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Portlanders set out red cups to push for more protection while cycling

People are so desperate for protection they’ve placed red plastic cups between the lanes on Willamette Boulevard.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Paint is not protection.

That’s the message from people across America today who are taking part in the Red Cup Project. Inspired by the tragic death of Washington D.C. cycling advocate Dave Salovesh (@darsal), the red cups are a quick and cheap way to define space and show how relatively little effort it takes to create safer conditions for cycling.

“I want these cups to become planters, cement bollards — things that actually prevent people form swerving into bike lanes and force drivers to pay more attention.”
— Sam Balto, north Portland resident

North Portland residents Sam Balto and Reed Buterbaugh were out at on North Rosa Parks Way and Willamette Boulevard this morning with a jug of water and dozens of cups. They focused on two spots where people frequently drive their cars into bike lanes.

At the corner where those two streets converge, nearly every driver cuts into the bike lane (see photos below). As Balto and Andrews placed cups on the bike lane stripe, most people immediately slowed down and took the corner more cautiously to avoid running over them. But as you can see in our photos, the cups were often not enough.

As peoples’ car tires rolled over them, the crunching sound and water splattering onto the street made my hairs stand on end.

“There are people all over this country where mayors have pledged Vision Zero,” Balto said as he watched the tiny cups sacrifice their lives, “but they believe that paint is enough to protect people. It’s not.”

(*Encroaching into the bike lane like these drivers are doing is illegal, dangerous, and it creates unsafe habits. Please don’t do it.)

Asked what he wants the red cups to become in the future, Balto said, “I want these cups to become planters, cement bollards — things that actually prevent people form swerving into bike lanes and force drivers to pay more attention.”


“PBOT believes they’ve improved North Willamette. They haven’t. They’re not done here. They need to properly protect this. This is just paint, and paint is not protection.”

Balto’s comments are supported by recent research showing that paint-only cycling lanes are inadequate and often encourage drivers to pass with less caution.

On North Rosa Parks Way, it’s been nearly a year since PBOT created new protected bike lanes. But they never finished the job. The vast majority of the bikeway is still unprotected. In June of last year, PBOT said neighbors had objected to having more white plastic posts installed. We learned last week that cement curbs are on the way and should be installed by this summer.

Similar red cup demonstrations are taking place today in New York City, Seattle, Michigan, Austin, Washington D.C., Boston, and many other cities. Follow the #RedCupProject hashtag on Twitter for all the action.

UPDATE, 1:17 pm: Just saw on-board video of the Rosa Parks/Willamette pinch-point from reader @harv_mushman (via Instagram):

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

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