(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.
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.
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.
*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.