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My opinion: How Portland lost its biking mojo — and how to get it back

Posted by on April 17th, 2015 at 3:15 pm

Bike traffic on N. Interstate

(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

This week has been somewhat cathartic for me.

The debate sparked by a petition to have Portland’s coveted Platinum bicycle-friendly city status stripped away has led to a very needed discussion.

“Biking is OK here; but OK is not good enough in a city with our potential.”

For years here at BikePortland we’ve been trying to help people understand that Portland has lost its biking mojo. Don’t get me wrong, biking is OK here (especially compared to other U.S. cities); but OK is not good enough in a city with our potential. And to get where we want to go, I think we have to get real about where we are.

On that note, here’s a bit of history…

2008 was a Golden Year for bicycling in Portland. Or you could say it was platinum. From our first Sunday Parkways, our victory as the first big city to be named a Platinum Bicycle Friendly Community; to the election of bike-riding mayor Sam Adams, that year capped a great run for Portland that had lasted over a decade. We were on a serious roll.

But as the accolades and #1 rankings poured in, so did complacency. Portland had enjoyed a bike-positive reputation for so many years — we were such a beacon in the biking darkness that defined America — that we began to spend too much time talking about it. It’s hard to ride fast with one hand on the bars and one hand patting yourself on the back.

That complacency left us vulnerable.

Just weeks after new Mayor Sam Adams brought a circus to City Hall (literally) and the bike party was just about to begin in earnest, everything changed. Adams lied to a reporter about the nature of his relationship with Beau Breedlove and the ensuing scandal nearly swept him out of office.

The scandal and its aftermath felt like a punch in the gut to the large majority of Portlanders who voted for Adams. And perhaps more importantly, if he believed in your pet issue, it severely compromised the power he’d need to push for it.

Portland was ready for a biking boom, but its most important leader was suddenly out of the game.

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After the scandal I watched how the local media and my fellow Portlanders took every opportunity to go after cycling as a proxy for expressing their disdain for Adams (especially as it became clear he wouldn’t resign even after our local paper of record wanted him to).

“Who is Portland’s next Earl Blumenauer, Sam Adams, or Bud Clark? Portland needs a new champion for cycling.”

The years that followed have seemed like one bike-related controversy and PR misstep after another: the Southeast Holgate bike lane fiasco (which was a non-troversy fueled more by scoring points against Adams than hating on bikes); the “sewer money for bikeways” mantra that accompanied the misplaced hysteria over our “$600 million bike plan”; the loss of our #1 Bicycling Magazine ranking (twice); the long and bruising process for the Williams Ave project; our failure to launch a bike share system, and so on.

With so much negative political baggage and controversy in the not too distant past, it should come as no surprise that the new crop of faces now in City Hall don’t want to have anything to do with cycling.

When Portland Mayor Charlie Hales gave his State of the City address just a few months ago he didn’t mention bicycling in any shape, way or form.

Parks & Recreation Commissioner Amanda Fritz has stood by as her bureau has (so far) missed a huge opportunity to usher in a new era of user equality in our parks and open spaces. Her handling of the mountain biking issue is indefensible and shows a troubling lack of respect for cycling and the people who love it.

Commissioner Steve Novick come into his role as leader of the transportation bureau with some momentum. But he has yet to introduce one interesting or inspiring proposal that could light a fire under the tens of thousands of Portlanders who get on a bike every day.

I think this apathy around bicycling — real or perceived — from our current political administration is at the heart of the frustration that has led nearly 600 people to sign to Will Vanlue’s petition. It’s not the only thing causing concern for Portland’s everyday riders, but to me it feels like the biggest thing.

The good news is I feel like Portland has moved past the tumult of the past few years. We’re ready to move on.

The big question is, who is Portland’s next Earl Blumenauer, Sam Adams, or Bud Clark? Portland needs a new champion (or three) for cycling. Someone to put a vision on the table and stop at nothing until its achieved. It doesn’t have to come from City Hall, but it has to come from somewhere.

I signed the petition, but I can also still say with confidence that if you love bicycles, there is no better place to live than Portland. From our vibrant local bike industry to our scrappy street activists, creative ride leaders and entrepreneurs, bike-inspired artisans, bike-friendly local businesses, and more — bicycling is woven into the fabric of this city.

