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Commissioner Novick responds to ‘Day of Protests’ with diverter promise

Posted by on June 25th, 2015 at 10:36 am

Safe Streets Rally Part 2 at City Hall -19.jpg

BikeLoudPDX volunteer Jessica Engelman
at a protest rally in front of City Hall
yesterday.
(Photos © J. Maus)

An unprecedented day of protests yesterday have yielded their first results.

BikeLoudPDX, Portland’s upstart bike advocacy group that has made lots of headlines in the past few months, started the day with a big rally in front of City Hall followed by several of the group’s leaders giving impassioned testimony in front of City Council. After that, they helped organize several rides and then held another rally on City Hall’s steps last night.

BikeLoud leaders and the people they have inspired to show up to these events share a similar feeling: frustration and anger that city leaders sit idly by while Portlanders risk their lives on unsafe streets. “It’s bullshit!” and “It’s unacceptable!” were just two of the phrases chanted at last night’s rally.

And now it appears those voices are having an impact on City Hall.

Last night City Commissioner Steve Novick, the man in charge of the Bureau of Transportation, penned a lengthy blog post in direct response to the protests. He titled it, “Working together to build safer streets.” (He also shared thoughts about biking and the Climate Action Plan in a separate post.)

Safe Streets Rally Part 2 at City Hall -26.jpg

Soren Impey with BikeLoudPDX being interviewed by KGW-TV.

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After sharing that recent tragedies weigh heavily on him personally and create an “emotional burden” on the entire city, Novick reviewed the city’s current work on speed limits and legislative efforts in Salem.

And then, the most important sentence in the entire statement:

In reference to Neighborhood Greenways, I hear you.

“I have asked PBOT work with the community and neighborhood businesses to test temporary diversions around Neighborhood Greenways this summer.”
— Commissioner Novick

This has to feel good for activists that have spent months riding and rallying to draw attention to the uncomfortable and dangerous conditions on many of Portland’s “bicycle boulevards” that have become cut-throughs for people seeking a faster way through neighborhoods.

Then Novick shared a specific action he will take to address the problem. “I have asked PBOT work with the community and neighborhood businesses to test temporary diversions around Neighborhood Greenways this summer.” This statement makes good on a promise Mayor Charlie Hales made following a meeting on street safety earlier this month.

Novick’s statement comes just a week after a senior PBOT planner told the Portland Tribune that “the advocacy we’re hearing… is very helpful” and that it’s “being heard at City Hall.”

And yesterday morning as he walked into his office, Mayor Charlie Hales grabbed the mic and addressed the rallying crowd: “We have the bike system we have because of activism out of the community,” he said, “Now we need more of that… So keep it up… When we feel the heat we see the light.”

Now that the lights are on and City Hall sees the problem, let’s hope there’s more concrete action to report soon.

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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Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
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kiel johnson

Does bikeloud have any paid staff yet? Love to see this momentum continue. It would be a real loss to see it fatigue out.

ethan
Guest
ethan

Months of protests = “temporary diverters” at an unspecified time. And of course, PBOT will have to “work with the community and neighborhood businesses” so there’s a chance that these diverters won’t even be installed.

As we all know, businesses often derail bike projects or weaken them to the point of not even being bike projects anymore (28th Avenue).

Meanwhile, people driving get $100 million in “upgrades” for sitting on their asses and doing nothing. No protests, no activisism, etc.

The Bureaus and Departments of TRANSPORTATION should not treat driving like a god given right while making people walking and biking jump through so many hoops to get simple safety upgrades.

soren
Guest
soren

Earlier this month, I asked PBOT staff to look into temporary diversions on some of our highest utilized Neighborhood Greenways. I have asked PBOT work with the community and neighborhood businesses to test temporary diversions around Neighborhood Greenways this summer.

We have the diverter pledge in writing. We need to hold Commissioner Novick and PBOT to that pledge. And while I’m encouraged that Novick took the time to write these blog posts….but we need action not words.

I think it’s time we saw the fight against climate disruption in similar terms. I want to get to the point where some people, when they see a bicyclist getting off their bike, say: “Thank you for your service.” I want to get to the point where people say at dinner parties: “So there’s a new apartment building going in next door, and the construction’s noisy and it’ll mess with my view and it might make it harder to find a parking space. But I’m not complaining. Anything for the cause.”

I could not agree more. And it’s great to see Novick take this stance publicly.

9watts
Guest
9watts

If the people lead, eventually the leaders will follow.

Hurrah for BikeloudPDX!

9watts
Guest
9watts

That piece by Novick about climate change and the city? Wow!
I hope everyone reads it.
http://www.portlandoregon.gov/novick/article/535389

I just became a fan and supporter of yours. Thanks, Steve Novick!

Now if we could convert the Street Fee debacle into something that meshes with your forward looking thoughts on climate change, we’ll start to make some headway.

