Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

Portland’s Platinum downgrade petition finds support, nears 500 signatures

Posted by on April 15th, 2015 at 11:05 am

opblead

Looks like the grassroots effort to get a national organization to officially downgrade Portland from its lofty Platinum bicycle-friendly status has some legs. Nearly 500 people have signed on in under two days.
sing
Not only have petition authors Will Vanlue and Paul Jeffery struck a chord with Portlanders, they’ve also succeeded in getting major local and national attention for the idea. Today at noon Vanlue will join League of American Bicyclists President Andy Clarke on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Loud radio show. Bicycling, a large national magazine has picked up the story. And, closer to home, The Oregonian has covered it too.

In The Oregonian, Rob Sadowsky, the leader of the Portland-based Bicycle Transportation Alliance, downplayed the general importance of the ranking but also said he wouldn’t mind if we were downgraded because, “We know there’s room for growth.”

Advertisement

The BTA’s Advocacy Director weighed in on the petition this morning via a blog post titled, Personal Reflections on Portland and Platinum. Kransky said the major “challenges” Portland faces right now has to do with lack of funding and a lack of political support at City Hall:

“If we had a fully funded transportation bureau I have no doubt that Leah Treat would be leading us to more safe routes to school projects, new protected bike lanes, improvements in neighborhood greenways, and better conditions on the street for people who ride bikes… If we had more champions for street safety in City Hall they would have passed a new street fund months ago.”

Then Kransky put out a call-to-action:

“So I ask you this, if you are upset by a perceived lack of progress on bicycling issues in the City of Portland,what are you going to do about it? Are you going to complain to a Washington DC based group that has no decision making authority over the issues we face? Or are you going to step up and lead a movement to help our city fully fund its street safety goals and expand public support for bicycling in City Hall?”

Regardless of what happens next, Vanlue and Jeffery have certainly started a conversation. Whether all the words will lead to action — either on the part of Portland leaders and policymakers or from the League itself — remains to be seen.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

93
Leave a Reply

avatar
31 Comment threads
62 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
53 Comment authors
Seth AlfordPeteBrianTedAdron @ Transit Sleuth Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Justin Morton
Guest
Justin Morton

This feels like a really passive aggressive attempt to get Portland to invest more in bike transportation. There’s gotta be a better way.

Gerik
Guest

I’m just going to leave this here, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead

Gregg
Guest

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/44597

Fund and build the 2030 Bicycle Master Plan now.

Brad
Guest
Brad

It seems that this petition and the surrounding hoopla, in a perverse way, actually strengthens Portland’s status as a great bike city.

Brian
Guest
Brian

As an advocate for off-road cycling in Portland (that this petition somewhat addresses), I see this as an additional lever. It will not replace the small group of dedicated, intelligent people who volunteer time out of their lives to improve our cycling scene. I would love to see all cyclists supporting one another, and working against the forces who seem to oppose us. Maybe we need a Bicycling Alliance?

Alan 1.0
Guest
Alan 1.0


Then Kransky put out a call-to-action:

So I ask you this, if you are upset by a perceived lack of progress on bicycling issues in the City of Portland,what are you going to do about it? Are you going to complain to a Washington DC based group that has no decision making authority over the issues we face? Or are you going to step up and lead a movement to help our city fully fund its street safety goals and expand public support for bicycling in City Hall?”

–BikePortland

That reads to me like an exclusive “or.” I hope Kransky means it as in inclusive “or.” Politics in a democracy (even a republic) are always swirling with a multitude of interests. Many of those interests share at least some common direction, and while the specific direction of one may vary slightly from another, the overall result is a force for movement in a direction generally desired by the majority. To me, anyway, demanding that I march in lock-step with one faction or another is a sure way to get me to renounce interest in any faction at all.

Joe
Guest
Joe

gosh I really would love some trails without so much conflict.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Kransky clearly has A LOT of faith in Treat and PBOT.
Can’t say I share his trust.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

Our main problems are the spineless elected officials in City Hall that refuse to acknowledge bikes and purposely neglect to fund safety projects.

