Catie Gould and Emily Guise are co-editors of our Adventures in Activism column.
It’s a scenario familiar to anyone biking in a city: you’re riding down the bike lane, when suddenly you’re forced to brake and swerve around an unforeseen obstacle blocking your way. At best, this is annoying; at worst, it is deadly.
Reporting these issues can be extremely frustrating. In Portland, there is no way to send a photo to the Parking Enforcement number, and callers rarely know if a ticket was ever issued. Reports to the 823-SAFE hotline can take months to be reviewed and disappear into a database that is not publicly accessible. This leads people to resort to social media, which raises only temporary awareness.
A new website aims to fill the gap. Since Bike Lane Uprising launched in September 2017, it has received over 2200 bike lane obstructions reports. Christina Whitehouse, an industrial designer in Chicago, has been surprised by how quickly it has taken off. The site allows people to submit incidents of bike lane infractions which are posted online and entered into a database and mapped. As more people contribute, Whitehouse can create heatmaps to identify conflict zones, trends, and notify businesses that are repeat offenders.
Whitehouse started the site as a passion project. She was frustrated with the official channels to report bike lane violations after her own close call.
In June of 2016 she found herself almost caught underneath the wheels of a commercial truck that turned into the bike lane. Unscathed but mad, she tried reporting the incident to the truck company and to the City of Chicago, but couldn’t connect her story to someone who cared. Just two weeks later Whitehouse read about another rider who was fatally struck in similar circumstances: Virginia Murray, a woman the same age, also riding a Divvy bike share bike, was hit by a turning flatbed truck driver. She was the first person in the U.S. to die while using bike share.
Advocates in Washington, DC began using the site in March, then Nashville joined in April. The website got a flurry of press in late July after Whitehouse met with the Chicago’s Department of Finance, which receives nearly $264 million in parking tickets each year.
According to a tweet from @bikelaneuprise in August, membership had doubled within a month. Now the website lists twenty-eight cities with contributors. The most recent map available, updated July 31, showed Portland as the first West Coast city to have submissions.
To become a contributor, set up a profile and start reporting your violations (we still recommend calling Portland Parking Enforcement at 503-823-5195 or the non-emergency Police line at 503-823-3333). All reports show up on the global map which is updated monthly. Once registered, you can report issues in any city on the map. Currently, there are only four cities with their own local maps, but more are under development for other cities once they gain enough usage.
Whitehouse isn’t involved with any bike advocacy groups, but is happy that this information can help other organizations who are pushing for change, either by showing information to city officials or educating badly behaving companies. The work is currently funded by donations and supported by volunteers. Whitehouse is already working on the next version of the site, which will have a more user friendly submission process with improvements for both mobile and desktop.
Calling all Portlanders: Next time you see a bike lane obstruction, you know what to do!
— Catie Gould (@Citizen_Cate) and Emily Guise (@Eguise): Read more in their Adventures in Activism column.
Never miss a story. Sign-up for the daily BP Headlines email.
BikePortland needs your support.
“In Portland, there is no way to send a photo to the Parking Enforcement number”
Here’s how you do it:
Go to https://pdxreporter.org/ (you’ll need to create a portlandoregon.gov login if you don’t already have one)
Choose the “Illegal Parking” section.
Select your location.
Upload a photo.
Type a message (note the Required Information section ).
In my experience this has exactly zero effect.
it’s really hilarious that people upvoted this comment.
This is good. Especially now since I’m pretty sure that PDX Reports (?) app is gone. I would still love to have a direct app for Parking Enforcement where you could send a photo and location.
They moved it to the web: https://pdxreporter.org/
I still have the app on my phone but I’m not sure how much it’s supported so I use the web version now.
Huh. The last time I tried to use the app I ran into a mess of dead-end links and no indication that there was a web app. Have you ever just wanted to edit city webpages? 😀
I found out about this site on Twitter a couple months ago and became the first rider to enter in some Portland violations on my way back from downtown Sunday Parkways. I was hoping it would start getting some traction in town and get picked up here at BP.
Aaaaah! Neither their website nor their profile setup seems to be live. One never loads, the other took my information but clicking “go” does nothing. Seems to be a button linked to nothing – no error, but no action. And I’d so love to report.
Use their contact form (or email) to let them know. They’ve been very responsive when I’ve had issues.
It all works on my phone, but nada on my work PC. Unfair! I’m on break and being a good girl!
Check your spam folder. That’s where my approval email went.
I’ve set up a link on my phone’s home page. Many of the responses are quick, typically work zone pedestrian access issues but I haven’t had many of the parking issues addressed. In your account you can see everything that you’ve submitted and their status.
