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Fun for everybody! A 7-point action plan for a more diverse Pedalpalooza

Posted by on June 16th, 2016 at 2:31 pm

2014 Bike Fair-27

At the Multnomah County Bike Fair, 2014.
(Photos: J.Maus/BikePortland)

This post is by columnist Taz Loomans.

Not long ago, I thought more bike lanes would save the world. In fact, my passion for a better environment for bicyclists and pedestrians was one of the reasons I moved to Portland.

Since then I’ve become disillusioned with the bike advocacy movement, largely because of its lack of racial and ethnic diversity.

According to the recent CNN article by comedian/activist W. Kamau Bell, called Gentrifying Portland: A tale of two cities, “Portland is 76 percent white. That’s a lot, for two reasons. 1) According to the 2010 census, the United States is 72% white, so Portland is whiter than America. 2) Portland is considered a major city. And we don’t associate major cities with whiteness,” he says.

taz 320x320 unsharp mask

Taz Loomans.

I never associated the bike and ped advocacy movement with whiteness until I moved to Portland. I always assumed that progressive policies like better bike infrastructure and racial diversity would go hand in hand. But that’s not necessarily true, as I’ve learned in Portland.

“As non-diverse as Portland is, the typical bike fun ride is even less diverse ethnically, unfortunately,” admits bike fun organizer Chris McCraw.

Carl Larson, a fellow bike advocate, echoes this point. “There still seems to be a lack of racial and ethnic diversity in Portland’s bike fun,” he said. “More so than in the city’s biking population as a whole.”

The problem is not that people of color aren’t interested in bike infrastructure.

“Bike infrastructure is critical,” said Sam Baraso, a co-leader of the Environmental Professionals of Color and a senior policy analyst at Multnomah County. “It goes a long way to making cyclists’ daily commutes that much safer. While I’m plenty vigilant, I feel much more confident and safer biking here than other places I’ve cycled.”

“Bike infrastructure is super important to me,” said Kirk Rea, volunteer coordinator at The City Repair Project. “At the highest level, I see bike use as a powerful green technology that can reduce our negative impact on our environment. At smaller scales, bike infrastructure has the benefits of recreation, or play, and can help our health or livability. As people of color we need as many pro-health options as possible, as we statistically have higher rates of chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.”

Yet people of color seem largely absent from bike fun — a major outlet of bike activism. So what? you might ask. How is race even an issue in bike advocacy anyway?

2014 Bike Fair-10

Carl Larson.

Larson reminds us that “bike fun isn’t just fun, it’s a powerful advocacy tool, too. If [bike fun] events were more diverse, we would likely see faster, better supported, and more equitable changes to our streets.”

Rujuta Gaonkar, Program Manager of the Health Equity Initiative at Multnomah County Health Department, said race matters in bike advocacy because “when I think about all that I’ve heard with the bike lanes that went in on N. Williams, it’s clear that the people living in the corridor, who are some of the most significantly impacted by the changes that resulted from putting in bike lanes, weren’t even consulted when that endeavour was taken. How can the movement adequately take into consideration how biking and relationships to biking might look different in different communities if it is overwhelmingly white?”

“Infrastructure and equity in active transportation go hand in hand,” said Lale Santelices, the Community Cycling Center’s former collaborations manager. “The people and places that would benefit from more transportation options are often times the people and places that have less access to options and live in the most remote areas of the city.”

Rea agrees and says that “People of color have typically been left out of decision making when it comes to urban development, even when our neighborhoods are affected, and thus have experienced gentrification. Further developments need to be installed with care if we are to buy in.” Without a racially diverse group of people at the decision-making table, the bike advocacy movement won’t be able to serve diverse communities effectively.

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Because Portland as a city is so white, cultivating diversity in any advocacy movement is hard work, but not impossible. The first step is to recognize the problem and acknowledge that not all is well. As Bell writes about Portland — and what can be said about bike advocacy in Portland — “Everything looks right, but something is definitely wrong.” McCraw agrees. “I think we have a lot of things to work on [in bike fun] – inclusion of younger and older riders as well as poorer and richer, and non-white,” he said.