If I were an investor, I’d put my money on bikes in Portland: The fundamentals are strong, it has a solid history of performance, it has a reliable (yet a bit outdated) distribution system, a healthy brand and excellent position in the market. All it needs is a few tweaks, an infusion of capital, maybe some new faces in upper management, and it will soon become a juggernaut.

— Stay tuned as Michael and I bring you a new series on how Portland can come roaring back to the front of the peloton. In addition to original stories and reporting, we’d love to publish guest articles, so please get in touch if you have a perspective to share!

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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66 Comments
  • Adam H. April 17, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    Refusing to talk about bikes because a disgraced former mayor encouraged bikes is irrational.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 17, 2015 at 3:27 pm

      I think it’s much more complicated than that Adam. It’s not about Adams and his scandal as much as it’s about the anti-bike media feeding frenzy and bike controversies I believe the scandal contributed to.

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      • Adam H. April 17, 2015 at 3:45 pm

        Anecdotally, I haven’t seen too many anti-bike articles posted in a while – especially compared to other parts of the country. Even the Oregonian posted some pro-bike articles recently. I personally don’t think the media is to blame as much as City Hall’s unwillingness to take a stand on issues and try to convince opponents instead of appeasing them.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 17, 2015 at 3:50 pm

          I agree Adam! The media is way over that anti-bike era (perhaps i should add a line in the story saying as much). … and that’s just another reason it’s so frustrating to not see more bike action at city hall right now. Biking is a huge political win when it’s talked about in the right way and backed up by the right kind of policies/projects.

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          • Adam H. April 17, 2015 at 3:58 pm

            Somehow we need to get though to City Council that bike transportation is not only supported by Portlanders, but actually a net benefit for the city. Perhaps a push from Salem could help? I heard that Governor Brown emphasized the need for better non-car transportation during her State of the State speech today.

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          • tired of the O April 17, 2015 at 4:04 pm

            I dunno, Joe Rose still seems to take a special glee in jamming a stick into the spokes on a fairly regular basis. His propensity to pen “Bikes vs. Cars” headlines seems to be about as bad as ever.

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            • Glenn April 17, 2015 at 5:18 pm

              It’s click bait.

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              • Bill Walters April 17, 2015 at 6:21 pm

                The platinum-prohibitive problem is that really, *we* are the clickbait.

                Not sure Rose rights his own headlines, though. Asked him once, didn’t get an answer.

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              • Bill Walters April 17, 2015 at 10:05 pm

                er, “writes”

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              • Adam Herstein April 17, 2015 at 11:00 pm

                Having worked at a newspaper, journalists rarely write their own headlines.

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            • doug B April 17, 2015 at 10:08 pm

              I made a conscious decision a year or two ago to never click on or read any of Rose’s articles, and truthfully I am glad I did. It is never a good thing when the local newspaper tries to pit groups against eachother, it does nothing to foster a sense of community. What he and/or they don’t realize is that the attitudes they promote end up playing themselves out on our local roads, making many people who drive more aggravated and a feeling of being less safe while riding a bicycle.

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          • Jeff M April 17, 2015 at 7:40 pm

            I wonder if the media being over the anti-bike era is simply corresponding to the lack of progress in bike infrastructure.

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  • Paul Manson April 17, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    I also think some macroeconomic issues get glossed over explaining challenges. 2008 was remarkable for a number of other reasons. 2007 was the beginning of the housing crash. 2008 was also the first year personal income tax receipts dropped in Oregon. Revenue fell for the years following. It is important to remember the whole system ground to a halt on the revenue side of things.

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    • EngineerScotty April 17, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      It’s interesting to compare this to the backlash against TriMet, and specifically Portland’s rail transit. (Including Portland Streetcar, even though that’s a City of Portland project, not a TriMet project).

      The crash pulled out the rug from a lot of public entities, and set off a furious game of musical chairs in what used to be a nice round of kum-ba-yah. In Portland’s transit shop, we had WES (which even in good times was a poorly conceived project) and the Green Line opening right after the sh*t hit the fan–two new services that TriMet had to operate, at the same time revenues went south. Bus service was cut tremendously, and many critics of the agency (the transit union, OPAL, and right-wing critics as well) were all happy to pile on with the meme that “TriMet is building expensive toy trains while neglecting bus service”. Wasn’t quite how it happened, but it sure looked like the result. A few other PR debacles (rising costs on the Orange Line, several high-profile accidents, the controversy around Neil McFarlane’s pay raise, and continued haggling with the union) contributed to the issue.

