At her first visit to the Portland Bureau of Transportation Bicycle Advisory Committee Tuesday Night, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty was asked about Portland’s vaunted Bicycle Plan for 2030. She said she’d never heard of it and that PBOT leadership hadn’t mentioned it to her yet. She also said, “I don’t think that’s going to happen,” when asked about progress toward meeting the plan’s signature goal of 25% cycling mode share.
It was one of just several surprising exchanges at the meeting. All of which left many seasoned bike advocates deflated and disheartened.
“That was the most depressing and frustrating transportation meetings I’ve ever been in,” said one person via text after the meeting. “I feel embarrassed for PBOT on a regular basis,” said another. “But this was the worst.”
The question about the bike plan came from BAC member Catie Gould, who’s also a leader with Bike Loud PDX, a nonprofit that has worked to raise awareness of the plan. She wanted to know if Hardesty had anything to share about an overdue 10-year update to the plan. “It’s very, very far behind schedule,” Gould said. “I’m wondering if you’re aware of it.”
“I’ve heard nothing about the bike plan or about an update to it,” Hardesty replied. “Who actually produces that bike plan? Is it the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability?” Hardesty asked, as jaws dropped to desks.
“It’s PBOT,” Gould replied.
Hardesty: “It’s PBOT? Oh. I haven’t heard anything about it yet.”
Gould: “It was supposed to transform Portland into a world class biking city by 2030.”
Hardesty: “By 2035?”
Gould: “No. 2030. So, coming right up.”
Hardesty: “I don’t think that’s going to happen in that short time period, but I think we could get closer to that vision. If that is still the vision that we have.”
“Okay, well, thanks,” Gould replied, a bit stunned by what she’d heard. “I feel like if it does not get a public hearing or any education within city hall soon, it really will die.”
It’s clear no one within the PBOT leadership team (or elsewhere) felt the need to brief Hardesty on the bike plan, a plan that was intended to be a pillar of our transportation system when it passed 11 years ago.
And that was only one of the interesting exchanges last night.
BAC Chair David Stein asked Hardesty: “Is biking equitable? And if not, how do we make it so?”
Hardesty rightly explained that in her 32 years as a Portlander, bike lane projects have often been harbingers of gentrification. “Once the bike lanes came in, the community did radically change, and I think that’s a reality that, as a biking community, we haven’t dealt with.”
“Now east Portland is the place where people are like, ‘We need more bike lanes! We need more bike lanes!’,” Hardesty continued. “Well east Portland is also where people are being killed by automobiles on a regular basis, so my priority is slowing down cars and getting [fixed speed and red light] cameras out. My priority can’t be bike lanes when people are dying on the streets because cars are going too fast.”
“I think depending on who you are and what part of the city you’ve lived in, you’ve had different experiences with bike lanes, and the power that comes behind the people who have the power to demand bike lanes.”
A recurring theme in Hardesty’s comments was that if cycling advocates (a.k.a. “members of the cycling community”) want faster progress, they need to work harder to get people on bikes, change cultural perceptions, improve safety outcomes, lobby for projects, and so on.
“Let me challenge you a little bit,” she said in response to one BAC member’s question. “I think you could be really helpful in making biking more enticing for communities that are unaccustomed to riding bikes in Portland.” Hardesty explained how many people of color feel unsafe using our streets outside of a car. “If you can’t get in the crosswalk without feeling like you’re taking your life into your own hands, why would you put yourself on a bike and put yourself in more danger? So I challenge you, help us make it safer.”
Then Hardesty added, “Check people who think that riding a bike gives them special powers and special privileges. Help support lower-income folks getting bikes and learning how to use bikes.”
This led to an exchange about influence and lobbying at City Hall.
BAC Chair Stein said he the idea of a monolithic “bicycling community” is flawed. “It seems like a bit of a misnomer because I don’t necessarily consider myself part of a bicycling community. The same way that I drive, but I don’t think of myself as part of the driving community and I don’t feel like I need to advocate for driving.”
Stein then asked Hardesty why it is such a major (and usually losing) battle to get bike lanes on main commercial streets. “What does it take to make that the default rather than something that requires a massive political lift? You said yourself that our bike plan won’t happen by 2030 — well it’s not going to happen by 2040 or 2050 either if we’re putting all the pressure on a small group of people to outweigh the status quo.”
“If you feel so strongly about bike lanes,” Hardesty replied. “and your voice is not included in the deliberations, then that’s a voice that’s not included in the deliberations.”
“I hear from people who advocate for freeways all the time,” she continued. “They don’t have any problem advocating for being a driver and for more freeways. Many of the business associations, they advocate for freeways and truck access. They’re not advocating for bike lanes. And so, not having anybody on city council who rides… Well I guess the mayor rides bikes regularly, but he’s not advocating for more bike lanes.”
Then things got a bit heated between the commissioner and BAC member Clint Culpepper.
“I want to push back on a couple of things that you said,” Culpepper began. “I think there’s a real misconception about who advocates for bikes and some mythical ‘bicycle community’. And I think we forget that the majority of bicycle riders folks that use bicycles for transportation in the city are making less money than everybody else in the city. The reason you hear from folks about freeways is because those folks have time, they have time to bug you. They have business associations that have money that are doing that work.”
Hardesty questioned Culpepper’s point about low-income riders. “I don’t know if we have data that proves that people who ride bikes make less money.”
“We do,” Culpepper quickly responded (and he’s right, Census data clear shows the lower income a household has, the more likely they are to ride bikes).
“In East Portland we have more folks riding bicycles than we do in other places,” Culpepper continued. “The census data bears this out. The difference is, you don’t hear from those folks. You don’t hear from folks that are washing dishes and riding their bike home at two o’clock in the morning. We barely see those folks.”
Then Culpepper, in an impassioned plea, said he rejects the idea that an elected official and government agency leader is telling volunteer advocates they need to do more if they want safer streets and more access to them.
“Everybody in this room is a volunteer… This is what I am doing instead [of being with my family] because this is important. Why is this important? So that my children have a safe place to ride their bicycles and walk. I have one thing that I worry about every single day: That my two small children are going to get hurt or killed on our roads. And I think that PBOT’s continued prioritization of building more room for automobiles is appalling. Pedestrian safety is the number one issue in the city and every single person in this room feels that it is being shortchanged at every opportunity. We have to fight for scraps out there, because PBOT has refused to prioritize safety first and foremost.*” (*The 2021-2022 PBOT budget includes $6.8 million for Active Transportation & Safety and $188 million for Asset Management (paving, parking garage upkeep, signals and sign maintenance, and so on).)
“I hear your frustration Clint, but I certainly don’t agree with that,” Hardesty responded.
“Then why do we continue to have pedestrians die on our streets!?” Culpepper interjected loudly.
“Because we are trying to address a lack of infrastructure improvements that have been there since annexation [a reference to east Portland which was annexed into the city in the 1980s].”
“People aren’t just dying in east Portland, they are dying in north Portland, they are dying in northeast Portland they are dying in southeast Portland, they are dying in every part of this city! Regardless of when it was annexed, we have continued to pour money into the streets to make it easier for people to drive in this city, instead of prioritizing people’s safety!” Culpepper replied.
“Again,” Hardesty said. “I have to agree to disagree with you until I’ve seen some of the data that you are referring to.”
“160 people have died since 2019!” Culpepper said, becoming more animated. “It’s there. We know it’s there. I know this isn’t a lack of data. This is a lack of priorities within the bureau.”
Hardesty disagreed again. “I don’t know that it’s a lack of priorities, and because people are dying does not mean that the bureau is not prioritizing safety. It means that it can only do so much with the budget that it has… Have we done enough? We don’t have enough resources to do enough.”
Culpepper pushed back again, saying it’s a matter of priorities, not funding.
“Every single person in this city is a pedestrian in some form, right. Every single person. So why is it that that is not the number one priority?! We need safe crossings, we need rapid flashing beacons, we need actual functioning crosswalks, we need medians, we need every single road, every single lane in our city to be narrowed to reduce the speed!”
The exchange ended Culpepper and Hardesty in sharp disagreement about whether or not the Hawthorne Pave & Paint project will result in safer conditions for pedestrians (Culpepper thinks the wider lanes prove his point that PBOT prioritizes motorized vehicles over people, Hardesty says the project will have major safety benefits for people on foot).
After the dust settled a bit, Hardesty broke the tension: “It got a little hot in here,” she said, smiling. “But it’s OK. I can handle it.”
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
— Get our headlines delivered to your inbox.
— Support this independent community media outlet with a one-time contribution or monthly subscription.
I did not attend the meeting, but I did listen to the exchange between Culpepper and Hardesty, and I’m hearing this quite differently. First of all, why didn’t PBOT folks bring the bike plan to her? That’s a big question folks should be asking.
