Update 3/12 at 5:30 pm: This ride was originally named the “River View Freedom Ride” but after hearing concerns from the community that the name co-opted important civil rights era history, the organizers decided to change the name to River View Protest Ride.
Portlanders are livid at the recent decision by Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Nick Fish to ban bicycling at River View Natural Area.
In response, 259 people (so far) have said they plan to attend the “Freedom Ride” that’s planned for March 16th — the first day of the new ban.
The ride is being organized by Charlie Sponsel, a member of the Parks bureau’s River View Natural Area Technical Advisory Committee and a lifelong bike rider who has used the trails inside River View for many years. Sponsel graduated from Lewis & Clark College (which is directly adjacent to the 146 acre parcel) in 2013 and has become the leader of a grassroots revolt against the bike ban.
For background on the ride, and why Sponsel has decided to take the route of civil disobedience in response to Fritz and Fish’s decision, below I’ve pasted a post written by Sponsel that was posted to the event’s Facebook page earlier this week (emphases mine):
“To answer some questions. Yes, the ride will be occurring on the first day of the ban. Yes, Parks and Rec is aware of the ride. We will also be notifying The Oregonian, Portland KGW, Bike Portland, Bike Magazine, and Willamette Week, so this ride is by design going to draw some attention. We have over 170 riders signed up already! Keep sharing and we can hit 200.
And yes, we do not want 200 people getting misdemeanor citations for riding Riverview. Part of the reason Riverview is so valuable is that for people working 9-5, Riverview is the only place to get a ride in Monday to Friday. It’s the only place to ride within an hour of the city. If the City of Portland responds with police, we are not asking 200 hardworking people to take citations for trespassing.
If police are present, we will shoulder our bikes and carry them down a shorter, truncated trail loop through the park.
It’s really important that this ride not be about riding at all. It’s about making a political statement about a political process that broke down. It’s not about getting our shred on at Riverview one more time. With the Riverview bike ban the city abandoned the public process and ignored input from their own people. The Riverview Technical Advisory Committee report states the top environmental concerns are:
– Dogs on and off-leash
– Off-trail use by cyclists and pedestrians
– Illegal camping/party spots that create wildfire risk
– Climate change
None of those concerns were addressed by Parks, they just decided to ban bikes. When asked to clarify the evidence used to come to this decision, Amanda Fritz said this:
“We don’t have studies or findings. We made the decision exercising an abundance of caution”
This ride is not so much about access to trails for mountain bikers. This ride is about access for citizens to the democratic process. Mountain bikers were working patiently alongside neighborhood representatives, environmental experts, and city workers to establish best practices and a plan going forward for Riverview, knowing full well that mountain bikers may or may not be included at Riverview at the end of the long term public planning process. That was the deal. Nick Fish and Amanda Fritz apparently did not like the direction those meetings were going, and in issuing this unilateral edict they showed their real colors. Nick Fish and Amanda Fritz value citizen engagement and the public process, so long as it gives them the answers they want.“
Sponsel has also made stickers and a t-shirt that he plans to have for sale at the ride. The slogan reads: “Portland Hates Me: Mountain Biking is not a crime.”
We are working on more coverage of this story. Stay tuned.
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Technically you can still ride also ride Powell Butte, but that’s splitting hairs and isn’t really the issue at hand. I hope to be there, work will understand, right?
It would make sense that your work would understand. Is your work about the dollars, though?
So this was done out of hatred or is that simply an overreaction?
I’m there. Thanks Charlie and Team Robot for organizing this event.
It’s going to be a wet weekend. Watch that trail erosion, fellas.
It is not so much about the riding as it is about the attending. A common rejoinder in MTB access debates is that there aren’t enough MTB riders to warrant attention in Portland.
I’m sure that tractor they had through there yesterday will be a big help in that regard.
Thank you Charlie! Well said – we have been ignored and abused in spite of, not because of, facts and science. I hope to be there. With my kids.
past tense: abused; past participle: abused
treat (a person or an animal) with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly.
“riders who abuse their horses should be prosecuted”
synonyms: mistreat, maltreat, ill-treat, treat badly;
molest, interfere with, indecently assault, sexually abuse, sexually assault;
injure, hurt, harm, damage
This and using the “hate” on the shirts. Little bit of hyperbole?
I think that’s the joke.
after reading your definition I agree with Frank…
Do you think that appropriating the name “Freedom Ride” is, well, appropriate? Perhaps you should revisit what “Freedom Ride” refers to and ask whether or not you are trivializing the huge civil rights campaign of 1961 that resulted in the imprisonment and beating of hundreds of people.
Chill out its just a name for an event.
So was “Kristellnacht”. This should not be called “Freedom Ride”.
godwin already, that was quick
“Do you think that appropriating the name “Freedom Ride” is, well, appropriate?”
T shirts with the slogan?: ‘Portland Hates Me’. Careful that conduct on the part of people showing up for this get together doesn’t prompt the response: ‘with good reason’.
I’m all for mountain biking in designated areas, at River View if that was the clear implicit expectation (certainly the sudden ban was never the expectation).
But I’m still totally going to rain on this party. And probably get accused of being totally off-topic. But I’m going to do it anyway.
Calling this a ‘Freedom Ride’ is kind of insulting to Freedom Riders and disrespectful of that history of events that happened in the Southern US in the 50s and 60s (and, by extension, the much more recent racial struggles in Portland around gentrification, PPS treatment of minority and black students in particular, police brutality issues etc.) .
It’s the kind of grossly inappropriate nomenclature you can only get away with in Oregon, as insulated as we tend to feel over here (incorrectely) from the struggles fought in the rest of the country and the world, like calling the UofO vs. OSU game a “civil war”.
For the record, I am also pro Mountain Biking at Forest Park.
I teach Freedom Summer and the Freedom Riders and never made the connection. I don’t think the connection you made was intended by the leader of the ride, and knowing that person I think it is safe to assume it is purely a coincidence.
I’m not assuming saying any offense was intended. And I fully support the cause. But that’s not always enough. We are too comfortable with being unaware.
YES. Thanks, Daniel, for saying so.
It’s never about intent, it’s always about impression.
Good point. http://www.freedomride.com
Brian, I left a comment on the FB event and the ride organizer implies he is using the term knowingly and with intent.
What I said was “Recreational options are obviously not the same as voting rights, no argument there. One is clearly more significant than the other. Principles are universal however, and the principles we are trying to invoke are the same principles that inspired the Freedom Riders of 1961.
The original Freedom Riders challenged local non-enforcement of Supreme Court decisions regarding public bus desegregation. The Freedom Riders questioned the legitimacy of local government when that government’s actions violated the basic principles of democracy: principles of equality, representation, and freedom.
The degree and magnitude is certainly less, but those are the same principles the city of Portland abandoned when they issued a unilateral administrative edict to arbitrarily target a legitimate user group. They didn’t like the direction the public process was heading, so they ignored it.
The name honors the principles that the original Freedom Riders stood for.”
But loyal BP posters are martyrs and often align their struggles with those fighting for civil rights.
Thank you, Daniel!
what’s great is that you have the right to be insulted as much as I have the right not to be…
Would “freedom ride” still be okay if this were a less liberal group? Would it be appropriate to use terms like apartheid or gulag to describe the plight of Portland area mountain bikers?
Maybe we should call it the Million Bike March instead. Oh wait…that’s no good either.
dang I need a shirt now,, haha ordered stickers already!
So no-one can ever use the words “freedom” and “ride” together without running afoul of the political correctness police? Is this ban going to expire someday?
Having lived in a police state before, let me tell you, better the political correctness police than the actual political police.
And, no. Clearly both “freedom” and “rides” have resonance in the political and recreation spheres. Use away, sir!
Maybe think about whether an event that protests the exclusion of a single recreational use in a medium-sized city park deserves those terms?
No comment on the ride name, but if the city only banned mountain biking in one medium sized park I don’t think anyone would be complaining, the issue is that it is banned in nearly every park, and now that ban is being extended to a major portion of the currently available trails. Does anyone have a count on the total legal single track in the city vs the length of the singletrack in Riverview? Wouldn’t surprise me if this ban was eliminating more than 1/2 the currently available singletrack.
“if the city only banned mountain biking in one medium sized park I don’t think anyone would be complaining, the issue is that it is banned in nearly every park,”
This is just flat out hyperbole. The City has NOT banned mountain biking in City Parks. Mountain bikes are allowed in most City Parks including Forest Park and Powell Butte Nature Park.
Nor has the City banned single-track mountain biking in City Parks (what you might have meant). Single track mountain bike trails exist in Forest Park and Powell Butte. There are upward to 10 miles of single-track available within the City limits, which actually isn’t low compared to City’s of similar size and density.
That is clearly not enough for some.
But let’s not ignore the facts or try to dramatize the cause with falsehoods: Mountain bikes are not banned in Portland City Parks.
I Disagree. For the purpose of this discussion, the issue, is single-track trails accessible for mountain biking. So Bjorn is correct, there is a de-facto ban on that in city parks. To claim otherwise is merely semantics. Everyone here knows there is only a 1/2 mile trail of accessible singletrack at the top of of firelane 5 in forest park.
Roads, even gravel ones do not a mountain bike trail make.
I’m a mountain biker and belong to the NWTA but t-shirt is lame as hell
So, maybe don’t buy it?
Co-opting “Freedom Ride” is so incredibly wrong and disrespectful. I’m all for mountain biking in Riverview and am incredibly disappointed with Amanda Fritz, Nick Fish, and the city for this ban (even if it’s temporary), but this movement has almost lost me completely with this name. Do they really want to anger potential allies?
Yeah what would Rosa Parks say?
How do you feel about this group?
I love that the wording on the shirt has generated 80+% of the comments on this article…..
Well, Jonathan’s words that Portlanders were livid about the decision, in the lead paragraph, turns into 259 people in the next.
So not nearly all, or most Portlanders were livid. Not even a handful.
How does that work out percentage wise?
Have you been to the average protest in Portland? You think they’re all drawing 1.8M people?
Have you even been to the average civic even in Portland? (hint: also not drawing 1.8M people)
I see lots wrong here, but more from the cycling community than from the city.
Legitimate questions surround how city officials made the decision to ban (for now) mountain bikes from this natural area. However, these questions in no way justify illegal action. Cyclists are often criticized — sometimes with justification and sometimes not — for flouting the law while riding. So protesting allegedly unfair treatment of cyclists by violating the law on bikes simply undercuts protesters’ message and reinforces the image of cyclists among some members of the public as entitled brats who ignore rules that don’t suit them.
And I have to side with the commenters who have scoffed at the “Freedom Ride’s” implied connection (whether intended or not) between the civil rights struggles of people of color and the allegedly maligned mountain bike riders of Portland. To even put these two groups in the same sentence demonstrates the absurdity of this comparison.
And even though I’m an avid reader and supporter of Bike Portland, the blog’s “news” (as opposed to editorial) coverage of this issue bears little resemblance to objective journalism. For example, the post on the planned ride after the ban goes into effect serves as a virtual invitation to join in illegal behavior. I’m sad to see BP sink to this level.
I encourage the cycling community to act like grown-ups. By all means ask questions of city officials and continue to advocate for additional off-road riding opportunities in and around Portland (I’d like to see more as well!). But discuss (and cover) this issue with objectivity, and don’t live down to the usually unfair stereotypes of cyclists that we have to continuously argue against.
I don’t think you’re appreciating the decades of being put off by the city, while trying to go the official route, only to be lied to and reneged on multiple times.
I agree with davemess’ basic sentiment. This specific protest event may be focused on River View but it probably would not be happening at all if it weren’t for the dozens of “River Views” that have come before it. This is a protest over a city that has failed over and over again to pursue transparent, fact-based decision making that is in keeping with modern standards of recreational and conservation lands management. I don’t know if this particular protest ride is absolutely the best way to get the message out, but it’s probably going to help make it clear and public that fair-minded Portlanders are saying “enough is enough” when it comes to recreational mismanagement of city lands. Clearly, working neatly, quietly and obediently within the system has not worked. It’s a real shame that the city has driven the community to these types of measures, but it’s unclear what other choices there are for promoting positive change.
“… when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.”
Does anyone else see the irony of Fritz telling the MTB community not to go dramatizing falsehoods? Seriously. Whole lotta irony there.
Also, I would like to see what the city dubs as MTB trails. Leif Ericksen is a double track road so that mess doesn’t count. In the last 2 decades has the city done anything to help create new opportunities for mountain biking? Not really. There was that short, token trail in FP and that is it. The Gateway Green still has yet to happen and that was started what, like 5 years ago or more? People have to drive 45min to an hour to go ride in the coast range, hood river, Sandy ridge or Blackrock. How much has the city paved for road bikes (need we get into the environmental impacts of that)? It’s a joke. Portland has some of the largest wooded parks in the country with in its city limits and yet they don’t want to build a few miles of mountain bike trails. Keep Portland Stupid.
I wonder if it would be wise to plan on shouldering bikes in any case. For some of us, it would be nice to know that we could make a statement (perhaps even more powerful) without risking a citation. BTW, I can’t seem to find out what the penalty is for riding a closed trail. I foggily remember bike seizure was in there. Anybody know?
I have been reading about the Freedom Riders with my son. Over 400 activists, black and white, risked beatings, jail, firebombing, and death to test the new federal law that interstate bus terminals could not be segregated (e.g. an outhouse for ‘colored’ people and indoor facilities for white people). What happened to these activists was a shameful mirror into how far we had to go as a nation.
I never learned about the Freedom Riders in school, nor about many other historic moments such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott or the Selma to Montgomery marches – all of which, you note, are actions related to our freedom to move, and the power of bodies in motion. I encourage you to learn more, and think about the ways that mobility and civil rights have always been linked.
To give these MTB advocates the benefit of the doubt, perhaps they did not learn about this critical time in our nation’s history in school. However, now that they have the chance to see the big picture, I hope they will see that it is disrespectful and tone-deaf to continue with that name. Their cause is worthwhile, and it doesn’t benefit from this distraction.
I am just glad that the bridge being constructed adjacent to Riverview is not affecting the salmon and thank god that Highway 43 has zero impact on the environment. I just wish we had a really large park that was being under utilized and we built some stupid trails to shut up these whiny “moutain” bikers. I also agree that “Freedom Ride” is offensive- we should really call this whole thing Operation Challenger because legal mtn biking in Portland died 73 seconds afters its launch.
I will preface that I am avid cyclist and have studied both sides of this controversy. I also happen to live near the entrance to River View and observe very few M-F riders. Very few.
A small contingency of vocal activists seem unwilling to hear another viewpoint. If they listened to the rationale, they might actually come around to agree – or at least gain some understanding.
To say RVN is the ONLY place in Portland for mtn. biking is simply untrue. There is excellent single track riding near Mt. Tabor. I know because I ride there.
Here’s the thing. It’s very difficult to undo damage from urban development and erosion. Very kind, smart, conscious people – not haters of mtn. bikers – worked really hard to achieve protected status of this area.
I agree with previous commenters that coopting the name of the Freedom Riders who fought for civil rights is inappropriate. Stormwater management and wildlife stewardship vs. mountain biking is not a civil rights issue. It’s just not. That’s my two cents.
You mean these trails?
I have been riding the dirt paths at Mt. Tabor for 17 years. They do not qualify as trails for anyone beyond a very beginner ability level. Two weeks ago I saw two out of towers riding rented mountain bikes on those dirt sidewalks. They looked confused so I checked in with them. They had one question, “Where are the trails in Portland?” My reply, “Good question.”
So do you have an explanation for why dogs and walkers/hikers aren’t being banned? As the committee clearly showed them to be a similar (or even more severe) threat to the “protected status”.
If the city wants to go environmental and ban everyone that’s fine, I don’t think many would have a huge issue with that. It’s the double standard. that’s the problem.
