Tour de Lab September 1st

Protestors will stage “die-in” at ODOT headquarters today

Posted by on March 13th, 2019 at 11:40 am

Scene from a die-in event in 2015.
(Photo: Michael Andersen/BikePortland)

Less than 24 hours after hearing dozens of people share concerns about the Oregon Department of Transportation’s priorities and poor safety record, their Region 1 Director Rian Windsheimer might get yet another reminder when he leaves work this afternoon.

Volunteers with Bike Loud PDX plan to stage a “die-in” and vigil for traffic victims starting at 4:30 pm today in front of the agency’s headquarters on 123 Northwest Flanders Street (event listing here). The event aims to draw attention to deaths on ODOT-controlled roads by drawing chalk-outlined bodies on the ground.

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Deaths on Oregon roads were up 9.4 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year. 467 people died last year and so far this year that number is up by 8 percent. “This ongoing tragedy too often flies under the radar,” reads a statement about the event. “The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) needs to make immediate policy changes to halt this ongoing epidemic.”

After giving brief presentations, people will “die” by laying on the ground while someone reads the names of recent victims. There will be 10 minutes of silence to recognize them and then someone will read a list of safety demands. Those demands include: adopting a statewide Vision Zero policy, the transfer of Lombard, 82nd, Barbur, Powell, and other ODOT roads to City of Portland’s jurisdiction, the requirement of side-guards on trucks, more traffic law enforcement, and more spending on “basic safety improvements.”

There will also be a large poster with the demands that will be signed by participants and delivered to ODOT’s Windsheimer.

This group held a similar event in 2015.

After the event there will be a group ride to the Lombard Multimodal Safety Project Open House. Check the Facebook event page to get involved and hear about the latest updates.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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32 Comments
  • Avatar
    Middle of the Road Guy March 13, 2019 at 2:01 pm

    Are “die-ins” ever really effective? I mean really, why not have the courage of one’s convictions?

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      9watts March 13, 2019 at 9:56 pm

      Are comments that throw cold water on people actually doing something ever really effective?
      I mean really, why not just post derisive things on a blog instead?

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        Middle of the Road Guy March 14, 2019 at 6:26 pm

        What are they actually accomplishing, though?

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          9watts March 14, 2019 at 6:33 pm

          I am not sure that is an answerable question, nor a fair one.

          What does voting accomplish? or running? or posting on blogs?

          Sometimes the act accomplishes many things even though it may be hard to know for sure, and that may still not satisfy you.

          What did Gandhi’s March to The Sea accomplish? or Sitting at Lunch Counters? Or Protesting Police Violence in 2019? Or having a Black President?

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      q March 13, 2019 at 10:03 pm

      What do you mean by “why not have the courage of one’s convictions?”?

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        donttreadonme March 14, 2019 at 9:05 am

        He would rather see people kill themselves than protest injustice, and he’s using doublespeak to get past moderators.

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    • Avatar
      Daniel Amoni March 14, 2019 at 9:40 am

      MOTRG,
      I’m not sure what effects you are looking at, but the die-in was effective in bringing me, my thirteen year old daughter, her friend, and a few dozen transportation safety advocates together for an event that builds community (effect), memorializes victims of traffic fatalities (effect), and brings attention (effect) to much needed work on the part of ODOT to keep people safe.

      Please come and participate in some transportation safety events, meet some people, learn what effects the event are having, and, then, when you see ways to improve events you will better understand how to express effective criticism.

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      • Avatar
        Middle of the Road Guy March 14, 2019 at 6:27 pm

        How many minds did you really change, though?

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    Ted Buehler March 13, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    Die-ins have a long history of putting numbers and faces to the hundreds or thousands of people that otherwise get quietly noted in the back pages of the newspaper.

    Since there are lots of factors affecting road safety, it’s not possible to know how much individual events or movements have contributed to saving lives. Or not saving lives. But it’s pretty solid political theory that if you make yourself seen, make yourself heard, and make problems get counted, that your issue will be responded to.

    Come and join!

    Ted Buehler
    Co-Chair, BikeLoudPDX

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    • Avatar
      Middle of the Road Guy March 13, 2019 at 5:57 pm

      Ted, I can honestly say that in my 50 years of life, a die-in has never influenced me towards the side of the die-ees.

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        Ivan Boothe March 13, 2019 at 7:25 pm

        Die-ins have been a regular part of nonviolent activism for a good half-century now. There have been die-ins in the antiwar, environmental, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ, and other movements.

        Of course, there will always be people, like you, who are not swayed by nonviolent demonstrations. Nonetheless, the theory of all nonviolent actions and particularly civil disobedience is that it will move people who are already leaning in one’s direction to start taking action; move people who are neutral to lean in one’s direction; and move people who are leaning against one into a neutral position. That there will be folks who are diametrically opposed and are unswayed by one’s actions is irrelevant unless they (and they alone) constitute a majority of decisionmakers and/or public.

        There’s lots of writing on this, here are a few examples:

        http://activehistory.ca/2015/06/the-die-in/

        https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/transformation/silence-death-sarah-schulman-on-act-up-forgotten-resistance-to-aids-crisis/

        https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/thai-villagers-protest-pak-mun-dam-1991-2001

        https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/environmentalists-achieve-ban-fracking-new-york-united-states-2012-2014

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        • Avatar
          Middle of the Road Guy March 14, 2019 at 6:28 pm

          You don’t think a die-in is a bit of a histrionic action to a public hearing on better utilizing existing infrastructure?

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      • Avatar
        David Hampsten March 13, 2019 at 8:58 pm

        At any rate, you aren’t the target of the die-in. It’s the engineers and designers at ODOT who need to be influenced, and they are, as engineers often are, very sensitive people.

