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Petition launched to strip Portland of ‘Platinum’ bike-friendly status

Posted by on April 13th, 2015 at 12:08 pm

vanluelead2

Petition at Change.org.

It’s been nearly seven years since the League of American Bicyclists bestowed Portland with its highest honor; a Platinum-level bicycle-friendly community designation.

Now there’s an effort to strip Portland of that award.

Platinum is the highest ranking possible in the League’s widely-respected program that judges cities with a combination of technical analysis, local expert interviews, and an application process. Portland is the only large city to reach this status — the other cities are Fort Collins and Boulder in Colorado and Davis, California.

31-year old Portland resident Will Vanlue has launched a petition on Change.org to encourage the League to downgrade our status. Vanlue told us via phone this morning that he’s “fed up” with the lack of progress being made to improve access for bicycles in Portland and he hopes his effort will “light a fire” under Portland policy makers, elected leaders, and advocates.

Vanlue is a former volunteer and was communications director for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) before taking a job as a delivery rider for SoupCycle. Riding around Portland streets all day has given Vanlue a discouraging view of just how bad Portland streets are for biking. Back in January we profiled his crusade to report bike access shortcomings to the City of Portland’s Bureau of Transportation.

This petition, he says, is the “logical extension of the traffic hazard reporting I’ve been doing.”

“No one seems to be pushing the City to generally improve the streets that are being built and policies that are being implemented,” said Vanlue. “I’d like to talk about more positive things; but I just haven’t had a lot of positive experiences to talk about. When I’m out riding around I’m always watching my back to not get run over… I’m just fed up.”

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Last week Cedar Knoll, a co-worker of Vanlue’s, was hit by a truck while crossing Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Knoll says the police failed to make an official report of his collision and he had to take the law into his own hands just to get justice.

That was the last straw for Vanlue.

“Seeing somebody I know get hit and not seeing anyone take action is ridiculous,” he said.

Part of Vanlue’s increased urgency around bike safety comes from the fact that he is about to become a father in August. “I’m going to have a kid that’s going to be riding around these streets and most of the place I ride in Portland feel like they’re getting worse, not better.”

Vanlue hopes to spur attention for his cause on social media via photos and messages tagged with #downgradePortland.

For their part, the League has already openly questioned Portland’s Platinum status after the city’s controversial decision to ban bicycling at River View Natural Area.

It would be an unprecedented move for the League to downgrade a city from Platinum. According to the League’s process, Portland’s status wouldn’t come up for possible changes until the renewal period in 2017 (the reward was last renewed in 2013).

Below is the text of Vanlue’s petition as posted at Change.org:

Introduction

We are asking the League of American Bicyclists to downgrade Portland’s ranking in their Bicycle Friendly Communities program.

Below are a number of ways that we, as people who want to ride bicycles in Portland, believe we have fallen short of the specific A​ttributes of a Bicycle Friendly Community ​(sometimes known as the “5 E’s”) outlined in the League of American Bicyclists’ B​icycle Friendly Communities​ program.

We are not bringing these issues to light to criticize people who drive or ride bicycles, nor indict specific people or organizations. We are outlining our concerns here because Portland should not be held up as an example for other cities to follow.

We hope that Portland, one day soon, will become a “Platinum” city, but our current status as a “Platinum” community is odds with the reality of our streets. If other communities follow our lead they too will end up constructing roads & policies that increase traffic conflict, risk, and stress.

Engineering
There are many instances when, even after someone dies while riding a bicycle, when the City puts the onus for safety on people who ride bicycles despite their having no legal obligation to yield to other people’s travel.
Warning signs targeting people choosing to ride a bicycle are readily applied, but rarely are people warned to drive safely through the installation of traffic signs.

Many streets are built using outdated design standards, or standards that do not adequately protect Portlanders in the context ­ volume and speed ­ of traffic on a particular street. Some of the few facilities “for bicycles” are not well maintained and often slow or restrict the travel of people on bicycles. Facilities on the street also frequently drop out or degrade at intersections, specifically where there are the most opportunities for conflict.
Many non­arterial streets have speed limits set at 30 MPH or above, which aren’t even enforced on a regular basis. Many streets with high speed traffic have no facilities for people on bicycles, at all.

