Guest Opinion: Losing the 7th Avenue greenway

Posted by on March 21st, 2019 at 9:51 am

This post from Kiel Johnson comes in response to news announced today that the Portland Bureau of Transportation has decided to route the Lloyd to Woodlawn Neighborhood Greenway on 9th Avenue.

“9th Avenue will become the greenway.”

The words put finality on years of advocacy, countless hours spent knocking on doors, talking with neighbors, making yard signs, and writing letters. This past Sunday my living room was overflowing with my fellow neighbors and their children who live on 7th. They had come hoping to hear something different. Nick Falbo, the PBOT project manager, had come to deliver to news. A member of one family immediately walked out the door. No one knew quite what to do next.

Right now in Portland it feels like the push for a more livable city has been losing a lot.

Sometimes you get the outcome you want and sometimes you do not. The dream of a calm street outside our door where our children could safely go outside had come to represent something more than just an infrastructure project. It was a symbol of a changing neighborhood. “We aren’t against change, just not so fast” one of my African American neighbors said at a forum I attended where every African American person present resoundingly rejected a 7th ave Greenway.

There are two major African American organizations located on 7th, Albina Head Start and Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives. Both formed before I was born with the goal of helping right some of our society’s injustices. Neither of these groups saw how making 7th ave a greenway would help the people they serve.

In December my first daughter was born and I decided I was going to do everything I could to make the Greenway on 7th happen. I want her to grow up on a safe street where she would have the freedom to go outside. I wrote about some of my efforts in a series published on BikePortland this past fall.

Since hearing the news that the Greenway is not coming I have felt the entire rainbow of negative emotions. Anger, sadness, despair at a broken city process, and a looming sense that the world is inherently ruined. Losing is always hard and it is even harder to think that my daughter will miss the chance to grow up on a safer street when we had the designs and money all in place to make it happen.

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Right now in Portland it feels like the push for a more livable city has been losing a lot.

50 people showed up at an Ice Cream Social event we organized in September.

Whether it is the $500 million to widen a freeway or the well-worn 4-year-old plastic wands on the Better Naito pilot project that represent our cities lack of urgency to invest in real fixes. After watching the video Jonathan made of the I-84 path this week it is easy to wonder what is going on here. Why can we not solve these problems?

Part of it has to do with political leadership, part of it with the fraying and ineffectiveness of our advocacy institutions, and also a generational power struggle. We do not get to make our own history as we like, we have to make it in the reality inherited to us by past generations.

This past year I turned 32, over the past ten years I have started a nationwide push for getting kids to bike to school on bike trains and created a new business model that combines bike valet with bicycle repair that has helped make the aerial tram the most biked to place in North America. I have successfully advocated for better bike lanes on Willamette Blvd and have tried to be a useful part of the conversation on as many other projects in Portland as I can.

We may not get the greenway we wanted but we can still make a better community. And in the end that’s what this is all about.

For every win I can count many more disappointments. Just because you lose sometimes does not mean you give up or were wrong for trying. Losing never feels good but there are certainly worse reasons to lose besides my city prioritizing the requests of community groups that have historically not been listened to which is something we need to do.

At the end of our meeting my neighbors and I made a plan to host a series of block parties on 7th every Sunday this summer. One thing I heard from everyone is that there is a feeling of a lack of connectedness among neighbors. We also agreed to meet this Sunday to go on a neighborhood bus ride to experience the expanded 24 bus that crosses 7th and now goes over the Fremont Bridge to NW.

We may not get the greenway we wanted but we can still make a better community. And in the end that’s what this is all about.

— Kiel Johnson, @go_by_bike on Twitter

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101 Comments
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    Matthew March 21, 2019 at 10:08 am

    What is it, do you suppose, that pre-disposes our african american neighbors towards rejecting cycling infrastructure?

    Why would an african american resident on this street be opposed to a safer community? Why do local african american organizations work to defeat these things? The VAST majority of the cycling community in this town is far-left and virtue signal their love for diversity and inclusion constantly. Why do you suppose this isn’t working?

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    • Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
      Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike) March 21, 2019 at 11:02 am

      Those are some great questions and something the bicycle advocacy community needs to keep trying to figure out.

      Some of the things that I heard is that there is a big distrust of anything to do with city planning and the city coming in to change a neighborhood. Everyone that I talked to likes more people riding their bikes even if they don’t see themselves doing it. There are a lot of security issues with riding a bike and bikes getting stolen. I’d love to see more city investment in adding biketown stations in areas that have a lot of non white residents.

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        Matthew March 21, 2019 at 11:10 am

        I look at the “journalism” in our local alt-weeklies and see a whole lot of race-baiting and attempts to radicalize our communities. Perhaps we ought to begin pushing back against some of these folks. Alex Zielinski, Blair Stenvick and Katie Shepherd are three such people that come to mind. Their reporting on race issues in this city is designed to inflame and obfuscate the complexities and nuance of the situation.

        I really do not know how to navigate these waters. But I am tired of being pushed around.

        BTW; I didn’t mean to target you specifically for this failure in my comment below. Thank you for all your efforts. The city owes you a debt of gratitude.

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          GM March 22, 2019 at 2:33 pm

          Specifically with respect to Katie Shepherd, I’m very appreciative of the work she’s been doing at WW to keep the cops and the city honest, and I’m as white as the driven snow. Performing journalism’s function in a free society is hardly “race baiting.”

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        Middle of the Road Guy March 21, 2019 at 1:18 pm

        Maybe they get tired and cynical of educated white folks telling them what is best for them.

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          Matthew March 21, 2019 at 1:41 pm

          We need to stop thinking that our needs are fundamentally different based upon the color of our skin. I can’t think of any reason why being black or white or purple would have any effect on your need to access safe and affordable transportation. We are stuck in this insanely ethno-tribal way of looking at the world. This is the road to bigotry and hatred, and progressives seem to be paving it themselves.

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            Flareon March 21, 2019 at 2:10 pm

            I mean the US govt has done a ton of damage to black communities everywhere and there are still tons of problems that need to be solved. Our prison system is a hold over from slavery, highways have decimated housing, poor access to education, racist policing tactics, etc. Is lack of parking okay a community center one of them? Apparently so.

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              Matthew March 22, 2019 at 11:59 am

              All of these things have happened to generations past, and of course they have left some scars that linger. I do also believe however that there are legitimate issues to be had with some of the discrimination claims being made in modern times. We seem intent on picking the scabs of racial injustice instead of letting these wounds heal. In this town especially I see a concerted effort to keep these wounds alive- and using rhetoric and especially emotional appeals that are at best deceptive. I especially see this in the reporting on race issues in our alt-weeklies.

              Even though, fundamentally what you say about past injustice is true, it does not contradict my statement about our needs being the same regardless of race or ethnicity. If we are designing policy to suit the endless permutations of our differences, we end up with a society that will not work.

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            Flareon March 21, 2019 at 2:19 pm

            And honestly if this opposition is rooted in mistrust in PBOT, then that’s totally fair. They’ve shown time and time again to not have any clue what they are doing. My main issue here is when special interest groups or neighborhood associations claim to represent an entire community. They rarely do. My neighborhood association doesn’t represent me, and I personally disagree with other groups that claim to represent my interests based on whatever groups I fall into. I understand compromises need to be made but greenways are already a compromise solution that still technically favor cars over bikes so I don’t understand the need to constantly make them worse than they need to be.

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      Jillian Detweiler March 21, 2019 at 11:52 am

      Folks might be interested to read The Skanner’s coverage: https://www.theskanner.com/news/northwest/28264-pbot-unveils-northeast-greenway-plan

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        Flareon March 21, 2019 at 12:37 pm

        I honestly don’t understand your talking points in this article. PBOT is not limiting access to the street for people of color. Diverters are designed to limit through traffic, yes, but there is absolutely nothing stopping people from driving on the street to their destination. Can someone please explain the issue here? I suspect had the greenway gone on 7th, no one would be praising PBOT for listening and engaging in the community, even though it would have been the exact same amount of outreach.

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          Flareon March 21, 2019 at 1:05 pm

          I’d expect better from a former bicycle advocacy organization but perhaps I shouldn’t. Weaseling words to fit your narrative is a poor tactic and it’s the kind of thing I usually hear from more sinister organizations. Words matter and can be manipulated to fit your narrative. “Limiting access for people of color” sounds really bad, right? That’s not what’s happening here at all. I wish people would be more honest about things but it’s 2019 and the age of social media outrage appears to have flat out killed honest reporting.

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          Paul Cone March 22, 2019 at 8:31 am

          That’s not what she said, but the phrasing is a bit clumsy. She said “limit automobile access”, but through the eyes of a black community member, who is less like to be on a bike, they interpret as white bike people coming in and changing their world again.

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      • Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
        Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike) March 21, 2019 at 12:43 pm

        Yeah, the “limiting access” is an unfortunate use of words and feeds into the perception that diverters prevent anyone with a car from accessing the street. Language like this makes it harder to use this tool in the future. Diverters do not limit access they direct it.

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          paikiala March 22, 2019 at 4:10 pm

          Diverters limit cut-through access and can alter local access. Some interpret a ‘change’ as a ‘limit’.

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          Matt S. March 22, 2019 at 5:01 pm

          Prior to diverters, an individual had access to drive the entire length of the street. Post diverters, an individual has limited access to drive the length of the street. Pretty simple to me.

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          • Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
            Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike) March 25, 2019 at 12:49 pm

            Okay then say it limits your access to drive the entire street in a straight line.

            Saying it limits access makes it sound like if you have a car you won’t be able to get to some of the places on the street which is not true.

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        mh March 22, 2019 at 3:43 pm

        “It will feel like a different street,” Falbo said of Northeast 7th. “It will feel less like an arterial street and more like a neighborhood street. We want people to drive a little bit differently. We want people to bike differently.”

        Nick, explain to me how making almost no changes to 7th will make it less like an arterial. Diversion was going to make it less of an arterial, and PBOT knows they work. Where is the infrastructure that will lead to people driving or biking a bit differently? Taking out the traffic circles – the one I’m painfully familiar with is at Tillamook – will change some behaviors and cyclists won’t go the wrong way. Not sure what will change drivers’ behavior.

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          maxD March 22, 2019 at 6:23 pm

          Ha! I think Nick is buying into his own BS a little bit!

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      SD March 21, 2019 at 12:49 pm

      We should be careful in making the assumption that there is truly a difference. Opposition to changes in road configurations comes up in almost all projects in all areas of the metro area.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 21, 2019 at 1:47 pm

      A lot of reasons Matthew. Some of them are the same reasons a lot of Americans reject cycling infrastructure. But there are added reasons for black people in these inner neighborhoods that go way beyond that — It’s long and complicated. A big part of it is the symbolism. The bicycle and the majority demographic who rides them (young and white) are equated with change. It doesn’t help that every new condo and apartment building has bike symbols and imagery all over them!

      I think if we built world-class bike infrastructure it would change things. Until then, the demographic that bikes in Portland will stay the same and thus the symbolism will remain, and the opposition will remain.

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        Flareon March 21, 2019 at 1:51 pm

        The true irony here is that the Rose Quarter highway widening is set to make the neighborhood even less livable and drop more cars onto local streets, yet we can’t even get a half-assed bikeway put in that would actually give people more options.

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          xfs March 21, 2019 at 5:30 pm

          Agree. I’m sad & confused.

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        Matthew March 21, 2019 at 2:25 pm

        I agree it has a lot to do with the emotionally laden symbolism. But I don’t think providing positive encouragement to indulge in these emotional flights of fancy is going to get us anywhere but Balkanized.

        One thing is for sure; the importance of building respectful and honest interpersonal relationships with those who disagree with you has never been greater.

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      ag March 21, 2019 at 2:58 pm

      There’s a lot of work that’s been done on this very subject: “Bicycle/Race,” by Adonia Lugo, “White Lanes are Bike Lanes,” by Melody Hoffman, and a number of articles and podcasts about bicycle infrastructure and equity.

      I don’t want to speak for other people, or for those authors, but a common thread seems to be the link between bicycle infrastructure and the onset of gentrification and removal and/or destruction of the current community.

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    Chris Smith (Contributor) March 21, 2019 at 10:17 am

    Keil, thank you for all your advocacy on this and your deep commitment to improving our community.

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    • Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
      Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike) March 21, 2019 at 11:03 am

      I’ll knock on doors if you sit in all the meetings 🙂

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        mh March 22, 2019 at 3:45 pm

        Chris specifically, or any/all of us?

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    Daniel Amoni March 21, 2019 at 10:27 am

    Kiel, your work and attitude are an inspiration! I’m glad to hear someone reminding us what it is all about.

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      Matthew March 21, 2019 at 10:57 am

      Is this really “what’s its all about”? I was under the impression that this was a cycling blog, dedicated to promoting cycling related solutions to our cities transportation issues.

      I get that Kiel wants to salvage something positive from this failure, but this was still a failure, and it has and will emboldened the forces that work against the goals of cycling advocates city-wide.

      In this environment of pervasive far-left identity politics, where Portlanders compete to signal their virtue and opposition to everything middle-class and perceived “white”, this defeat comes as no surprise. Now our opponents know the formula for defeating our goals; claim cycling is emblematic of white privilege, enrage the minority community about all the “white yuppies” coming to oppress them, and sit back to watch the inevitable crumbling of the opposition. After all; what can we do? It’s a no-win situation. We can’t call out the hypocrisy of these groups keeping their neighborhoods unsafe and their property values low. The label “white” is just to scary.

      The starry-eyed idealists in our midsts think that if we just give a little more, genuflect and say just the right things, that these activists will come on board and see the sense in our plans and the good intentions in our hearts. I think they are naive. Face it; this project was a failure because you folded to a bully. And every man knows that a bully isn’t going to stop because you appeased him.

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      • Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
        Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike) March 21, 2019 at 11:38 am

        I am not for appeasing any bullys. I think we need to continue to show the value that can be had by taking space from our communities for cars and giving it to people. Everyone who works and uses Head Start drives a car. How would this project help them? I’d love to see the city give some money to these organizations to buy bikes for their employees and families (it would be a lot cheaper then the staff time that went into this). Only 7% of people in this city ride a bike while 70% drive. Those masses of people driving see us as the bullys.

        In a democracy as big as the united states identity politics are always going to be part of the process. One of the reason I am so passionate about building cities for people is that I think it helps us see past these identities. Trust me I’m as frustrated by this outcome as you are and I would also call it a failure. But we failed and now we need to figure out how to do better next time and not just complain that things are unfair on the internet.

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          Flareon March 21, 2019 at 12:41 pm

          Honestly, I use the same argument as I do for any other bike project: streets are not just for the people living in the neighborhood, but a public good for literally anyone to use. No one owns the street in front of their house or business. Surely if Head Start was the only issue, they could have been some sort of accommodation rather than just killing the entire project outright.

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          Paul Cone March 22, 2019 at 8:36 am

          Just FYI, my wife teaches at PPS Head Start at Sacajawea in Cully, and she rode her bike to work today.

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        GM March 22, 2019 at 2:39 pm

        “We can’t call out the hypocrisy of these groups keeping their neighborhoods unsafe and their property values low.”

        The attitude you display here is probably a big reason why the black community is skeptical. They’ve been hearing it for a real long time.

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        Ivan Boothe March 23, 2019 at 9:00 pm

        Matthew, you wrote:

        “Now our opponents know the formula for defeating our goals; claim cycling is emblematic of white privilege, enrage the minority community about all the ‘white yuppies’ coming to oppress them, and sit back to watch the inevitable crumbling of the opposition.”

        You may have not intended it this way, but this is a pretty classic method of delegitimizing the concerns of people of color and community of color. There’s no way they could be *really* against the project if they knew the *facts*. So they must be getting brainwashed by some shady opposition.

        This removes all agency from the people who spoke against 7th Ave. It’s literally what white racists did in the 1950s and 60s (claiming that civil rights was just manipulation by secret communists) and what military interventionists do now (claiming that people of color who are leading countries are inherently less intelligent than benevolent Western rulers/developers would be). Again, that may not have been your intention, but that style of dismissal of arguments is going to be very familiar to folks who have been experiencing it all their lives.

        Personally, I think 7th Ave would have been the better choice

        But acting like any disagreement is the cause of shifty “race baiters” who are misleading a large part of the people *who live right there in the neighborhood* will only confirm the worst fears of those who opposed the project — that supporters weren’t listening to them, because they thought they didn’t have real concerns.

        Let’s take a step back and listen to what people had to say, and trust that they were acting in what they believed was the best interest of their community.

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    Sigma March 21, 2019 at 11:20 am

    50 people attended the ice cream social; the 33 shown in the photo all appear to be young and white.

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    • Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
      Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike) March 21, 2019 at 11:27 am

      I knocked on every door from Alberta to Thompson and talked with everyone who answered the door. I even made a special effort to invite Head Start and IPRC (called multiple times and dropped off flyers multiple times) but in the end I cannot force anyone to come.

      It was mainly young and white people but there were some African American neighbors who showed up, I wish I had done a better job taking photos of the event but I was busy organizing, talking to people, and handing out ice cream. This is the reason why I think it is useful to have paid advocacy organizations doing these things instead of relying on a volunteer (who is a white guy).

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    Greg Sutliff March 21, 2019 at 11:37 am

    The history of white men leveraging their privilege to shape public policy to protect the “safety” of their white children and increase their property values is long and disgusting.

    It’s particularly disgusting when such individuals are absolutely convinced that the people of color who disagree with them are just utterly confused about what’s in their own best interest.

    PBOT’s decision to actually both listen to the historically marginalized members of the community AND actually make a policy decision that reflects the input that they received is something to be celebrated as a small but meaningful exception to the rule of white supremacy. If this is something that causes you to throw a temper tantrum and walk out of a meeting in anger, then you are part of the problem.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 21, 2019 at 11:58 am

      Hi Greg,

      I followed this project closely and have watched this issue unfold around PBOT for many years now. I also know Kiel Johnson pretty well. I think you make important points about white privilege, but I don’t think you get the part about Kiel exactly right.

      The way I see it (with caveats that I’m another white privileged male) is that Kiel is genuinely concerned about the future of his kid. This isn’t about property values for him. He’s not that kind of guy. He’s actually very invested in transportation issues and has spent much of his life advocating for safer streets and a healthier city (including starting an org for school “bike trains”, his bike valet business, and many other projects around town).

      And you are jumping to some incorrect assumptions when you say Kiel is “absolutely convinced people of color who disagree with them are just utterly confused.” That’s you talking, not him. He has never said or done anything that should lead a person to believe that.

      Kiel isn’t afraid to fight for what he believes in. And he went door-to-door and talked to a lot of ppl in the n’hood — including black people (even met privately with Ron Herndon) — to share his views and to hear their views. Yes he disagrees with Herndon and others, but you are absolutely incorrect in your characterization of his attitude about them.

      And given the context, I wouldn’t call it a “temper tantrum” when he (or I think it was actually his partner) walked out of the room upon hearing the news. To me that was a reaction to being very disappointed and frustrated and letdown by what was heard.

      I do not think Kiel and his family are part of the problem. They — and we — are all part of this problem. It’s messy and complicated and many of us are struggling to find a way through it. I think a little more understanding of the details of how this decision was made and compassion for everyone involved would help the problem far more than unfounded criticisms like yours.

      Thanks for the comment.

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        Cooper Williams March 21, 2019 at 12:44 pm

        Greg never mentions Kiel in his comment. I think he is talking more generally about white people and the way that they have mistreated black people throughout history.

        It would be nice if bikeportland could do a follow-up story on the perspective of a black person in the neighborhood and see how the mostly white audience of readers decide to comment.

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          Middle of the Road Guy March 21, 2019 at 1:20 pm

          Now that is a great idea.

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          Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 21, 2019 at 1:25 pm

          Yes I’d love to publish something like that. Thanks for the feedback.

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            xfs March 21, 2019 at 5:22 pm

            Yes, please. I can’t understand the argument against 7th, and I’m super frustrated by the #discourse

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              billyjo March 22, 2019 at 10:17 am

              As someone who lived in the neighborhood for over a decade……

              There is not a good way in or out. You can use MLK that takes forever, or you can go down a neighborhood street where kids are playing basketball in the street.

              We almost always defaulted to 7th because it lined up with a light on Broadway.

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        Gadfly March 21, 2019 at 1:22 pm

        Your facility with the word Black > Reflexively editing himself to the outmoded African-American. This was the biggest sticking point for me reading the article. I think you’re right that he is far from guilty of soft bigotry. It had my antennae up, but he focuses largely on his own feelings throughout, in an honest and open way.

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        Greg Sutliff March 21, 2019 at 1:29 pm

        Thanks for your comments, Jonathan.