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Hammercise Ride, 2010.

The second step is to talk about it. One of the biggest hurdles I’ve found in Portland is the lack of willingness to openly talk about race issues among the white population. Noticing the lack of racial diversity in bike advocacy and bike fun and talking about it is an essential first step in making a change.

The third step is to take responsibility. Portland faces a unique problem with race because it is generally very liberal and progressive in its politics yet it lacks in racial diversity. Because of this juxtaposition, there tends to be some amount of passivity among the white liberal population about racial and ethnic diversity.

Bell writes, “Almost to a person they had the same type of reaction when I brought up Portland’s (to me) shocking lack of diversity. It was something to the effect of…Hipster – “YAY, PORTLAND!” Me – “Where are all the black people?” Hipster – “Oh yeah” Hipster looks down at their feet until I go away.”

Seven things anybody can do to help

mujeres en movimiento

Carolina Iraheta Gonzalez, Lale Santelices and Elizabeth Quiroz get ready for Mujeres en Movimiento’s ‘Sundress Sunday’ ride.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

The only way to make progress around the issue of diversity in bike advocacy is to take responsibility for it and actively recruit people of color into bike advocacy and bike fun. Which leads me to the next step.

Take action! Here are seven ways how you can be active about bringing racial and ethnic diversity to your next bike ride or bike advocacy effort:

1. Baraso suggests: “Build relationships with people of color organizations, and do so long before you have something [like a bike ride] in mind so that it comes out of the relationship.” Rea emphasizes that “Leaders from various communities need to be at planning tables with leaders of bike fun.”

2. Priti Shah, Finance Director and Event Coordinator at The City Repair Project suggests: “Have signage in different languages. Make promo materials (photos, videos) of people of color on bikes. Help organizations that work with diverse ethnicities organize a bike ride/bike tour.”

2014 Bike Fair-5

At the Multnomah County Bike Fair, 2014.

3. “Partner with folks in marginalized communities to lead a ride more appealing to non-white-young-CIS-male demographics. I’m thinking things like a SOUL district ride, a ride to the Juneteenth parade, and one that is already on the Pedalpalooza calendar – the refugee ride,” says McCraw.

4. Watch who’s on your invite list. According to the 2010 census, 19.5% of Oregon’s 2014 population over the age of 18 identify as non-white. A good guideline to check if your ride is representative of the general population is to see if about 20% of your invite list includes non-whites. If you’re having trouble reaching this number, it’s time to become proactive and reach out to communities of color through organizations like – Coalition of Communities of Color, Center for Intercultural Organizing, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, African American Health Coalition, Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization, Latino Network, and Native American Youth and Family Center, among others, to get the word out about your bike ride to different communities.

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At the Thursday Night Ride, 2016.

5. Larson suggests that people start rides in more racially diverse areas of town. “Don’t start everything at Col. Summers Park, Salmon Springs Fountain, and Velo Cult. If you want to encourage a more diverse crowd to attend your event, consider starting it in a more diverse place like St. Johns, Lents or even Beaverton!”

6. Watch the cliquiness. Often you have to be in the know to feel accepted at bike fun events and people who aren’t aren’t always made to feel welcome. Santalices says that sometimes it feels like “you need to have all the gear, you have to know all the unspoken rules or you feel publicly shamed.”

And Larsen cautions against shaming people for wearing lycra or driving to bike fun events, which can exclude people of color that live in faraway communities. “Giving people a hard time for wearing lycra or driving a car can overlook the cultural and practical reasons people might have for doing both. It’s true: you don’t need special clothes for biking and bikes work great for most errands. It’s also true that some people, including many new immigrants, see biking as a symbol of recently-escaped poverty. They might only bike in lycra because they want community members to know “I’m doing this for fun! …not because I have to,” he says.

Thursday Night Ride - Week 52-35.jpg

At the Thursday Night Ride, 2016.

7. To make your bike ride more inclusive, don’t forget to go slow or have a sweep at the end of your rides. Rides that are aimed at experienced cyclists capable of doing long distances and going fast are great. But there are a lot of bike rides that aren’t about that, but sometimes bike ride leaders forget that not everyone is as experienced as they are. People new to biking or people who aren’t practiced riders may feel left behind at many rides, so it pays to go slow and have a sweep for those folks.