The network of neighborhood greenways has been determined to be deficient in many ways, including being pockmarked with areas of high­speed, over­capacity traffic.

Traffic facilities do not connect well with transit hubs, and vice versa.

There is no convenient way to provide feedback about engineering of on­-street facilities, and feedback is often spread across different City departments that do not actively coordinate.

The City continues to actively restrict off­-road bicycle access.

Education
Neighborhood greenways are not designed in a way to clearly illustrate their low­-stress intent, nor is there a public campaign aimed to curb reckless behavior which degrades their practicality.

Public campaigns are often aimed at the victims of traffic violence, not the behaviors that cause crashes and fatalities.

No robust adult education program exists outside of the diversion program.

Encouragement
Sunday Parkways is a terrific, popular activity but it is chronically underfunded and is on a scant few weekends each year. The lack of a regular, perhaps weekly, program causes confusion on the part of people trying to drive around the event. Sunday Parkways routes are significantly constricted around motorways.

Tourism campaigns often over­sell the promise of a safe, comfortable experience, setting up visitors for a shock when they try to travel by bicycle in Portland.

Portland continues to lack a public bike share system.

There are no themed loop rides, as are suggested by the League of American Bicyclists, despite this being an easy activity that could be developed around our existing Neighborhood Greenways.

Enforcement
Traffic laws are regularly ignored in Portland. Basic laws governing safety ­ like the speed limit, prohibition of parking on sidewalks and in bike lanes, stopping for people in crosswalks and at stop signs ­ are rarely if ever enforced by the authorities

The City of Portland lacks effective tools for reporting dangerous behavior. The City’s official reporting app lacks a reporting category specifically for hazards or superfluous closures impacting bicycle traffic. The behavior of officers and dispatch operators discourages people who ride bikes from reporting traffic crashes.

Portland Police Bureau officers, as a matter of policy, do not report or cite people in motor vehicle crashes that result in minor injuries. However, PPB officers also stage enforcement stings on popular bicycle routes, targeting common behaviors that do not pose a significant safety risk, and pushing the action to local media which creates the appearance of a publicity stunt.

Our regional trail network, intended as a destination for families, is not consistently patrolled by law enforcement and many trails have history of violent, threatening, or illegal behavior.

Evaluation & Planning
Little progress has been made on the City’s Bicycle Master Plan. Responses to Portlanders’ concerns are recorded and acted upon inconsistently.

Traffic crashes are studied and some changes are implemented, but dangerous conflict points and chronically unsafe behavior is often ignored unless it causes a fatality or serious injury.

Data is not collected before and after enforcement actions to evaluate their long­-term impacts.

City officials frequently adapt street designs to fit pro-­motor vehicle, anti­-bike opinions. Suggestions from pro­bicycle grassroots advocacy organizations and other community groups are not equally represented in street design. Compounding this disparity, the largest local bicycle advocacy organization has, as a matter of strategy, shifted away from actively working in Portland and rarely speaks out regarding potential changes to Portland’s streets. These forces create situations where the concerns of large groups of residents are subjugated to the whims of a small number of wealthy, well-­connected interests.

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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CaptainKarma
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CaptainKarma

I would add hostile news media coverage of bicycling, emphasizing us vs them thinking. A few extra mouse clicks or raggedy newspaper ad revenue gets paid for by endangering those who use bicycles for transportation or fun.

Charley
Guest
Charley

Signed.

Brian
Guest
Brian

Signed, and spread the link to interested mountain bike social media outlets.

Bill Walters
Guest
Bill Walters

Signed.

Christophe
Guest
Christophe

I am all for making a good place better and I appreciate bike advocacy. But actively seeking a national, public down grade of your home town seems counterproductive.

Trail Rat
Guest
Trail Rat

Signed. I moved here from Vegas in 2007. After arriving here I realized that the bike lanes are far superior in Vegas, and the trail (mtb) riding is far better and way more accessible from the city. I was confused by what all of the hype in portland was all about. Now I get it, it was just “hype” with no substance.

Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
Guest
kiel johnson

How about a petition to make city leaders delivery soup by bike once a week so they can experience what it is like to ride a bike in PDX?

Dan
Guest
Dan

Couldn’t sign it quick enough.

Indy
Guest
Indy

Yeah maybe just keep NE/SE Portland on the list. Because NW/SW Portland aren’t anywhere near the infrastructure/improvements that would necessitate this label.

Dave
Guest
Dave

Should the L.A.B. take local media into account when designating cities? I really believe they should–the presence of Pampliln and the Whoregonian should have been automatic bars to Platinum status.

spencer
Guest
spencer

done and signed!

Chris Wallace
Guest
Chris Wallace

Your quote: “When I’m out riding around I’m always watching my back to not get run over” is EXACTLY what you should be doing, riding defensively.

mran1984
Guest
mran1984

Platinum? What a joke! We have zero single track. Tin would be more applicable. I will sign after work.

Justin Carinci
Guest
Justin Carinci

I’d rather be cast iron. Strong, dependable, classic world-changing metal, but one that needs regular care and attention.

Pete
Guest
Pete

If anyone is interested in seeing what the application criteria actually consists of, I have an older worksheet that may be viewed here:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8eq4s7ekKWlQmpMcW1IdVlGZnc/view

Terry D-M
Guest
Terry D-M

Platinum should be relegated to cities that have BIG ideas and are working on them. We are standing on our Tilikum laurels right now and building the legacies of the last administration’s applications and projects…..with not much in the pipeline….lots of plans…little leadership from city hall on funding them.

Signed.

Dan
Guest
Dan

Our Parks department is fighting against us, rather than advocating for us.

TrailLover
Guest
TrailLover

It’s an unfortunate omission that the petition doesn’t explicitly include references to the dismal state of bicycle access to singletrack trails in city parks. Maybe a separate petition is needed? Either way, a demotion is long overdue.

Aixe Djelal
Guest

Signed. Portland is a wonderful city, better than others for cycling, but it needs to get off its laurels and make progress on its bicycle friendliness. Thanks for starting this petition, Will.

Matt
Guest
Matt

Signed. The Enforcement category alone is enough to get us kicked off the list. Oregon traffic laws are a joke.

pixelgate
Guest
pixelgate

It’s one of the reasons I quit riding entirely. I don’t want to belittle the efforts of activists over the last 8-10 years, but from my eyes it looks like virtually all progress has come to a halt. All I see are tons of close calls and near misses, streets overrun with cars and bicyclists (braver than I) left to fend for themselves. There’s no way you can call Portland a platinum bike city. To even suggest otherwise is highly disingenuous.

Dwaine Dibbly
Guest
Dwaine Dibbly

Signed, using my real name.

Andyc of Linnton
Guest
Andyc of Linnton

2017? I’m afraid that we’ll start implementing major changes to our streets and implement bike share by that time….BWAAAAHH HA HA HA HA HA! Just kidding, I’m signing.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Portland should have lost its Platinum status a long time ago. Mode share and construction have both stagnated. From what I can tell there are bits and pieces of projects in the works – which ARE important, closing up the little infrastructure gaps here and there – but SO much more is needed. Cycling isn’t too bad in the center of the city, but get out into Southwest, or up into the West Hills, or out into East Portland, and it still sucks. I spent 14 of my 18 years in Portland working east of I-205 and out in Beaverton. The commute to both places from central Portland sucked.

After 4 months in Minneapolis, I can honestly say things are better here. First the bad: the bike lanes aren’t as extensive, and the quality of the pavement (thanks to road salt and brutal winters) is atrocious in the city and the suburbs alike. But the good: a half-decent network of bike lanes (many of which are new enough not to show up on Google Maps yet), a staggering network of MUPs that often actually GO somewhere, dozens of miles of real cycletrack, far better connectivity in most of the suburban areas, over a dozen trail systems to go mountain biking (so you can ride your BIKE to the mountain bike trails!), and … get this … LESS HOSTILE DRIVERS! No kidding: when I’m driving I find the drivers considerably more aggressive here than in Portland, but when I’m on a bike EVERYONE is nice. I’ve clocked over 600 miles so far this year, probably more in the suburbs than the city, yet I’ve had no close calls, no hostility from anyone. NOTHING. I think it’s because a lot more people actually ride bikes here (#1 state for bicycling). So even though fewer people commute by bike, cycling is viewed as less of a fringe activity.

