Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on April 30th, 2020 at 3:00 pm
As Portland’s transportation thinkers look to a new post-pandemic mobility paradigm, there’s one type of vehicle that just can’t seem to break into the conversation: skateboards.
Despite sharing many of the same benefits as bicycling and walking, there are no skateboard advocates on the city’s various modal committees. PBOT has advisory committees devoted to bicycle users, walkers, wheelchair users and freight haulers — and none of them include a voice for skateboarding. As vulnerable road users that fight for space on the roadways and often face hostility from other road users (as we saw Wednesday when a skateboarder was killed after being allegedly run over by a driver in a Vancouver, Washington parking lot), a skateboarding advocate thinks it’s time to embrace this form of transportation.
Cory Poole is Portland’s most outspoken skateboard and “push scooter” advocate. He launched the NW Skate Coalition in 2013 and has pushed to get several issues on PBOT’s radar in the years since. These days he’s frustrated that despite his best efforts, he’s still on the outside looking in. I caught up with him recently to learn about what issues he’s concerned about and why he sees so many parallels between the needs of people who bike bike and those who skate.
Poole is well-known among Portland’s transportation advocacy scene because he always shows up to support bicycling and walking. He’s also an eager participant in events where he’s often the only one on a board, like when he made very impressive showings at the Ladds 500 and Disaster Relief Trials (where he pulled a cargo trailer!).
One of the main issues Poole is worried about is the county’s project to replace the Burnside Bridge. “That proposal went through the PAC and BAC [pedestrian and bicycle advisory committees] and issues important to skaters like expansion joints, surface grooves, and most importantly the possible destruction of the famous Burnside skate park weren’t even addressed.”
Even bicycle riders can relate to the harsh and sometimes scary feeling of riding over expansion joints and other bumps in our infrastructure. There are big ones gaps on the Tilikum and St. Johns Bridges, and bumps on the floating docks of the Eastbank Esplanade have caused many crashes and lost or damaged equipment over the years.
Another big problem Poole sees as being directly related to bicycling is the green thermoplastic being installed in bikeways around the city. He said he first flagged the issue for PBOT in 2018 when green lanes were installed around the Tilikum Bridge. “The green was applied so rough that it forced skateboarders into the street or pedestrian path,” Poole shared with us recently. Poole claims he was told by PBOT that a new, smoother treatment (like the paint used on SW Oak Street) would be the norm; but he’s seen several implementations of the rough thermoplastic since then. “I’m very concerned that the new green lane being planned for Better Naito will be completely unusable for skateboards and push scooters,” Poole said.
Poole has applied to be a member of PBOT’s pedestrian and bicycle committees, but much to his chagrin has never been selected.
“The BAC and PAC are the primary mechanisms that the city of Portland uses to address infrastructure design and implementation,” Poole said. “Given that thousands of Portlanders use skateboarders and scoots to get to work, school and play it seems reasonable that we should have at least one representative in one of the committees with a vote at the table. I don’t want to take anything away from either of these bodies because I’m a passionate supporter of bicycle and pedestrian transportation, we need an opportunity to make our concerns known in a way that we know that we won’t simply be ignored.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a massive shift in thinking when it comes to how we get around. Let’s hope that shift includes more open minds to skateboarding and small but important changes to our infrastructure that will support it.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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