“If you are a privileged white man, there is nothing wrong with that,” said homeless advocate Ibrahim Mubarak said at the Reclaiming Space Confronting Oppression & Reclaiming Space panel at the 2016 Village Building Convergence. “It matters how you use that privilege. Do you use it to demean and oppress? Or do you use it to uplift?”

Will the current bike advocacy community use its privilege to direct its energy at the same old overwhelmingly white consituency? Or will it use it to actively recruit and seek out inclusion, diversity and equity?

Anti-CRC event at Crank Bicycles-6

Taz Loomans is BikePortland’s subversiveness columnist. Read her introductory column here.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you.

61 Comments
  • galavantista June 16, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    Thanks for this important reminder, and also the reminder that something can (and must!) be done to break out of the whites-only image and perspective. If the excuse is “I don’t know how to reach non-white people” for bike-fun events, there are some excellent starting points in here.

    What’s your Pedalpalooza ride, Taz? I’d love to join you.

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    • Taz Loomans June 16, 2016 at 3:56 pm

      Hi galvantista, I don’t have a ride on the Pedalpalooza calendar, but I am planning a Silk Ride for August, so stay tuned and watch the Shift Calendar and email list for an announcement!

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. June 16, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    Rea agrees and says that “People of color have typically been left out of decision making when it comes to urban development, even when our neighborhoods are affected, and thus have experienced gentrification. Further developments need to be installed with care if we are to buy in.” Without a racially diverse group of people at the decision-making table, the bike advocacy movement won’t be able to serve diverse communities effectively.

    How much of this problem can be helped by moving to a ward-based City Council? The fact that 3/5 of our City Council members (plus our Mayor-Elect) live in the SW hills can’t possibly help with geographic and economic representation.

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    • Lester Burnham June 17, 2016 at 6:53 am

      The archaic city council style of government needs to be eliminated in this city. That’s the only way things will change.

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    • David Hampsten June 17, 2016 at 8:24 am

      Judging upon who is being elected to the state legislature from East Portland (entirely white), I very much doubt that geographic districts or wards in Portland would affect the racial or ethnic make up of the Council.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty June 17, 2016 at 1:24 pm

      Why is geographic representation more important than, say, economic representation? I’d rather have an economically diverse council than a geographically diverse one.

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  • Carrie June 16, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    Thanks for setting this out into achievable things that we all should be doing. I’ve learned so much about outreach and engagement as part of the Off Road Cycling Committee — that just because people don’t ride or haven’t been engaged doesn’t mean they aren’t interested or don’t care. They maybe just can never get to a meeting in downtown Portland.

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  • jeff June 16, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    Its only “shocking” to those of you just arriving in Portland. Its been this way for decades. The only thing new here is you.

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    • galavantista June 16, 2016 at 4:17 pm

      Another vote for the status quo?

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    • Adam H.
      Adam H. June 16, 2016 at 4:28 pm

      “It’s been this way for decades” is literally the worst possible excuse for anything.

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      • dan June 16, 2016 at 9:12 pm

        Yeah, I’m not sure he’s voting for anything, or making excuses. Just pointing out that this is an issue that Portland has grappled with for a long time.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty June 17, 2016 at 1:26 pm

          And there have been periodic efforts to change it, which have all failed pretty hard.

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        • Eric Leifsdad June 18, 2016 at 12:18 am

          Don’t forget that Portland attracts introverts, albeit nice and progressive ones (I wonder how much this crosses races and cultures here.) And yet, I generally smile and say hi to anyone who isn’t behind the glare of a windshield. Inclusiveness for introverts?

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  • Rebecca June 16, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    Thank you for providing so many concrete, helpful ideas, Taz! It is easy to forget that even though Pedalpalooza rides are publicly posted, not everyone in our city accesses those same media sources or feels like the general invite applies to them. Specific invites take more effort but go a long way towards bringing more people together, as you describe.