        I think it’s kinda clever, actually.

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        • Avatar
          David Hampsten March 13, 2019 at 9:01 pm

          I’ll have to suggest it to the bike/walk advocates here in NC. NCDOT headquarters is conveniently located in front of a large grassy plaza in Raleigh, very comfortable to die-in, unless it rains.

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          q March 13, 2019 at 10:09 pm

          I’d say that’s the direct target, but it goes beyond that. They’re an event, and one with some dramatic visual impact, making it (I’d guess) more likely to get media attention. So while few people may see it directly, many more (beyond the engineers and designers) will see it covered in the media, which may spur others to testify/protest/etc.

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          Another Engineer March 14, 2019 at 1:44 pm

          Influence also needs to be put on political figures and the legislature. Transportation engineering is unique because it is highly political and unless you change the political conversation then progressive agency staff will always be fighting an uphill battle to get minor standards changes or project level changes. Advocates often get frustrated with the slow rate of change at the agency level but if the political headwinds on the ground change the agency would follow.

          As I always say, jurisdictionally transfer the orphan freeways to PBOT and the agency with more progressive consituents do the design and operations.

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      • Avatar
        9watts March 14, 2019 at 6:14 pm

        MotRG,
        I’ll take you at your word, you don’t fine die-ins persuasive.
        I lament the fact that PBOT (and most everyone else) has drained the original political inspiration of Sunday Parkways to the point where it is simply a party-in-the-street.

        Most commenters here don’t appear to agree with either of those positions.

        But I would still like to hear your responses to some of the folks earnest questions of you in this thread.

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    Ted Buehler March 13, 2019 at 2:10 pm

    A few background articles, for those not familiar with the concept of a Die-In

    Die-Ins are credited with being a key element to reversing the onslaught of car culture in The Netherlands in the 1970s.

    http://activehistory.ca/2015/06/the-die-in/

    https://ejatlas.org/conflict/stop-de-kindermoord-stop-the-child-murder-protest-for-children-deaths-caused-by-motor-vehicles
    See photo #4 in the slide show

    https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/how-the-dutch-got-their-cycling-infrastructure/

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      Ivan Boothe March 13, 2019 at 7:27 pm

      Sorry for duplicating your link above! That’s a great primer on the technique though.

      Thanks so much, Ted, for organizing BikeLoudPDX for this!

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    Ron Swaren March 13, 2019 at 3:14 pm

    Why not try a die-in on I-5? Maybe it would help.

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      9watts March 13, 2019 at 9:57 pm

      You should organize that. Sounds like a great idea to me.

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    J.E. March 13, 2019 at 4:58 pm

    You know, rather than dissing someone else’s attempt to make positive change in the world, you could take that negative energy and channel it toward organizing an event you think would do better to shift the needle.

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      Middle of the Road Guy March 13, 2019 at 5:58 pm

      I could – or I could point out that what they are doing doesn’t have much of an impact and that their energies could be better spent elsewhere. So it’s a win-win.

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        q March 13, 2019 at 9:49 pm

        What would those other approaches be?

        How do you know it doesn’t have much of an impact, other than on yourself?

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        9watts March 13, 2019 at 9:59 pm

        “So it’s a win-win.”

        Unless you respond to q’s astute questions I don’t see a single win, much less a double win.
        All I see is smoke. Oh, and a mirror.

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          Middle of the Road Guy March 14, 2019 at 6:32 pm

          Oh, I feel better – so there’s one win for you.

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    9watts March 13, 2019 at 10:05 pm

    I do wonder what happened to ODOT’s weird no Vision Zero for us, thank you metric of Fatality Free Days? It didn’t look very good back then and the optics have only gotten worse, whereas in places that did adopt Vision Zero, and put some muscle behind it, things are looking up.
    Hm.

    https://bikeportland.org/2015/07/31/across-oregon-traffic-fatalities-abruptly-return-almost-to-pre-recession-levels-154524

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty March 13, 2019 at 11:31 pm

      Actually, if ODOT has quietly abandoned Fatality Free Days maybe someone could think of a clever way of bringing it back to help hammer home the point at a future protest.

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    X March 13, 2019 at 10:14 pm

    Middle of the Road Guy:
    . . .I could point out that what they are doing doesn’t have much of an impact and that their energies could be better spent elsewhere. So it’s a win-win.

    (not)

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    bikeninja March 14, 2019 at 11:39 am

    Lets not beat up on M.O.R.G too much, this” protests are ineffective “meme was created long ago by the forces of neoliberal capitalism to keep the working class in-line. The power of the labor unions, the wobblies and the 60’s anti-war movement scared the leaders of corporations, banking, and the military industrial complex and they carefully put in place a culture of ” real americans suck it up and don’t protest”. This is spread by conservative radio and television and big time sports. Thus the working class (especially in the red states) has been kept quiet while their jobs were off-shored and wages were depressed. Disparaging those that do protest as ineffective, spoiled or un-american is a common part of this trope. Many people have been immersed in this mind-set and don’t eve realize it.

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      Middle of the Road Guy March 14, 2019 at 6:31 pm

      Many people are extremists and don’t realize it, either.

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        Ivan Boothe March 14, 2019 at 7:05 pm

        Indeed, one could even go so far as to say there are extremist centrists. These individuals prioritize order and “civility” above all else — rocking the boat, regardless of the demand, causes these folks to clutch their pearls in repeated acts of concern-trolling. Extremist centrists tend to be, naturally, already benefiting from the status quo, and thus don’t see much point in changing it.

        Have you met anyone like that?

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