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Guerrilla traffic diverters installed – then removed – on SE Clinton

Posted by on December 17th, 2014 at 10:31 am

Guerrilla diverters on SE Clinton-6

Police observe while people ride down Clinton and City of Portland crews work to remove the unpermitted traffic diverters.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

“It’s important for us to take over these spaces… and show the city that there are people willing to go out and do it themselves because the city isn’t willing to do it.”
— Activist responsible for unpermitted diverters

I woke up this morning to the buzzing of my phone at 4:33 am. I didn’t catch it in time, but I listened to the message: “I would like to report,” said a voice, “that a group of anonymous members of BikeLoudPDX installed guerrilla diverters at 34th and Clinton and you should definitely check it out and take some pictures when you get up this morning.”

By the time I woke up, did my family stuff, and made it over there, it was 8:00 am and City of Portland crews were busy removing six large steel drums that had been placed in an arc on SE Clinton. The drums were placed on their sides and they stayed in place thanks to square steel rods welded onto them. A hole was cut into the middle where soil and plants had been placed. Each drum was hand-painted with an array of colorful scenes. One of them had “Don’t drive, fly a kite,” scrawled on the side.

The aim of the diverters was to block drivers from continuing east/west on Clinton and force them to turn onto 34th.

Guerrilla diverters on SE Clinton-10

Guerrilla diverters on SE Clinton-7

Guerrilla diverters on SE Clinton-5

Police were telling people in cars to turn around.
Guerrilla diverters on SE Clinton-3

Guerrilla diverters on SE Clinton-1

By 8:30 am they were gone.

The man who left that 4:30 message on my phone, said he and about eight other people were up several hours before dawn to install the diverters. “The city isn’t doing anything on Clinton,” he said, when I called him back. “There’s so much community support and they refuse to do it… It’s important for us to take over these spaces… and show the city that there are people willing to go out and do it themselves because the city isn’t willing to do it.”

The man, who asked to stay anonymous, said he and the others involved all live in the area. Their goal, he said, was to “Get enough people seeing it and realizing that it’s very feasible and possible [to install diverters].” He added that he was inspired by last year’s placemaking demonstration at 26th and Clinton by Better Block PDX.

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One person who rode through before city crews and two police officers arrived, said the diverters were working “perfectly.”

BikeLoudPDX
is a grassroots, all-volunteer activist group that has made SE Clinton their first major campaign. Just two days ago, we published a guest article by the man who started the group, Alex Reed. Reed and others from BikeLoudPDX recently met with PBOT staff to discuss conditions on Clinton.

The man I spoke to on the phone acknowledged that he and his cohorts represent a more aggressive wing of BikeLoudPDX. He wants to stay anonymous because he’s aware that some people active with BikeLoudPDX aren’t interested in these kind of guerrilla action. “We want to show there are people in the group who want to push things a little further,” he said.

Reached for comment this morning, Reed said he had no idea this was happening. We did however, receive a press release from a “Bike Loud” Gmail account*. “BikeLoudPDX is declaring a war on car culture,” it read, “a culture that values convenience over human life and takes away valuable investments that make our neighborhoods livable and enjoyable for Portlanders of all ages.” (Read the entire statement below.)

SE Clinton has become the focus of major concern since this past summer. Increased development on nearby Division Street has caused more people to use Clinton as a cut-through when driving in the neighborhood. The increase in auto use has come at the expense of what is supposed to be a pleasant and low-stress cycling environment.

The guerrilla activists responsible for this morning’s traffic diversion say they hope what they did inspires others to take action. “We encourage folks to go out and do this kind of stuff in their neighborhoods. Making safe streets is actually something they can do themselves. Even if it gets taken down, it makes a statement.”

——

Full press release from “anonymous members of BikeLoudPDX”:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 17, 2014

In the early hours of this morning, anonymous members of the grassroots bike advocacy group BikeLoudPDX and Clinton neighbors took the initiative to do what the City of Portland has continued to drag its feet about: Install a traffic diverter on SE Clinton St at 34th. Cars traveling Westbound during rush hour are now required to turn onto Division and Eastbound auto traffic must turn onto Woodward.