But more than anything, where MSP totally outshines PDX is the current level of effort to improve the bike infrastructure. Minneapolis is committed to adding dozens of new miles of bikeways this year, St. Paul is adopting a radical new bike plan, suburbs like Edina and Richfield are making a BIG DEAL out of making their infrastructure friendlier to attract millennials, and major regional trail work is going on over the place (Nine Mile Creek and Intercity trails near me, some great new stuff in South St. Paul and Inver Grove Heights, and others I can’t remember off the top of my head). All told, I’m sure the amount being spent this year alone in the region is well over $10 million.

And this is where Portland is failing right now: everyone is fighting over scraps, with a minor trail connection here, a neighborhood greenway there and an intersection over there.

Don’t get me wrong: NO CITY in America deserves Platinum yet IMO. There is nowhere in the USA that bike infrastructure is adequate. I could go on about Minneapolis’ deficiencies too. But the case for downgrading Portland is especially strong.

what
Guest
what

“Victim blaming”….you mean the democratic process better preserved a natural/wild life area means some people cannot enjoy their hobby as much as they would like…sure, I did not get your point at all unless it is that you feel justified using the us verse them language that have therefore opened that door for all.

Keith
Guest
Keith

I fully support Will’s petition to the LAB. SW cyclists have never felt part of a “Platinum” city, and they have recognized this for a long time (link below). With SW having only one complete bike route without gaps (Multnomah Blvd.), “close enough” often considered as an acceptable design standard, and SW Sunday Parkways being an afterthought, the city should be demoted. Platinum shouldn’t simply go to the best of the worst.

http://bikeportland.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/swbicyclefacilitiesstrategylowres110308.pdf

jeg
Guest
jeg

This is a political misstep that will be used to say biking isn’t important. You’re playing into the trap.

Eric
Guest
Eric

Portland’s drivers, city council, police, and bureau of transportation need to work together to earn and maintain any reputation as a bicycle-friendly city. Simply painting an appropriate lane width (8ft for cars, 8 for buffer+bikes instead of 11/5) on our 20-25mph streets would help, but trimet can’t be troubled to run buses at less than 10mph over the speed limit. Simply enforcing the laws would make a huge difference to our shared infrastructure, but nobody’s pal gets to pour any concrete doing that. Simply riding a bike for short trips would change everything, but half of our land is parking lots and biking is a hassle while gasoline is so cheap and easy to burn (and the drivers are too distracted, incompetent, aggressive, and rude to share the road.)

Maybe a trail of flaming gasoline behind my bike would buy me 1s+ following distances from these drivers with a “share the road” plate? I need to burn my fair share, right?

Zimmerman
Guest
Zimmerman

Signed, with great joy.

Scott H
Guest
Scott H

2008 felt like such a great year. It felt like we were making real progress. Now city leadership is trying to ride that wave without contributing.

stephen salter
Guest
stephen salter

signed

Andrew N
Guest
Andrew N

I will be impressed if LAB makes a move right now (or even in 2017, though it’s possible with enough public advocacy) because I think they’re too cozy with city officials. It’s hard to avoid the fact that city governments and LAB have a symbiotic relationship, with each group at the end of the day reliant on the other for maintaining an aura of legitimacy. No one wants to rock the boat too much — but the River View decision looks so openly hostile/dismissive that LAB risks losing too much legitimacy with the public. The validity of the rating itself gets corroded if they allow us to continue to drift from the published standards. That’s my 2 cents, anyway. A few years ago I got added to the local review group for the previous re-Platinum-ing of Portland (2013?) and argued strenuously for a downgrading. Maybe more of us should ask to be local reviewers? I have no idea what the process is for vetting members, or even how big the group is (or could/should be), but if enough of us get involved the pendulum may swing in such a way that downgrading our status becomes politically palatable.

