Ruckus Warehouse Sale

Spotted on the 50s bikeway: Billboards, Portland-style

Posted by on May 5th, 2015 at 10:37 am

Ads follow eyeballs.
(Photos: M.Andersen)

I drove a car on Sunday. (No shame here — I needed to get to Jantzen Beach and back before Game of Thrones.)

One of the things I noticed was the fact that when you’re on a freeway, advertising becomes a significantly larger part of your life.

In some ways, of course, spending one’s transportation time away from commercial messages is nice. But in other ways, advertising does actually give you useful information, such as the news that it’s berry season at a local fast-food chain or the fact that a certain car wash offers a monthly subscription for unlimited washes.

Being advertised to can be annoying, but it’s also a sign that you’re part of a community worth catering to.


Maybe that’s why I was so pleased, later on Sunday evening, to notice the little posters taped above the electronic “push to cross” buttons at 53rd Avenue and Burnside, on the 50s Bikeway.

They’re just ads for a show at the Holocene, and of course our culture already has a long and glorious history of attaching music posters to municipal infrastructure. But the precision of these little notices was unmistakable. This was an ad for you to look at and consider while leaning against the post, waiting for your bike-crossing light to turn green.

Which is, as of last year, something hundreds of Portlanders do each day at 52nd and Division.

Advertisements aren’t always a blessing. But ads follow eyeballs. And when your city starts to fill up with more ads that are five inches by eight and designed to be read while standing still, instead of 48 feet by 14 and designed to be read at 60 mph, that’s as good a sign as any that something about your city is working right.

Correction: An earlier version of this post referred to the wrong intersection.

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  • canuck May 5, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Guess I don’t see how handbills are new.
    Every telephone pole in the city can be mined for the metal in the staples that are embedded in the surface.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) May 5, 2015 at 11:16 am

      Yep, as noted in the post.

      Nothing radically new here, but I’d never seen a handbill targeted directly to a bike-signal button. Have you?

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      • Brad May 5, 2015 at 12:51 pm

        I think this article is spot on. I’ve been noticing bike-targeted ads myself at a couple of intersections. The fact that it’s illegal is irrelevant to the point of the story. The point is, biking is important enough in this town that it gets targeted advertising. That’s really saying something for a US city. Handbills have been affixed to poles for years, yes. But they’re usually targeted at pedestrians walking on the sidewalk. How many do you see facing the street? Try reading 14-point font when you’re driving by.

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  • rainbike May 5, 2015 at 11:31 am

    Sign pole litter. Not impressed.

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    • Spiffy May 5, 2015 at 12:07 pm

      exactly… it may be nice that people advertise to bicyclists, but that’s hardly a new thing…

      but the practice is illegal in Portland… feel free to rip down any sign pole litter you find…

      link to the city’s Sign Pole Litter web site:

      if it’s not a street light pole then it’s a utility pole which is owned by the utility and you’re still not allowed to deface their poles or vandalize them with staples…

      post your advertising legally…

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      • Chris I May 5, 2015 at 1:32 pm

        I always tear down the “we buy houses” signs.

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        • CaptainKarma May 5, 2015 at 2:32 pm

          Me too. Which is why they try to put them too high to reach. This might be a dumb question, but can a person get in trouble for removing illegal signs?

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          • Spiffy May 5, 2015 at 4:25 pm

            since the web site says “Some residents are taking the time to clean up the poles voluntarily” and doesn’t mention anything else about it I’m guessing that it’s perfectly legal to remove an illegal sign…

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            • Mark May 5, 2015 at 4:39 pm

              I get that some people find the ads visually or otherwise offensive, but the times that I’ve seen folks tearing them down, they just leave all of the torn up paper on the ground. If you tear it down, pick it up. Otherwise it’s littering, which is also illegal, and low-class too.

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  • davemess May 5, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    Sorry Michael. This article is reaching a little.

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    • rain waters May 5, 2015 at 12:09 pm

      Nothin wrong with reaching. . .

      Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
      And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
      Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
      Of sun-split clouds, –and done a hundred things
      You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung
      High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
      I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
      My eager craft through footless halls of air…
      Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
      I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
      Where never lark or even eagle flew —
      And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
      The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
      Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

      Off to climb and descend Mt Ashland right now.


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      • CaptainKarma May 5, 2015 at 2:32 pm

        Air Force motto.

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        • rain waters May 5, 2015 at 4:59 pm

          Exactly, tires left ground many times.

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    • Alex Reed May 5, 2015 at 12:22 pm

      I think that adding a few more examples could tighten it up… e.g. there are at least two bike-shop A-board signs on Clinton (environs of 32nd & 51st)

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      • davemess May 5, 2015 at 12:41 pm

        Point being, I stop at the light at 52d and Powell every day on my way home. That pole has been covered with posters for years (even before there was a bike lane) for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers to see.
        People see open real estate for posting things and they post them (bike signal post or not). I just don’t see the story here.

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  • Adam H. May 5, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    The diverter is actually at 52nd and Division, not 53rd.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) May 5, 2015 at 12:21 pm

      Dang, you guys are right! Fixed.

      Sorry to folks who didn’t like it. Your price for clicking on the next post will also be $0.00. 🙂

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      • rainbike May 5, 2015 at 12:26 pm

        Priced at $0.00, thanks to the electronic (non-litter) billboards/handbills on BP 🙂

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      • Spiffy May 5, 2015 at 1:56 pm

        you fixed the reference so it’s correct in that it has a new crossing… but there’s no bike light or a pole to lean against at 52nd and Division… I find it odd that it’s even mentioned in the article…

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  • Spiffy May 5, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    something hundreds of Portlanders do each day at 53rd and Division.

    I believe the photo is 53rd and Burnside… the other crossing would be 52nd and Division…

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  • Martin Vandepas May 5, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    That Rilla show was Awesome! Check them out.

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  • Lester Burnham May 6, 2015 at 6:53 am

    We have enough trash and graffiti in this city lately. Let’s not add to it with this junk.

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  • Eric May 6, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    Not looking forward to the painted ads in bike lanes and on paths.

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