Dan
Guest
Dan

Sometimes waiting for the ketchup to come out of the bottle isn’t enough. Gotta shake the bottle.

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

The BTA still does not get it.

From their main webpage: “In Oregon, we know the joy of riding a bike to work, to school, and around the neighborhood. Wherever you go, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance works to make your ride safe, convenient, and fun.”

They are insistent on making bike riding BORING. Ride to work, ride to school. They are building a wedge between what we have now and what we want. If Portland looked like Amsterdam tomorrow, everyone would hop on a bike and go. Its not, and it wont look like Amsterdam for a long time. In the meantime we need people who want to bike for biking’s sake in addition to those people for whom it makes the most sense.

We need places for people to develop their riding skills. Kids mostly, but also adults are more comfortable on a bike after riding off road. When learning the abundant obstacles and lack of traction are a good thing.

Justin Morton
Guest
Justin Morton

Except, an online petition to a magazine most people in Portland have never heard of is not “shaking the bottle”. It’s telling the bottle of ketchup you’re disappointed in it’s performance and you wish it would was actually mustard.

Scott H
Guest
Scott H

Looks like a blog post that just reinforces how out of touch the BTA is these days.

It’s not really about funding, the petition hardly mentions funding. I’d say there’s already enough funding, there’s not a lot I can do to ‘step up and help the city fund its goals.’ If city hall cared to, it could direct the funding. The city already demonstrated last month that it in fact, does not care to.

I’m pretty sure this all started when city hall told everyone who likes to mountain bike to get lost, with no explanation and no public process.

LAB may not be headquartered in Portland, but swift action on their part would force the Mayor’s attention.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

As a related note, 2035 is now becoming the goal year for the “2030” bike commute modal objective set back in the late 2000s (2008?)…the 2014 draft Comp Plan did not raise the bike commute mode percent for this later period. This programatic plateau [or a lowering of the mode %] is a prudent internal administrative move given the level of current City leadership and funding effects on ridership trends.

The slippery slope away from keeping platinum has begun. The City may want to reapply early (call a snap re-election now) for their status before it may be a struggle to gain Gold. [I have not done the points tally but this issue was discussed during the OPB radio interview today with LAB.]

Kyle
Guest
Kyle

The BTA is practically irrelevant in Portland these days. Meanwhile, City Hall has proved they don’t listen to direct pleas from their constituents, so what other option do we have left?

Eric
Guest
Eric

You can’t blame the lack of street fee for Portland’s bike unfriendliness. Other way around. More money won’t rearrange priorities.

bjorn
Guest
bjorn

We don’t need funding to improve the mountain biking situation in Portland, we just need Fritz to stop banning cycling from currently available trails and actively blocking volunteer efforts while claiming that nothing can happen without hundreds of thousands of dollars in planning.

Brad
Guest
Brad

BTA has become a rather ineffective group of cheerleaders for cycling. They seemingly spend most of their time attending summits, conferences, issuing innocuous press releases, boring some folks at City Hall and Salem with wonk, and then hosting an awards dinner to fete their personal friends. This is too bad. I had hoped that Rob Sadowsky would have more influence than his predecessor and Gerik Kransky tends to end each season of legislative lobbying with a weak, “I tried. Real hard. Honest!” explanation of why he didn’t succeed in getting more votes for funding, safety, Idaho Stop, etc.

I don’t see any real passion or fight. Just some bike positive careerists collecting paychecks.

Kevin (no, the other one)
Guest
Kevin (no, the other one)

People are going to view this action through their own lens and decide whether or not to support it using their own judgement. For me, I think that it is a way of sending a message to the political powers (elected officials, bureaucrats, business alliances, etc.) that they can’t use Portland’s “bike culture” to promote their own interests and simultaneously snub those who have created it. The City and its businesses sell Portland’s bike-friendliness to promote tourism and as a way of attracting progressive professionals, yet they have refused to invest the time, energy or capital necessary to improve or even sustain the elements that create it. They use Chris King Components and the UBI as backdrops when convenient. They publish photos of swarms of cyclists crossing the Hawthorne Bridge or riding along the waterfront in their glossy promotional materials. Then they do something like refuse to remove a handful of parking spaces on 28th or ban cycling in River View.