Over the last several years, Inner Southeast Portland has seen a continued escalation of automobile traffic on Clinton Street, a neighborhood greenway, beyond the national guidelines for acceptable auto traffic. This is a street that should be safe for people from ages 8 to 80 to enjoy and use for transportation, but aggressive drivers have clogged the streets and subjugated cyclists on one of the few spaces that are designed for nonmotorized travel. The lack of stop signs and traffic diverters on the street make it appealing for cars wishing to bypass already-congested Division and Powell. As wealthier residents are moving in and redeveloping the area, they are also bringing more car traffic with them.

Recent detours onto Clinton and disproportionate targeting of bicycle riders in traffic stings on one of Portland’s most-heavily traveled greenways have made it clear how seriously the City takes our concerns. City Hall has become a place where “bike” has become a dirty word and Charlie Hales is out of touch with the needs of Portlanders to have safe streets. With no indication that there will be concentrated action in meeting the goal of 25% of trips being made by bike in 2030, we are demanding a truly connected system of bikeways that start with making all greenways, like Clinton, effectively car-free with a series of diverters and public gathering spaces to eliminate car traffic and promote community.

There is a worsening crisis of air pollution in Portland, a changing climate, and regular casualties from a war on people-powered travel. In response, BikeLoudPDX is declaring a war on car culture; a culture that values convenience over human life and takes away valuable investments that make our neighborhoods livable and enjoyable for Portlanders of all ages.

@BikeLoudPDX

#CarFreeClinton

diverter

(Photo by “anonymous members of BikeLoudPDX”)

*CORRECTION: The original version of this story said the press statement claiming credit for the diverters was sent from the “BikeLoudPDX” Gmail account. That is not true. It was sent from “Bike Loud” and from a Gmail account that is not the official account of the group. Sorry for the confusion.

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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anonymous
Guest
anonymous

right on!

John R
Guest
John R

Awesome! Nice to see Bike Loud and the neighborhood pushing it.

Alex Reed - BikeLoudPDX
Guest

Just to be clear, I have sole access to bikeloudpdx@gmail.com and I did not send the press release through that account. It’s possible that someone sent it with the appearance of being through that address (I hear that’s an easy thing to do) but as far as I know, no official communication channels of BikeLoudPDX were used in this action, nor did BikeLoudPDX as a whole know about it or decide to endorse it.

Speaking personally, I’m way too wussy to do this guerrilla type stuff and so was neither consulted nor involved.

Tyler
Guest

huzzah!

dan
Guest
dan

LOL that there’s no budget to install real diverters but when guerilla diverters are installed it’s magically no problem to send a removal crew lickety-split

Kyle
Guest
Kyle

This is great! Working through the official channels has proven to be futile, and more of this sort of action will likely push the city to make some rapid and official changes that the community wants and needs.

PNP
Guest
PNP

I love it! It’s great to see people taking action for themselves and being willing to stand up and make a statement. I grew up in the 60s, when people took to the streets to fight for their rights, and sometimes, I think we need some of that spirit back today.

Beeblebrox
Guest
Beeblebrox

The permanent diagonal diverter at 16th & Tillamook was originally a guerrilla diverter, put in my Irvington residents sick of cut through traffic. So there’s precedence for this tactic to yield results. Keep up the pressure, folks!

JJJJ
Guest
JJJJ

Why were those two cops being paid to stand there and do nothing?

Anne Hawley
Guest
Anne Hawley

Those barrel planters are charming! Much in the same vein as intersection art, and well thought out. They fit in with the style and spirit of the neighborhood. This was a brilliant demonstration of how cheaply, effectively, and quickly needed street improvements can be made, if only regulations could be relaxed in some instances.

Personally, my heart grew three sizes just seeing the cute planters. Pity PBOT couldn’t have left them in place for a few days and measured their impact before roaring in with the trucks.

peejay
Guest
peejay

This needs to happen every single day, until they get tired of removing them. 100% support!

chris
Guest
chris

Although I’m not a fan of these kind of “guerilla actions”, I do think that diverters on side streets, combined with some flipped stop signs and median crossings as main streets is probably the cheapest way to create a bike friendly city, in addition to being something that Portland has showed itself capable of doing without screwing everything up. It’s a pretty simple operation, and pretty difficult to do incorrectly, and the city government could probably double the number of bike boulevards/greenways via this method in a month, if it was really determined.