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  • soren June 16, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    i’d like to thank taz for writing about this and for soliciting suggestions on how we can increase diversity. i need to get off of my bougie ass and do some of these things when it comes to bike advocacy. “bike fun” in pdx also has underrepresentation of older people and kids. (the demographics of sunday parkways versus any larger pedalpalooza ride illustrate this.)

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  • Go By Bike
    Go By Bike June 16, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    sorry to hear you feel disillusioned! Thanks for you writing and I hope you continue to share your experiences on bikeportland.

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  • Esther June 16, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    Great column, Taz! <3

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  • Justin June 16, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    I’m just gonna ride my bike and have friends and not feel like I have a responsibility to do it a certain way or that I somehow represent something I should be ashamed of.

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  • rachel b June 16, 2016 at 6:10 pm

    Really good article–thanks, Taz Loomans. Portland’s not only a certain (smug, well-off) white person’s paradise, but also an echo chamber. I watched the Bell/CNN video when it came out and was delighted in a similar way I was w/ John Oliver’s gimlet-eyed look at Oregon awhile back (the Cover Oregon bit). It takes people outside our hermetically-sealed bubble to help us see ourselves. We are all sooooo up our own hindquarter regions in Portland. Now more than ever.

    I’m not drawn to a lot of bike”fun” here, and I’m white. Much of it seems geared to people who like dressing up in costumes (or, in the case of Naked Bike Ride, dressing down!) and (to me) = a kind of forced, tired zaniness.

    Your ideas are great. Our city is not and hasn’t been welcoming to people of color. It’s certainly not fair to expect this but it’s my hope they come in droves and–damn the torpedoes!–just move the hell in here anyway.

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    • soren June 20, 2016 at 12:15 pm

      Our city is not and hasn’t been welcoming to people of color. It’s certainly not fair to expect this but it’s my hope they come in droves and–damn the torpedoes!–just move the hell in here anyway.

      I personally would like to see housing and jobs affirmative action in portland.

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      • 37Dennis June 25, 2016 at 12:16 pm

        Yes. Please be sure to create a special class of people called for ‘cooks and dishwashers.
        They are a group of people comprised of many races forced to inhabit a home six and seven deep, live in r.v’s, tents.or in shelters. Let our cities leaders know of their plight.
        In Portland this group of people is largely white.

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  • gutterbunnybikes June 16, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    This is (or at least should be) the number one issue for all transportation advocacy. Of course, the problem isn’t limited to just transportation, it’s the number one issue facing our country right now on a whole (which is really ef’in sad at this time and date). Racism needs to stop, how do you encourage black citizens to ride, when they’re often targeted by police for breaking “bike” laws when they ride.

    Just last night I was riding around SeaTac without a helmet (which are mandatory) and was seen by at least two cops while doing so and I didn’t even get a second glance. I even thought at the time that had I had dark skin, odds are I would have been pulled over and questioned – if not worse.

    And that is part of what I think is missing from bicycle advocacy. All the white people just want lanes and to be comfortable, and anyone that isn’t white just wants to ride without being harrassed – bike lane or not.

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  • Kyle Banerjee June 16, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    In all fairness, these events reflect white progressive culture and don’t have much appeal outside that group. Simply having more pigment in your skin (i.e. be a person of color) isn’t much to have in common with someone else — it’s like lumping bmx and high performance recumbents together because they’re both bicycles. They’re only similar to people who don’t really get either.

    Notably absent from the well meant recommendations is to find ways to work and play with people who really think differently (not just a few darker people who fit particularly well in white culture). This is much harder to do in Oregon than many places, but there are opportunities. There is way more to diversity than skin color, language, dress, food, etc — it is about how people experience and interact with the world.

    Don’t be surprised when some of these differences are shocking. Diversity is a state of mind. The stuff you see before you know someone is just on the surface.