Next, yeah, it sucks, but we can’t assume a new commissioner knows and understands everything we as advocates want. Hardesty is saying that she’s hearing loud and clear from trucking and freeway advocates. What I think she was also saying is, “So you need to talk to me too.”
I get Clint’s frustrations: yes, business lobbies have way more capacity for this sort of thing! But I do think it’s a sign that we need to be clearer to the city about what we want. Have any bike advocates gotten together and made an appointment to talk to her about the bike plan or biking in general?
Making a comment about biking on BikePortland isn’t communicating with city officials. Complaining about JoAnn (and I know some of you all didn’t vote for her in the first place) doesn’t get us what we want.
Hardesty is interested in racial and social equity and justice. We know bikes and infrastructure for bikes are great for folks with fewer resources. So get your best arguments together and actually have a conversation with Hardesty. She’s clearly open to ideas and learning.
Hardesty is smart and she gets things done. Put the damn pitchforks down and gather up your data and dust off any tactfulness you might have, all. This “vote her out” garbage won’t get us anywhere.
You’re right that PBOT should have mentioned the bike plan by now. Hopefully they can get back to the infrastructure vs funding vs priorities and what are the facts about PBOT’s safety efforts? Is it working? Are they reducing deaths/mile, but people are driving much more? If so, shouldn’t PBOT move on to reducing driving?
I think there was a bit of talking past each other in terms of her comment “the power that comes behind the people who have the power to demand bike lanes.” – but it’s not like this committee has that power. The thing Clint didn’t say was that we need a complete bicycle network across the whole city and the projects they are building aren’t getting connected or done, so they aren’t made accessible to the whole city. Is it going to gentrify all of the neighborhoods at once or what? Or is there a magic amount of funding where PBOT would actually deliver an all-ages-and-abilities network and vision zero by 2025?
The thing about Hawthorne and privilege doesn’t make a valid excuse for PBOT’s bad analysis and thus poor decision. PBOT is going to spend the same budget on Hawthorne, and the have the choice to exclude bikes or not. People tried to make noise about other pave-and-paint projects and have had some small wins (nothing quite as nice as the standard 10ft car lanes and continuous yellow centerlines to make that smooth fast pavement “safe” for people in cars.) There was some success where people got involved, maybe a little systemic change at PBOT, but they still lack tools to reduce car speeds and where they have options, they choose in favor of cars (not, we all know since we so often catch up at the next red light, actually getting anywhere but just dominating the space.) For the most part, objections to the status-quo repaving have just been ignored and they basically shrug while spraying car-only paint on what the long-term plan designates as a Major City Bikeway. It’s not like the next street over is even an option in SW, like where the grid doesn’t connect in other outers. They’re happy to ignore safety if people don’t make enough noise about it, and even then they just make excuses.
There’s a lot that needs to be done at the state level, decriminalize jaywalking, disarm police, etc. Is she asking for backup on this? Anyway, PBOT should be asking the bicycle advisory committee for advice on how to keep people on bikes safe and make it easy to get around, and then doing that citywide, with priority to a connected network, flexibility and input from people who actually use the streets, not pouring concrete in the wrong place and blaming “the bicycle community”. The bike plan probably needs some revision, but there are In-Motion plans which have had that revision and still come up with watered-down plans which preserve car supremacy and aren’t funded anyway. Is PBOT a tool, or a machine designed to provide itself with funding? Hopefully there will be more productive and deeper conversations once we all get on the same facts.
Well, it might get a new commissioner
Amen! I don’t personally agree with all of your comments on this post, Joan, but I do agree with many and I strongly agree with this one.
Yeah. I agree with everything Clint said on the merits (except the Hawthorne project), and I do think Hardesty was a little defensive about city priorities. But ultimately she was saying a version of Roosevelt’s (possibly mythical) famous line: “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it” — about how important it is for activists to effectively apply political pressure (which, to be fair, bike advocates are doing in plenty with Hawthorne right now, though I think it’s the wrong project to push on). It’s not really fair, but it is political reality.
I agree with your take on Hardesty’s implication. It reminds me of Vera Katz’s “so sue us”: https://gettingto2100.org/portlands-bicycle-revolution-started-with-a-lawsuit/
What, in your opinion, is the “right” project to push on?
My partner and I moved here five years ago, in large part, because we believed in Portland’s pro-bike culture, and we shared in the excitement and activism for continued momentum with infrastructure. After witnessing the impressive feat of Tilikum, we believed that if any US city could rise to meet the moment (or even a fraction of potential seen in other parts of the world), it would be “Platinum Bike Friendly” Portland. This was admittedly naive, but we were open-minded (or desperate) to see out hopes realized (or dashed)–somewhere.
And here we are. A low-income, queer, interracial couple (unicorns on bikes, apparently) exhausted by being ignored or, better yet, smeared and dismissed as elitists for prioritizing our safety and asking politicians do the same–particularly when we have always used cheap pre-owned bikes *because* we could never afford a car.
But we get it now. Save up or die (you can’t possibly be poorer than the poors who all drive). Make yourself *more* seen to bureaucrats who erase you (it’s your responsibility to be seen, not theirs to see you). Ask those scared of biking to earn their safety (safety is a commodified supply for a victimized demand, so put your body on the line and start demanding). Problems are problems but, paradoxically, solutions are too (street safety must take precedence over bike lanes). We care about the environment and will do stuff and things about it someday maybe (by 20-something or other). And, most importantly, we’re listening. We may never hear you, but we’re always listening.
So proud of Clint and Catie and the BAC. Thank you for spending your time on this. Don’t give up.
Guess who’s not getting my vote next time she’s up for election.
This is the exact wrong conclusion to draw from this. Hardesty is clearly open to being educated on this issue and shares broader goals.
Hey joan. I believed this genuinely before the BAC meeting. I really hoped Hardesty had potential vis a vis street safety. Stating that transforming Portland into a world class bike city, without knowing anything about that plan, “Is not going to happen,” shows that even if it is possible (it is), it’s not a priority for Hardesty.
The main issue here is: Who will do the educating? From the few times I’ve communicated with her and her assistants it seems clear that the information she receives on projects is largely from PBoT, with no outside sources. That is likely why she continues to claim PBoT is, for example, prioritizing safety over car capacity and parking, Hawthorne doesn’t have 12′ lanes etc. This misinformation added to her windshield perspective (eg bike riders make more money) adds up to the status quo for street safety. Volunteers at the BAC shouldn’t have to–and likely won’t get to–educate her.
And TBH I don’t really care about leaders. I don’t think a great leader will solve Portland’s street safety problem. The only solutions I see working are: mandated PBLs via city ordinance (because PBoT will be forced to follow a legislated mandate regardless if it’s popular with people who want parking), or via a lawsuit.
“added to her windshield perspective”
Falsely accusing Hardesty of being a car-headed c*ger when she is widely known to be a daily transit user is not a good look.
“eg bike riders make more money”
Low income people have a lower ACS cycling mode share than high income people in Oregon (and the same is almost certainly true in Portland). Given that the opposite was true a decade ago (the time period Clint referred to) the question bike advocates should be asking themselves is: How did this happen?
The last time I was on a bus, it definitely had windshields. Is TriMet doing something new?
She came to the meeting unprepared. She clearly didn’t recognize or acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the VOLUNTEERS on the BAC serving HER OWN department. That showed a level of disrespect that I doubt Hardesty would leave alone if someone on the city council or in the police bureau showed. She was dismissive, talked down to the committee as if SHE needed to school THEM. I get that she’s passionate about getting a handle on our epidemic of vulnerable road user murders. But her failure to see that the committee members are on the same team is insulting. I’m not ready to dismiss her, but it remains to be seen whether she can earn back the respect she lost at this meeting.
I think that she purposely made a point. She was prepared and she made it known what the priorities are for PBOT.
We can all be disappointed that she trashed a long term plan for cycling.
With the pandemic beginning to slow there is huge inertia for getting people back to what the previous normal was.
For most people interested in urban cycling, this is disturbing and defeating.
We had some good gains with limiting traffic on streets during the pandemic.
The future doesn’t repeat but often rhymes with the past. Keep agitating and organizing!
Agree with Joan. Clearly if biking is your #1 issue, Hardesty is not your ideal politician. That doesn’t make her worse than the alternative.
And I do give her some credit for being truthful…even if it was not what we had hoped to hear [as to where PBoT spends its time with their leadership[…in what she does “not know” yet. Most council members (or other politicians for that fact) would have waffled and given some vague platitude.
Well heck. Hardesty came in and took the heat and listened and said what she thought was the truth. You’re gonna ditch her for that?
She took heat because she clearly had not done her homework and when called out came off as dismissive when she should have shown some humility about her ignorance. She is the de facto Secretary of Transportation for the City of Portland. She needs to do much better than this and that’s on her.