(Separated bike lanes on main streets, however, have to be engineered perfectly to not end up worse than what they replace, and our city’s record in that arena is patchy. The separated bike path on Moody to the OHSU tram is great, but one on SW Broadway next to PSU is awful.)

Diverters every five blocks seems like a good frequency.

Dan G
Guest
Dan G

As much as I appreciate the enthusiasm, those planters look dangerous to me. If a car did hit one, those welds would likely break and send the planter rolling toward the sidewalk.

SilkySlim
Guest
SilkySlim

So proud of these go getting guerillas!

Boris Kaganovich
Guest

The folks who did this really shot themselves in the foot by doing it without a permit. The permit for a temporary installation is really not that hard to get, and they definitely made it much harder for those of us trying to do things by the books, collect data, and get it built permanently.

I applaud the spirit of it, but those bollards are missing reflective striping, there was insufficient signage. I imagine even cyclists using Clinton could have difficulty seeing those things in the dark…meeting with PBOT to get the temporary permit are where things like that get caught and fixed.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

People, PEOPLE, PEOPLE!
The last method of communication you want to use to remain anonymous in a surveillance state is the phone system, wired or wireless.
JM’s journalistic integrity aside it takes zero effort police departments to get phone records and the cell phone companies serve them up within hours or minutes.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

Keep at it and hopefully it will end up like the official protected bike lane in Seattle that the city made permanent after several illegal/guerrilla bike lanes were put in by an activist group.

Portland needs more guerrilla bike installations like this to show the city that people want change and are sick of the bureaucracy.

Brian
Guest
Brian

I fully support this idea. Smart, harmless, attention getting, and aesthetically pleasing. Well done.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

Before anyone compares this to Uber breaking the law, let me remind you that this was done for safety for all, whereas Uber is only concerned with corporate profits.

Kevin @ Pedal PT
Guest

Wow- I came upon the police with lights flashing this morning, wondering what was going on- and here we go.. From the pics, the concept looks pretty solid- A great, simple attempt at a solution for the craaaazy car traffic on Clinton- Too bad I was few hours late to enjoy those diverters!

Dmitriy Zasyatkin
Guest

Keep up the good work and lets keep complaining to safe@portlandoregon.gov about the need for diverters on Clinton and Lincoln. If the City doesn’t address the issue, then residents will continue to make their own solution to make streets livable.

Here is what I wrote to safe@portlandoregon.gov:
I just read about the diverters placed on Clinton by an activist group and I would like to state my support for this community built diverters and ask that they be put back or another temporary diverter be installed. This was addressing a major safety concern on Clinton.

Andyc of Linnton
Guest
Andyc of Linnton

Man, too rad. Way to go you guys.

Reza
Guest
Reza

Is the the first documented example of bicycle-related guerrilla action in Portland? I know about incidents in Seattle and elsewhere but I’m trying to think of previous examples here.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

This is counterproductive. Not only is it extremely dangerous to block a road, but it takes valuable city resources away from actually dealing with these traffic issues, not to mention all of the other issues they roads crews are dealing with.

Would you suggest someone who doesn’t like bikes “take it into their own hands” as well? Maybe by panting over a bike land or pulling down a wayfinding sign?

meh
Guest
meh

Cowardly, hijacking the Bike Loud name in that way.
If you stand by your actions then use your own name or your own groups name.

Kirk
Guest

This absolutely made my day! 🙂

I certainly hope that the City of Portland will follow the City of Seattle’s precedence and turn guerrilla bike facilities into code-compliant permanent bike facilities.

Click here to read more about how a city government can effectively work WITH the people: http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2013/07/15/sdot-makes-guerrilla-installed-protected-bike-lane-permanent/

Cheers to all who were involved in making a #CarFreeClinton possible!

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

Whether BikeLoudPDX sanctioned or not (doesn’t sound like it was), this action is creative and gets attention on the issue.