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  • Clement June 17, 2016 at 12:17 am

    I appreciate the suggestions for diversifying Portland’s bike events. I happen to be a person of color who bikes on a daily basis, but I have never been drawn to the Keep Portland Weird, circus-y aspects of what some see as Portland’s bike culture. Not doing the bike culture thing or cycling for sport, but just biking to get around (though I love my bikes!), I sometimes feel that I am not a legitimate part of Portland’s bike scene. That being said, I don’t think that it is a fair characterization when people equate Portland’s having a high portion of white people with meaning Portland is inherently racist. Having lived in the Detroit area and spent time in the South, I find that Portland’s history is not exceptionally racist. Pretty much all of the United States had a white supremacist history. Portland was never a major port of entry for immigrants, did not have a plantation economy, wasn’t a big part of the African-American migration north to the Northeast and Midwest, and was not a major economic engine that attracted people from all over the world like New York, Chicago, or LA. Its not surprising Portland isn’t very diverse – it’s kind of been a small, provincial city way out in the Northwest. But, it is growing, opening up more to the world – and isn’t without its growing pains. It’s my city. I like it.

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  • Gerald Fittipaldi June 17, 2016 at 1:11 am

    This is a very well written article, and I there are some good takeaways, but I feel the need to show a flip-side view point.

    Over the years I’ve spoken to various people of color that have had differing opinions on how people of different races can get along and be more inclusive. In cities that are notably more diverse than Portland, one thing I’ve heard from people of color is that they have to be the ones to initiate things rather than being told by White people what to do.

    To give one specific example, I spoke to the founder of Black Women Bike DC (of Washington, DC) and asked her how I (a White male) could encourage minorities to get more involved with bicycle advocacy. Without hesitation she said, “You can’t. It has to come from them.”

    Washington, DC is way more diverse than Portland. However, relatively few Black women ride bicycles in DC. Despite this, members of Black Women Bike DC are very much engaged in citywide bicycle advocacy. They have members on the Bicycle Advisory Committee, and they show up at public meetings to debate the merits of better bicycle infrastructure. This all came about because a Black woman decided she wanted to stick her neck out and help other women like herself overcome social barriers to bicycling.

    By doing their own thing, Black Women Bike DC grew in numbers until they became well known and respected by the larger bicycle community. I met a few of their members randomly at miscellaneous bicycle advocacy events. They grew into this comfort zone because the messenger was a Black woman who encouraged them to get involved.

    I’m not saying that White people shouldn’t try to engage people of color, but I do think we should be careful with how ambitious we want to be. Rather than trying to revolutionize Portland’s bicycle advocacy in terms of diversity, I feel it is much more realistic for individuals to start with baby steps. Thursday Night Ride seems to be a little more diverse than some other bike fun events in Portland. At events like this, White people like myself can expand their comfort zones by talking to more people that don’t look like us.

    I just worry that a White person whose friends are 90% White will come across the wrong way if he/she suddenly decides to flip a switch and “make” bicycle advocacy more diverse. It has to evolve more organically than that, and the messenger can make all the difference.

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    • John Liu
      John Liu June 17, 2016 at 7:53 am

      There is the Black Liberation Ride on the Pedalpalooza calendar.

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      • soren June 17, 2016 at 9:31 am

        PLEASE NOTE: This ride is designed to be a safe space for black folx + their friends, lovers and family members. Which means if you are not black you should at least have a black person accompanying you. And if you’re not woke enough to see why it’s problematic for a non-black person to take up space at one of the few black events in a very white city then you DEFINITELY shouldn’t come.

        Word.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty June 17, 2016 at 1:47 pm

          Am I going too far out on a limb to say that this sounds rather racist?

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          • Adam H.
            Adam H. June 17, 2016 at 1:51 pm

            Racism implies a group with power imparting that power over another group. Since black people in this country have historically been the victims of this power and control, an all-black ride cannot be racist. This ride is about leveling the playing field.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty June 17, 2016 at 2:01 pm

              Does that mean that only white people can be racist? Or that excluding people on the basis of their race is OK if you do not identify as white? (even if, as in this case, many of those excluded are not white?)

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              • Adam H.
                Adam H. June 17, 2016 at 2:55 pm

                No, but when white people are racist, they do so with the entire history of institutional racism behind them, which obviously has a far higher impact. The same is not true if the roles are reversed. Given this history, calling a bike ride meant to empower black people racist misses the point entirely. It’s the same reason that calling women-only bike rides sexist is also unfounded.