        I don’t doubt that Kiel is genuinely concerned about the safety of his kid and that this is the factor that has been driving his position on this issue. The fact that someone has a genuine, non-racist, concern about something does not excuse them from failing to consider the actual meaning and impacts of their actions. And it does not mean that their actions will not have the effect of perpetuating injustice. When a concern for the safety of your child drives you to wholeheartedly advocate for policies that people of color overwhelmingly oppose, you are in-effect saying that your concern for your child should take priority over the concerns of an entire community of historically marginalized people—that this is a problem should be obvious.

        I don’t think that I’m “jumping to some incorrect assumptions” in saying that Kiel is convinced that people of color who disagree with him are just confused. Kiel explicitly acknowledges in this piece that the black community was overwhelmingly opposed to the 7th avenue greenway. Since he clearly believes that the 7th avenue greenway was in the community’s best interest and strongly believes that PBOT made the wrong decision here, then it pretty straightforwardly follows that he believes that the black community does not understand what is in their best interest.

        Regarding Kiel’s walking out of the room (your other article published today indicates that it was Kiel):

        Temper tantrums are almost always “a reaction to being very disappointed and frustrated and letdown” by something—whether it’s not getting a cookie or not getting your way. Being an adult means appreciating the fact that your opinions are not the only ones that matter and that you might sometimes be wrong about something. Abruptly walking out of the meeting as soon as the decision was announced shows that he did not care to stay to listen to any sort of larger conversation about the decision—implying that whatever opinions others might have do not matter to him.

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          Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 21, 2019 at 1:51 pm

          Thanks for the reply Greg. I was just trying to give you a better sense of who Kiel is. I absolutely understand that his intentions do not make up the entire picture and that he can still be blind to the impact his action have on others — even with good intentions.

          I probably shouldn’t have tried to defend Kiel. He is capable of doing that himself. Thanks.

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    • Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
      Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike) March 21, 2019 at 12:30 pm

      I wouldn’t say they walked out of the room in anger more disappointment. All the families in the room were really hopeful that this would dramatically improve their lives. I do not fault them for feeling that way or for feeling disappointed.

      It would be interesting to see if there is a difference between propoerty values of houses on 7th vs 8th or 9th but my guess is not really.

      I have advocated for safer streets everywhere I can in Portland. It can be pretty awkward knocking on doors for houses when you don’t live in that neighborhood. “yeah I’m a guy that wants to make it harder to drive on your street but I don’t live here or really use your street all that much but I think it would be cool.”

      I’m all for moving away for relying on only local neighbor support or lack of support to influence a project but until that happens we need to use all the tools we can to tell a compelling narative for why these improvements are a good idea. I think this might solve some of your disgust.

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      MB Lewis March 21, 2019 at 4:48 pm

      Greg is spot on. Where Mr. Johnson and his neighbors fail is in the stark reality that they—a group of white people—made a decision on what is best for the black community. By his own words here in this blog post, Mr. Johnson perpetuates that sentimentality with comments about how he doesn’t understand why the black community doesn’t recognize that a greenway on NE 7th is in their best interest. “Neither [Albina Head Start or Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives] saw how making 7th ave a greenway would help the people they serve.” This is a clear statement that, as Greg said, he is “absolutely convinced” that the black community is confused about what’s best for them.

      In point of fact, the black community does understand. They understand that a government institution, at the behest of a cadre of white folk newly transplanted into what should still be a predominantly black neighborhood if not for gentrification, declared that they intended to make sweeping changes to the neighborhood infrastructure that they deemed was in the “best interest” of the black community without taking into account what the black community actually thinks. They understand the history of whites making blanket decisions that dramatically affect black communities “for their own good.” They understand that whites have consistently devalued black culture, black voices, and black bodies for generations—to the point that distrust for whites and white government institutions is deeply ingrained into their very culture, like a vein of ore slumbering deep inside a mountain.

      Black folk, as well as other POC communities, aren’t stupid. They know who they are, they know their own history, and they know what’s in their own best interest. They don’t need a band of “well-intentioned” white people storming into POC communities, destroying POC owned businesses in favor of yoga studios and overpriced grocery stores, and driving up housing cost to the point of pushing POC out of their homes. Mr. Johnson and the NE 7th supporters have apparently all been so expertly indoctrinated into a white supremacist culture that they don’t even recognize their own fatal flaw—assuming that POC aren’t savvy enough to shape the future of their own communities. It’s misguided, it’s insulting, and as Greg succinctly put it: it’s disgusting.

      If Mr. Johnson really was concerned about the good of the neighborhood more than his own self-interest, he would have done what PBOT did: admit he may have made a mistake, seek out black community leaders for their insight, engage the black community at large to actually understand their concerns, and then be part of crafting a solution that improves neighborhood safety and livability without the expense of further gentrifying and displacing black lives and culture.

      Congratulations, Mr. Johnson. With this “failure,” you now have the tiniest sliver of understanding of what it’s like being a POC in America. Use that knowledge wisely.

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        Paul Cone March 22, 2019 at 8:42 am

        As long as we keep letting everyone do what they think is in their own best interest, instead of everyone’s best interest, we’re doomed to failure.

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          Maddy March 22, 2019 at 2:03 pm

          And who should be the great decider of what is in everyone’s best interest?