Yes, I’ve had very good responses when reporting work zone concerns. And as you say the parking violations are often not addressed. I’ve reported daily violators that are still parking illegally years later. They won’t usually respond unless it’s a serious driver safety issue or if several people report it. The best response is to violations in the downtown core. The worst responses are further east of the core. Sometimes I wait to call it into non-emergency (503-823-3333) after parking enforcement is closed so that they’ll dispatch a regular cop if they’re in the area.
The reminders about how to report violations to the city are good. Social media still has a place, especially for violations by company employees. I used Twitter & YouTube to get the attention of UPS and FedEx.
I often ride in the big bike lane on SW 3rd. I was often having to swerve around delivery trucks blocking the lane between Oak & Stark (Scientology). After a UPS driver hassled me for asking him to “Please don’t block the bike lane”, I posted the video and tweeted it to UPS. That was last November. I haven’t seen a delivery truck park there since. Of course, I also received a truck load of online abuse.
Thank you for filming, posting, and above all else, remaining calm and making intelligent responses to the vitriol of online hate. That bitter hatred is the reason I use a comment blocker addon (‘Shut Up’ for Firefox). Of course the blocker is deactivated on friendly sites like BP.
Holtz, congratulations on getting the UPS drivers to not park in that bike lane.
From what you wrote in response to the comments on your video over on youtube, youtube’s algorithm ranks the more commented videos higher. Not knowing about that, I have started to disable comments on helmet cam videos I post to youtube. I got tired of responding to the incorrect comments, deleting the useless or idiotic comments, and getting, as you put it, a truck load of online abuse.
Now I’m wondering if I should keep comments disabled on my future youtube videos. Holtz, do you think it was posting the video plus all the comments that got UPS to change their drivers’ behavior? Or was just posting the video and contacting UPS enough?
Bravo to this new reporting site, I will participate but I remain unconvinced that it will make much of a difference. Our society seems to be sliding down the hill toward lawlessness. More and more people feel free to break societal norms, minor laws and common courtesy in pursuit of greed, convenience and self centeredness. Unless they feel threatened by swift and immediate justice or financial penalties they seen to do whatever benefits their own perceived narrow interests. Perhaps this is a reaction to less law enforcement, perhaps it is generational or political change, or just the empire sliding down hill in to oblivion but it is certainly a real and troubling trend.
At risk of being flamed here… Sometimes things need to get blocked for a little bit, and you can just go around, and the world will continue to spin.
Like in the very top picture with the moving truck. How often do you think somebody needs a moving truck right there? Once every, I dunno, five years? For an afternoon maybe? Less? Just go around it.
Yes, there are dangerous examples that are worthy of reporting, I know that. But chill out, ya snowflakes.
The point of the app is to identify problem areas / users. In your example, if a violation occurs at a spot or by a user once in five years, then it still should get reported. It would simply get lost in the noise. However, what if you find out that this is a great place for moving trucks to park and literally everyone in that block and adjacent blocks does this. The app would be able to id this sort of problem and differentiate between your example situation and one which is more of a running problem.
How often do you think a cyclist rides on Ankeny? That truck is completely blocking one entire marked direction of bicycle flow. You think it’s no big deal for the cyclist to go at least 3 blocks to get around that? Or that the cyclist should go head-on into the other bike path to get through?
My thought is that they should have applied for the permit to place No Parking signs in front of their house so they’d have somewhere to unload the truck.
It’s a big city and every little thing you do impacts a lot of people. So when you do something illegal, no matter how small, it negatively effects a lot of people. It’s a pain to report so people just curse under their breath and move along.
Today somebody parked illegally close to the intersection by my house (like they do every day) and due to the poor visibility it caused to somebody pulling out of the side street this little woman got yelled at by a big man in a big truck for pulling out in front of him. The person that parked their car illegally never know these things happen.
So a moving truck parked blocking a major bike route in a big city for several hours might not seem like a big deal to you, but I guarantee there were a lot of people upset that it was there.
Three block detour? You’ve got to be kidding me. Never is the flow of bike traffic so heavy on Ankeny that you would need to wait more than 15″ to roll through that gap.
The “little things you do” angle…. Only true if you are out there searching for things to be outraged by, which is pretty much the definition of being a snowflake. And no way to live at all.
Are you equating noticing or reporting a problem with being outraged? If I report a pothole, or a streetlight out, or a broken bench in the park, am I being outraged? Or simply pointing out a problem?