Adam
Guest
Adam

Please let’s get temp diverters on Clinton!!!

I would suggest SE 50th at Clinton; SE 21st at Clinton, and SE 12th at Clinton.

I would also LOVE to see diverters on Ankeny where it parallels the couplet.

Patrick
Guest
Patrick

The HAND neighborhood association board voted last week to support experimental diversion on Clinton.

Patrick Vinograd
HAND Board Secretary

TJ
Guest
TJ

I’d love to see an enforcement promise. Cameras or whatever it takes, but lets get to a point where speeding and reckless driving equates to far higher odds of ticketing. If we can slow down the large arteries and main side streets the habits will spill over to the cross streets.

Terry D-M
Guest
Terry D-M

Yes, we have done a good job…BikeloudPDX…we should be proud of our progress and the support the community has given us. Now, time to get into action.

Diversion on Clinton I think we have covered as we have some of the best minds in SE working on it as we speak…..you know who you are….but I am sure they could use all the help anyone would give them.

If you live in Buckman, Sunnyside, HAND, Richmond, Kerns, South-Mount or North Tabor…you should let THEM KNOW that you support diverters, ask for locations to be placed on July’s meeting. I am placing it on North Tabor’s agenda (big surprise)……

This would also be a good opportunity for the 28th avenue businesses to make up for their 28th street debacle.

North and NE peeps, who wants to take on Michigan and Going? Lots of work to do…lots of neighborhoods…LOTS of bikeportland readers.

Here are the neighborhood maps: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/oni/35788

Then go to your own neighborhood association website and ask to be placed on the July Agenda, or better yet… contact their transportation chair and chat!

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

Thanks for listening and committing to installing diverters! Let’s keep the pressure up on city hall until bike projects are no longer an afterthought!

Ted Buehler
Guest

Thanks Commissioner Novick,

That’s the quick response we were hoping for.

Now, let’s fast track these interim diverters to get them installed in a matter of days or weeks.

Ted Buehler
Co-Chair, BikeLoudPDX

Nicholas Caleb
Guest
Nicholas Caleb

Keep pushing, people. Great progress bubbling up from the community.

Ted Buehler
Guest

““It’s bullshit!” and “It’s unacceptable!” were just two of the phrases chanted at last night’s rally.”

Jonathan or others — did anyone note the other chants we came up with?

I thought they were pretty good — we’d have protest participants step forward and air their grievances with their bike routes, and then the group would boil down the grievance to a one or two phrase chant.

“Safe Streets — Political Will! — Act Now!” That sort of thing. I’m drawing a blank. Anyone?

Ted Buehler

Gerald Fittipaldi
Guest
Gerald Fittipaldi

I am going to be brutally blunt here. I’m 100% positive that this comment is going to earn me some enemies, but my heart is set on achieving real change. I’ve been biting my tongue for the past several months, wanting to make this post.

I moved to Portland in the summer of 2014 to attend grad school at PSU, just before BikeLoudPDX formed. I had been reading BikePortland articles casually for several years while living on the East Coast. Based on the outpouring of reader comments and high number of “Recommended” thumbs ups in all of the articles, I fully expected Portland to have a strong showing of bicycle activists who are all over the politicians and who are ready to rally, testify, march, write editorials, and do whatever it takes to push through positive changes for biking.

It became immediately apparent to me that the vast majority of bicycle advocates in Portland throw all of their energies into preaching to the choir. “Likes” on BikePortland might as well be meth for *most* of Portland’s bike advocates. “Oooooh, let me log back on and see if my 10 thumbs ups has increased to 30! Maybe I’ll even get comment of the week! Time to bust out my bicycle meth pipe *rubs hands together*.”

It was no wonder to me why biking in Portland had remained stagnant for the past five years [hahmmm, yesterday’s rally was the first rally for biking in five years].

Yes, Portland has a handful of lone wolves who have, for years, been working diligently to report things to the mayors office, 823-SAFE, the PDX Reporter app, and do things like run for Neighborhood Associations and show up at public meetings on biking.

I’ve regularly attended BikeLoudPDX meetings from day one. It has been exciting to see the group grow exponentially in size in a short amount of time. For everyone who has contacted the mayor and done any number of other things to push for change, I thank you.

Even more exciting is seeing all of the bicycle advocates who have recently earned positions on Neighborhood Association boards. Good job!

For anyone who spends hours on Bike Portland, but has never emailed Hails or Novick, and doesn’t even know what 823-SAFE is, get your ass away from the comments section of bike portland and spend five minutes doing just one of the following:

-email mayorcharliehales@portlandoregon.gov
-email novick@portlandoregon.gov
-Call 503-823-SAFE and ask for a specific safety improvement in your neighborhood. Or email safe@portlandoregon.gov
-Write an editorial to the Oregonian or any other major publication
-Lastly, look at yourself in the mirror and ask why Portland should be downgraded from Platinum. Portland would long ago have been more bike-friendly if people like you had devoted your energies to worthwhile activism.

