Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on November 18th, 2016 at 3:19 pm
10 days after the election, as Trump and his cast of characters take the reins of power in Washington, I’m still having a hard time focusing on cycling news and policy. As I’m sure some of you are too.
I oscillate between thinking I should work even harder here on BikePortland and thinking I should add my voice and energy to other groups who need help resisting what look like ominous times ahead. Then there’s the stress, frustration and disappointment that make it hard to focus on anything at all.
But don’t get me wrong. I’m not looking for sympathy. In fact, I’ve come to the realization that I’m lucky.
If you have the privilege of being unafraid, you have the responsiblity to do fearless work.
I’m a white, cis, middle-class male. I have relatively very little to fear compared to people without all my privileges. That thought led me to share something on Twitter the other day that seems to have struck a chord with a lot of people (one woman even created a work of art from it!): If you have the privilege of being unafraid, you have the responsiblity to do fearless work.
I’ve been trying to live up to my own words and translate them into the type of work that I know best: community journalism and transportation activism.
When it comes to bike advocacy, I can’t help but see parallels to what’s going on nationally. The people in our community that bike advocates (in general) have been criticized for not listening to and welcoming into the tent — people of color, people with lower incomes, women — are the ones likely to be hurt the most by the Trump administration’s actions and policies. In fact, it’s already happening. There’s also the idea that an echo-chamber from the urban-oriented establishment media and power class failed to connect to people beyond the city limits. That criticism of the Democratic party reminds me of the equity debate in transportation circles where the central city and its activists dominate most policy and project conversations and those beyond 82nd Avenue struggle to have their voices heard.
We need to use our (relative) strength in a way that lifts other people up so they can battle what lies ahead — whether that means the strength of our relationships and existing activism infrastructure and/or the power of cycling itself.
In addition to individuals, we also need to be aware how this election impacts agencies and institutions. And then be ready to support them when needed.
The other day I heard from a Portland Bureau of Transportation staffer who expressed anxiety about how the election will impact their work. Let’s be clear: Cycling is a minority road user group in America and the places and politicians that support it are generally on the left of the political spectrum. As much as we like to think cycling is bipartisan (and it is, to some extent), with the strong shift to the right on Capitol Hill and in the White House, a different transportation worldview will trickle down to state departments of transportation — one where funding for bike-friendly infrastructure and policies that support non-motorized transportation will get knocked down several notches.
The PBOT staffer I talked with the other day is already worried their momentum will be significantly slowed down in the coming years. With our state DOT already a massive impediment to sensible transportation reform, “PBOT needs the community’s support now more than ever,” they said.
Cycling makes places and people stronger and Portland has a dedicated community that cares about it deeply.
How can we best use our relative strength and our passion for cycling to help the broader community stay resilient to the potential changes ahead? I would love to hear your thoughts.
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – firstname.lastname@example.org