Funny thing — as soon as you said you were an avid cyclist I knew how the rest of the post was going to go.
Erica knows as much about mountain biking as Commissioner Fritz does. But that can change! Erica (and Commissioner Fritz), I am certain that NWTA would gladly take you on a real mountain bike ride – or trailwork party. A great bunch of people. They’ll even rustle up a bike for you. But beware, if you come back from that experience excited about mountain biking, you’re in for a rude surprise in Portland.
Officially, no singletrack exists at Mt Tabor. Anything less than 6 feet wide is closed to bikes.
I am going to be real blunt here. You need to change the name of the event right now. This is cultural appropriation. This is a group of white (mostly male) cyclists appropriating a historical event for their own political gain.
Given the current political climate in Portland regarding the N. Williams area (the past decades of racialized violent history, really) AND the national climate on race relations, it is especially wise that you distance yourself from very crucial, real, and raw history that is embedded in the African American community.
Also, as a reminder to readers, Maus himself said that racial justice and bike advocacy is something that “isn’t what we (people who love bicycling and want to see more of it) have traditionally thought about — but as events unfold around the Ferguson case, it increasingly seems like we should.”
So, maybe you should.
And I would encourage Maus himself to lead this discussion or ask someone with connections to racial equity & bike advocacy to help him (he knows who those people are, as cited in the blog post I quoted above and linked to below).
Seriously? Is our community’s understanding and appreciation of the civil rights movement so fragile that it can’t withstand something like a single mountain bike protest ride that uses or borrows an otherwise totally appropriate term that perfectly fits the current circumstance?
Nobody is asserting that the stakes or the outcomes of the civil rights protests you’re referring too are somehow identical to what’s happening at River View, but, frankly, your apparent assertion that there’s no comparison at all doesn’t just insult the legitimate cause of the cyclists but it actually steals significance from the original Freedom Ride by trying to elevate those events to a level that is completely beyond the reach or aspiration of anyone who may come after it.
I could not care less what the bike event is called but suggesting that the history of civil rights in this country will somehow be compromised by a bunch of mountain bikers in a park is itself a debasement of the original Freedom Riders. If anything, maybe the event organizers should make the reference even more explicit by pointing directly to the parallels – and the differences – between the two historical events. Maybe it’s a teaching and learning opportunity rather than an opportunity to lock away a term like “Freedom Ride” in a vault of political correctness as if it were a principle that nobody should ever hope to aspire to or be inspired by.
The organizers of this event aren’t “appropriating” the history of civil rights in our country. But you seem to be handing it over to them. And while you may want to characterize their goal as selfish “political gain,” the cyclists seem to think their goal is for the benefit of all Portlanders who might ever want to enjoy one of the country’s most popular outdoor activities right here in their own city.
By the way, no thank you for your “white (mostly male)” ethnic and gender summary of what’s happening here. I’m not saying your characterization isn’t probably accurate, but how do you think we might change that (assuming you might like to)? Could it be that providing a place to ride a mountain bike in the city that doesn’t require a luxurious full-day off work, a car and half a tank of gas would help attract a broader segment of society?
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m about to win this discussion. But that’s because the “my history” people will always emotionally and politically trump the “our history” people as long as society remains as racially and ethnically unbalanced as it is. Fair enough. But does telling a bunch of mountain bikers that they shouldn’t call their freedom ride a “Freedom Ride” move us forward, backward or nowhere in the direction we might like to go?
It’s unfortunate the city isn’t listening to bike riders on this issue. Judging by the shirt, rhetoric, and lack of perspective of the organizers this protest seems unlikely to garner any more support for the cause.
For ANYBODY interested in the ongoing River View issue, you may want to attend – or find somebody to attend – TONIGHT’S meeting of the Collins View Neighborhood Association. RVNA is on the agenda. What will be said or decided? Nobody knows. But it could have an impact.
“The Collins View Neighborhood Association meets at 7:00 PM on the first Wednesday of most every month — We take July off, and we have a picnic in August! We meet in Riverdale High School (where Boones Ferry and Terwilliger overlap), usually in the classroom just to the left of the foyer.”