                When the ruling group (men, whites, etc.) sees the oppressed groups gaining power, it makes them nervous, thus the accusations of racism and sexism by white men whenever these events come up.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty June 17, 2016 at 3:16 pm

                Strictly speaking, I may have erred in using the word racist, though it did strike me that way. The word I should have used is exclusionary.

                That said, I have no problem at all with a bike ride meant to “empower” people who belong to any particular group. But when one claims that non-blacks are just “taking up space”, or that they need to be accompanied by a black person to attend, it seems to be far more exclusionary that the situations the article criticizes.

                I guess most troubling to me is that this ride was held up as an example in an article about making Pedalpalooza inclusionary and welcoming to all. This ride, which explicitly excludes all racial groups except one, is clearly neither.

                Why are you nervous by the idea of “oppressed groups” gaining power? Judging from your photo, I’m assuming you consider yourself one of the “ruling group”.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty June 17, 2016 at 3:18 pm

                To clarify, I did not mean this was an example in the article itself, rather in the comments about the article.

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              • Adam H.
                Adam H. June 17, 2016 at 3:47 pm

                I’m not saying I’m nervous, I’m describing a reason behind this common reaction. As a white dude, I recognize this privilege and am totally okay with this ride and the description of it. The ride is not meant for me and that’s fine.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty June 17, 2016 at 4:15 pm

                It’s one thing to say “this is a ride for people who like Bowie or Prince,” implicitly excluding those who might not like either; it is another to say “people who don’t look like us are not welcome.” It’s that second statement that makes me uneasy, and I think it is a bit antithetical to the whole Pedalpalooza ethos.

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            • John Greenfield June 17, 2016 at 2:10 pm

              What you’re describing is “institutional racism.” Everybody can have racist attitudes, but, yes, you have to have power over another group to inflict institutional racism on them.

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      • Charley June 17, 2016 at 11:16 am

        I guess I’m not welcome! That’s fine. I don’t do these kinds of rides.

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      • Edward June 20, 2016 at 12:48 pm

        This is awesome! My first thought after reading the article was, “There should be a Not-All-White-People Ride. But if they did that, there’d have to be a rule like: no more than 20% white people can ride with the group up-front. Otherwise the white supporters could easily overwhelm it and white-wash it with whiteness.”

        As a really white white-guy, I gotta say it’s good for white people to go places where they are the de facto minority — and where their whiteness stands out and people stare and gape and wonder why a white guy is there. Really hard to do in Portland.

        That’s because Portland is a painfully awkward white-haven, where white people get to pretend we’re not prejudiced because we never have to talk about it because we’re all white.

        OK white people, here’s our homework: go find your most darkly complected white friend and tell him/her s/he is technically not white enough for portland because you need to have at least one non-white friend. Who did most of us pick? An Italian? One of your Jewish friends? Did you have to use that one guy who is friends with that other friend because you think he was maybe like part Lebanese or something?

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    • Taz Loomans June 17, 2016 at 9:12 am

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment Gerald. And it’s inspiring to hear about the black women riders mobilizing in DC. Thank you for sharing that. A question I have for a lot of white folks living in Portland is why are 90% of your friends white? I live in inner southeast Portland, a very white part of town, and I have a number of friends of color and a lot of white friends too. Birds of a feather flock together, I know. But did you know that the average white American has 1 black friend out of a 100 friends and the average black American has 8 white friends out of a hundred? Is it because white people feel completely comfortable having only white friends and people of color feel the need to have more diverse friendships out of necessity/survival? I’m not sure. But I’d like to propose that the diversity quotient of your friends is not just circumstantial and area based. There’s more to it and I challenge people to break the barriers that stop them from making friends with more people of color. I love your idea Gerald of making friends with people of color that do show up on rides and in general make more of an effort to make more friends of color. It makes a difference and helps with integration of races and cross cultural understanding. Having friends of different ethnicities/race creates resilience in the face of divisive politics and hate-based rhetoric and in the end creates more harmonious and cohesive societies.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty June 17, 2016 at 7:36 pm

        How many friends do you (the rhetorical you, this is not directed at any particular person) have who are have a very different financial situation than you do? Who have very different political beliefs than you do? Who speak a different first language than you? Race is just one (and, I would argue a poor) measure of the diversity of a person’s personal connections. If such a thing can or should be measured at all.