      Now, almost a decade later, TriMet finally seems to be recovering from all the bad press. It’s made labor peace; PMLR is coming in under budget (if only slightly), and service is being restored. The mobile ticketing app is a success, and the new electronic ticketing system will come online in two years. And TriMet is starting to convince riders that yes, it cares about its bus system (and operations in general) too.

      Bike infrastructure, obviously, is far cheaper than rail transit, so should be a comparative no-brainer. But one misstep that Adams made–not in his choice, necessarily, but in how he presented it: neglecting (or de-prioritizing) street repair. This allowed foes of alternative transportation (and there are many who are well-heeled) to deploy the asinine “war on cars!” rhetoric. And Adams did step in that turd, and got it all over him. It’s one thing to decline to do highway expansions; but pothole-filled streets affect everybody, not just motorists. And give rise to the belief that the basic functions of government are being neglected.

      The need for continual street repairs–and the costs thereof–is a major argument for bikes, after all. Bikes do not damage the streets like automobiles (and especially trucks and buses) do; keeping smooth layers of asphalt is an expensive proposition.

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      • EngineerScotty April 17, 2015 at 3:53 pm

        One other thing worth mentioning, and I’ve mentioned it before:

        Many bike activists supported Jefferson Smith in 2012. Hales may well view the bike community outside his core constituency, if not as outright hostile. He certainly feels (and acts like) he doesn’t owe bike riders a thing. Nor does he seem to fear the biking community very much.

        Having your guy in the mayor’s office–and having him (or her) not being damaged goods–is vitally important to getting your agenda through.

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        • shannon April 17, 2015 at 7:07 pm

          Let us not forget however, what a trainwreck Jefferson Smith was revealed to be. His anger management issues — attacking someone on the bball court, hitting a woman, etc. — undid his campaign. Thus, Charlie Hales, The Administrator, appeared the most sensible (if uninspiring) choice for many voters (as proven by the vote tally).

          I’m not sure there is anyone on the current horizon that is going to be cycling’s “guy.” But perhaps that’s because cyclists have not formed into an identifiable voter pack, as other groups have done. Organizing proactively during the next election cycle could perhaps seed more recognition and thus more respect from candidates and eventual office-holders.

          For instance, what if BP ran pre-election interviews asking hard specific questions of each candidate around our interests similarly to what Street Roots does? (Maybe this has been done here and I’m not remember it.) What if BP created a voter’s guide like the WW does? What if we invest in yard signs for BP-endorsed candidates announcing that cyclists are voting for this bike-friendly person? These are just off-the-cuff ideas at seeding visibility and therefore political clout, and I’m sure there are many more (that do not put the entire burden on BP).

          Personally, “Amanda Fritz, we are coming for you” is the mantra that I’ll be mouthing daily as mention of the next election begins to heighten.

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          • SEO April 18, 2015 at 10:56 am

            “[P]erhaps that’s because cyclists have not formed into an identifiable voter pack, as other groups have done. Organizing proactively during the next election cycle could perhaps seed more recognition and thus more respect from candidates and eventual office-holders.” […]

            THIS. We need a bicycle party just as you describe here. I hope this idea catches fire. 🙂

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          • Amy April 20, 2015 at 9:51 am

            I’ve been pitching the idea of an active transport super PAC.

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          • Paul Cone April 20, 2015 at 3:36 pm

            Sorry, I don’t see how taking more potshots at Jefferson adds to this discussion.

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    • Adam Herstein April 17, 2015 at 11:00 pm

      Good thing bike infra is cheap! Oh wait…

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    • Pete April 17, 2015 at 11:17 pm

      Bingo, you beat me to it. Bicycle ridership was up across the entire US, so much so that it was making national news. Gas prices were at some of their highest levels in history, as was unemployment. The stock markets and housing markets were underwater, Obama was trying to jump-start the economy with a massive “stimulus package” that featured a transportation budget targeted at getting highway construction workers back to work (“give ’em shovels,” some analysts were saying), and the Fed started their seemingly endless run of “Quantitative Easing.”