She wasn’t getting my vote after she lamented ODOT spending monies to put boulders at some freeway on ramp to deter campers (after they’d already removed rose bushes ODOT had planted there for the same reason) instead of on housing them. She seems/seemed to have no idea of how gov’t works. ODOT is supposed to spend its money on transport things, & ONLY transport things.
If she were to lament why so much was being spent by ODOT & not by whatever state agency that might exist(?) on housing issues, that would have been a much more valid criticism of the entire system, but she did not.
The boulders are a bad look. People are camping next to freeways (which sucks) because they don’t have a better place. We can’t cover all the land owned or managed by ODOT with boulders. Boulders promote transport?
Does Inspector Javert work for ODOT, or what?
As someone who participated in the meeting, I feel this is an accurate telling of how it went. Jaw dropping and disheartening are adjectives I would use. The only glimmer of hope I feel, is that now that Hardesty is aware that low income people are a significant proportion of bicycle commuters, perhaps she will prioritize bicycle infrastructure (which is cheap!!!) so these humans can safely go about their days.
Clearly our commission system is broken. Hardesty didn’t run for City Council to be in charge of transportation. This isn’t her passion and it isn’t her strength. The only sliver of light is that the commissioners will inevitably get shuffled around again with the next two years and someone else will be in charge. Longer term, an update to the city charter and the way we are governed needs to take place.
Agreed. The commission form is a disaster. End it now.
Thankfully, city charter reform is already started. While Hardesty’s inability to thoughtfully engage on this topic was disappointing, it also highlights how broken our form of government is. Sad on many levels.
Commissioners have for much too long pitted one mode of transportation against another. This is just the latest example. The message should be safety first, for all modes, and prioritizing safety for the most vulnerable – peds and bikes.
I miss Sam Adams. A policy wonk who initially went into city government because he had a passion for transportation policy (his own words.)
Adams is a wonk and he did do good things for biking while in office. He was not however motivated on biking issues until they became a politically expedient way to sell his political brand. I think his belief in their benefits became genuine, though anyone who watched his mayoralty knows it was also limited. But casting Adams as being biking-motivated rather than biking-branded is inaccurate – and casting Hardesty as anything but a policy-motivated wonk (despite her relative lack of any specific interest in biking) is also inaccurate, in my view.
It is unclear to me how a city manager would fix this problem. The primary difference would be now there is an unelected official in charge (rather than an elected one), and their attention will be divided amongst all the bureaus rather than just some.
Do you really expect PBOT to behave better with even less oversight than they have now?
A better model might be to vote directly on the head of PBOT so they are more accountable to Portlanders. By adding more layers of insulation, a city manager would make them less accountable than they are today.
The problem with the commission form of government is the attitude of commissioners who abide by a approach consisting of “if you keep your hands off my bureaus, I will keep out of yours.” No one is paying attention to what’s best for the city residents, businesses, workers, and visitors as a whole.
I have seen that dynamic elsewhere, but the issue here is that PBOT’s unelected leadership is not following their own plans or even informing the elected official overseeing them that such plans exist.
Will introducing another layer of unaccountable management really fix the problem?
I think this is why cities like Seattle made city legally binding mandates that support bicycle and transit infrastructure, which is why after decades of inaction Seattle is seeing some major gains in infrastructure development TV fast supports both. Their transit system will carry more people than Trimet and they implemented downtown continuous bicycle lanes years ago.
Regarding the City Manager (aka ‘Weak Mayor’) model…look around you to other major cities with the ‘City Manager’ model…I doubt you would find any major successful bike / climate centric success in the last 20 years, city managers are at best incremental innovators…big changes typically take a dynamic (and often independent) strong mayor to take the political heat, challenge the entrenched modal convention and move their agencies forward too….NYC, Chicago, etc. Having a Strong Mayor has been a recipe for big bike investments recently since 2005…but it can be a ‘go for broke’ move too…as they say about investing: ‘past success does not equal future success’ (and may lead to abuse too).
I don’t know. I mean, I do agree with you about the commission system. But when was the last time a commissioner had this much passion about road safety or transportation equity?? I still think there’s hope for her to see all of the ways a good biking system increases road safety and equity.
I have lost all confidence in Commissioner Hardesty. Mayor Wheeler, take over PBOT today or transfer the Bureau to a commissioner that has read the TSP or who cares about transportation.
You think Wheeler cares?
It was surreal. I’m not sure if she was intentionally trying to gaslight the group or if she was truly unaware. Either way, her denial of fundamental facts was disappointing and deeply troubling.
Thanks to Clint for saying what needed to be said.
The cognitive dissonance really kicks in when the city then turns around to talk about how they advocate for the environment, clean energy, fighting climate change, etc. Why isn’t the most efficient form of human transportation on the planet absolutely central in every discourse concerning our shared environment & climate change?
In IPCC AR5 and 1.5C SR mitigation pathways cycling is a footnote when it comes to decarbonization of transportation. As someone who has been profoundly disturbed by our society’s lack of response to ongoing ecocide for decades, I find the arrogance of the assumption that cycling is some sort of magic climate crisis fairy dust to be absurd. An increase in cycling mode share could and should have a modest impact but it may also end up being largely irrelevant in the USA (electrification).
Seriously, do the back of the envelope math:
We are ~9 years from blowing past 1.5 C and a 200% increase in cycling mode share in this time span would, at best, reduce transportation emissions in the USA by a few percent. And the math in Portland is not that impressive either.
Nobody wants to give up their pet project but I guess you’re right, for Americans transportation has length and breadth and you get inside it. It’s car-like.
Maybe hackers will do what idealism and regulation have not, get our hands off those hard bodies. Cars ARE lovely but when you have to push one it’s a new game.
…ecocide…serious people that I talk to all agree that we are * .
We, the various people/nations/governments lack the will to act. What street, what monument, how many million homes have to go under water before we act?
It’s a damn shame Mt Rushmore is up high and Bangledesh is down low. It’s pretty likely that I’ll be dead a long time before ‘my’ house and garden see salt water but even that is uncertain. What’s certain is that climate refugees will increase exponentially.
People who prattle about caravans should be able see that if national security is a thing, ours depends on a crash program of greenhouse gas reduction to net zero, plus all the remediation and engineering we can muster, in poor countries as well as in, um, El Norte.
Our personal transportation choices are a tiny issue but if we can’t even figure that out, yeah we’re *.
Florida and Washington DC will feel the wrath of climate change and both are probably already doomed within a century or two.
Unfortunately, the distribution of suffering from this ongoing tragedy of the commons will likely be about as unjust and unequal as COVID vaccine distribution is now.
I’m sorry to say that this is exactly what I expected from Hardesty. She has a focus on only one or two issues and that clearly doesn’t include bicycling or walking and probably not transportation generally. If I were a committee member I would quit.
At least PBOT staffers listen to the committee and take their comments and suggestions seriously (even if they may not have the power/inclination to follow their recommendations). I think the BAC still has a role to play, even if the commissioner in charge of the Bureau has priorities that are not aligned with their mission.
Thank you Clint, Catie and the BAC. It’s hard to overstate how poorly this reflects on Commissioner Hardesty. She appears to be beyond incompetent. I didn’t vote for her and I think her heart is in the right place but to show up so unprepared is beyond pathetic. She seems to make new enemies daily, it wouldn’t surprise me if she faces a recall. I would support it based on this performance alone, it doesn’t appear that she is interested in the job that needs to be done.
We can go easy with recall talk when she is presumably running for reelection next year. Better to line up a nontoxic alternative instead of her last general opponent (Loretta Smith?) or Sam Adams. Of course you need more than a strong hand to win a good game of cards.
I didn’t vote for her last time and probably won’t the next but at the same time it would be nice to see stability in City Hall. Ugh.
I’m certainly not going to waste energy on a recall nor do I suggest others put their energy there. But it wouldn’t surprise me and I would sign if asked. I see many people here making excuses for this poor performance. I don’t care if she isn’t passionate about transportation. If she wanted to choose how she focuses here time maybe she shouldn’t have run for city council. I admire many of her positions and have great respect for many things she has done but now she has a specific job that she fought for and is well compensated to do but she wants to focus on something else.
It was beyond disheartening and, frankly, confusing to watch the commissioner in charge of PBOT not know simple facts like the existence of the Bike Plan for 2030 and the width of lanes planned for the Hawthorne Pave and Paint project. What’s worse is that Commissioner Hardesty then tried to isolate people who get around by bicycle as if there is a monolithic cohort, AKA “the bicycling community”. This is an old-fashioned tactic to create an us vs them ethos further dividing people into separate camps thereby making it easier to diminish our collective power. What is confusing is that shortly after that statement the commissioner mentions that we need to make our voices heard if we want “bike lanes”. This is the stuff that makes people burn out.
I really appreciate the hard work of the volunteers on the BAC and truly appreciate Clint speaking firmly and respectfully to the commissioner. We need to keep pushing; but we also need to see some results.
Thanks to Jonathan for reporting this important encounter.
I was also listening in and am in complete agreement with everything you said. The disconnect with how people who think a lot about urban planning think about these problems and the apparent way our elected officials think about them is wide. When former PBOT Commissioner Eudaly took the PSU transportation class she really enjoyed it. Would love to see Hardesty continue the trandition.
As someone who cares a lot about how negative urban places contribute to so many social problems, watching last night’s meeting made me feel how Hardesty must sometimes feel watching Wheeler continue to be in charge of the police bureau. Doesn’t see the problem.
I think that Comm. Hardesty has thought a lot about urban planning and has a view that differs from the typical white bike advocate. For example, she, is clearly not a fan of the “laissez faire” market policies, often championed by bike advocates, that have led to gentrification-associated displacement of black folk and other marginalized communities.
As a low income renter, I loathe gentrifiers and I am more than willing to vote against my personal interests to punish supporters of this racist and classist ideology (it’s called a prisoner’s dilemma).
I look forward to joining you on the barricades during the revolution someday Soren, until then I need to be able to walk and bike places without fearing that my family will be killed by inadequate infastructure.
I think we are are being offered NE 9th as cutting edge Portland bike infrastructure of the 20s. It’s kinda lumpy but nobody drives too fast and it’s available right now! –also you get to pick your own path through the park.
Will there be block parties this summer?
I voted for Commissioner Hardesty based on housing, police reform, and (broad) sustainability issues. I didn’t vote for her on transportation policy. As far as I know, she had no background in bike advocacy at all, beyond knowing it was out there. She apparently has some misconceptions about who relies on active transportation.
Now she’s had PBOT dumped in her lap and clearly doesn’t even know the basics of a number of important transportation issues. So she’s got a steep learning curve ahead of her. I hope she’ll get better as she learns more. I think her values would support taking a stronger position on building bicycle infrastructure, once she’s better acquainted with the facts and the arguments.
Hope you’re right. But she sounded pretty defiant in her statements.
This is the problem with the Commissioner form of government! Every few years a new elected official takes over PBOT, and they rarely know anything about transportation. And it’s not possible for one person to have heard about every single plan ever produced by the bureau. PBOT is a massive agency, and it’s not even the only bureau in her portfolio. I think it’s a little ridiculous for the BAC to be shocked and appalled that she hasn’t heard of the bike plan.
She is in charge of the bureau and has been for 4 months; it is her JOB to know what is going on. Do the WORK!
I assume she IS doing the work. But four months isn’t a lot of time given the amount of stuff she needs to learn, and its not like this is her only job (she also has three other bureaus, plus multiple liaison responsibilities, plus the work of city council itself… there’s a LOT on her plate).
Other people here have pointed out the problems with our commission form of government, which frequently puts bureaus in the hands of novices. Maybe it shouldn’t be that way, but it’s not her fault that it is.
Just guessing here, but for just about every scheduled committee I’ve been part of in the past 3 decades, including ones I’ve chaired, there’s an agenda that’s sent to the members before the meeting. As the council member in charge of PBOT it was Hardesty’s job to read the agenda ahead of time, and when she saw “Bicycle Plan for 2030” on the agenda, she damn sure should have asked someone what the hell that was.
I agree that would have been better. But she’s got a few other things going on this week!
It’s her job to be prepared for a meeting. That’s what she gets paid to do. Unfortunately, she has stayed an activist where she just throws barbs.
Hardesty is a recently elected commissioner who has not been a transportation activist, much less a bike activist. How would she know about the bike plan on its dusty shelf? Oops.
Somebody at PBOT is trying very hard to be invisible at this very minute.
I suspect that 95% of Portland has not heard of the 2030 Bike Plan and that most of those who had would have a hard time giving a cogent description of its goals. Unfunded plans, no matter how laudable their aspirations, are doomed to fail in this crony capitalist city. One of the things that that conversation indicates is how little political power cycling advocates have these days.
Do any of those 95% happen to also be in charge of PBOT?
It’s Hardesty’s JOB to know it. We taxpayers are paying her with the expectation she knows it. World of difference.
Soren, I regret to inform you that we agree. 🙂
I suspect we agree on many things when it comes to active transportation.
Where we don’t agree is on how Randian housing market deregulation will impact transportation justice (and gentrification) in Portland. For example, I always viewed RIP as a Trojan horse for more unsustainable and racist single family homes so I was not at all surprised to see Sightline (and by extension P:NW) lobby for a bill that would allow multiple single family homes to be built on lots that are now limited to “plex”-type multifamily housing.
Is it that elected officials take over PBOT, or that they are elected to council for something entirely different, and *then* PBOT gets dumped in their lap?
May we prioritize PBOT spending on public safety? Is it possible to take the full budget and prioritize safety and the backlog of safety issues for a year, half a fiscal year, or even a quarter? What would the ramifications of diverting funds this way be and how would that effect the requirements of state and federal transportation funding that PBOT receives? There is never enough funding or resources to cover everything, that is understood, but the “lack of” argument really needs some data to back it up.
This is a real bummer to read. I did hope Jo-Ann Hardesty could lead us past off false trade-offs and past politicians admonishing community advocates to “just push harder.” I really hoped she would lead in shifting budget priorities toward human scale transportation and safety investments and away from car-centric cities.
But I am not totally surprised. I regularly advocate for more funding for bikes and pedestrians and have done so for years. But increasingly I think we need to go beyond just advocating that the City Council reprioritize resources. We need to advocate for redistributing decision making power over resources through participatory budgeting.
That’s basically what a panel of participatory budgeting advocates argued for this morning during Council Communications.
I fully believe that if given greater voice and vote over transportation dollars, Portlanders will advocate for spending priorities differently than elected officials; on balance they will favor diffuse bike, pedestrian, and other human-scale transportation and safety investments over investments that just facilitate more driving. It could start with a portion of PBOT’s funding and expand as the Portlanders and City staff learn a new way of governing and making decisions over public money. Even if participatory budgeting is done with a portion of PBOT’s budget it would be a powerful statement for a new set of priorities.
We can keep banging our head against to wall between the status quo and transformative change or we can start democratizing decision making power over the budget, the primary way governments exercise power. Then it will start being less about what clientelist politicians will do for their constituents and more about what the community can do for the community.
Here in Greensboro NC we have finished our 3rd round of PB in 2019 and will start a 4th round in fall 2021. What has happened gradually is that the stronger neighborhood associations are getting more projects funded and completed, and poor parts of our city in greatest need are getting nothing; but because funds are divided geographically, at least each district gets the same amount spent on it (we in fact have rich Black neighborhoods who get a lot of PB, like rich white neighborhoods in other districts.) I would expect much the same in Portland, except all the money will be spent for inner white neighborhoods where your councilors live given your power structure, much like the rest of the city budget. Remember, PB depends on participation, so if a poor part of town doesn’t participate as much, they don’t get as much money for projects.
Oh god, no – please no more experiments like participatory budgeting.
Please give us a completely normal city government, led and staffed by professionals who have time and scope to prioritize important needs of the community and follow through over time. How would you like to work in a place where the sands shift underneath your feet constantly? Portland needs to employ and support people with the expertise to run the city.
Participatory budgeting is not a substitute for professional staff and the general budget process but a complement to them. Also I can’t tell if your being facetious but there hasn’t been any experiments with participatory budgeting in Oregon yet. I will say keeping people out of the budgeting process and away from the real decisions and sources of power, probably only sounds like an good idea if the status quo is working for you.
I hear in your comment the argument for why “PB won’t work” that occasionally pops up in Portland: PB will be captured by elites and insiders and, by implication, will somehow be worse than the status quo. It is usually made quietly by a few insiders (not all) who’s power would be displaced by PB and/or who think they know the politics and the policies to create more equitable outcomes via the status quo representative democracy or some reformed version of it. While I appreciate the valid concern and your perspective on both Portland and Greensboro, I never hear this argument from outsiders who are marginalized from existing power.
While the research on participatory budgeting’s impact on more equitable outcomes is ongoing in the United States, a few things are clear. First, the research has demonstrated that it increases the number and diversity of people making decisions. This has been demonstrated in Greensboro. While it is possible participation numbers and diversity has dropped relative to the start, I’d like to see the data and I doubt it is worse than the pre-PB conditions in Greensboro. Second, the research indicates that people make different decisions over public money through PB than elected officials do. For example in New York City PB is associated with increased spending on schools, public housing, and streets and traffic improvements, and decreased spending on parks & recreation, housing preservation, and development. (Hagelskamp et al., 2020). The equity impacts of these shifts are not entirely clear but PB has shifted spending from the top 50% income neighborhoods to the lower 50% income neighborhoods (Shybalkina & Bifulco 2018).
