from another city.
(Photos: J.Maus and M.Andersen, unless noted)
Some people think that controversy makes people read news. They’re half right.
The world has no shortage of controversy. What’s scarce are controversies that are somehow surprising.
You can see that force behind a few of the stories that got the most clicks this year from BikePortland readers.
And though we don’t put pageviews at the heart of our coverage decisions and never will, it’s fun to imagine the threads of shared surprise that caught readers’ imaginations enough to make them click and share these 10 posts. (Click on each headline or photo below to read the original story.)
After reading readers’ conversation about this anonymous (and possibly not-actually-medical-in-nature) graffiti message left on various streets in Northwest Portland, I personally decided to always set my lights to steady. Your conclusions may vary, but this caught so many readers’ attention that we followed up by dedicating an entire podcast to bike lighting decisions.
Some news is popular because it’s, you know, good. Readers have gobbled up the story of Green Zebra Grocery, a “healthy convenience store” startup founded by the former CEO of New Seasons Market that uses the city’s best retail bike parking to help draw customers from nearby. When we called its founder for a one-year update, she dropped one bit of good news after another. Readers in Portland and around the country celebrated with her.
Here’s another way to get people’s attention: write about their city from a new perspective. Hundreds of Pittsburgh lovers around the country (including Jim Russell, whose dense, fascinating blog about urban migration first got me thinking about Pittsburgh in new ways) seemed thrilled to read and share our contrarian but totally earnest impressions from a visit to the Paris of Appalachia.
One reader called our lead image for this story “the most Portland photo ever taken,” but it was the surprising-but-true headline (based on city stats about the rise of accessory dwelling units and an interview with a top city planner) that sold this piece about a still-underreported trend in local real estate.
“This picture is just way too awesome,” Milwaukie resident and lawyer Scott Barbur wrote on Facebook in 2010, four years before his latest run for a seat on the city council of this near-south suburb of Portland. Even after friends told him it was a real photo of a horrific fatal collision, Barbur kept digging himself a hole. For some reason, most BikePortland readers didn’t think much of his tardy 2014 apology. Neither did Milwaukie residents, apparently. They overwhelmingly rejected Barbur in November, creating a pro-bike, pro-transit majority on the city council there.
For a few hours on Nov. 4, Jonathan lived every bike-lover’s nightmare after he absent-mindedly walked away from one of his most beloved possessions without locking it up. Then (because he’s the kind of guy who keeps a spare bike at his office) he managed to live every bike theft victim’s throat-thumping dream: He rode around until he found the bike, stashed beneath a bridge and seemingly about to be spray-painted. He stole it back and told the tale.
In May, after a tangle of bureaucratic disputes, the city ordered a downtown shop owner to erase his huge, never-permitted mural boasting to countless thousands of passers-by of Portland’s identity. We used that odd moment — woven into a story of how I personally, back in 2007, fell in love with a city “where even the broke people could afford to be interesting” — as a way to write about the latest twist in the story of biking in Portland. In the last few years, we’ve lost our ability to tell ourselves big stories about the ways bikes can improve our city. Here on BikePortland, we’ve spent the rest of this year sharing community voices about what it’ll take to reclaim our bike-capital pride.
In a bizarre bit of Monday-morning news, we reported in October that a Portland Police Bureau bomb squad had been called to Forest Park on Saturday to disarm “an explosive device connected to a tripwire strung across a trail.” Though there’s no reason to think bikes were an intended target — the wire was so low that a wheel might not have triggered it — it sure caught our attention. Readers’ too.
This ranking actually represents three separate stories this year about one of the dumbest trends of 2014. Back in February, we shared a story from a reader who was riding on Mount Tabor when a passing pickup abruptly emitted a huge plume of black smoke as it passed. In June, we shared a Reddit story about a similar incident that had a half-happy twist: one of the bike-riding victims was an off-duty cop. Three weeks later, this trend called “rollin’ coal” percolated into the lefty news media as a sign of rural hostility toward environmental regulation and anyone who seems associated with it.
Well, now we know what happens when your article’s default Facebook photo includes (1) crotches of multiple genders and (2) tallbikes.
Though our annual NSFW gallery from the World Naked Bike Ride is always our most-clicked post of the year, this year’s blew the windows out. More than a million pageviews later, here’s a perhaps overly appropriate screenshot of what BikePortland’s web traffic looks like over the last three years:
Though you probably have to join a Naked Ride to realize that it’s not about sex — and though our future lead photos will probably be a little tamer — we’ve made peace with the fact that sex is what drives our most popular story every summer. As this year’s list of big web hits shows, biking in Portland is about a lot of different things. Sex is one of them. We could do a whole lot worse.
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.