      One of the most interesting quotes I heard back then was on a national TV news program where they were interviewing people and talking about the jump in bicycle ridership (which was interesting in itself to me that it made national news). An older man they interviewed in Chicago’s south side said, “You know the world is changing when the Americans start riding bicycles and the Chinese start buying cars.”

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    • IanC April 21, 2015 at 11:54 am

      Also, gas prices were at historic highs and awareness of oil depletion/peak oil was hitting the mainstream. It was an easy leap for many to promote and participate in biking as it was also a pocketbook issue.

      -IANC

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  • gutterbunnybikes April 17, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    I signed the petition, but I can also still say with confidence that if you love bicycles, there is no better place to live than Portland. From our vibrant local bike industry to our scrappy street activists, creative ride leaders and entrepreneurs, bike-inspired artisans, bike-friendly local businesses, and more — bicycling is woven into the fabric of this city

    I know that city hall and government agencies need a kick in the pants, but is this petition really the way to do so? In many ways this petition is somewhat insulting to all those people you celebrate in this paragraph.

    I really don’t think that this petition is going to do any good, and will likely in the long run cause more harm. It is now a VERY LOUD public validation that even in bicycle friendly Portland, those that bike the most, are the most passionate, and most experienced on a bicycle by in large don’t think it is safe to ride a bicycle.

    Personally, it is the constant barrage of “safety improvements” that I suspect is the driving force behind the stagnation of bicycle numbers (if that is true- though the greenway traffic chart definitely doesn’t give that impression) after all by constantly calling out for “safer” you are also admitting to those not as deeply involved that it’s not “safe enough”.

    And like I said in an earlier post it ends up like an act from “Waiting for Godot”

    “Let’s go.” “We can’t.” “Why not?” “We’re waiting for Godot safety.”

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    • Pete April 17, 2015 at 11:46 pm

      “…the stagnation of bicycle numbers.”

      I can’t help but think that gas prices hitting $2/gallon helped put a nail in that coffin, too.

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  • Patty April 17, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    I think you’ve missed the most important factor: money. Mayor Hales was a bike advocate back when Mia Birk worked for the City. He hasn’t changed. He came into office during the worst City budget crisis I’ve seen in the years I’ve watched the City budget closely – about 20 years. Not a time to talk about biking without bringing down the ire of taxpayers.

    Then take a look at the Feds. What a mess. There was the crash of 2008, and the Tea Party – no federal spending on alternative transportation. Sam Adams spoke well about biking, but the flop of the wonderful bike plan during his tenure is on his shoulders – it was not handled in a way that brought the overall community along. The communication about it missed the fact that the average Joe does not have any idea how much less bicycle facilities cost than those for gas-powered modes. So the overall price tag gave the community sticker shock. Big fail.

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    • Pete April 17, 2015 at 11:29 pm

      “the average Joe”… you mean “Joe the Plumber”? 😉

      Yes, you nailed it – transportation funds were being shunted to “stimulus projects” that centered mainly around highways during that period. “Give ’em shovels…”, as I mention elsewhere.

      Portland seemed to do OK that year, but I question if a good number of those projects had already gone through the planning and funding cycles before the sh!tstorm hit.

      (Incidentally, that was the year I had to leave Oregon to find work, not long after meeting Obama on his campaign trail in Beaverton).

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 17, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    I know that city hall and government agencies need a kick in the pants, but is this petition really the way to do so? In many ways this petition is somewhat insulting to all those people you celebrate in this paragraph.

    It’s just a petition. And no, it’s not the way to move the conversation and make change… It’s just one way. The petition has succeeded in getting the issue on people’s radar in a way that’s clear and easy to understand.

    And the issue isn’t the Platinum thing. The way I see it, the Platinum thing was just an easy lever to pull. The important thing is to understand the feelings and rationale Will has that led him to go down the “Downgrade Platinum” path.

    If people take what Will is doing as a personal insult than I’m not sure they fully understand what he’s trying to do. Next week I’ll be sharing some thoughts from Will that might help clear things up.