In Brazil, where PB has a much longer track record, there is a clearer connection between PB and equitable outcomes. Research has demonstrated that municipalities that adopt PB allocate more resources to health care (Touchton and Wampler, 2014) and education (Boulding and Wampler 2009). In Porto Alegre and Belo Horizonte where PB started: PB generated greater levels of spending per capita in poorer districts. These impacts are not directly from the PB process but the larger impact of bringing new unheard voices in to debates about public money such. Municipalities using PB programs in Brazil have lower infant mortality than comparable municipalities without PB. The effect grows stronger after 8+ years of PB (Gonçalves 2014; Touchton and Wampler 2014).
Variation in PB outcomes depends critically on process design. More impactful, more equitable PB applies social justice rules to the process. This starts by centering the underrepresented on the steering committee that co-designs the process with government staff. Weighting districts by need to distribute funds allocated through PB is an increasing common strategy. Others include paid steering committees and focused process training and outreach on underrepresented groups, and other strategies that center folks who, through their lived experience, are the experts in making civic participation open and more accessible to all (Wampler and Touchton, 2019; Wampler, McNulty, and Touchton, 2021).
But all that said, I find it curious how those suspicious of PB want to compare it to some perfect ideal rather than the status quo in which a few elected officials and the usual involvocrats make all of the decisions over public money. PB is not a silver bullet; like anything it will need to be monitored, evaluated, improved and expanded over time. If PB falls short of expectation it seems it is usually because it is implemented with merely a token amount of public funds and is marginalized from the mainstream budget process. But the solution to that should be obvious: expand and improve the PB process.
Maximizing the equity impacts of PB was a major focus of the community forum about bringing PB to Oregon at the Rosewood Initiative back in 2018. As a late adopter, Oregon is well positioned to learn from other jurisdictions around the United States and around the world in launching PB that maximizes impacts in terms of equitable participation and equitable outcomes.
I agree, PB has improved community participation here in Greensboro, plus it has inspired other NC cities to try it, particularly in Durham NC, both of which are positive outcomes. The degree of local participation is marginally less than for our city elections (only 14% of our registered voters even bothered to vote for city councilors in the last election in 2017). But for the outcomes you are trying to get in Portland, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and maybe failure, partly because of the form of government Portland has.
So far Portland has been full of false starts, confused leadership, and delay around PB. The most hopeful prospect is the $1 million for PB with and by houseless Portlanders adopted in the FY20-21 budget but has yet to launch. I think it is being held up by the broader roll-out of homeless services funding through Metro adopted by regional voters in May 2020. For all these reasons we are working to advance PB in places like Gresham and Metro. But if PB with and by houseless Portlanders happens it could break new ground in terms of PB focused on a sub-population; in most other contexts PB with sub-populations been focused on a specific geography or with youth. The other prospect in the works doesn’t exactly involve Portland but would implement PB with East Portland/West Gresham/North Clackamas youth using the State ARPA funds that are being allocated through State Senate Districts 24 and 25. The argument is that youth have been uniquely impacted by COVID 19 and are uniquely underrepresented in government.
Hopefully Portland’s charter review / reform process will yield changes more favorable to PB. There is a group of us working to replicate (in Portland’s charter reform process) New York’s successful effort to incorporate Citywide PB into their 2019 voter approved charter.
Thanks for the explanation Jim. Really interesting. I don’t think a lot of people are familiar with this, and it might help if bikeportland did a story on it.
I’d love to see the press start covering it, especially thoughtful journalists like Jonathan. I have heard through the grapevine that PBOT has retained the services of a consultant to investigate case studies of PB with transportation funds. This good news but highlights the limits of doing PB for one type of funding or public good/infrastructure/service. The more discretionary the funds allocated through PB, the fewer constraints on resulting projects, and thus the greater number of solutions the community can propose and select & the higher impact in turns of the number and diversity of people who participate.
Eawriste – If you are interested in learning more this recent webinar Participatory Budgeting on Governance & Well-Being hosted by People Powered might be of interest.
This upcoming webinar Impacts of Participatory Budgeting on Civil Society and Political Participation may also be of interest.
People Powered is a global hub for participatory democracy with a focus on the Global South.
For efforts to bring PB to Oregon see http://www.pboregon.org.
What a truly astonishing conversation. Clint Culpepper for bike hero of the year, for speaking truth to power. Wow on multiple levels.
Clint Culpepper for PBOT Bike Coordinator!
Oh dear. I like Clint a bunch and respect him a bunch. I’m grateful for the work he’s doing. I don’t think we should co-opt phrases like “speaking truth to power” when we are talking about white men speaking to Black women who are advocates for police reform and lower income folks. I totally understand Clint’s frustration with feeling like he’s being asked to do more work. But the language here, that Clint is somehow a hero to the enemy that is our best city commissioner–that framing does not help the city or our efforts for more bike infrastructure in the slightest.
Sounds of like you are saying Clint cannot present arguments and disagree with an (uninformed) elected official because he is a white man? That seems oppressive.
I think it is absolutely clear that this is not what I am saying–I have no objections to anything Clint said but only to the reactions here on BP. Your comment certainly builds quite a strawman.
As far as I can tell, Clint was speaking the *truth*, and he was speaking that truth to an elected official who, thanks to her position, has the *power* to effect positive change in this community. Especially after her casual suggestion that volunteer bike advocates need to match the efforts of the much more *powerful* business interests (including paid professional lobbyists) that advocate for motor vehicle transportation, I think the phrase fits.
Some of Clint’s so-called “truths” were nonsense. For example, his claim that E PDX has higher cycling mode share than other communities in Portland was a real whopper — and especially so in the context of the whinging about Hawthorne.
I’d also love to see recent ACS data for the stratification of “means of transportation” by income in Portland. OR data for 2019 shows that upper-middle and upper income people are ~1.7x times more likely to bike to work than very low-income people:
0.8% bike mode share for people with income $100,000
Moreover, this shift to high income people biking more is a phenomenon that correlates well with accelerating late-stage gentrification. (The numbers were reversed a decade ago.)
Given the massive shift towards high income in Portland and the tidal wave of displacement of working poor people to other regions, I very much doubt that Portland looks different.
I’m pretty sure people use bikes for a lot of things other than “biking to work” that aren’t captured in ACS. I use to ride to work but no longer due to COVID. I’d show in ACS as work from home in the mode share, but I ride daily for fun and to run errands/generally get around.
The ACS isn’t the end all be all.
But it’s the statistic that Clint referred to, which has almost certainly reversed in the past decade. And my point is not that we should not build bike lanes but that we should do so in a way that helps reduces displacement and transportation inequity (see David Hampsten’s post for more on how to do that).
Agreed that Clint seems to have been wrong about East Portland biking. That’s why we need better infrastructure in East Portland! So many people whose lives would be vastly improved by making it a more pleasant option!
And likely wrong about census ACS evidence that low-income folk are more likely to bike for transportation in the Portland area.
Who exactly is this “we” and why should bike lanes be prioritized over pedestrian infrastructure, traffic calming, and street lighting?
Also, how did “bike-friendly” (e.g. Redfin Bike Score) redevelopment work out for black people in inner North and North East Portland? And why would anyone expect this set of events not to repeat themselves elsewhere?
ACS 2019 for OR:
0.8% bike mode share for people with income $100,000
Note, if I have the time, I may do an iPUMS query on microdata that will look at Portland in specific.
Apologies, the blog software is deleting out text with symbols in my posts.
ACS 2019 for OR:
0.8% bike mode share for people with income less than $20.000
1.3% bike mode share for people with income greater than $100,000
I mean, become commissioner, and you become the power. That’s the way it works. People from more diverse backgrounds having power is a good thing, there’s nothing shameful or uncouth about acknowledging it, or implying that she might sometimes wield that power in ways that we think hurt vulnerable groups like people who bike.
I want to echo the praise for Clint’s effective advocacy as described here. This is how change happens, too slowly. It depends on well-informed passionate folks like Clint and Catie and others.
This city council has ZERO credibility. The city has never felt more lost and leaderless. Well, maybe before my time and I’m old.
“not having anyone on city council who rides bikes…” Didn’t we just recently read about Mapps and his bicycle, which is, apparently, practically an extension of his body? The fact that our sitting commissioner had never heard of the bike plan is completely insane. Has the League of American Bicyclists heard the news yet? That doesn’t sound very platinum. Maybe they’ll finally yank our undeserved status, as several of us begged them to do years ago. (laughing out loud)
I direct most of my ire towards the mayor, who has intentionally saddled us with two PBOT commissioners in a row who are simply not qualified to oversee a transportation agency. It certainly seems like an attempt to divert two potentially-powerful women from their primary focus, in Eudaly’s case housing equity and in Hardesty’s case policing and racial equity in general. I find myself wondering what things would look like right now if the circular firing squad on the “left” had not been in effect during the last election (looking squarely at Teressa Raiford and crew here, who did the rich and powerful a big favor by depriving Iannarone of a likely victory).