I refuse to read any responses to this post. I don’t want to know how many “likes” this gets, or how many people hate my guts for speaking the truth. Instead I’m going to keep pressuring the city to make Portland more bike-friendly. If you have a problem with my post you can speak to me face-to-face.

Gerald Fittipaldi
Bike PSU President

9watts
Guest
9watts

“It became immediately apparent to me that the vast majority of bicycle advocates in Portland throw all of their energies into preaching to the choir.”

As a vocal member of the group you are disparaging I’ll say that the value to me of the wide-ranging conversations we have here on bikeportland have nothing to do with convincing the already convinced, and everything to do with learning together, seeing these issues through the each others’ eyes. This ongoing conversation is crucial to understanding what the issues are, what sorts of strategies and tactics make the most sense, to making any kind of progress, which your’ reluctant and conflicted participation only highlights.

Scott Kocher
Guest

“Yes, Portland has a handful of lone wolves who have, for years, been working diligently to report things to… 823-SAFE, the PDX Reporter app…” and probably most helpful of all… safe{at]portlandoregon.gov.

Clark in Vancouver
Guest
Clark in Vancouver

>let’s hope there’s more concrete action to report soon.
…and concrete barriers to report on too.

Keep at them. I was once told by a civil servant that his job was to say “No.” Someone would ask him for something out of the ordinary and he would say no. Many would not come back but some would ask again and again and then after a few more times, he would say “Yes”.

Vancouver, BC has had diverters in a few of it’s neighbourhoods since the 1980s. There were controversial initially but after a short while everybody got used to them and now love them. People learned that for cost of a bit of inconvenience when driving to and from home is totally worth it as it makes their home area so much nicer.

David Lewis
Guest

Diverters are a band-aid to the real menace of arterials. Accepting that arterials are not going away, maybe diverters are an acceptable temporary solution until voters elect actual managers instead of politicians to run our government.

paul g.
Guest
paul g.

Gerald

I also appreciate your efforts but since you wanted to be blunt, I will reply with some similarly blunt advice, this from someone feels at arm’s length at points from the BikePortland community. I suspect (but don’t know) that I am very different from the typical commenter here (I’m over 50, five children, homeowner, until the past few years drove as much as I cycled). I’m a hard headed realist but pretty good at reading political tea leaves.

Thing one: you moved here one year ago. Welcome to Portland! But please try to keep in mind that some of us have lived here for decades and are sometimes, and I think justifiably, a bit skeptical of all the new arrivals who feel empowered to tell us what Portland is really all about or what Portland needs to be. How do you even know what Portland has been like for the past five years, for example, not to say the past twenty five years?

This is not meant to dissuade you from remaining active, but at least a recognition that folks who have lived here and been active here for a longer period of time may help.

Thing two: I don’t think it’s fair to criticize the bike community for being inactive for the past five years. There are an awful lot of new people in Portland and things were going pretty well. Under the previous mayor, it seemed at least on the surface that the bike community had an important seat at the table.

But the political situation has rapidly changed. The bike community is getting caught up in larger political and economic turbulence. We had a very powerful mayor (Vera Katz) who was able to muscle the City Council for over a decade. This was followed by two relatively ineffective mayors (Potter, then Adams) who for different reasons have not been able to muster strong and coherent Council majorities.

The point here is that when Katz wanted to promote infrastructure changes (Eastside Promenade for instance) she was able to get the Council behind her. Now we suffer badly (again in my view) from weak mayors, a political system almost designed to inhibit progress, and tremendous development pressures.

This may be precisely the time for street activism, but the time may not have been ripe five years ago.

Thing three, and I’d urge you to think about this–there is a much larger and more heterogeneous bike community than is reflected on BikePortland. This is an important outlet but not the only outlet. And in my own semi-outsider view, this community is not that representative of the broader bike community, nor very sensitive or responsive at times to older, more established residents, to lower income residents, to East Portland residents, etc.

This last comment will surely get people mad at me as well, and I have no breakdown of the demographics of the BP commenter community. That’s just my sense. It’s why a community like BP, and BikeLoud, is important, but larger and more heterogeneous associations like BTA are also important (and why they inevitably disappoint the more activist segments–that’s historically been the case in activist communities, going back as long as scholars have studied them).

Sorry if this seems like a lecture from a professor, but I am a professor! You can wake up from your nap now.

Tomas LaPalella
Guest
Tomas LaPalella

Yesterday I was treated to an aggro motorcyclist ignoring / driving around diverted on Lincoln, then in the afternoon a man was yelling and swearing at cyclists in the Ladd’s circle. Banner day for rage.