Volunteer activism is alive and well in Portland.
“We felt that there were some voices being silenced… so we wanted to come up with some actions we could do to raise awareness and make a difference.”
— Andrea Brown, Friends of Safer Lincoln
On Wednesday night, a group of concerned volunteers set up a table on Southeast Lincoln at 34th and encouraged passersby to sign postcards urging Portland City Council to make the street less appealing for impatient auto users. So far they’ve sent 200 to City Hall and they’ve also printed up yard signs that will be popping up along the route shortly.
Calling themselves Friends of Safer Lincoln, the organizers of the event were spurred into action after the debate around the Lincoln-Harrison Neighborhood Greenway Enhancement project devolved into a hostile takeover of a key open house by angry neighbors.
One side of the debate wants the street to have as little access for auto users as possible and be a truly “low-stress” place for cycling and walking. Others fear loss of convenience and worry that the Portland Bureau of Transportation is going too far.
Andrea Brown is a nearby resident who started the Friends group. She connected with others in support of the greenway plans after posting messages about it online. “This is a pretty informal group formed out of frustration,” she shared with me via email yesterday. Brown said the now infamous PBOT open house was a wake-up call. “Friends of Safer Lincoln is a group of people from Richmond and Mt. Tabor who were alarmed by the opposition to the greenway project,” she wrote. “We felt that there were some voices being silenced, especially in Mt. Tabor, where people were kicked off of NextDoor and made to feel unwelcome, so we wanted to come up with some actions we could do to raise awareness and make a difference.”
Another local resident, Betsy Reese, was also out on the street Wednesday night. She’s been involved with transportation activism in the past and thinks what has happened with this project on Lincoln has set precedent — both good and bad — for future greenway projects.
On the bad side:
“It’s wrong for the City to imply they are taking a kind of ‘vote’ from those who show up to neighborhood association meetings and open houses (be those votes cast on paper ballots, by raised hands, applause-meter, loudest yelling, or passive-aggressive meeting take-overs). This can — and has — devolved into out-of-control contentious meetings where not everyone is heard. It hinders projects, making them more drawn-out and expensive, and is hurtful to neighborhood relationships. It is destroying community, which during this time of rapid growth in Portland, we should be doing everything we can to preserve and build.”
And on the good side:
“The real story here is that a group of diverse concerned citizens who are not BikeLoud PDX or any kind of organized group, came together to fight to be heard after being drowned out and pushed aside by opponents at open houses. The response along the greenway has been really incredible. This is significant not just for Lincoln-Harrison-Ladd, but the future of all greenways in Portland.
We do have popular support for our politicians and public employees to to make their final decisions consistent with City transportation priorities, national standards, Vision Zero guidelines, and/or other principled fact-based solutions designed by experts to address global issues.”
On Wednesday night, people on bikes and on foot stopped at a small table to fill out postcards and talk about the project. According to Brown, they had a lot to say: “I almost got hit just now,” “It’d be great to get some of these cars off this street,” and “I ride on this from Gresham to downtown Portland every day, and would welcome these changes,” were some of the comments she heard.
“I hope this will alert others in the cycling community to stop and sign a postcard, sign up for a yard sign, attend any neighborhood meetings they can,” added Brown.
Speaking of which, PBOT will present the latest changes to this project at the Richmond Neighborhood Association monthly meeting this Monday, February 12th, 7:00 pm at Waverley Church (3300 SE Woodward St.).
Let’s hope this meeting is more sane than the last one.
Never miss a story. Sign-up for the daily BP Headlines email.
BikePortland needs your support.