Simply put, I think a lot of folks are tired of being props.

Those with power use the Platinum Level designation when it’s convenient. This petition is a statement to take that tool away from them if they refuse to see cycling and cyclists as nothing more than symbols that can be trotted out when desired and then shoved back in a sealed box until the next photo op. Many cities are actively striving to improve cycling for a multitude of reasons. Portland is coasting and benefiting from a reputation once relevant but now stagnant.

I’m not saying that Portland is a bad place to ride a bike. Far from it! I feel happier and safer riding around town for commuting and recreation purposes than I have in any other place I’ve lived. But the desire to improve is not shared by those who control investment.

This effort is symbolic, but many folks have advocated within the system in a number of ways for the last several years to no effect. Advisory committees, advocacy organizations, town-hall meetings, letter writing campaigns and the like have not been productive. There aren’t a lot of other avenues available. This is one. Let’s give it a shot.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Sometimes we forget, but I think its the ppl that make a city bike friendly
can’t always hope for great INFRA. * so keep riding and smile * 🙂

Robert Hurst
Guest

All this talk of politicians, bureaucrats, and City Hall…

That’s exactly how the private planners and consultants who really control projects in Portland like it.

A Grant
Guest
A Grant

Long time reader, first time writer.

I live in a Canadian city with some of the best cycling infrastructure in the country. In fact, we’ve recently been awarded the “gold-level Bicycle Friendly Community Award”, the highest available and the only city in the province to be so awarded.

I read this blog because I am envious. As it stands now, we have two designated on-street separate bike lanes. Just over four years ago, we had our own version of Rob Ford. Our high ranking is the result of recreational multi-use pathways that offer great scenery, but no direct access to infrastructure. That, and painted bike lanes and sharrows.

I recognize there is still much work to be done in your city. I realize there are things you need to fight for. But if what I’ve described above is what passes as the “gold standard” in this country, perhaps you doth protest too much (and I say this in awe of everything your city has managed to accomplish so far).

Fight for more, but be proud of your hard won achievements.

SD
Guest
SD

People who cycle for transportation and enjoyment in the US are a marginal group with limited resources. The advancement of cycling infrastructure completely relies on advocacy and political will. It is an appeal for the values of individual and environmental health and quality of life. On the other hand, the current transportation/ development status quo is relatively well funded, has the status of normalcy and strongly favors car travel.

Unfortunately, like many other marginal groups seeking to overcome the status quo there is a dynamic of self destruction and internal conflict that undermines the progress that cyclists desire. Much of that unnecessary conflict, i.e. fighting for scraps, has been documented on this blog. Some is superficial: fat tires vs skinny tires vs hipsters vs helmets vs reflective vs Cat 6 vs slow riders etc. Some is more substantial and it is unlikely that this conflict is productive. As soon as someone mentions a South to North downtown bikeway, someone else argues that East Portland is neglected.

It is pointless to blame the BTA or Leah Treat/ PBOT or similar individuals and agencies for the lack of desired progress in Portland. The BTA has become an organization that works inside Salem, which requires working with clueless legislators. PBOT also has real restraints that limit what they can do for cycling infrastructure. Too a large extent, these groups are being blamed because these are the names that we know. These are also the groups that would be strengthened if the current cycling angst were directed at city hall or the state legislature.

Is the mayor or city council like the BTA? … quietly working on the inside to make slow steady progress toward cycling infrastructure improvement? When we elected Charlie Hales, Portland chose an administrator over an advocate despite Jefferson Smith being endorsed by transportation advocacy groups. At the time, the Portland consensus appeared to be that Portland’s progressive movement was certain and that a cool headed administrator was better than a passionate activist.

Well, its 2015, and progress has slowed considerably. There have been multiple opportunities for city hall to back cycling infrastructure and they have remained silent. The record during Hales’ term for progress is bleak and most of the positives that have played out are based on the momentum that was in place prior to Hales taking office. It is not hard to remember Hales’ guarded language around cycling when he was elected, and we are seeing it play out now.