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            Paul Cone March 22, 2019 at 2:08 pm

            Everyone. You know, democracy.

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              Glenn the 2nd March 26, 2019 at 10:23 pm

              Democracy favors the majority. If you want to help minorities you have to do better than democracy.

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            Chris I March 22, 2019 at 3:03 pm

            The people we elect to lead the city, and those they hire to run and work in the various agencies.

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              Maddy March 22, 2019 at 6:00 pm

              Which is exactly what just happened, right?

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              SERider March 25, 2019 at 9:40 am

              If Portland had a true, region-based, representative local government, you might have a better point.

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        Maddy March 22, 2019 at 11:15 am

        MB Lewis, thanks so much for this comment.

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        Matthew March 22, 2019 at 2:19 pm

        The fundamental flaw here is that there is any right o any neighborhood staying majority minority. It’s as invalid (and frankly as bigoted) as saying that neighborhoods should stay majority white. All of these problems stem from the uncritical acceptance that gentrification is a valid concern. I don’t think it is at all. We all have the right to I’ve wherever we darned well please if we can meet market requirements to do so. Period.

        I get it- this seems like a radical position- but it’s one based upon the foundations of liberalism itself.

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          Matthew March 22, 2019 at 3:13 pm

          Ugh I really need to start reviewing before posting. Hard to do sometimes on an iPhone while the fly.
          Should read; “we have the right to live wherever we darned well please…”

          Much of the problems we seem to be having do seem to stem from the uncritical acceptance of some tenants of leftist dogma; gentrification, implicit bias, white fragility, etc. this is entirely why the resistance to these heuristics is so critically important. I fear the future that we may bring otherwise- a Balkanized society full of conflicting groups of people that lack any unifying philosophy. It is a society where morality is determined by the emotional reactions to color of your skin and your position on the oppression scale rather than in the strength of your argument and any objective account of greater good. This would become a society full of distrust and conflict, one where the wisdom of public planners is thwarted by special interest groups that deny the need for unity in thier quest for power.

          There is a lot that needs rethinking.

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            Ivan Boothe March 23, 2019 at 9:09 pm

            “I fear the future that we may bring otherwise- a Balkanized society full of conflicting groups of people that lack any unifying philosophy.”

            That you don’t realize that this country has always been thus, Matthew, is part of the problem. What changed is that for a long time *white people* had a unifying philosophy, and now some white folks are trying to become better educated and respect the agency and wisdom of people who have lived in communities and faced oppression their whole lives.

            You do have the right to live wherever you please, regardless of how it impacts others’ lives. Nonetheless “it’s not illegal” is a pretty low ethical bar to set for yourself.

            More to the point, the community of people who already live in the place you see yourself as entitled to inhabit are also free to tell you what they think of your attitude, and have just as much right to lobby public officials and advocate for positions you deem misguided, silly, based in prejudice or otherwise wrong. But I would steel yourself for losing some more fights, because “I demand to be here” is probably going to be a losing argument for you in the long run.

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            ErinM. March 28, 2019 at 4:38 pm

            I think you probably need to just stop posting, take a seat and educate yourself. Every single comment you’ve made denies white supremacy exists, even in progressive PDX. There is a lot of emotional labor outlining just why your comments miss the mark.

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      • Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
        Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike) March 24, 2019 at 10:43 am

        The neighbor who has been fighting for a greenway on 7th the longest is an immigrant woman of color.

        I asked her to be part of this post with me but she understandably did not want to be in the spotlight.

        When I said these groups did not see this how this was going to benefit them I meant it. I do not think they are confused. I want to see more human scale infastructure and I think we need to do a better job of making it benefit these groups.

        I know that a lot of people are disappointed by this decision and I wanted to provide people with some language and understanding of the situation to help them not just blame these groups. I’m sorry you felt that this accomplished the opposite.

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      idlebytes March 21, 2019 at 10:38 pm

      “The history of white men leveraging their privilege to shape public policy to protect the “safety” of their white children and increase their property values is long and disgusting.
      If this is something that causes you to throw a temper tantrum and walk out of a meeting in anger, then you are part of the problem.”

      I understand there’s a lot of responses below this that changed this conversation but this is just a racist comment. Assuming Kiels motives or intent based on other white males intentions from the past is racist and sexist. You even go on to double down on that you doubt what Kiel’s intentions are and claim they’re perpetuating injustice. This is so absurd. Kiel stated he asked everyone to join in the conversation and he tried to engage everyone and hear their issues. You’re a racist for assuming things about this person based on the color of his skin. You’re also a sexist for assuming the same. The idea that the color of a persons skin or how they identify disqualifies them from thoughtful opinions about helpful changes to your community is wrong.

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        Ivan Boothe March 23, 2019 at 9:14 pm

        You know there was literally a century of legalized lynching in our country because of the supposed “threat” men of color posed to white women and children, right?

        I can be both a well-intentioned white guy and also grounding my arguments in white supremacy and patriarchy. Whiteness is like an ocean white folks (including me) live in — sometimes it’s hard to just stand outside of it and actually be objective.

        I don’t doubt that Kiel had no racist or sexist intentions in his heart. Kiel seems like a genuinely nice guy, and a motivated community organizer. I’d probably like him if I met him! It does not follow, though, that his perspective could not somehow be shaped by racism and that some of his arguments might echo or rhyme generations of “concern” white folks had with people of color. Both can be true.