As much as I love Bike Loud – I lurk on the mailing list – I fear that they are already being compromised by their negotiations/connections/friendships with and to PBOT and employees of PBOT. I don’t say that to disparage their efforts in any way but, after watching the coopting and downfall of the Street Trust (isn’t that what they’re called now?), it already seems like we need Bike Louder.
Here are a few Bike Louder ideas off the top of my head:
1) Occupy PBOT
2) Ask the entire BAC to resign as one
2) Demand the resignation of Roger Geller (one wonders if our “bicycle coordinator” and our PBOT Commissioner have ever crossed paths)
3) Critical Mass Summer 2021
4) Start a citizen’s PBOT and begin implementing our own infrastructure city-wide (I’m thinking “climate emergency” here if this sounds a little too “radical”)
5) Work harder at marginalizing the PBA, Oregonian editorial board, and other folks tied to the status quo
6) work harder at getting the LAB to lower our Platinum status, which will make it harder for the city to “sell” its own self-mythologizing BS.
7) Lawsuit https://gofund.me/f8aea9ad
8) Abolish the commission form of city gov’t.
But actually that’s a “1” because I don’t agree with your recommendations 1 thru 5. We don’t need to blow up the place – just reform a few key pieces.
Fred, we do agree on one thing, which is abolishing the commission form of city gov’t. Since “reform a few key pieces” is the most likely action that we can expect it shouldn’t be hard to check back in at some point and see if you were right. I hope you are, which I personally will define as *feeling consistently pretty damn safe to ride around the city with my 6-year-old in tow* – the sort of not-unreasonable picture that Geller and his useless crew at PBOT were preaching 10+ years ago.
Here’s the email that I just sent to LAB, with some specifics redacted that I don’t feel like sharing with the broader community. Feel free to use this as a template for your own email.
8) Move city hall to 122nd & Division; all the other agencies will soon follow on their own.
Isn’t Roger Geller the only person at PBOT who actually cares about bikes? Why would you want him to resign? Are you blaming him for not having influence with a Commish who has zero interest in transportation?
I do agree with a Peoples Bureau of Transportation and have plans for some infrastructure changes in my own neighborhood this summer. It would be great if there were resources for individuals to slow down the streets in their neighborhood without causing dangerous situations.
I’m not suggesting that we get rid of the position of Bike Coordinator, to be clear. I’m looking at Geller’s 20+ year record in that position and saying “not nearly good enough, time to go, but thank you for your service nonetheless”. Let’s get some new, young, rock-the-boat energy in there.
I’m curious if you’ve ever worked in government? It doesn’t sound like it to be honest.
Roger has no control over PBOT bike policy and no one else you install in there will either.
If you want “rock-the-boat” energy it’s going to come from activist who stop wasting time with performative outreach like the BAC and instead organize direct actions to improve street safety.
Roger is not an activist lobbying his employer, he’s a coordinator who happens to love bikes but works for a DOT that hates them. Your assessment of the job he has done is unfair.
Hardesty is wrong about a lot of things here but one thing she is right about is that the bike activist scene is insular and mostly populated by central city, white urbanists. More focus needs to be on expanding the bike community into a big tent coalition.
Also non disabled. Can’t forget that part.
Several people with disabilities in the Healthier Hawthorne Facebook group have strongly supported the bike lanes. There are also many BIPOC people and low-income East Portlanders in the group, and many more who signed the petition. Just because they’re not on the BAC or on the BikeLoud board doesn’t mean they’re not doing everything they can do to voice their support for better bike/rolling infrastructure. The pandemic has made it even harder for people (of any ability or race) to visibly show their support for these things (in the before times, it would have been more obvious at an IRL open house, for instance), and I think it’s crucial to understand that before blaming the bike activist scene for being “too white”—because depending on how you define “activist,” I don’t think it’s as white or able-bodied as many think.
A ‘bike coordinator’ who has no control over bike policy? So he just collects a paycheck for 30 years while presiding over an historic decline in biking conditions and ignoring of the bike plan mandates?
It sounds to me like the one being treated unfairly is the Portland taxpayer.
How can you not see based on the facts right in front of you that this isn’t working?
I’m always appalled by the membership of the BAC, not only when I observed it 2008-15, and participated on it 2014-15, but also when I watch it on zoom (including last night – I’m on eastern time, 3 hours later.) I get the impression that PBOT goes out of its way to recruit and appoint the most passive and least effective bicycle advocates in the community they can find – that PBOT staff intends the BAC to never succeed in actually achieving anything worthwhile, just passively receive information and act as a rubber-stamp sounding board for practice presentations by PBOT staff.
If you actually want to see change, you have to do what we did in East Portland to get our $400 million in projects funded:
– First you need to court and form unholy alliances with your enemies such as business associations, realtors, police associations, churches, influential business people, and economic development agencies – these are your natural allies as they too want better safer walking and bicycling facilities to sell houses, get more customers, more parishioners, more eyes on the street.
– Second, you need to identify in government budgets where funding has not yet been allocated for coming years, and design infrastructure projects or programs that fit each budget silo for different years, then lobby engineers and councilors for those dollars. (Don’t bother lobbying city planners, they don’t control the funds.)
– Third, you need to focus on projects and advocacy in areas of greatest poverty, not where you happen to live or shop at. The BAC members wining about Hawthorne was not only embarrassingly pathetic, it was actually counter-productive. Instead it should focus on where lots of poor people are dying, in EP, SW, North, etc. No wonder Hardesty had contempt for the BAC member’s arguments.
– Fourth, your advocacy members should be dominated by community members from the poorest parts of town, not by the best-connected.
– Fifth, you need to stop acting so fucking white…
Well said, David. The BAC’s obsession with Hawthorne and the Bike Plan for 2030 (a plan created before equity was even a thing) basically proves Hardesty’s point that the bike advocates are out of touch with the needs of low-income people and people of color. Yes, there is a huge constituency out there in low-income BIPOC communities for improvements to bike infrastructure, but how about actually getting to know them, including them in your advocacy, and advocating for their priorities? I’m guessing Hawthorne wouldn’t be their top concern by a long shot, and that they wouldn’t see the Bike Plan for 2030 as something that was written with them in mind.
Roger Geller and PBOT worked with PSU to do an equity analysis as part of the process of drafting the Bike Plan. It’s not like the city just discovered the concept of equity in 2018.
Now, did they do an adequate level of outreach in low income communities or communities of color or work with community advocates to ensure that the Bike Plan met community priorities? That I cannot say. But to argue that the drafters of the plan didn’t have equity or communities of color in mind when writing the plan flies in the face of the available facts.
Making a lot of assumptions about “them”
This is a pretty depressing post from someone who clearly works at PBOT.
I can’t speak to the rest of the BAC, but I personally would prefer never to talk about Hawthorne again. The reason it keeps being discussed is because PBOT is constantly pleading poverty, but seems unwilling/unable to make every dollar go as far as possible in a project like the Hawthorne. What PBOT is moving forward with makes no improvements for bicycling or transit, with questionable-at-best improvements for pedestrians.
If PBOT believes that the 2030 Bike Plan no longer represents current thinking, and wants to update it, then that’s fine. Go for it. I’d support that. But we’ve seen no indication of that. We’ve seen project-after-project where’s there’s been zero attempt to follow its recommendations. Portland’s bike mode share has been stuck for a long time, and it’s not like transit or walking are doing well either. What’s PBOT plan to actually achieve the targets that it wrote into the state-mandated Comprehensive Plan?
Portland’s bike share mode is not stuck. It’s declining. If you stare hard enough you can actually see the gauge going down.
PBOT (and other bureaus as well) are basically ignoring the goals they committed to in the Comprehensive Plan. You can see it in land use, transportation, and probably other areas as well. There is no way that I can see to hold them accountable to the commitments they made.
Thanks for all this, David. I share your assessment and frustration. There’s just so much whiteness and privilege and entitlement in these comments.
The dollar amounts of the top donations on Zach’s gofundme are an eye popping example of this inner PDX privilege.
You say that like it’s a bad thing. Personally, I’m grateful we don’t live in a city where privileged NIMBYs raise money for lawsuits against bike lanes.
Disparities in socioeconomic political power definitely concern me.
I’m also fiercely opposed to NIMBYism and YIMBYism (market deregulation) given that both have a long history of racism and classism in the USA. Housing is a human right — not a rent-seeking asset (NIMBYs) or a speculative asset (YIMBYs).