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    • gutterbunnybikes April 17, 2015 at 5:08 pm

      And that is kind of my point. Those on the inside get it, those that aren’t don’t.

      Do you really think to outsiders reading about it on O-Live understand this? They don’t, they see bicycle advocates, and experts all whining for more, which just solidifies many peoples existing opinions. The other thing they also hear about “unsafe it is”….That’s it – message sent.

      In all honestly, I don’t like the rating system to begin I believe it’s silly and meaningless. I rather have people doing the work that needs to be done, then marking little check boxes on some scantron to see if we get the blue ribbon or not. But the public perception is my issue here.

      You want more people riding bikes, yelling at everyone how shitty (sorry but I honestly can’t think of a better word) you (in a general sense) think is to do so around here isn’t going to make it happen. Here we are with some of the best spring weather for riding in years -decades even – when people who wouldn’t normally be riding are thinking of riding a bike, and we’re telling them it sucks!

      I also know you really do appreciate all those you listed – and them some. But really for those people on the inside working to get what little they can for us against incredible odds, the whole thing is sorta -” nice try, but it isn’t enough” sort of feel to it.

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      • jeff April 20, 2015 at 2:38 pm

        pretty much. this blog site is its own worst enemy some days.

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    • gutterbunnybikes April 17, 2015 at 8:20 pm

      And that is kind of my point. Those on the inside get it, those that aren’t don’t.

      Do you really think to outsiders reading about it on O-Live understand this?

      “Dangerous intersections, outdated street designs, inconsistent enforcement of traffic laws, the lack of a bike share program and limited mountain biking trails are the chief complaints, said Will Vanlue, one of the petition’s authors.

      “There are a lot of places on Portland streets where people are forced into conflict,” Vanlue said, Tuesday. “Calling Portland bike friendly is misleading. When friends and family visit, it’s too stressful for them. It’s not an environment where everyone can ride a bike.”

      2nd and 3rd paragraph – o live

      They don’t get it, they see bicycle advocates, and experts all whining for more, which just solidifies many peoples existing opinions. The other thing they also hear about “unsafe it is”….That’s it – message sent.

      I don’t like the rating system to begin I believe it’s silly and meaningless. I rather have people doing the work that needs to be done, then marking little check boxes on some scantron to see if we get the blue ribbon or not. But the public perception is my issue here.

      You want more people riding bikes, yelling at everyone how Krappie (stronger term is stuck in a moderated post) it is to do so around here isn’t going to make it happen. Here we are with some of the best spring weather for riding in years -decades even – when people who wouldn’t normally be riding are thinking of riding a bike, and you guys are literally telling- them it sucks! That even us experienced riders can’t hack it.

      All this does is make everything look bad. You aren’t going to get anything from this other than a little bit better lip service in the immediate future. If people spent as much time doing something, – anything as they do complaining there’d be a lot more done.

      I also know you really do appreciate all those you listed – and them some. But really for those people on the inside working to get what little they can for us against incredible odds, the whole thing is sorta -” nice try, but it isn’t enough” sort of feel to it. And you of all people are aware of the walls they’re banging their heads on, and how gross that couch is that they’re pulling spare change out of for us.

      On a personal note, when was the last time you just went out for a ride- no BikePDX, Twitter, FB…Just left it all behind and took a nice day trip around the city by yourself – no destination or plans?

      Is it possible you’re getting too close to the fire and are feeling too sucked in..trapped? It really can’t be easy being trapped in between all the bureaucracy BS and us raving lunatics?

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    • Pete April 17, 2015 at 11:55 pm

      Unless I missed something, this petition seemed to be started primarily under the disgust about mountain biking access in Portland proper. Ironically, out of the 90+ questions on the LAB’s Bicycle Friendly Community questionnaire, there are only 2 that address planning and city cooperation around mountain biking.

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  • Peejay April 17, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    There’s no way we’d all be having this conversation if it weren’t for the petition. You can criticize the approach, but look at the effect! We have the BTA talking about filling City Hall with concerned citizens, we have PBOT responding to every tweet about broken infra, and we have a roiling debate about creative ways to make progress. We also have nearly 600 voices who want the city to know they have to do better.

    I am convinced that this has been a net gain.

