bike issues in Portland in the last five years?” reads the event description on the Shift calendar. “If so, come join us to try to make things better!”

Specifically, Reed says he wants to discuss forming a “more-assertive Portland bike advocacy group/movement/initiative.”

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This all might be causing a case of deja-vu for some close readers of BikePortland. Back in 2009, when the BTA — and therefore the local bike advocacy ecosystem on the whole — was at a turning point following the firing of their former leader Scott Bricker, we had a very similar discussion.

“It feels both like biking has stalled out in Portland and like there’s pent-up energy around bikes waiting to be nurtured and accessed.”
— Alex Reed

At a social hour hosted by BikePortland at a coffee shop in Old Town, we talked openly about the future of bike advocacy in Portland and wondered if our city needed a second, complementary advocacy group that would help hasten the changes many of us wanted to see.

That meeting led to the formation of Active Right of Way (AROW), an all volunteer group that has done some great work (most notably around streetcar/bike safety and SE Holgate), but it has stalled a bit due to a lack of financial and human resources.

Reed, who sees himself mostly as a facilitator hoping to spark a “grassroots initiative,” isn’t sure what will come of Saturday night’s meeting, but he does know that he wants biking conditions in Portland to improve sooner rather than later.

“It feels both like biking has stalled out in Portland and like there’s pent-up energy around bikes waiting to be nurtured and accessed,” he said in a recent email. “Maybe it will go so well that by the time the kid(s) are 12-ish I’ll feel confident sending them off to school across Powell with their friends!”

If you have something to add to this conversation, join Reed and other concerned citizens at the Lucky Lab (915 SE Hawthorne) at 3:00 pm this Saturday (8/23). Reed has also set up a Google Group where you can learn more and share your thoughts.