I’ve reported problems that seemed minor, and that later, unfixed, resulted in deaths. Obviously most problems that people report are not life-threatening, but on the other hand, small infractions can result in large consequences. And many rules are created because the ruler makers correctly did not want people to make their own determinations as to what the risks to others are of their behaviors.
Apparently SilkySlim didn’t read the linked article about the woman killed in NYC riding a bike. To paraphrase your elegant phrasing, “Sometimes things … get blocked for a little bit [by an illegally parked cab that suddenly pulls out through the bike lane], and [she] can just go around, and [her] world will [not] continue to spin.”
The “little things you do” angle you belittle — and the “little thing” the cab did — worked out well for her, eh?
The worst part? “The livery cabdriver was not ticketed, even though the police said he had been parked illegally in front of a bus stop and pulled out into the bike lane.”
I guess the cops figured it was such a “little thing,” not worth worrying about. But at least you’re not outraged. Enjoy your zen.
Did anyone ask the truck driver to move to a different location?
I would have preferred to have a conversation, but no one was there. I waited for a few minutes but no one came outside.
Cool. Thanks. I think most people seem to have a reaction and get in High Dudgeon even before attempting a conversation.
I’m glad you mentioned that, because that’s often the best approach. On the other hand….Saturday a business, that should have got a street use permit but didn’t, blocked our dead-end street with trucks for construction, then parked a 60′ approx. truck facing the wrong direction and blocking a private driveway and parking. I told them it was blocking it. They said it was “fine” and left it for hours. Monday I got an email from the business who was doing the construction demanding that I cease entering their construction site (I was on a public street) because I was creating safety problems.
The City of Portland issues permits for construction closures but they don’t manage them unless someone complains. Construction zones tend to grow over time. If they have a permit to block half the street, soon they’ll be taking the whole thing. It’s fine, right?
The funny thing about this is that if we were talking about blocking a “car” lane instead of a bike lane the response would be that the person blocking the car lane deserves to be run over because they’re in the way and cars. But talk about blocking the bike lane and it’s “chill out, ya snowflakes”? Right.
I say chill out AND feel free to block the car lane. Embrace the chaos.
The funny thing about this is that everyone is assuming the worst. Perhaps a simple conversation could have resolved the issue.
I have yet to have a productive conversation with an Uber/Lyft driver parked in the bike lane. I use a polite tone, but they remain convinced that since it’s “just for a few minutes” that it’s no problem at all. Oh, and they don’t move. I will assume the worst from these losers from now on.
I’ve had a couple of in-person interactions with Portland Police concerning people parking in bike lanes where where they don’t want to do anything about it because they think it’s parking enforcement’s job.
I understand why the city would want to delegate enforcement responsibilities for efficiency’s sake or available personnel restrictions. But the police seemed genuinely unaware that parking in a bike lane is a violation of the Oregon vehicle code.
It’s not just a local ordinance violation. Parking in a bike lane is explicitly forbidden in ORS 811.555, which is a class D traffic violation.
So when Portland parking enforcement shows up are they writing a ticket for ORS 811.555 or for the local Portland ordinance 16.20.130?
Also of note, the fine for the local ordinance violation 16.20.130 is $85.
The presumptive fine for the ORS 811.555 violation is $110. $60 minimum $250 maximum for individuals and $500 maximum for corporations.
Because it’s a violation of the vehicle code, the police are free to go right over there and write a citation just as if they made a stop for speeding or running a stop sign.
My cynical nature tells me, however, that they don’t want to do that because they get no institutional credit for wring a parking citation. If you want to shine and get noticed and promoted as a police officer, you make arrests.
And there is no opportunity to arrest anyone by writing a bike lane parking citation. You don’t get to weasel anyone’s ID out of them and run them for warrants and put them in cuffs and get that big pat on the back. There’s nothing in writing that citation that helps them personally with their careers, so they aren’t interested in doing it.
Maybe they’ll rethink their attitude if people don’t vote for their salary because they’re seen as unhelpful and uncaring and they’re laid off.
So we would have fewer traffic police. I don’t see the benefit.
In this context then what would be the benefit of having more?
Are you referring a world where the only traffic violations are bike lane blockages? In that world, yes, there would be no point to more traffic police who do nothing about that.
My guess is that patrol officers do this all the time, so it’s no big deal.
A good friend’s relative worked at parking enforcement in Eugene when we had a car abandoned in a bike lane. Worse still, it was at the bottom of a curvey hill right next to where the police fuel up and traffic moves at over 45 mph. Parking enforcement and the police argued over who was responsible for getting it towed away for over a month!
Obviously, they didn’t work out how to handle future cases because the next year another abandoned vehicle was parked blocking a different bike lane for over two weeks. Eventually, the owner moved it across the street to a slightly less illegal place, but never did bring the out-of-state tags up to date.
I may be wrong, but if city staff were forbidden from arriving at work in cars, I think some of these issues would be higher priorities.
Portland city employees arrive at work on bikes in numbers that would surprise you. If only other workplaces could match them!
Complaints about derelict vehicles do get a response here. You may have seen a dusty car with a green sticker on the window. You don’t see as many cars with actual lichen growth as you used to. Expired plates? That’s a double whammy and raises the odds that you will never see that car again.
Construction blocking streets? Complaint driven. Movers parking in the bike lane? Complaint driven. You may not always get results but if you don’t call it in, it’s a case of multiplication by zero.
I’m sure these drivers would stop doing this if they came back a few times and found that one of their tires went flat while they were parked. People park in bike lanes because it saves time. The behavior will stop if that incentive is removed.
Mirrors are designed to break off when they need to. Paddded gloves mean no bruises even. It sends a message that maybe somebody didn’t like having to swerve into death traffic.
This is an especially effective tactic for uber taxis, as the drivers are using their own vehicles more often than being a part of a corporate fleet.
Please don’t condone the use of bladed weapons on car or truck tires. Especially freight truck tires like in the lede picture which are inflated to much higher pressures than passenger car tires and explode violently when pierced, sending shrapnel and your bladed weapon right back into your leg.
I never mentioned blades.
One feature of pneumatic tires shared by cars and bicycles is that they can be deflated through the valve. One major difference is that while many cyclists carry a pump with them in case of a flat, most motorists do not. The simple inconvenience of needing to reinflate a tire could be quite an effective deterrent of parking illegally. It can also make moving the vehicle more difficult..
The old “Break the law to punish someone for breaking the law, and keep the bike lane blocked longer while you’re at it” approach?
Stop with the suggestions of doing stuff to cars. The player who hits back is often the one who draws the foul.
It’s an enforceable legal violation to touch another person’s car which is of course ironic because if they ran over you, the sun was in their eyes. Sure it’s tempting but cars are oddly sacred. It’s the only sellable thing some people own, and they get pissed if you touch it. There are better ways to do this. Take a picture and then figure out what to do with the picture.
Has anyone else had the pleasure to experience the closed bikelane on NE Couch between Grand and MLK? This is the westbound approach to the Burnside Bridge, a major bike connection. There is usually quite a lot of bike, car and bus traffic here, so it’s a particularly dangerous place to drop the lane for one block.
It appears to be a permitted closure, and they even took the effort to stripe markings on the road, so the closure may be there for some time. I called the city and requested a call back with the name of the person who approved the permit so that I can ask them about it, but guess what? No call, even after five days.
How do we address permitted bike lane obstructions that are especially dangerous? Before you call me out for being a wussy snowflake, SilkySlim, I know how to merge, but often the lanes are packed solid, so it’s very difficult to get over.
Sounds about right.
How about the westbound bike access on Ankeny between MLK and 3rd? When construction started, they closed the westbound lane to cars, but kept a very narrow bike lane open, and the road closed sign had “an except bicycles” sign on it. Well the sign permitting bikes is still there, but any safe space reserved for bikes was almost immediately encroached on with construction equipment and there fence continues to creep ever southward. I suspect that maintaining bike access is part of their street closure permit, but I do not know how to verify this or who to report this to.
This one frustrates me too. I was riding there the day they were setting up and like no way they can be allowed to do this, there’s no advance notice. Now that I know, I get in the green box if the light is red, but if it’s not, that’s a dangerous merge with so many cars during rush. Very disappointing someone would approve this.
I don’t see this as a benefit only for those who bike. For instance, if Portland gets a map that shows regular blockages at a location, maybe that means a couple parking spaces should be replaced with loading zones, maybe a couple bollards need to go up to keep people from parking in a particular place, etc.
That’s certainly how I hope this data is used. With the exception of Ride Report, I have yet to see a startup like this garner any of the city’s attention. I remain stubbornly hopeful.
I was instructed by a parking enforcement officer in the hollywood area that when calling in on the parking enforcement line, to clearly state the vehicle is blocking the travel lane which moves it up on the priority list. just a FYI.
I’d bet “blocking the train tracks” would be even higher priority.
