A cover story in this month’s NW Examiner is stoking an old but unfortunately familiar meme: the “war on cars.”
In Driving out Cars, Allan Classen, the publisher and editor of the free neighborhood newspaper, focuses on how new buffered bike lanes have impacted people who use NW Everett Street. As we reported back in August, the Bureau of Transportation re-designed Everett between 24th and I-405 in order to improve bicycle access.
For the main face of the story, Classen chose an auto repair shop owner named Frank Warrens, who refers to the project as an example of PBOT’s ongoing “war on cars”:
The recent conversion of one vehicle lane into a bike lane along Northwest Everett Street between 19th and 23rd avenues blew his gasket.
“The brain-dead idiots who came up with the idea of making a bike lane on Everett are really out of line,” Warrens told the Examiner. “It’s clearly an attempt to get rid of all vehicular traffic in the downtown Portland area.
“A war on cars is a very appropriate term for what they’re doing,” he said.
Warrens, not a bicyclist, thinks bike lanes should be kept on side streets.
Although the city promised that the Everett Street modifications would reduce travel times only slightly, he has experienced quite the opposite, reporting that what used to be a two or three minute trip from 23rd to his shop can now take 10 minutes.
Classen includes some comments from PBOT Transportation Policy, Planning and Projects Group Manager Art Pearce, but he frames them in a way that serves the larger “war on cars” narrative the he wants to get across. Later in the article Classen himself writes that, “The Everett Street reconfiguration is a minor maneuver in the campaign against “auto orientation.” He then goes on to list what he feels are the other parts of this nefarious campaign: bike corrals, street seats, apartment buildings with no auto parking, bike lanes, and metered auto parking.
This is not the first time Classen has shared his opinions about bicycling and the people who do it. In 2010 he penned an editorial about “bicycle zealots” that included this passage:
“If you’ve ever been flipped off, sworn at or physically attacked by a bicyclist who didn’t like the way you drive or walk on the sidewalk, keep in mind that these are not ordinary people. They live on another plane. They believe that danger, disdain and ridicule may follow them all their days on the earth, but one day they will sit in glory at the right handlebar of God.”
Then in 2013 he published a misleading article on his front page about what he considered to be “illegal cycling” in Forest Park. (As an aside, one of Classen’s contributors at the NW Examiner is Michael Zusman, the Multnomah County Judge who once ruled that a woman right-hooked in an intersection while bicycling was not protected by Oregon’s bike lane law because the lane striping paint didn’t continue through the intersection. That “disappearing bike lane” was criticized by legal experts and eventually settled out of court.)
It will be interesting to monitor local media reactions to what are sure to be more projects like NW Everett in the future. I don’t agree with this article’s framing, but Classen’s is tapping into concerns and fears shared by many Portlanders. Re-configuring lanes and changing what types of vehicle are allowed to use them is a big deal and it has real consequences. These projects are also happening in a larger context of neighborhoods experiencing rapid changes in housing and a population trends that will only add to street demands.
If we want our transition away from an “auto-orientation” to be as smooth as possible, we need to let people like Classen and Warrens air out their feelings. We also need to be aware of them and understand how they might influence other people, our elected leaders, and policymakers.
This isn’t the last time we’ll read a story like this. I won’t be surprised at all to read similar articles and hear similar perspectives shared when the striping on N Williams Avenue is completed.
— Read the article and check out the comments at NWExaminer.com.