I’m kind of lost as to what you are in favor of. You don’t like people that automatically reject new infrastructure (NIMBYs) and you don’t like people that want more infrastructure (YIMBYs). Is it just that you dislike all people that own property? Or do you like property owners that don’t have any opinions on new infrastructure projects?
What about NIMBYs or YIMBYs that are not wealthy or who do not own property. Where do they fit in? Because in my experience, these NIMBYs and YIMBYs are not always property owners and they are not always motivated by external impacts to property value.
YIMBYism is not about more “infrastructure”. It is an ideology that treats housing as a speculative commodity that should only be accessible to those who can meet the “market’s” price. I’m a PHIMBY — the housing ideology that has played an integral role in the creation of stable housing systems in many genuinely democratic nations.
When decontextualized, the acronyms simply mean not in my backyard or yes in my backyard. And they are terms that are often used to describe opposing sides in a variety of public policy debates, including when there are disputes about locating new infrastructure projects.
I don’t think Zach was using NIMBY with the intention of weighing in on a policy debate about the best way to finance affordable housing. He was expressing gratitude for the fact that many Portland residents would rather invest funds to promote infrastructure projects, like bike lanes, as opposed to similar situations in California or New York City, in which well heeled residents have invested personal resources to attempt to torpedo bike lanes.
My original comment in this thread focused on “gentrification”, not on what Zach did or did not do.
“Whiteness”? What do you mean?
Full disclosure: I am white, both of my parents were white academics, and I have always enjoyed white privilege. On most days I act white since that’s part of my culture – when I bike I honestly don’t worry about the police stopping me, as it only happened twice in my life and in both cases they were very polite to me; I don’t get weird looks when I enter a store; when I speak in public, I expect to be heard and taken seriously; and so on.
“Acting so fucking white” is when a white person acts like a privileged white person in the wrong venue and/or at the wrong time. The BAC member who spoke about traffic deaths in connection to Hawthorne and how he wants to make the city safer for his kids – well, that’s alright if he was speaking at a public forum for his neighborhood association maybe, or maybe at some town hall – it’s part of his right to free speech. But he was appointed to a city commission as a volunteer – the BAC – and so he should be representing the downtrodden, the poor, the neighborhoods with all the deaths, volunteering overtime to do his research beforehand and identifying community need and then advocating for it. Instead he whines about how he’s an unpaid volunteer and how the city is ignoring the bike master plan, at a public meeting that’s being recorded on Zoom, and he has a rare privilege to speak directly with a city councilor when members of the public do not. It makes him look bad, it makes the BAC look elitist, and it does the community no good.
That particular BAC member is hardly unique. Nearly every member of the BAC, PAC, TBAC, and all other ACs are volunteers with similar concerns, but they are generally more circumspect to not voice those concerns so directly and honestly when speaking with elected officials in public. And most avoid whining and talking about how it helps them or their loved ones; instead they focus on how it helps the poorest in the community and tell exactly how to make improvements. Nearly everyone who serves on any city commission is a volunteer as well as everyone in neighborhood associations, business associations, etc. Even the city planning commission are all volunteers. The PBA and Freight Committee are notorious exceptions.
Commissioner Hardesty certainly knows about the city Bike Master Plan, but maybe not the title of it. We spoke of it quite a bit at East Portland Action Plan meetings which she attended in 2009-12, always in the worst possible light as the plan virtually ignored East Portland (and SW too) – it’s why were able to so easily get EPIM in 2010-12, EPIM was meant to be a BMP2030 for East Portland, a supplement to the overall plan.
“….. Instead he whines about how he’s an unpaid volunteer and how the city is ignoring the bike master plan, at a public meeting that’s being recorded on Zoom, and he has a rare privilege to speak directly with a city councilor when members of the public do not. It makes him look bad, it makes the BAC look elitist, and it does the community no good.”
Respectfully, that seems to me to be a very unfounded accusation. Mr. Culpepper was responding to Ms. Hardesty’s privileged (as a well compensated elected official) admonishment that he should do more as a volunteer. I think you are going after the wrong person here.
I want to flag this comment for Jonathan on the comments standards for the site. Is “acting so fucking white” really keeping to the prohibition on hate speech and attacking people based on race?
Besides this bizarre ad hominem attack, the reading of the article is pretty slanted. Clint is quoted as talking about all parts of the city here: “‘People aren’t just dying in east Portland, they are dying in north Portland, they are dying in northeast Portland they are dying in southeast Portland, they are dying in every part of this city! Regardless of when it was annexed, we have continued to pour money into the streets to make it easier for people to drive in this city, instead of prioritizing people’s safety!’ Culpepper replied.”
This comment by David seems pretty on the line of acceptability, especially with the low accuracy.
I wrote a short, respectful, and constructive response to this comment to register my concerns with the term, “acting white,” but the moderator seems to have rejected it. I’m baffled about why it’s okay to use this term but it’s not okay to suggest that we try doing better.
Sorry but when it comes to sensitive topics like race, I make moderation decisions that might be hard to understand. I wasn’t comfortable posting your other comment. I have to live with consequences of the comments, so I hope you can live with my decisions. Keep sharing your perspective. Thanks.
Thank you for your reply, Jonathan. I can understand being wary of sensitive topics like race, and I know that on many levels, discussing transportation requires considering them. As such, you face some tough decisions as moderator; I’m glad not to bear that responsibility.
As a community, I hope we find a way to consider sensitive issues without resorting to ascribing attitudes or motives to everyone of a particular race. And until we do, I hope you’ll allow such stereotypes to be constructively challenged.
Good to hear from somebody who’s been to the mat in the budgeting process.
Note: white people can’t exactly fucking stop being white, but they CAN recruit people who are less white. And I’m disappointed when advisory council members resign in disgust. Their experience goes away. Their ability to mentor others goes away. The AC is gutted. I think it’s a weak tactic.
I nominate this for post of the year.
Ha! There’s nothing more white these days than white people condescending to other white people to stop acting so white. It’s the new pot vs kettle.
Your posts are always insightful though.
You appear to be confusing “person who volunteers to be on committee” with “person who has no other commitments in their life”.
I’m actually shocked (seriously) that people on this committee, people here, and other Portlanders who pay attention to local politics are at all surprised about city leaders being totally clueless about, and largely uninterested in, the bike plan. In my view, this much has been clear and obvious for several years!!
I’m not trying to talk myself up. My point is that I think many of you urgently need to re-think how you are advocating for achieving the sort of goals in the bike plan. Perhaps now you can see clearly that none of these folks in power are going to do jack-squat to get us there? They’re all either afraid or not capable or both.
And I don’t have the answer. But there isn’t any reason to think that continuing this charade will produce anything other than more frustration and death.
You gotta love it when elected officials tell a handful of dedicated volunteers, advocates and people who just want a safe bike routes that they need to “be more organized,” “bring cycling and safety to marginalized groups” and “find a seat at the table alongside paid lobbyists at city hall and in Salem.”
We elect people to do these things and then they turn around and tell the people who elected them to go do it themselves. On top of that, they all tout their bike credentials while they’re running.
To complete the cycle, Hardesty will soon say that the “bike community” was too mean to her, didn’t advocate in the right way and didn’t appreciate everything she did, so it’s their fault that no progress was made.
She spilled the beans. Now we really know what she thinks about bicycle riding.
The real question should be: how can we share our–and the 2030 Bike Plan–vision of an equitable transportation system that includes all modes equally? Not reported was Hardesty’s response to Clint’s claim that bicycle riders make less money. She said that those people that live east of 82nd ride bikes because they have to and don’t have any other way to get around. In her view, then, there are bicycle riders and there is everyone else, some of whom ride a bike if they have to. This is the dichotomy we have to break down. Bicycle riding must be made accessible to everyone.
Getting rid of Hardesty will not change the fact that very few people are aware that bicycles can be part of the transportation system. She broke our bubble, and it’s our choice whether we want to seal it back up with our righteousness or get out there, spread the vision, and get more people on bikes, especially those that live east of 82nd.
YES! Community organizing east of 82nd Ave, and centering Black communities in bike advocacy is key to making any real change.
Can you explain the focus on Black communities a bit more, please. Also, why not include Hispanic/Latino and Asian communities?
If you don’t understand why a focus on anti-racism has to focus on Black communities above all others, then you have a lot to learn. I’m not going to do that work for you. Do some reading about the history of slavery and continue from there.
I have done quite a bit of work, and I still have more to do/learn and that’s why I asked the question. Given the demographics and overlapping needs of communities of color east of 82nd, I was just wondering why centering one community is the “key to making any early change.” I wasn’t doubting you, I was just hoping you could elaborate a bit more.
Daniel, this is a super problematic comment. Like, didn’t you all have a BikeLoud conversation about race and bikes a year or two ago? Hardesty was clearly asking to hear from more constituents who prioritize bikes and bike lanes. She is clearly interested in learning more.