While the petition is great as a visceral expression of discontent, the problem is that it is too broad. To the unfamiliar eye, it is an indictment of the entire broad cycling community of Portland and could undermine the efforts of advocates who try and hold Portland to the reputation that it has acquired, deserved or not. Investment in cycling infrastructure is a risk, and it requires people to believe that it will be used to capacity.

What does cycling advocacy in Portland need now in post critical mass, post Portlandia Portland? Maybe it needs a bad cop; an effort to channel the righteous discontent of cyclists away from each other and their allies and direct it at Charlie Hales and city hall. An organized effort to identify the players that are blocking safe streets and focus on them.

MS
Guest
MS

I like Kransky’s call to action. Portland is a city of activists (supposedly). Go activate!

Peejay
Guest

What a great discussion! Thanks, Jonathan, for hosting this debate.
I collaborated with Will on this petition because I saw the leadership of this city stop trying to get better. Everyone has their own examples of streets that are dangerous, connectors that are missing, or projects that are delayed or cancelled—I have mine—but it’s bigger than that. We have lofty goals—the Master Plan—but those goals have no incremental progress checks. Whatever the target bike mode share is for 2030, there should be mode share goals for each year from now until then or we have no idea if we’re on the right track. And based on the latest data, we’re not. We’re barely treading water.

As others have said, it’s not about the money. It’s about priorities. It’s about smart spending of the money we have, and understanding what resources we already own but are giving away, like the untold millions in free parking that we squander because of entitled car owners. It’s about saying we need to fix things that are broken, like Clinton St, or we will have thrown money away. It’s about working together, like we should be with Trimet and the freight industry in a way that gets how we can benefit each other, not as a standoff of carefully begrudged concessions.

Yes, the tactic is not without risks, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I hope it lights a fire in City Hall, and I hope everyone who really cares keeps up the pressure.

I plan to keep doing everything I can to move Portland toward becoming the city we need it to be, and if that means we finally earn Platinum status for real, great!

Dan
Guest
Dan

Story regarding this & other related news in the Portland Tribune today. Hope you find it fair and balanced:

http://portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/257055-126740-whose-park-it-is-anyway

Joe
Guest
Joe

I really like to thank Jonathan for having this awesome portal site brings ppl together that ride.

MNBikeLuv
Guest
MNBikeLuv

This is just the outsider talking here, but I hope this adds something to the discussion.

It feels like bike culture in Portland is a contrast of extremes. Either it seems to be an attitude of “lets play nice and just shrug if things don’t go our way” or a late-60s counter-culture “down with the man; lets burn this ****er down”. Niether seems to be getting much done.

You can work with a city AND be mad at them at the same time. The two are not mutually exclusive. Maybe what biking in Portland needs is little bit more williness to burn the parts of the city government that aren’t working (thats the stick) and a willingness to be at the table to build new things (thats the carrot). Honestly, look at the RVNA PAT meeting. That “we are mad,we will be heard in this process but we be helpful when we can” attitude of the NWTA representatives did more to show how wacky the process had become. (Humble pie moment: I previously suggested leaving the process was the way to go. I was wrong.)

Also, (again as an outsider) Portland seems to suffer from an acute case of the “not invented here syndrome”, AKA the “we are a unique and beautiful snowflake” agument. That (seeming) unwillingness to integrate outside suggestions doesn’t seem to help either.

Lets take the issue of MTBing in Portland (though this could apply to all forms of biking).

There are those of us that have suggested nothing would help the process in Portland more than getting an outsider to come in, meet with the city privately, then give a public presentation and say, “Look at all these places that have urban mountain biking”. Use those places to show solutions to “problems” these city officals believe exist. In other words, use the rest of country to both teach city officals and to embarrass them. Maybe we are right. Maybe we are wrong. But at this point, it couldn’t hurt anything could it?