Seth Alford
Guest
Seth Alford

LAB Life Member. Signed.

Andy K
Guest
Andy K

This is all because that guy ran over the duck, isn’t it?

Rick
Guest
Rick

Nearly 13 % of the entire comments for the online 2035 Comprehensive plans for transportation was about SW Hamilton Street which lacks sidewalks and bikelanes for over 80 % of that big east/west corridor. However, the city denied those pleas for help recently. Another kick to the creek for the Bridlemile neighborhood.

gutterbunnybikes
Guest

Really does this rating matter?

What’s the LoAB done recently other this? Oh yeah a trade show.

I mean come on, the title isn’t worth anything – I’d get it if there was funding or something on the line.

All the title is is city hired wonk bragging rights. Don’t know how to break it to you all, but other than a few of us geeks, hardly anyone knows about the rating, and even fewer care about it.

Pete
Guest
Pete

I’ve seen a few comments about the BFC program being irrelevant anyway, and the status not really mattering. Valid opinions, indeed, but one thing I’ll say in favor of the program is that it is an excellent ‘conversation starter’ with city staff/councils and provides guidelines to inform those in charge how to start implementing a bike-friendliness program (and applies to corporations and universities too). Without sponsored programs, master plans, and stakeholders (project/bike managers, LEO, schools/SRTS, engineers and public works, bike shop owners, etc.) at the table you get nothing. Cities aren’t typically run by people who know bicycling, and grants don’t get written by themselves. When these awards come up for review, you then get to start the same conversation all over again with the new administration.

Ted Buehler
Guest

Here’s Portland’s 2008 Platinum Level City application.

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/194342

If there are measures in the 2008 application that are no longer true, then that is fodder for the argument to downgrade Portland’s status. &, of course, there are positive changes, too (like the Morrison Bridge bike lanes, Stark and Oak wide bike lanes, upcoming Tilikum Bridge opening) that would need to be offset by more significant deterioration elsewhere in the system.

If its quantifiable, its defensible. & can be used for specific requests to ensure that changes for the better are made to continue to support Platinum status, or to support a request to the LAB to downgrade status.

If its qualifiable, it’s still useful.

But without quantification or qualification and reference to Portland’s 2008 application, it’s an interesting discussion, but not really useful as a lever to create change.

Ted Buehler

TrailLover
Guest
TrailLover

A lot of commenters are asserting that the LoAB ratings have no real value or benefits for the city beyond some low-visibility window dressing. But a little sprucing up can go a long way. I’m virtually certain that when the city is wooing private business to locate here or is applying for certain types of public or private grant monies, the city is all too happy to tout a positive LoAB rating and the quality of life benefits that it implies. And if the other party doesn’t know what LoAB is, I’m sure the city is happy to explain the significance. Sure, it’s just one of many tools in the toolbox but I doubt the mayor and the commissioners would like to see it disappear so they might be willing to make changes to retain or restore a positive rating.

SD
Guest
SD

I agree with and completely feel the sentiment of the petition, but I can’t help thinking that this is simply thrashing around in frustration, in the darkness, affecting nothing. It is unfocused and it does not place pressure on anyone.
If the city administrators acknowledge that this petition even exists or is significant, they will easily shift blame elsewhere. If you want to channel your discontent, pick a real target, call Charlie Hales out for his failure to advocate for cycling. Pressure him to take a stand.
Maybe he is a cycling advocate, but is too timid to admit it.

Adam
Guest
Adam

Signed.

Sick and tired of constantly being made to feel like I am “in the way” of car traffic when biking on bike boulevards.

They are not supposed to be two auxiliary lanes of auto capacity for whatever godawful arterial they happen to parallel.

Gerik
Guest

I think the important decisions about biking in Portland are not being made in Washington DC. The complaints in the change.org petition point to real problems on our streets, I’ll be curious to hear substantive responses from the City. In my experience many of the challenges we face making our streets safe for everyone boil down to a lack of funding at PBOT and a lack of political support for in City Hall. …

https://btaoregon.org/2015/04/personal-reflections-on-portland-and-platinum/