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  • Vanessa Renwick April 17, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    Jonathan Maus, will you run for some position? I know you do tons of good on this site, but perhaps? How about David Bragdon coming back?

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  • Glenn April 17, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    Well now there’s a name I hadn’t thought about for a while. “Beau Breedlove.”

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    • Pete April 17, 2015 at 11:20 pm

      Sounds straight out of an OJ Simpson trial…

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  • Kevin Rhea April 17, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    I’d like to ask, “where are all the cycling related business owners” in Portland when these conversations come up. I’m not talking about bike shops necessarily but folks like Chris King, Velotech, Vanilla, Ruckus, PDW, ZEN, Rapha, Castelli, UBI, Showers Pass, Kool Stop/Jagwire etc etc. I’m constantly hearing the BTA tossed around and what they do or don’t do but I rarely if ever hear anything about the local companies who make their living off riders like you and me. Where’s their voice? Why aren’t they leading the charge to upgrade cycling in Portland? These are national brands with what one would suspect or EXPECT great reputations in the industry as well as locally yet…crickets. Folks like Velocult moved here because of the cycling environment I’d guess and here we are talking about how far we’ve fallen behind instead of how far we’ve moved forward. Where the local outcry from cycling businesses??? Now, add to that the 70+ shops in town and it seems to me city hall would listen if there was a strategic group of business owners who became the force of change in Portland. River City is constantly touting it’s position as one the leading shops in the US, great, let’s “lead” some city hall rebellion how ’bout? If you can create an add for the “420” issue of WW then it seems to me you guys and your shop are into “rebellion”…let’s direct it towards bettering Portland’s cycling culture. Bike Gallery with 5 or so shops in town, that’s serious biz that the city must benefit from, how ’bout it BG, jump on board, let’s get this party started down at city hall. Western Bikeworks, Portland’s largest shop and just opened another big shop in Tigard, how about hearing your voice on the subject.
    I admire all the efforts that the “small” folks make on behalf of local cycling but c’mon, let’s call all these business people out, get behind them, hear what they have to say as all of them have some “dollar bill” clout in the local economy and quite often, dollars “talk” while petitions walk if you know what I’m saying.

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    • Timothy Moss April 17, 2015 at 11:47 pm

      Thank you Kevin.

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    • Anonymous Velotech Employee April 17, 2015 at 11:53 pm

      K Rhea, you’re not hearing from Velotech because only the lowly shop and warehouse workers ride there (and not even all of them, either). Ride as in ride to work. Ride to the store. Ride to the cafe/bar. Ride to the movies. No one in management or the owners ride in any way more than weekend warrior style. The manager of the shops has a stable of bikes that dwarfs the collection of most anyone else at work but *never* rides to work (or anywhere?). That they sell bikes is just a way to make a lot of money, it’s incidental. There seems to be no passion for cycling. Etc, etc.

      I’m with you completely though. These are some of the voices I’d like to hear from also. The guys with money because presumably their money has to have some weight, right? Start throwing your weight around. Let us know you give a shit.

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    • Brian April 19, 2015 at 8:08 am

      Recently, some local shops have gotten involved in the advocacy side of mountain biking and it has been great. Their support not only goes a long way with city leaders, but it also helps to keep the people who volunteer so much of their personal time energized. It validates their effort. I, too, would love to see more organized support from the bike businesses. Where’s their letter to the city in support of all of our efforts? It would be great for someone from the industry to step up and take the lead amongst the businesses.

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    • Chris Anderson April 20, 2015 at 9:52 am

      I think a lot of the tech startups could be “activated” as bike advocates as well, if there was an appropriate channel.

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  • K'Tesh April 17, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    Jonathan Maus for Mayor!

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  • 9watts April 17, 2015 at 10:26 pm

    Excellent perspective, Jonathan. I look forward to the next chapters.

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  • Bikewood-Darlington April 17, 2015 at 10:47 pm

    2015 is the year the longest mass transit/biking only bridge in America opens up to the public in our fair city — not to mention some substantial bikeway improvements near the new MAX, including communal bike lockers. This doesn’t sound like a city that is resting on its laurels to me.