Having recently tried to get PBOT or the police to do something about the homeless camp on a bike path I use (not Springwater, but it is in SE) and having NO luck at all, I can understand how people get frustrated with official channels. Bureaucracy moves too slowly, and sometimes ignores citizens entirely.

Gerald Fittipaldi
Guest
Gerald Fittipaldi

Holland, where Portland has borrowed many of its bicycle infrastructure ideas, owes much of its bicycle network to guerrilla actions. Below are the two best mini-documentaries I’ve seen on the citizen push to transform Amsterdam into a bicycling mecca:

1972: Child activists create “play streets”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YY6PQAI4TZE

General overview, including protests that lead to the greening in front of the I-Amsterdam sign: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuBdf9jYj7o

kt
Guest
kt

Is there any interest in starting a campaign, To save the barrel planters? They could be installed at pre existing traffic circles. Or diverters. It would be nice to try to save them.

Lenny Anderson
Guest
Lenny Anderson

The “citizens'” diverter at NE 16th and Tillamook was one of the reasons the CAC put the bikeway on Tillamook in the 90’s. The diverter went up in the 70’s when houses in Irvington were cheaper than they are now in SE, adjusted for inflation. Do diverters contribute to gentrification? Maybe so, but bring ’em on!

carye bye
Guest
carye bye

Good STuff! Time for a bike mass ride on a regular basis up & down Clinton to raise continued awareness!

Brian Davis
Guest
Brian Davis

I tend to be one of those that prefers to make change through “proper channels” and all that other good citizen bullshit, but I absolutely applaud this effort and think it’s a huge step forward for the cause.

I’m glad that people at PBOT are willing to take the time to meet with us folks who are concerned about safety on Clinton, thrilled that the everyday staffers largely seem to agree with us, and am 100% committed to forging those alliances to get results here. But I also came away from the meeting underwhelmed by PBOT’s sense of urgency here, and surprised that they portrayed themselves as being relatively helpless to change the situation without an overwhelming consensus from all who would be even remotely affected. It’s a delicate balance, but we need to be able to work productively with PBOT while at the same time holding their feet to the fire.

To do this will require not only people who have the patience to work through the bureaucracy and do things the Right Way, but also people who have no patience for the excuse-riddled inaction. I’m glad that both elements are pushing the issue on Clinton. I think it needs to be politically riskier for PBOT to do nothing on Clinton Street than it is for them to do something, and this action moves the needle in that direction (as does bikeloud’s continued work within the system). Bravo!

John
Guest
John

For me, the real bummer of this being an anonymous effort is that I don’t know where to send my support for future endeavours.

Daniel Lerch
Guest
Daniel Lerch

+1 on the observation that guerrilla actions like this are sometimes the only way to force the city’s hand. City Repair’s “intersection repair” street murals are a perfect example:

In the mid-90s some people in the Sellwood neighborhood put a plan together to paint up the intersection of SE 9th & Sherrett so that they could slow traffic and create a community gathering place. They brought the plan to the City but the City said they weren’t allowed to do it — so they did it anyway. A few months of threats and meetings and surveys and presentations followed, and when the neighbors were able to present to City Council that the project had support and was meeting City livability goals without spending any public dollars, the project was finally allowed to stay:
http://pps.org/great_public_spaces/one?public_place_id=505

The City worked with the organization City Repair to develop an ordinance to allow these projects city-wide. Sunnyside Piazza at SE 33rd & Yamhill was the first to be done under that ordinance:
http://pps.org/great_public_spaces/one?public_place_id=504

And now there are projects like this all over the city!:
http://cityrepair.org/vbc/neighborhood-sites/

Chris Shaffer
Guest
Chris Shaffer

It’s not clear to me that this was an effective place to put a diverter. My daughter rides south on 34th to Clinton to get to Cleveland High School. Diverting traffic from the Clinton to 34th only shifts the problem from one greenway to another. Surely we (and whoever did this) doesn’t want diverters to shift traffic directly onto other bike routes?