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  • John Greenfield June 17, 2016 at 6:22 am

    If by “white” you mean “non-Hispanic white,” you might want to double check your numbers.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) June 17, 2016 at 6:40 am

      Hey John, I assume Taz just mean “non-Hispanic white,” and I just did check the numbers — as of the 2010-2014 ACS figures, Portland city had 432,593 residents identifying as “white alone, not Hispanic or Latino” and 602,568 total residents. So 71.8 percent, same as Bell says. Which numbers are you seeing a problem with?

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      • John Greenfield June 17, 2016 at 2:33 pm

        Bell is quoted above as saying Portland is 76% white rather than 72%. It looks like the 76% figure includes Hispanics who also identify as white. It also looks like the current percentage of non-Hispanic whites in the U.S. is only 62% rather than 72%: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-Hispanic_whites. That makes sense because about 17.4% of U.S. citizens are Hispanic/Latino (of any race): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hispanic_and_Latino_Americans, 12.6% of citizens are African-American (including some who are Hispanic/Latino): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_Americans, and 5.6% of citizens are Asian-American: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asian_Americans, and then there are other Census categories to account for such as Native Americans and Pacific Island Americans. Sorry to split hairs here, but the numbers are relevant to this conversation, and I think they’re pretty interesting.

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        • John Greenfield June 17, 2016 at 2:46 pm

          But I guess I basically just made Bell’s point stronger. Since Portland is 72% non-Hispanic white and the U.S. is 62% NHW, Portland has a *much* higher percentage of NHW folks that the the nation as a whole.

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          • John Greenfield June 17, 2016 at 3:48 pm

            Last comment, I promise. Complicating this issue even further is the fact that the Census defines white Americans as those “having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Americans. That means that the 72% non-Hispanic white figure for Portland and the 62% NHW figure for the U.S. not only includes people of European extraction, but also folks who trace their roots countries ranging from Morocco to Saudi Arabia to Iran to Yemen. So it looks like Portland is a bit more diverse than one might have assumed. Man, issues of race, ethnicity, and culture can be very complex, and fascinating.

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            • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
              Michael Andersen (News Editor) June 20, 2016 at 3:10 pm

              Thanks, John. You’re right, I was looking at the wrong figure. Bell was counting self-ID’d white Latinos as white.

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  • Lester Burnham June 17, 2016 at 6:50 am

    I think it was group of BikePortland readers who accused an Asian man as being a cop when he showed up at a group. This article is so appropriate for this forum.

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  • Champs June 17, 2016 at 10:34 am

    I come from a place that is even whiter than Portland. There were years when I didn’t encounter black people unless they were immediate relatives. My identity as a “person of color” is something placed upon me by others since the extent of my memory.

    Clement is not alone in thinking that Pedalpalooza circuses aren’t for him(?). #StuffWhitePeopleLike could summarize a number of these things. Like Volvo rallies and Ani DiFranco concerts, they are not exclusive events, just very self-selective, and that’s fine. People are just having fun, and it doesn’t need diversity for diversity’s sake.

    Where diversity, i.e. representation, matters is when people start making decisions that affect other people. If we accept the premise that lobbies are built at events like these, perhaps the siting is poorly considered or even passive aggressive, like a destination wedding or a weekday morning policy meeting at City Hall.

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  • Charley June 17, 2016 at 11:08 am

    Rujuta Gaonkar is factually wrong when claiming that “it’s clear that the people living in the corridor, who are some of the most significantly impacted by the changes that resulted from putting in bike lanes, weren’t even consulted when that endeavour was taken.” In fact, the residents of the neighborhood were consulted and even basically put the project on hold, for years.

