Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

Comment of the Week: When ‘bike culture’ bites back

Posted by on April 17th, 2015 at 7:16 pm

Priceless branding.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Biking has been a big part of the brand identity that has made Portland a come-from-behind economic success over the last 20 years.

But now that prosperity has arrived, at least for some Portlanders, where’s the love? And if it’s missing, do people who function as “props” in Portland’s triumphant narrative have an option to pull back?

That’s the question that BikePortland reader Kevin explored in a comment beneath our post Tuesday about a pair of Portlanders’ high-profile campaign to rescind the city’s “platinum” status with the League of American Bicyclists.

Here’s how Kevin put it, with a bit of emphasis added:

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.

Advertisement

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.

A friend of mine once described the reason she and her friends were enthusiastic about Portland when she decided to move here in 2009: “bikes, books and beer.” These days she’s putting her big brain into solving problems for one of the city’s most promising tech companies.

In the global economy, cities compete by being unique. Many Portlanders probably assume that their city is going to keep reaping the benefits of being a unique national mecca for this common activity that millions of Americans are passionate about.

People who think that’s still our image haven’t talked to many newcomers lately.

As Kevin argues here, Portlanders arguing for a downgrade of our Platinum status aren’t just exercising what negotiating power they might have with the many people who’ve profited from Portland’s bikey identity. They’re trying to warn their city about a very real problem it faces.

Yes, we pay for good comments. We’ll be mailing $5 to Kevin in thanks for this great one. Watch your email!

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

62
Leave a Reply

avatar
10 Comment threads
52 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
36 Comment authors
9wattssorenOregon MamacitaChris AndersonGlowBoy Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Adron @ Transit Sleuth
Guest

So true on so many fronts. Glad to see such a great comment pulled out and brought to the forefront!

The Odd Duck
Guest
The Odd Duck

If you want the perfect world, buy the novel. when you are sitting in front of your boob tube count how many commercial that you see. As far as having some support you what have you done to deserve it. John F. Kennedy once said We choose to go to the moon. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Too many person expect thing to be done for them. So next time you go shopping push your shopping cart to the designated space or if you see a piece of trash on the sidewalk and put in the trash can. Its that one simple thing that can make a better world

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

Good comment! I’m against hype and for any and all attempts to bring Portland back to earth again, so I’m for Vanlue, Jeffery and Kevin et al. The now-constant, loud self-fawning here (meaning, in the city and esp. amongst new converts) is exasperating and has been giving me a toothache–esp. as this was a city that was known for the exact opposite kind of personality not so long ago. Not a fan of Up With People Portland. Definitely a fan of Just Shut Up About It Get On With Your Life And Stop Bronzing Every Fart And Burp Of This Place Portland. If I never hear the expression, “That’s so PORTland!” again, I’ll die happy.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Using bikes in advertising isn’t just a Portland thing, it’s very trendy right now, whether it’s KFC showing children biking through a drive-through, or just placements. I got home from some evening climbs and turned on the tube while eating dinner. TV news always disgusts me with the number of car commercials and the way they depict (or give permission to) people driving aggressively, but I’m a weather (OK, wind) junkie so I want to see the doppler radar images.

Two ads in particular stuck out to me tonight. One was a Cadillac (wagon or SUV) ad that simply showed a brief image of a silver bicycle (no real context). Another was an ad with a man and a woman talking back and forth, and on the wall in the background was a bicycle on a sign – and it was split and separated. Then they panned out and leaning against the wall was a bicycle – that was also split in two and separated. Wasn’t paying attention to what the ad was for, but I thought those images quite odd (and again seemingly without context).

OK this isn’t the Caddy ad I saw, but it’s a theme with them now:
https://youtu.be/EGhaOV0BPmA?t=45s

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

Great comment. We have a city that won’t build more bike infra due to lack of funding, tries to come up with said funding, then gives up after 10 months and let’s the state handle it. City Hall needs to take bolder and more confident steps if we are to become a world class bike city. As Jonathan has stated, all the pieces are in place; we just need a willing city leadership.

Mike Quiglery
Guest
Mike Quiglery

Target using bikes as a prop? The CEO of Target is christian conservative who contributes heavily to the Tea Party.

Cheif
Guest
Cheif

At least you guys don’t have the “ride-the-ducks” tourism company that hires people who will drive a giant bus sized vehicle right behind you at twelve miles per hour blasting Queen from the loud speakers so the Midwest tourists can take a photo of some weirdo trying to ride his bike on the street.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

What level of public support is there in Portland, for whatever type of bike infrastructure it is, that bike advocates favoring the downgrade from Platinum, believe the city and business are refusing to sustain and improve?

Without strong, far reaching support, how can city officials and business make a convincing argument to the public, for projects that are likely to cost a lot of public money, to improve biking infrastructure for what at best, is maybe 20 percent of road users?

Many people that ride, and, or that advocate for improvements to bike infrastructure, could be doing lots better than they are, to help make a convincing argument for more and improved bike infrastructure. More of a positive attitude and regard for people that don’t bike but do drive, could help. They’re potential allies in efforts towards conceiving, designing, building and paying for great biking infrastructure. Alienating them with hostility and meanness, doesn’t do any good.

Cities being awarded the ‘Platinum’ designation by the League of American Bicyclists, doesn’t particularly mean much to me, so if the city loses it…big deal. To me, the ‘proof of the pudding’ is what ordinary people say in casual conversation about the state of biking in communities today; in their own neighborhood and beyond.

Their reaction is decidedly mixed. Admiration for some people that bike, but definitely apprehensive about the ramifications of vulnerable road users encountered in considerable numbers on some roads and streets. So it follows, that enthusiastic support for dramatic increases in investment in bike infrastructure, is less than forthcoming. It’s a ‘maybe’, if someone actually came up with some really good ideas that would have biking infrastructure really be a big improvement to the overall area transportation situation.

Pete
Guest
Pete

But is that PBOT or city hall’s fault?

Wells
Guest
Wells

Kyle’s proposal, “Perhaps something like a congestion charge on freeways and bridges in/out of the city peak hours,” I’d argue could become counter-productive several ways. Portland’s model of urban transport should continue inspire and teach visitors/residents at “most hours” where most US cities continue gridlocked chaos.

As for new bike pathways supposedly not measuring up to other US cities, I’d argue are mostly great recreational trails that do NOT succeed in their urban environs as well as Portland. This is the off-road biker mindset: Bicyles are recreation, NOT an essential mode of urban/suburban travel, in other words, recreation is more important than the essentials.

Coming soon: Sowa and Selwa westside bridges and pathways added to Bridge Pedal. It doesn’t get more Worldclass than that.
How many off-roaders make that ride? Answer: smallish percentage?
Sorry if this seems a rude complaint, but I’ve had it with rudely fast bikers also putting safety lower on their list of priorities.