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Activists use traffic cones to improve safety of bike lane along new Orange Line MAX

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

Fed up with standard bike lanes that offer only paint as separation between bicycle and car operators, an anonymous group of activists has placed traffic cones on the bike lane at the intersection of Southeast Powell at Pershing.

As you can see in the Tweet above, the new group is having some fun with the Portland Bureau of Transportation. They’re using PBOT’s logo and calling themselves “PDX Transformation.” This is the group’s first action and they’re promising more installations to come. Not much is known about the group beyond their Twitter profile which reads: “Transforming PDX any way we can (Not connected to PBOT in any official way) – Portland of the Future”

Using traffic cones to more strongly delineate bike lanes is a method of tactical urbanism, which Wikipedia defines as “a collection of low-cost, temporary changes to the built environment, usually in cities, intended to improve local neighbourhoods and city gathering places.” Think of it as an unsanctioned, underground version of Better Block PDX, a group that has won broad support from City Hall for its professional approach to tactical urbanism.


In early October, an anonymous group in New York City called “Transformation Dept.placed traffic cones and flowers on bike lanes. “In less than a half hour and with about $500 worth of cones and flowers,” the group said via a statement published by CityLab, “we were able to achieve something that often gets delayed by Department of Transportation bureaucracy or political fear.”

The motivation for the Portland group is likely very similar. There’s a growing cadre among Portland bike riders who feel like PBOT is not moving quickly enough to create physically protected bike lanes.

This isn’t the first time we’ve reported on guerrilla traffic calming and safety actions. Last year activists placed homemade steel drums on SE Clinton to hasten the placement of traffic diverters (which are now scheduled to be officially installed in the next few weeks). And in 2009, activists painted a crosswalk on East Burnside.

And you might recall the “People’s DOT,” a group that sprung up in 2010 to draw attention to a wall erected in the middle of 82nd Avenue by the Oregon Department of Transportation.

You can follow PDX Transformation on Twitter via @PBOTrans.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –