BikePortland supporter and contributor Kiel Johnson (owner of the Go By Bike valet) has been working to create more support for a neighborhood greenway on 7th Avenue as part of PBOT’s Lloyd-to-Woodlawn project. This is his latest post in a series.
You don’t need to change the world to make a difference.
That’s what I’ve learned from these past few months of hunkering down on my advocacy for a NE 7th Avenue neighborhood greenway. If built as proposed, the project would transform 7th — from I-84 to Woodlawn — into a street where safety of all users is the priority.
I feel a little more at home on my street and it is a little better already — even without a greenway.
When we last left off, my wife and I had just finished hosting an ice cream social to talk with our neighbors about the project. We knocked on every door from Thompson to Alberta, talking to anyone who opened the door and trying our hardest to make everyone feel welcome to attend, regardless of their position on the project. Over 50 people showed up.
But I was disappointed. My neighbors who’ve expressed serious concerns about this project to PBOT, didn’t attend. So I went out to have a conversation with them.
I got in touch with Ronnie Herndon, the leader of Albina Head Start who was quoted in a Skanner News article, saying he is, “watching the project like a hawk.” From our meeting I learned that Mr. Herndon is a pretty great guy. His life has been one of fighting for racial and economic justice for our community. Ronnie has a picture of Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X shaking hands hanging over his desk.
We chatted in his office at the Albina Head Start on NE 7th and Fremont for a hour. (My dad had worked in Head Start in Seattle in the 1990s and Ronnie told me they’d probably met at some point.) We found we agreed about everything except this project. At the very end we both explained our position on the greenway. He is concerned that it will be another impediment for people accessing his services. I acknowledge that it will make it harder for people to drive, but in my opinion the tradeoff in safety is worth it. We listened to each other and I left feeling like I had met someone who I would like to aspire to.
One thing Ronnie told me was that, when you advocate for something, make the process of advocating help accomplish your goal. With this in mind I began thinking about what to do next.
I want the street I live on to be a place that has identity and is interesting to be on. How could my advocacy help create that?
Seven years ago I made a friend from Couchsurfing who lives in (and is from) Mexico. We see each other a couple times a year and have travelled together in Seattle, San Fransisco, Copenhagen, and Sweden. She is a tactical urbanist in her city of La Paz in Southern Baja. She suggested that I make custom yard signs and decorate them. I went to SCRAP, spent $10 on used yard signs, made some stencils, and spray painted a few signs. I then put a free yard sign pile outside our house and encouraged people to take one. I also encouraged people to customize their sign as well.
All the signs are unique in some way with different characters and colors, which makes for something interesting to look at. In my opinion they help make the street stand out more and help give it some identity. It has also helped to unite the many people who are concerned about the current state of safety on 7th. There are over 20 signs out there today. If you get a chance in the next week come walk up and down NE 7th and experience what it is like and see if you can find all the signs.
I signed up to testify to City Council this morning about the project and deliver the petition that was started by some of my neighbors. If you’d like to help me get it over the 1,000 mark it would be much appreciated!
No matter what Mayor Wheeler and our commissioners say at City Hall today I feel a little more at home on my street and it is a little better already — even without a greenway. And for me, that makes this all worth it. Stay tuned for what comes next.
— Kiel Johnson @go_by_bike on Twitter
Never miss a story. Sign-up for the daily BP Headlines email.
BikePortland needs your support.