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        • Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
          Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike) March 25, 2019 at 12:34 pm

          Which is why I say that we need to listen to these voices. While I’m disappointed that more is not being done I think the reason for not doing more is a good one.

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    Gabrielle March 21, 2019 at 12:11 pm

    I am really troubled by the tone of these comments. I don’t live in that neighborhood so I can’t speak to the way the greenway effort reached out to the community or how the process felt from within. But what I’m reading here is that a largely white community of neighbors in a historically black neighborhood (where folks have been experiencing a long process of being priced and planned out of their homes) brought a fully-imagined proposal to local institutions serving communities of color and asked for their support after the fact.

    Better to engage people from the beginning. Everyone wants a safer neighborhood, but we envision that differently depending on where we’re coming from. But if the goal is shared then a shared vision can be created–provided that all voices are heard at every step of the conversation. Kiel acknowledges that the community in that neighborhood is still fractured. That would have been the place to start–community-building that leads to advocacy, not the other way around.

    This isn’t a radical concept. Community organizations, neighborhood groups, local activists are all really comfortable demanding a seat at the table when the city starts a project. Why would your neighbors feel differently at the neighborhood level? From my perspective, again without having witnessed firsthand any of this advocacy work, it seems really obvious why Headstart and PCRI chose not to support this proposal. If you’re not going to show up for their community why would they show up for yours?

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    • Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
      Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike) March 21, 2019 at 12:37 pm

      I think it is a little much to ask community members requesting a safer street to know exactly all the people to connect with before hand. Ideally this is what neighborhood association are for (every neighborhood association was in favor of the 7th greenway) but the one thing that is very apparent for this process is that neighborhood association do not represent everyone. Maybe it is time to abolish the neighborhood associations and start over?

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      Steve B. March 21, 2019 at 3:12 pm

      “If you’re not going to show up for their community why would they show up for yours?”

      This hits the nail on the head, thank you.

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      Chris I March 22, 2019 at 3:06 pm

      Everyone wants a safer community, but no one seems to want to go to the extra effort it takes to drive less, or to slow down while driving. History is filled with drivers who point to everyone but themselves as the problem.

      Albina Head Start is at the end of my street, and the parents picking up kids there in the afternoon are the most dangerous drivers we get.

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    Chris March 21, 2019 at 1:00 pm

    Twice, in your commentary, you reveal that you have no idea what you are talking about, yet you still feel obligated to speak.

    “I don’t live in that neighborhood so I can’t speak to the way the greenway effort reached out to the community or how the process felt from within. ”

    “From my perspective, again without having witnessed firsthand any of this advocacy work, it seems really obvious… ”

    How about if you read about the author and what JM says about him?

    Those of us who actually do live in the vicinity should also have a say in what happens here. Instead, it feels like we got sidelined.

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      Gabrielle March 21, 2019 at 3:21 pm

      Hey there Chris. I actually have read all of Kiel’s comments here as well as Jonathan’s comments about Kiel’s work. I find your suggestion odd, not to mention unproductive and insular, that it’s only worth soliciting opinions and feedback from people who were directly involved in a community action. We can only learn new strategies and perspectives by being open to the experiences and knowledge of others.

      I was trying to make clear that I wasn’t speaking to the specific details of this particular advocacy, but rather how it’s being represented in this discussion, which certainly isn’t a comprehensive picture of the many hours Kiel and other community members put into this effort. I think this is also the tone that Kiel is striking, that there were a lot of lessons to be learned from the outcome of this campaign and that one of them is that the support-building process did not feel representative or inclusive to an important segment of the neighborhood.

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    ChadwickF March 21, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    A little off topic, but the new 24 bus is pretty boss.
    Hoping the service goes a little later, I think Trimet is going to extend hours in the future.

    http://blog.trimet.org/2019/02/15/our-first-line-across-the-fremont-bridge/

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      John Lascurettes March 21, 2019 at 1:16 pm

      I LOVE that the 24 goes into NW now. Very handy.

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      Bjorn March 21, 2019 at 4:34 pm

      Yeah I was excited until I saw how early it quits running. Even if they only run once an hour it would make many of the lines much more useful to have them keep running at least until midnight, preferably 2 am.

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        John Lascurettes March 21, 2019 at 6:41 pm

        Does it stop at midnight?

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          Bjorn March 22, 2019 at 6:53 pm

          Last run starts at like 830. Like I can head out to dinner but you better eat fast if you want to be able to get home.

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    Gadfly March 21, 2019 at 1:16 pm

    I think this is symptomatic of a larger divide between the values of modern progressives, and some of the bases of the Democratic party. LGBT issues are notably a sticking point. Bike facilities seem to be a big one too.

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    Middle of the Road Guy March 21, 2019 at 1:22 pm

    On the plus side, another street is getting a Greenway!

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      Lester Burnham March 21, 2019 at 2:39 pm

      I guess we should be thankful for that considering our once great MUPs have become unusable.

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    Buzz March 21, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    Portland never has been and never will be a ‘great cycling city’. The political will simply isn’t there. I was personally mistaken about this for many years but more recently have come to understand the hard reality of the situation.

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      Mike Quigley March 22, 2019 at 8:33 am

      The political will isn’t there because the people continue to elect the political unwilling statewide and nationwide. You can’t save people from themselves.

