Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on July 28th, 2017 at 1:46 pm
This is the first attempt at new thing I’ll be doing on Fridays: A look back into the BikePortland archives to see where we’ve been and how we have — or haven’t — changed.
It’s no coincidence that this also happens to be the 12th birthday of BikePortland. On this date in 2005 I bought the domain name, plugged in a free WordPress theme, and never looked back.
Actually, I have looked back. A few times. Luckily I never gave in to the temptation to give up. It hasn’t been easy surviving this long. But I’m very glad to still be here. I love this job more than ever and I’m committed to making this thing a true success once and for all (I’ll save what I mean by “true success” for another day). I think being around so long (relatively-speaking, for a blogger) gives me a greater appreciation for the value of longevity both to me personally and to the community-at-large. There’s a history of this place and its relationship to cycling that lives inside my head and on these pages. I hold a lot of different threads and I relish every opportunity to weave them together and try to expand the scope of understanding and provide historical context for our current decisions.
Which brings me to the “Flashback Friday” idea.
With 21,700 Front Page stories published so far, the BikePortland archives are like a real-time account of biking in this city since April 2005 (which is when I started doing the “Bike Fun” blog on OregonLive.com and before I transferred all those posts to BikePortland.org). It’s probably safe to say that I care about these archives more than anyone else on earth. They’re full of past friends and acquaintances, heartache and hope, fun and frustration.
So let’s dive into this first edition. What were we talking about in July 2007?
Portland used to have a swagger about its biking future
“Some of the things that we want to do will come right up against policies that will – in one way or another – tell us we can’t do it.”
— Roger Geller, PBOT Bike Coordinator on July 5th, 2007
We had a PBOT commissioner named Sam Adams who wasn’t shy about making bikes a priority (Adams would go on to become Mayor, only to leave town after one term following a scandal that knee-capped his tenure). On July 5th 2007 we covered a roundtable hosted by Congressman Earl Blumenauer where Adams was bullish on Portland’s biking future.
PBOT was working on an update to the bike master plan and Adams talked a big game.
“I think that you’re going to see an adoption of our version of world-best practices,” he said. “Everything from separated bicycle paths to much more aggressive bicycle boulevards.” Adams said the bike plan update would give him and other local leaders, “an effective mandate” to increase bike infrastructure funding. “In 2-3 years,” he said confidently, “we are going to be doing things no one imagined we could do.”
But someone else in that room put a bit of a damper on that optimism. It was PBOT Bike Coordinator Roger Geller (who still holds the position today). He too talked about following the example of the Dutch and said Adams’ focus on biking meant PBOT could adopt a “no more crumbs approach.” But ever the realist, Geller warned, “There are federal standards barriers, regional funding barriers, and local barriers in terms of our policies. Some of the things that we want to do will come right up against policies that will – in one way or another – tell us we can’t do it.”
Two things we still struggle with: 82nd Avenue and bike theft
One thing we didn’t do 10 years ago and are still struggling to do today is make 82nd Avenue safe for humans. We highlighted Commissioner Adams’ efforts to make it better but offered this massive understatement: “The bad news is they have a large task ahead of them.”
Speaking of large tasks for us to tackle. One July 10th 2007 I reported that bike theft in Portland was on the rise and that it showed no signs of going away any time soon. Unfortunately that turned out to be true. Interestingly, 10 years later the Portland Police Bureau is just now starting to use the RFID technology we mentioned back then in their latest efforts to catch thieves.
Best bikeways, bike share, Bogota and clowns on Alberta
And guess what riders voted as the best bikeways in Portland 10 years ago? The couplet of North Vancouver and Williams avenues. That was based on a survey taken by Geller at a bike master plan update steering committee meeting.
While we worked on a new bike plan (it was eventually adopted in February 2009), we were still neophytes when it came to open streets events and bike share.
When I started to share news that PBOT was considering an open streets event for Portland, I shared comments and encouragement from a former parks commissioner of Bogota Colombia, the city that started the “ciclovia” movement and ultimately inspired us to launch Sunday Parkways one year later in June 2008.
And 10 years ago this week bike share was just a glint in Portland’s eye. Another bold bike idea from Commissioner Adams’ office. In a post titled, PDOT, Paris, and the potential for bike-sharing in Portland I was a bit skeptical in response to one of Adams’ policy staffers. My concern? “Would easy access to a bike,” I wrote, “make up for the fact that many Portlanders simply don’t feel safe on our downtown bike lanes and other routes?”
The final item in this week’s Flashback takes us to the Alberta neighborhood. It was before Last Thursday went carfree and it was the last time the colorful merrymakers that lived at the infamous Alberta Clown House would work their magic on appreciative crowds. And in case you’re wondering, Dingo the Clown is still going strong. He’s got a clowning partner named Olive and they’re a hot item at parties and events throughout the city.
I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Hopefully they broaden your perspective on issues and storylines we still follow today. Stay tuned for next week when I’ll share more nuggets from the past (and I promise the post will be shorter).
And thanks for reading — for all these years.