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How New York City advocates are responding to their unsafe streets crisis

Posted by on August 30th, 2016 at 11:52 am

Portland is reeling from a record pace of traffic fatalities and a string of three horrific collisions involving teenagers in the past three weeks. Many local activists are using the word “crisis” to describe the lack of safety and irresponsible vehicle use on our streets.

Portland is not alone.

If it’s not safe for us to ride alone, then we ride together.
— TransAlt

National headlines are also calling the deaths and injuries being caused by motor vehicle operators a crisis. We’re dealing with an epidemic of car abuse and a broken system of roads, media, and laws that enable it.

New York City has seen more than there share of traffic carnage. And their main advocacy nonprofit, Transportation Alternatives, is sick and tired of it. Yesterday I got a bulk email from them that I felt was very powerful.


It opened with the “Enough” graphic above. And here’s the full text (their emphasis):

We are not giving any more speeches, friend.
We will not host another vigil.

People on bikes are being killed and injured every single day. It’s too much to bear. Are you angry? We are. And we’re ready to take action…

Transportation Alternatives decided to call for this bike protest last week after Michael Schenkman of Queens was killed on his bike. He was a 78-year-old cyclist out for his morning ride, and like many of you, he was a TransAlt member.

Michael was the 16th cyclist killed this year. That’s more than the total number of people killed on bikes during all of last year…and it’s only August. The same terrible statistic is true for hit-and-run crashes: More people have been killed by drivers who fled the scene so far in 2016 than in all of last year.

We are rallying a citywide coalition of people on bikes to ride together on September 15th. Families for Safe Streets, Right of Way, and Kidical Mass are all riding with us — and more are signing on every day. Please say you’ll ride with us.

New cyclists, teenagers, families and older New Yorkers will lead the ride, because if they are not safe, then we are all in danger. This will be a peaceful protest ride, and we need you there.

In solidarity,

Paul Steely White, Caroline Samponaro, and the whole TransAlt Team

P.S. We need every cyclist in New York to be in the streets on September 15. Invite everyone you know.

With more than two weeks until the ride 544 people have already RSVP’d via Facebook.

This is the transportation reform movement at its most powerful: Getting a huge number of people in the streets to make it clear that the status quo isn’t acceptable and more must be done. This is what was at the essence of Critical Mass, the movement that put the need for cycling infrastructure and respect on the map. This is the type of unified display of outrage that led to the Kindermoord movement in the 1960s in Amsterdam and sparked that city’s legendary legacy of traffic culture reform.

What about Portland? Do you feel like we’ve reached the crisis level? Is so, what should our response be?

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Zaphod August 30, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    Perhaps PDX needs a re-invigorated critical mass

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    • Ted Timmons (Contributor) August 30, 2016 at 2:11 pm

      I thought TNR was friendly CM.

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      • soren August 30, 2016 at 2:44 pm

        CM was political while TNR is explicitly not political.

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    • Dan G August 30, 2016 at 11:09 pm

      Perhaps a pedestrian Critical Mass is in order. Should we all go for a walk? 82 nd Ave might make for a nice stroll.

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  • Robert Burchett August 30, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    Well, ride naked, ride on Thursday, but don’t use the C-word-M-word because it turns out there IS money and staff to apply enforcement to that

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. August 30, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    We need more bold and loud actions, but unfortunately Portland activists are too afraid of making waves or pissing off politicians to actually do something like this. No way in hell I see the BTA organizing something like this.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 30, 2016 at 12:25 pm

      Yeah I feel like there’s a huge gap right now between the radical, scrappy, no-budget, grassroots BikeLoudPDX and the large and well-funded, much more conservative BTA. I don’t see the two working together much either… so that leaves a big hole in the middle.

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. August 30, 2016 at 12:31 pm

        What if there was a single coalition for all the smaller groups to unite under? Something like “Stop Killing Our Children” with a clear and focused goal? I feel like there are a lot of smaller organizations that are natural allies for safer streets that could be very effective as a larger group.

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    • lop August 30, 2016 at 3:30 pm

      >Portland activists are too afraid of making waves or pissing off politicians to actually do something like this

      Do you think this ride is so different from the one last Friday?

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      • Paula F August 31, 2016 at 9:46 pm

        Similar and different. A small piece of protest at City Hall, we want Action, not words. Mostly a memorial ride, which grew when Fallon’s family and friends participated.

        Seems we struggle with protest only events as far as large attendance. We also need a way to include a pedestrian element, different routes, same end point.

        We may also gain by focusing on children, so easy for the aggressors to justify their counter anger against big people. Time is now for all the smaller orgs to come together for a louder voice.

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    • Huey Lewis August 31, 2016 at 8:24 am

      I think a lot of the people that *really* cared about making Portland bikey and livable and going out to stand up for other issues that matter that were/are bigger than Portland, they don’t live here anymore. So many hippies, misfits, sideliners, punks, they aren’t here like they used to be.

      Before I get any responses about there being people here that still care (like pretty much every one in here commenting), I know, but it’s really not the same. It just isn’t.