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    MARK SMITH March 21, 2019 at 7:50 pm

    It’s about identity. Look around most cities. Cycling is largely a white dude, and somewhat dudette activity. Let’s be honest about that. Let’s also be honest about how black /brown neighborhoods have been sold to gentrify in that image of the day. And now, however, small, greeway’s have become that symbol of gentrification. Are they wrong? Really?

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    Chuck March 22, 2019 at 9:35 am

    Here’s what I don’t get about this- Kiel bought (or rents) a house on an obviously busy street in one of the few African-American communities left in Portland. Then he has a kid, and suddenly his priority is to have a calm-traffic street, despite the fact that he knowingly (or completely clue-lessly) bought/rents a house on a busy street or that the community that he moved into does not share his desire. And he expects to change all of that? I think that’s when the man needs to decide to move to someplace that better suits his needs, rather than trying to make the community change for him. In my opinion, this is the kind of attitude that gives us white men on bikes a bad name (I guess the “on bikes” part is superfluous).

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      Chris I March 22, 2019 at 3:09 pm

      The moral of the story is that you should never try.

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      • Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
        Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike) March 25, 2019 at 12:45 pm

        No!!!!! The moral is that we need lots more people trying! We have 12 years to stop climate change we need all hands on deck. Solving these problems is going to get messy and there will be plenty of disappointments and learning along the way but we gotta keep trying.

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    Chuck March 22, 2019 at 9:47 am

    One more thing- do any of the folks supporting Kiel on this understand how gentrification works?

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    SD March 22, 2019 at 10:00 am

    The people that are getting lost and ignored in all of this are the black residents who thought that the safe 7th design was the best design. The dichotomy that PBOT has created with their PR campaign erases their existence.

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    dwk March 22, 2019 at 4:36 pm

    This is sad thread…
    This is why people do not get active.. Why stick your neck out?
    A person commits a ton of time for the greater public good (and his own admittedly) and is disparaged as a result?
    A bunch of comments that are way out of line.
    I know Kiel and his family.
    He does not deserve this.

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      Chuck March 25, 2019 at 8:04 am

      No, doing the work and sticking your neck out is to be commended. Seriously, I have lots of respect for Kiel for doing that. But, Framing the result as “losing hurts” implies an us vs them attitude about it, and that’s an attitude that does not help improve community. That’s what I’m reacting to.

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      • Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
        Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike) March 25, 2019 at 12:42 pm

        I think we can be disappointed and still respect the reasoning behind the cities decision. Maybe “losing” is the wrong word here. I want to respect how my neighbors felt and I think ignoring that would be a disservice to all the time and energy that they put into this.

        In this and in my other articles I tried to frame it as “hey let’s not get caught up in these big complicated things and focus on things we can control like ice cream socials and block parties. One of my biggest concerns is how outrage culture divides us and makes it so we cannot agree on anything.

        Maybe by using the word “losing” I’m contributing to that. What do you think a better title might have been? (and to be honest the title was just something I threw on when I saved the document so I could find it instead of something really thought out). “Screw greenways, let’s have a block party”? “Summer of block parties coming to 7th ave”?

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    Jarrin March 23, 2019 at 9:43 am

    reading this all made me really sad, guys. so much divisiveness, and lack of trying to even connect is going to be the end of any real change and progress being made for this “cause” of building a more bikeable city. Breakdowns in communication street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood.

    It is not a good look.

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    Shady Sheit March 24, 2019 at 6:45 am

    Trader joes on alberta & mlk was also rejected by the PUC which would have brought an affordable option to many in the neighborhood. However, now we have another expensive grocery store that doesn’t have the common courtesy of offering you a paper bag. This town.

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    Matt M March 25, 2019 at 12:34 pm

    Kiel for City Council!!

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    Glenn the 2nd March 26, 2019 at 11:30 pm

    My willingness to bike is based at least partly on my good luck in being able to grow up without the constant presence of people with some kind of weird covert grudge against me. Somehow I just know I’ll be okay out there, and I’m fine with putting my life in the hands of all those strangers.

    If I were black in America, I would want NO PART of that nonsense. A whole lifetime of feeling vulnerable to an arbitrary hatred… no: I suspect I would want the most private, most enclosed, fastest vehicle. The better to shut out racists, withstand certain types of attacks by racists, and get away from racists, respectively. (Though I might still get pulled over by racists.) Not only that, but the most luxurious as well, because hey, you all had it; why would I deny it to myself? Basically all the things cars offer, and let’s not lie about it, they do offer those things.

    If a black or historically black neighborhood wants a bike route, and it’s their own idea, great; otherwise it’s just another white-people’s idea, no matter how well-intended. I didn’t use to see this… like with the Williams thing, I was all, “What’s not to like?” But you’re trying to take away something the neighborhood does value, to give them something they don’t value, and to top it off, the guy proposing it is the same one who’s been giving them crap for 400 years. I don’t care if it’s free gold bars with delicious cakes and Rolexes on top, you’re going to look at something like that with distrust.

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    Johnny Bye Carter March 27, 2019 at 4:18 pm
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    Matthew March 29, 2019 at 7:55 am

    This is exactly the problem with these weeklies that I alluded to above. They are activists, NOT journalists. We deserve better than this.

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