Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on August 27th, 2015 at 10:56 am
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales is most powerful elected official in a city that’s widely considered to be one of the country’s best for cycling. However, despite living just over four miles and a pleasant half-hour bike ride away from City Hall, Hales doesn’t commute by bike.
Sure, Hales is seen on a bike now and then; but those rides are organized events like Sunday Parkways. As anyone who has been in a bike parade or open streets event can tell you, that experience is much different than real-life, everyday, weekday rush-hour conditions.
With Portland in a biking funk there has been a growing chorus of whispers pressuring Hales to get on a bike and see what it’s like on Portland streets — without a police escort and cozy coterie.
I’m happy to report that Hales heard the whispers and has decided to ride his bike into work this coming Monday.
Hales mentioned the ride at the end of yesterday’s City Council meeting after he led a 5-0 vote in support of the Neighborhood Greenways Assessment Report.
To give you a sense of what’s on his mind, here’s how the Mayor led up to his mention of the ride:
“This year we’re in our worst year ever in gang violence. And yet despite that we’ve lost more Portlanders to traffic violence than we have to homicidal violence. That’s how serious this problem is for our fellow citizens who are at risk until we achieve vision zero. This is important work… so I’m going to start doing some commute rides… and try to take more of those kind of commutes with advocates who know the conditions on the ground.”
“While the mayor and Nancy [Hales] regularly ride on the weekends, it’s not the same as biking with workday traffic,”
— Sara Hottman, Mayor Hales office
We followed up with the Mayor’s office and staffer Sara Hottman confirmed the news: “While the mayor and Nancy [Hales] regularly ride on the weekends, it’s not the same as biking with workday traffic,” she said.
“The mayor liked the community members’ idea, so we shaped it into a chance to both easily talk to a variety of people about issues as well as commute to work by bike.”
Here’s the plan: On Monday, August 31st, the mayor will bike from his home in Eastmoreland to the K&F Clinton Street Coffeehouse at SE 26th and Clinton. He’ll arrive around 7:45 am and spend about an hour chatting with whoever shows up. Then he’ll ride into City Hall via Clinton.
Hottman, who’s organizing the ride, said they chose Clinton specifically because, “It’s a Neighborhood Greenway about which people frequently express concerns about the level and aggressiveness of auto traffic.”
With people aware of the pre-ride chat session, we’re a bit concerned that this ride will turn into a group thing with people smiling, riding side-by-side, taking photos, and so on. If it does it would defeat the entire purpose of the ride because people drive differently in those situations. Ideally Hales would ride by himself, not in a group and not even with an advocate by his side who might say things that could influence his perceptions.
Regardless, it’s great to see Hales engage with bicycling like this. It should be a good experience for him and hopefully turns into something he does much more regularly. This is Portland after all.