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

My tool box for low cost / quick and “professional” looking devices from your local Coastal Farm Store would include supplemental reflectors/ tape and vertical landscaping:

Galvanized 2x2x8 tubs for diverters:
http://www.coastalfarm.com/product.cfm?pid=1438&ifcn=13&page=gateway&fbx=true

and for 10 ft dia Mini Circles:
http://www.coastalfarm.com/product.cfm?pid=1447&ifcn=13&page=gateway&fbx=true

PS. don’t forget to add a watering tube down to the gravel and add media to the soil so it does not require as much weight nor get too heavy.

zuckerdog
Guest
zuckerdog

With words when you may, with metal (barrels) when you must.

armando
Guest
armando

cyclotram (@brx0 on twitter) has a write up on history NE16th and Tillamook diverter. I also heard this story in the PSU Transportation class.

rick
Guest
rick

Portland’s “Active Right of Way” community said: Folks who have taken the city’s Traffic & Transportation class may recall that an unpermitted diverter was one of the successful tactics employed by neighbors to get a much requested diverter at NE 16th and Tillamook.

brian sysfail
Guest
brian sysfail

Funny, our group that originally started noise about this issue was told by core Bikeloudpdx member that our Clinton Social ride group wasn’t radical enough and referred to it as Considerate Mass, which was taken as belittling & negatively to us. Obviously a Bikeloudpdx action but why don’t they take credit for this action when in past they have wanted to take all the credit for Clinton activism and pretty much took the steam out from what we where trying to do?

I think action needed to happen, but come on BikeloudPDX why don’t you claim your radical action dogma after belittling our group?

mh
Guest
mh

That was not one of the diversions I wanted and want to see on Clinton, but I’m glad someone forced the issue. Doesn’t our request to put one at 28th look better now? Remember the proposal to make the stretch of 34th between Division and Clinton one way northbound for motor vehicles? Counterflow bike lane southbound? That should start to look good to those hunting for a solution.

Allen
Guest
Allen

Our family uses Clinton every day on the way to school and work. It’s a real bummer that although my daughter is able to ride her “big girl” bike to school, she’s not allowed to because the Neighborhood Bikeway is too dangerous. 8 to 80? Not even close.

Permanent diverters on Clinton. Now. Please.

Anthony
Guest
Anthony

So much for sharing the road

mikeybikey
Guest
mikeybikey

i approve of this tactic. long overdue imo.

Kyle
Guest
Kyle

I don’t see why the city can’t immediately install temporary diverters using Jersey barriers, “road closed” barrier signage, or some combination thereof while they work over the medium to long term to come up with a permanent solution.

It seems that PBOT will not actually do anything without consulting with every possible affected party for 100% happiness, which often results in a severely watered down project that’s several years too late. Or, as is the case with East Burnside, the city will march ahead with a project that’s applauded by neighbours (removing a lane to slow traffic speeds) while simultaneously ignoring the consequences (heavy traffic diversion on Ankeny to avoid the increased congestion).

I’m so tired of this kind of stuff… all this bureaucracy is making it increasingly difficult to get around Portland via any mode – increased congestion for cars, unsafe greenways and lack of facilities for bikes, and pedestrian nightmares due to lax sidewalk closure rules for new construction.

Dan Kaufman
Guest

There is an interesting history behind the use of barricades and the closure of 13th St. on the UofO Campus. The city of Eugene had dragged it’s feet on the student safety issue here for 20-years prior to the indecent. Shortly after the indecent a barricade was made permanent and students ever-after have been able to enjoy the benefit of safer streets near the heart of campus.

https://scholarsbank.uoregon.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1794/1293/Stocks,+Jennifer+final1.pdf.txt;jsessionid=3DC8E9CA03A1C3C40581047720D4E31B?sequence=3

soren
Guest
soren

Hey Anons: PBOT is holding the barrels. If you need help picking them up contact me/us here:

https://groups.google.com/forum/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=footer#!topic/bikeloudpdx/TP6Iyq6zFHk

Nicholas Skaggs
Guest
Nicholas Skaggs

These tactics worked really well for Uber, I guess that’s how things get done in Portland! Go Bike Loud!

Adam
Guest
Adam

It took a guerilla group blocking a car across NE Alberta during Last Thursday for that street closure to happen.

This is amazing!!

This is what happens when PBOT continues not to care.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Install on all 4 corners of the intersection something that looks like a red light camera but is nonfunctional.