If that approach doesn’t set well with everyone, what about an approach like Access4Bikes in Marin, CA? They are beginning to get traction with the government there and (finally) ending Marin’s insane anti-MTB stance. Image a Portland version of that group, doing a video like this about how Portland’s singletrack access is craptastic: http://www.access4bikes.com/open-minds-open-trails-movie/ You can’t tell me that wouldn’t shake up people at city government.

I only wished I worked for the Metro Economic Development Council. I would have a full page ad in every Oreganian for a week with a color picture from trail like Lebanon Hills or Carver or Theordore-Wirth with a headline underneath that read “Feeling like Portland does value you? Come to the Twin Cities Metro region, home of most urban singletrack mileage in the country. Good economics, good outdoor recreation and a public process that values you.”

Mindful Cyclist
Guest
Mindful Cyclist

The problem with Portland that I see is this: We are NOT the city that works. We have become the city that throws out a big idea, talks to those involved and would affect, take their concerns into consideration, and then ultimately do nothing.

You do not need to look any further than NE/SE 28th. PBOT present removing parking on one side to add a bike lane and “supersharrows”. Talks to business owners and neighborhood members. Only hears that they do not want a parking lane removed but is completely open to any other safety ideas. PBOT in turn does nothing. Okay, well maybe, what like two zebra crosswalks installed? What about sharrows and more crosswalks? What about a drop to 20 mph speed limit? Again, none of that.

When it comes to the street fee, I do not support it on the principle that I do not like regressive taxes, but I also see no benefit with what I may see in bike improvements if it can’t throw a few scraps at 28th.

Adron @ Transit Sleuth
Guest

I’ll admit, I signed the petition. Because I recently traveled to Scandinavia and think we should compare ourselves to those nations versus the rest of the US. The rest of the US, honestly is a complete shambles except for a few hold outs. The mindset is sickening, oblivious on many levels, and downright dangerous to “human” pursuits (like cycling, living healthy, etc). I know, I’ve lived in many of those “flyover” areas for well over a decade of my life.

…but I digress.

Portland is absolutely still one of the best places to bike in the United States by a large margin. Even with the influx of horrible, dangerous and disrespectful drivers we still have MORE drivers that are respectful. We’re still inching forward toward better and better paths, trails, routes, roads, and bicycle infrastructure. We have an organization in the city, PBOT, that DOES actually make effort to do right by cyclists under the American context. Mind you, America has a sick perverse notion of cycling, but considering the fight forward that PBOT makes it’s not doing so bad. Yes, they could do with better support from some of the city council and respective politicians that do more politicking these days then building a better Portland but they’re still doing a pretty damn good job by US standards.

Saying that, I might have jumped the gun in regards to asking for our Platinum status to be removed. I WANT more cyclists and prospective cyclists to move to Portland. It only increases the chance the city can become even MORE livable and humane vs. this horrible car-oriented infrastructure that is pushed from so many angles still. We need allies, we need people to drop the insanity of auto-focused infrastructure.

On that note, I feel like we as a community, if looked at as a whole has become negative and made it MORE DIFFICULT for PBOT or other entities to actually move forward on our behalf. Yes, I’m sick too of the half hearted nonsense of “bike lanes” and would love to see more real infrastructre like honest to goodness cycle tracks and dedicated bike routes that are removed from the deathly guise of the automobile cages – but are we seriously likely to get that without gaining significantly more support?

No, we’re not. So we should push forward with what we can and we should do it combined, not disconnected and ranting about some superficial status. How can we help? How can we force the mayor and the city council to stop screwing around? How can we push forward real infrastructure changes?

Can we actually get a 1000 cyclists on queue to show up in protest? Forget the wNBR, let’s actually get a solid 1000 cyclists to protest and I bet we can force their hand to TRULY push forward on some real cycling infrastructure.

Currently, I don’t see this, but fighting whimsical battles over pedantic awards is likely to net us a big fat zero infrastructure.

Ted
Guest
Ted

So signatures seem to have stalled out around 650. Anyone want to venture a thought on what that means? It really does not seem like a lot in a city of 600,000+.