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  • Pete April 17, 2015 at 11:37 pm

    One of the advocacy groups here in California is trying to get a license plate similar to you “Share the Road” plate:

    https://calbike.org/licenseplate/

    Some of the comments here have me thinking… maybe the slogan should be: “I Ride a Bike… and I Vote.”

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  • kittens April 18, 2015 at 6:43 am

    I think bikes became a proxy for gentrification panic. Portland is quickly becoming more unaffordable. Bikes came to symbolize a new city and where they went, so to the infill and condo buildings.

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    • Cheif April 19, 2015 at 9:05 am

      A proxy maybe but that doesn’t mean it’s legitimate. Seattle has become far more unaffordable, far more gentrified, more condos built for more and more yuppies, and none of those people ride bikes.

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    • lyle w. April 19, 2015 at 9:53 am

      The ironic thing about that is, I’ve known plenty of people who are just scraping by at the end of the month who also drive EVERYWHERE, and would easily get to the end of the month with at least some cash in their pocket if they weren’t spending hundreds on gas/insurance/maintenance every month.

      Bikes are just as much of a tool for the poor as they are for the comfortable. It’s just too bad so many see it the opposite way.

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  • Matt April 18, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Well said Jonathan. I agree with everything except where you say:

    “but I can also still say with confidence that if you love bicycles, there is no better place to live than Portland”

    Not true. This is still a great place to ride a (road) bicycle. There is no denying that. But not the best. The bicycling mag ratings and petition reflect that. The whole point of this debate is that we used to be #1 but no longer are.

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    • 9watts April 18, 2015 at 10:47 am

      “Not true. This is still a great place to ride a (road) bicycle.”

      I disagree. Your framing here, if I understand you correctly, is not that pertinent to the Portland of 2015. Most of us don’t ride either (a mountain or a road bike), strictly speaking, we just ride. The fact that all my bikes since I was fifteen have been mountain bikes has not prevented me from commuting, hauling cargo, my daughter, and just about everything else, with them for the past almost thirty years.

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      • Matt April 18, 2015 at 1:26 pm

        I’m just saying there are better places to ride, contrary to Jonathan’s statement.

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        • davemess April 20, 2015 at 6:33 pm

          If he’s talking comparable (relatively) “big” cities though, I think Jonathan is right.
          What other city of our size our bigger would you hold up over Portland (even with our woeful MTB access)?

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  • SW April 18, 2015 at 11:04 am

    every time I see this photo .. http://imgick.oregonlive.com/home/olive-media/width620/img/opinion_impact/photo/2015/01/02/16690775-mmmain.jpg I wonder what we did to deserve the current situation.. 🙁
    (and how to get out it)

    Hope their $7,500/day therapy works.

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  • Bruin Dave April 18, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    As some have stated above The Oregonian is no longer a large thorn in the side of the biking community. Check out the latest editorial from The Oregonian:

    http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2015/04/portland_should_hit_brakes_on.html#incart_river

    Here are the final two paragraphs of the editorial:

    The second question raised by the assumption that the city will devote massive sums to increasing park capacity surely has occurred to many cyclists. They have seen the city deny reasonable demands for adequate mountain bike trails in Forest Park. More recently, the city abruptly told cyclists they could no longer use existing trails in the River View Natural Area, thereby reducing capacity for an activity with strong demand. Will hundreds of millions in new SDC funds also buy the political will to make the city’s parkland more useful to all those who own it?

    The city can address that question quickly by reversing its River View decision and beginning a good-faith effort to develop more mountain bike trails in Forest Park, which is enormous and underutilized. Meanwhile, commissioners can ease the concerns of builders, businesses and those who care about housing affordability by sending the new SDC muscle car back to the shop.

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  • Tom April 18, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    I’m just not sure embarrassing politicians is the best route in the long run. What I suggest is putting the effort into preparing for elections. Put resources into a strong organization to micro-analyze political records, survey candidates in depth, and generate a strong membership base. Make the issue more social and environmental justice rather than just biking, but keep biking as the primary tool for achieving the goals. Then when elections come, rally the membership to staff up just the right candidates. When they get elected, they will remember that they had so many advocates as volunteers.

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  • Dwaine Dibbly April 19, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    Excellent editorial, Jonathan. I agree completely.