Ironically, I reported a business to ODOT Rail because it was regularly parking, loading, etc. not actually on the rails but so close a train engineer had to stop, get out, and walk along the track closing car doors that had been left open too close to pass by. ODOT Rail had one inspector who was great. But the supervisor told me they would take no more action unless there was an incident that caused damage to the train, and she also told me that from the photos I sent, it appeared that I was standing on rail property, and could be cited for a serious trespassing violation. She also asked me what concern was it of mine unless I was being physically endangered myself.I know this isn’t involving parking or PBOT, and I agree with you that rail blocking is likely to get a response, but my experience was so bizarre it will stick with me when I consider reporting things involving train tracks, at least.
what if parking enforcement became part of the “gig economy” I could make a ton of money on my commute – ticket, ticket, ticket. I’d never get home – I get a cut and the city gets way more money in their coffers. I think it could work.
I think you have to be an officer to write a violation, no?
I like the idea, but I can see individuals using that power as a vindictive thing. I have several neighbors I am not fond of and would happily write them up for leaving their cars on the street for weeks at a time, using them as storage. But then I’d probably be called all sorts of names by the local progressives and that I was acting on implicit biases – even though a violation is a violation.
Ooh, that would be nice. I have a neighbor who we have asked multiple times to stop illegally parking on the corner because our son can’t see around their vehicle when trying to bike to school. He moved his SUV one time, and then went right back to parking there even though there is ample room to park further down the road.
On second thought, maybe it’s time to rat him out to the Sheriff.
I live by a Mexican bakery on Vancouver and there are cars parked in the bike lane dozens of times a day. I could generate so much money for the city.
However, I have NO faith in our law enforcement anymore but to be fair if they were consistently ticketing the visitors of a Mexican bakery they’d probably be accused of racism.
As for your neighbor…it’s almost a shame you have asked them to move because a little anonymous vigilantism might be just what they need.
Thats old time Thinking MORG. With modern technology the violations could be initiated electronically via registered smart devise by a gigger and backed up with time stamped photos and gps location data, then an officer back in the Parking Justice Command Center could verify the infraction, added by A.I.to speed things up, and write the final ticket ( electronically of course) which would be emailed ( or mailed) to the owner of the offending vehicle. Then when the ticket is paid the citizen traffic monitor would receive their payment via cripto currency. There would be no worry of people playing favorites because the coverage would be so complete that all violators would be caught and punished nearly instantly by the legions of citizen traffic monitors earning a good living by making our city run smoothly.
I’d take that one step further and allow citizen monitors to report motor vehicles running stop signs, traffic lights, red lights flashing on school buses, right turns on red where its not allowed, and so on. Helmet cam footage would have to be provided. Tickets from the Command Center go to the registered vehicle owner. Registered vehicle owner pays, regardless of whether they were the driver that day. Registered vehicle owner can then take the actual driver to small claims court to recover the fine and get the points (are there points in Oregon?) transferred to the actual driver.
If the registered vehicle owner doesn’t pay the automated fines? Then they would expect to find their car booted or towed one day when they least expect it.
Another advantage: once in a while, a traffic stop results in a police officer shooting a civilian. By partially automating handling traffic violations, there’s less opportunity for police shootings.
“Fewer civilians shot” should be a sufficient reason to implement something like this.
As I’m more cynical than usual today, money is the reason stuff happens, or doesn’t. So saving money from fewer lawsuits from police shootings, less police overtime from protests over police shootings, would be a big selling point for this idea.
“allow citizen monitors to report motor vehicles running stop signs, traffic lights, red lights flashing on school buses, right turns on red where its not allowed, and so on”
there *IS* a law on the books that specifically allows citizens to file traffic citations. however, because we live in a car-centric society this law is essentially treated as a joke (kinda like Oregon’s VRU law).
Good article about what must be done about cars, or else:
That pretty much sums it up. If humans are to persist on the planet the automobile must die.
This is awesome!
Meanwhile, I’ve had good luck getting responses by calling City Hall. When Saltzman was PBOT commissioner, I called his staff a couple of times and pretty quickly got calls back from PBOT staff. I did this rarely, and only for the most serious on-going problems. But it worked (kind of). Have not yet tried it with Eudaly (sp?)
Is that the El Torito at Stafford and Vancouver? There’s a silver Honda Accord that is a repeat offender there. I noted a broken driver’s side mirror recently 🙂
Indeed it is El Torito.
The shop owners are lovely – it’s the customers who are terrible parkers.
Don’t get me going on the delivery trucks 🙂
If there is ever a car parked in the bike lane with nobody in it, just remove the valve core and then put it back in. It takes seconds and it’s not illegal. Cars with flat tires are towed.