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  • mh August 30, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    Thank you, Jonathan, for posting this. I also received it, and forwarded it to BikeLoud leadership just so they’d see it. I didn’t ask for anything, because I didn’t know what to ask for.

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  • Spiffy August 30, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    perhaps if we can get 200 people to protest at city hall every time this happens they’ll start taking it seriously… sure we do it occasionally, but shouldn’t we be doing it every time?

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    • Eric Leifsdad August 30, 2016 at 2:54 pm

      Perhaps a more ongoing level of noise? A lunchtime protest or something with at least 50 people outside city hall every week: “Just Do Your Jobs Already Brown Bag Tuesdays” needs a better title.

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. August 30, 2016 at 3:20 pm

        I would support and help organize a standing weekly “safer streets” lunchtime protest.

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  • Emily August 30, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    And there was another car v pedestrian crash this morning – on the young man’s first day of High School. No wonder I am terrified to have my children cross Lombard on their way home from school.

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  • endo August 30, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    We need to ban killing machines and TAKE OUR STREETS BACK.

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  • Redhippie August 30, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    What is the injury/death rate per mile ridden in NYC, PDX and Copenhagen (1 death per 2.7 million miles). I would just like to look beyond the hysterics and get some perspective on how bad/good it is.

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    • Ted Timmons (Contributor) August 30, 2016 at 2:12 pm

      KSI rate per mile implies zero isn’t the goal. It also appears to get safer if miles driven goes up.

      Somehow we’re okay with “hysterics” when it comes to shark bites, airplane crashes, and stranger danger.

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    • soren August 30, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      Those statistics don’t exist for Portland.
      However, Copenhagen averages around the same number of fatalities per year with a ~6 times higher population-adjusted mode share.

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      • paikiala August 30, 2016 at 2:48 pm

        they can be determined.
        2012 5.3 per 100k population; 3.2 fatals per billion vmt

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        • soren August 30, 2016 at 3:10 pm

          We are discussing cycling miles, not vmt.

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    • paikiala August 30, 2016 at 2:43 pm

      The alternative international standard is fatal crashes per 100,000 population. It can’t be skewed by driving more miles and since it doesn’t consider mode of travel, is more inclusive.
      From the OECD for 2014/2015:

      US 10.2
      Canada 5.2
      UK, Sweden, Norway 2.9
      Spain 3.6
      France 5.3

      map on page 19, table on page 24:

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    • Spiffy August 30, 2016 at 2:56 pm

      no statistics needed… if it wasn’t you or somebody you loved then it’s good out there… if it was a loved one then it’s bad out there…

      how long do you want to play the odds? I’m done playing and I want this sick game to stop…

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  • Sameer M. August 30, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    I’m from Hillsboro and I’ve been tracking the shift2bikes calendar looking for a critical mass style ride lately. The situation on the roads in the entire Portland metro area has deteriorated to an alarming level which has motivated suburbanites like myself to come out in solidarity with other vulnerable road-users.

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  • mikeybikey August 30, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    i think its time that advocates come together and focus on a clear goal: a legal mandate that says X traffic volume + Y speed limit = Z infrastructure for walking and rolling. Until we have something that sinks some serious legal teeth into PBOT & ODOT, we’ll continue to see changes coming too late and at the expense of someones life. It would also address the current unsustainable advocacy cycle that requires too much time spent in committees that produce results that are severely compromised (see 20s bikeway). Its time to legalize safe streets.

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  • SD August 30, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    Instead of a critical mass of bicycles there should be a critical mass of cars and freight that go to the commissioners neighborhoods and turn their streets into an 82nd or a Hwy 26 or a N Columbia.

    Over years of reading the comments of the commissioners and the mayor, I have become convinced that on a fundamental level they don’t see certain parts of Portland as “real” neighborhoods” and they have no idea what it is like to live, walk, bike and raise children in these areas.

    A lot of Portlanders live places that are thoroughfares for others. Those people deserve the same level of safety that living in the West hills, or a SW suburb affords.

    It is hypocritical to travel to conferences and tout the achievements of Portland that have come from roots up; bikes, sustainability, a viable urban core and then come back to Portland and stifle those very same things.

    The majority of our current elected officials see urban Portland as a place that they drive through.

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  • Kyle Banerjee August 31, 2016 at 6:10 am

    In your face CM type events might get the base fired up, but those sort of provocative tactics encourage fight or flight reactions rather than any kind of reflective contemplation that takes things forward.

    This is the group equivalent of cyclists who constantly flip birds at those who displease them — all it does is contribute to the image of cyclists about being an unreasonable fringe group. Cycling infrastructure and respect did not come because of CM style tactics, but in spite of it. If you want things to move forward, you need dialog and building on areas of common interest.

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  • Champs August 31, 2016 at 7:15 am

    Bike Lives Matter?

    As a cycling person of color, I have to say there are bigger injustices out there taking radical action but getting no traction. Why should it work any better for people on bikes? If it does, I have some ideas.

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