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  • Tom Hardy April 19, 2015 at 6:37 pm

    Regarding portland area representation in Salem.
    Senator Mark Hass and Representative Tobias Reed are both cyclists but they do live a distance from Salem. Both are advocates and I am always in Tobias’s face about riding in the Beaverton ares and even in Portland. While they are in session, neither has time to ride.

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  • Cab April 20, 2015 at 7:23 am

    Get Blumenauer back to town to shake some people up. Half hour with Hales and lay down the law. What we need long term is for him to come back as Mayor at some point.

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    • Mike April 20, 2015 at 9:24 am

      Yes! He can do more good for the nation by making Portland a shining example of what cities in the US could be, than he can playing games on “The Hill”.
      Don’t get me wrong, I love having a voice in D.C., but I think he would be more effective here as Mayor.

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  • roytheplanner April 20, 2015 at 8:34 am

    This article certainly provides a different perspective from everything we read from afar. I’m coming down to visit from Vancouver, BC in about a months time and bringing my bike in the hope of experiencing what all the fuss over Portland is all about. We will see what transpires…

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  • B April 20, 2015 at 10:49 am

    “…missed a huge opportunity to usher in a new era of user equality in our parks and open spaces.” What is more equitable that a simple hiking trail that the vast majority of residents can access verses a mountain bike trail that requires special equipment that may residents cannot afford.

    Not all parks have off lease areas or kids playgrounds or aquatic facilities, does that make them less equitable? In the grand scheme of fairness and equity I would definitely place housing, jobs, food security, judicial justice, healthcare (not necessarily in this order) and many many more topics ahead of biking verses hiking on the cities list of top priorities.

    I feel this is a poor use of equity talk. This, along with the whole “second class” citizens, talk when in the contexts of mountain biking is offense to me when paired with much large social and economic inequality in Portland today.

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    • 9watts April 20, 2015 at 11:45 am

      It is good to keep things in perspective. Thanks.

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    • Brian April 20, 2015 at 12:24 pm

      But none of those bigger issues are under the purview of a local Parks department. I would also place education, sex trafficking, and a myriad other things above the importance of mountain biking, but that isn’t relevant to this specific conversation.

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      • B April 20, 2015 at 5:00 pm

        I am talking about the language used for this specific conversation so it is germane. I feel that by using “equality” and “second class citizen” for relatively less significant issues like mountain biking conversations dilutes important language used for larger, more important issued such as those you and I have mentioned above.

        (Additionally, parks and experiencing homeless have many parallels, but as you pointed out, that is not the topic of this thread.)

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    • Dan April 21, 2015 at 7:14 am

      To reuse an analogy, suppose the parks department looked at sports field users and decided to appeal only to the largest group.

      Remove every baseball park, football field, golf course, and volleyball court, and convert them all into soccer fields. Do not give out permits for use of any of the fields other than for soccer. Would it be an equity issue then?

      Nobody is saying that all trails need to be open to mountain biking, or that all parks need to have all facilities. PP&R needs to take a look at demand and figure out if they can reasonably meet that demand, proportionately. 0% is not the right number. I believe they can do better, but it seems clear that they just don’t want to.

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  • GlowBoy April 20, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    “The good news is I feel like Portland has moved past the tumult of the past few years. We’re ready to move on.” I don’t think Portland’s quite there. Outside a 2-3 mile radius around the Central Eastside, bike-friendly infrastructure is still lacking.

    Where’s the support and funding for the big projects that will be needed to bring real change? When is East Portland going on a road diet? When will we finally start seeing miles of protected cycletrack? When will there be a route over the West Hills that is safe AND doesn’t require climbing steep grades? When will the Red Electric gaps be plugged? When will Brooklyn-to-the-River (in planning stages for over 20 years now) get done? When is Barbur going to stop being a deathtrap? When will it be possible to ride across central Beaverton safely?

    I’m not sure I see Portland breaking out of its complacency. There’s a lot to do outside the core, but I think a lot of people in the cycling community are reasonably satisfied with the status quo in central Portland. I also think a lot of people outside the community have a vague perception that things are good for cyclists since we have “all these bike lanes”. Actions like the Platinum petition are intended to wake BOTH groups up.

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  • Jonah April 25, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    Just replace “bike” with “environment” and you have another great article about Portland!

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