    The project began way back in April 2011 with an open house, at which community support was clear, though later PBOT backed away from from of the safety improvements, because of . Here’s the BP article:
    http://bikeportland.org/2011/04/15/saturday-speak-up-for-a-better-williams-bikeway-51499

    Then, the project was derailed, during an example of exactly the kind of outreach you believe did not occur. Here’s the article:
    http://bikeportland.org/2011/06/07/williams-bikeway-project-delayed-to-address-community-concerns-54361

    The project didn’t change all that much in the next three years. PBOT didn’t start actual work until August 2014.
    http://bikeportland.org/2014/08/06/williams-ave-project-will-break-ground-next-month-109835

    So, while Ms. Loomans is nailing right on the head while arguing that people of color have much to gain from safer infrastructure, Gaonkar’s example proves that outreach can actually *delay* safety improvements. PBOT is apparently damned if they try to help this community, and damned if they don’t!

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    • Charley June 17, 2016 at 11:19 am

      Oops, I didn’t finish a sentence. It should read “… though later PBOT backed away from from of the safety improvements, because of community member’s concern about lack of parking.” So great. The community has spoken up to water down the safety improvements.

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  • Charley June 17, 2016 at 11:13 am

    On another diversity related note: the most diverse crowd of cyclists I see is the people riding mountain bikes at Powell Butte. I’ve seen people from all backgrounds there, and consistently see large southeast Asian families (women, children, and men) riding shiny, well-made mountain bikes around the summit. This, to me, is incredibly encouraging. If the city is interested in encouraging a more diverse group of citizens to engage, I think finding these families would be a great start. Also, it fits with my larger mission of getting as many people outside and in the natural world, to make ardent environmentalists out of them.

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  • Kyle Banerjee June 17, 2016 at 11:27 am

    But did you know that the average white American has 1 black friend out of a 100 friends and the average black American has 8 white friends out of a hundred? Is it because white people feel completely comfortable having only white friends and people of color feel the need to have more diverse friendships out of necessity/survival? I’m not sure.

    Part of this is just the math of being a minority. Even if you’re drawn towards others like yourself (and often you don’t have luxury), you simply have to interact with others.

    On an aside note, I hear people describe me and others as being “of color” — I’ve never heard anyone apply the term to themselves except when it had already been introduced in the same conversation and even that only occurs in certain social/political contexts. If they describe themselves, it’s in terms of their actual background. People who look alike to you can get very upset if you lump them together.

    One major aspect of culture is that it defines social norms and relationships between people. Just because people have views/values that westerners reject does not make them wrong nor does it make the westerners wrong.

    Whites do not need to flog themselves for being white or having various advantages — it’s not like you set things up like that on purpose. Rather, people just need to be cognizant and try to do the right thing.

    BTW, only the largest groups of minorities even have communities in Portland. This means that letting recognized constituencies advocate only for their own misses the point. Diversity is a two way street and an open mind is required on everyone’s part for it to work.

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  • Anna G June 17, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    Great post ! I especially agree with points 6 and 7, cliquiness and having a sweep. Although I’ve lived here for almost 20 years and am a year round commuter, I’ve never done a single pedalpalooza ride, mostly since the majority do not appeal to me. However there are some that look tempting but the reason I usually bail out is that I don’t want to encounter the same casually rude behavior I encounter almost every day on my commute, and, if its something I’m doing on my own time for fun, don’t want to have to guess whether the unfriendliness is due to my brown skin, gray hair or whatever. Having had a couple of negative experiences with the Portland Wheelman I’ve no desire for doing group rides with the same atmosphere. That said, the single biggest thing anyone can do to increase the diversity of the participants is to have a welcoming attitude. It should be enough that we all have some sort of bike and can ride it in some sort of fashion. Who knows, perhaps this will be the year that I’ll be brave enough to give group rides another shot.

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  • Tuck June 18, 2016 at 1:17 am

    Great article. I’m a white 45 y/o from Seattle and recently moved to SF, I’ve been a bike commuter my entire life and I have to say I was shocked at how diverse the cycling scene is here, from the weekday commuters to the fix-gear gonzo set. In Seattle its is almost exclusively honkies on bicycles despite being a relatively diverse city. Any ideas on why that is?

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  • Taz Loomans June 18, 2016 at 6:35 pm