Which part is problematic?
I think these are big (and wrong) conclusions to draw about the way Hardesty perceives bikes and folks who ride and use bicycles. She’s clearly aware that some folks use bikes as transportation–she says as much. It also sets up Hardesty as the enemy of progress. You also suggest bike advocates need to employ “righteousness” in fights for bikes and people who live east of 82nd. This is some strong language to use against a Black woman who is an advocate for folks of color and poor people, a commissioner who is right now embroiled in an incredibly important fight to try to making policing better in this city. And clearly Hardesty is one of the few commissioners who is interested in east Portland. She’s being targeted by cops and business interests and wealthy folks who don’t want the change she does. We are a group of mostly white folks with a lot of privilege. Drawing these big assumptions, and adding fuel to the anti-Hardesty fire, is not great.
In general, if we are white folks with privilege who want to be thoughtful about race and anti-racist in our actions, I think we need to reflect a lot more before commenting on the thoughts and actions of Black women, whether in leadership roles or not.
I was arguing to not be righteous and instead do the work to change hearts and minds toward bicycle riding. I said nothing disparaging of Hardesty. She spoke her mind, and I think it reflects the mainstream point of view. If that’s what people outside of bicycle activism circles think, then we need to do a better job or lower our standards of what the city should do.
“…it reflects the mainstream point of view”
Perhaps the mainstream point of view that bicycle activism circles are pro-gentrification has some merit. To be blunt, there is no way that I could get involved in mainstream cycling advocacy in Portland because I view YIMBYism as an ongoing disaster for social justice.
Thanks Joan. I will also point out that Hardesty is female. Was there a conversation about misogyny? I remember how quick some people were to go after Eudaly.
Commenters have also been quick to go after Ted Wheeler and Dan Ryan. I’ve heard good things about Mingus Mapps and very little about Carmen Rivera.
People typically like politicians who share their views and dislike politicians who don’t. No wonder, then, that the views Hardesty expressed didn’t earn her new fans on this board. Fingers crossed that she comes around on these issues. And if she doesn’t, I’ll vote against her—without hesitation, and without misogyny in my heart.
In my opinion, Eudaly was criticized because she acted as a divisive ideologue, not because of her gender. The voters recognized this and acted at the ballot box. People want consensus builders. I wish Sam Adams had made it to the council. I feel he has those community building skills.
Well, that explains Ted Cruz. He builds consensus, ie, the consensus that he is a jerk.
Men in public office get away with some crazy shit. I am not a Sam Adams hater but he is an interesting choice to put up on your wall.
People went after Eudaly because she was a terrible politician and uninformed about her core subject.
The long-term tenant organizer who passed RELO, FAIR, and was close to passing the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase (with TPO up next) was not “uninformed”.
I have to disagree. My reading of it is that Ms. Hardesty has little if any interest in the opinions of constituents who value biking as an important form of transportation.
Hardesty is a transit rider and, I think, potentially a natural ally.
In the last year I’ve seen more people of color riding bikes. Yes, anecdotal, just saying.
Yes, it’s all about dispelling the misconception MANY have that transit is for poor people and bikes are for rich people. Nothing could be further from the truth.
? Hardesty is a person, not poor OR rich, who has seen the world through a bus window. Maybe I’m wrong, but I see transit and bikes as complementary. A person who understands one is on the way to understanding the other.
Do you think bicycles and transit are a zero sum game?
Oh, to clarify, I definitely think bikes and transit are complementary. They can both work together seamlessly, as the Netherlands demonstrates so beautifully:
My point was exactly that: We need to think about bikes and transit as complementary, rather than competing against each other (in terms of road space, race, or class). A small but vocal minority of safe streets advocates are misinformed about this, and seem to think that transit should be prioritized over biking at all costs. They couldn’t be more wrong.
However, I do believe biking should be prioritized before transit, because, contrary to what many believe, biking has drastically more potential to take cars off the road than transit. Something like 90% of trips are <3 miles, and e-biking that distance will almost always be faster than driving, so you can get a shitload of cars off the road by making it hyper-comfortable to bike within neighborhoods—thus freeing up road space for transit, in a virtuous cycle.
See Soren’s comment above. It’s not about potential, it’s about raw numbers. If you double the number of people who use bikes as their main form of transportation the change would be nearly invisible and bikes would keep on not saving the world OR freeing the streets.
We can’t get a 10% increase in bike riders but we would need 1000%.
I voted for Hardesty and have been regretting it for some time now. After reading this it’s hard to see how I can vote for her again. She definitely should not be overseeing PBOT any longer. Reading this after reading the WW article, “Emotions Well Up in a Debate Over How to Best Help Portland’s Homeless,” yesterday, makes me shake my head at all our so-called leaders and the sundry commissions they sit on. We need pragmatic executive leadership right now and there are simply no governmental structures in place where that is on offer. Instead we have a long series of feckless elected and un-elected commissions that offer leaders like Hardest ample opportunity to pass the buck when they ought to be sticking their necks out and owning a problem and finding pragmatic solutions to resolve it. I could go on…
I wonder what kind and volume of emails and voicemails the commissioners are getting from everyday citizens these days. I would guess the vast majority has to be the homeless crisis, trashed streets and public spaces, and police reform – these are the issues I’ve personally raised with commissioners over the past year. I’m not making excuses for Hardesty’s brutally honest, yet poorly informed, responses, but the bike master plan must be considered awfully rich in a city with such overwhelming problems. Just offering a different perspective from someone who bikes when they can and loves it every time, but sees a city in utter crisis.
Worth noting that the conversation was cut short just as it was starting to get good.
The facilitator from the BAC gave everyone 3 minutes for questions and answers. He laid out the ground rules twice. He wanted everyone from the BAC to have a chance to ask questions, but to not allow anyone (including Hardesty) to go on a diatribe. The public were never invited to directly participate.
Hardest knows about freight interests and that trucking is an influential stakeholder because they have money and lobbyists. What is good for trucking is usually terrible for pedestrians and cyclists.
As she reads this, I hope she appreciates that they are monied and connected unlike the low income and minority communities she claims to represent
The most important take away is that almost any city councilor that is charged with PBOT is going to know much less about biking, walking and PBOT’s bike related plans and history than the BAC. And, they definitely will not appreciate the extent to which non-motorized transportation can benefit business, health, equity, safety, community and resilience. Also, most elected officials want to be schmoozed and admired. The next event like this should be an educational session about the intrinsic value that bikes and bike infrastructure bring to a city regardless of which group of people are advocating for them. They should be informed about the successes of PBOT around bikes and how important it is to move more projects forward, and how this will ultimately benefit the elected official, personally. Basically, doing the job that PBOT should do, but hasn’t. Assuming that city officials know what they are doing and are going to respond well to being accountable is a dead end.
Public policy matters. Our advocacy matters. Whether you like Hardesty or not, we all seem to agree on the need to persuade her (and other local leaders) on the importance of making PBOT less car-centric. I’m not going to convince you to like or dislike a particular politician. You’re not going to persuade me to ascribe a set of attitudes to everyone of a particular race. Let’s work together on the really important stuff we agree on and stop focusing on the ancillary stuff.
How is the speed camera ticket backlog these days? Still waiting on the police department?
It was a little frustrating, I will admit. Yet for me the two most important things I took away from the meeting were that commissioner Hardesty stated she is interested in being part of these meetings in the future. And also that she personally doesn’t ride a bike because it’s a vulnerable position to be on a bike as a POC in this city (I’m going to assume everyone can understand the legitimacy of this concern).
Just thinking out loud, maybe someone in the BAC could invite her to a private ride between BAC members and herself for introductions? Grab a biketown e-bike and go on a safe and quiet greenway loop. Because If someone hasn’t ridden a bike in a while, I wouldn’t expect them to advocate for bike infrastructure (I’m not saying commissioner Hardesty doesn’t advocate for bike infrastructure). I know that getting my friends on e-bikes (specifically the e bike) just once changed their perspective on the need for more people on bikes in this city, it was more effective than anything else I could say or show them.
The BAC really is about making streets safer for people, regardless of their background, and regardless if they are on a bike or not. More bikes means less cars and their terrible complications. I want to thank Clint and everyone at the BAC for representing safer streets. Very well said, all of you. And I want to thank commissioner Hardesty for joining the meeting, I’m excited about her future plans which at the heart of it are centered on equity, safety, and the climate. That sounds like a problem that will be solved with more bicycles and less cars.
Such a great watershed article about PBOT and Biking in Portland. I must remember to send BP more money.
Then Hardesty added, “Check people who think that riding a bike gives them special powers and special privileges. Help support lower-income folks getting bikes and learning how to use bikes.”
1. Riding a is an expression of my special powers and my special privileges, but I now like this magical and almost religious idea that the act it’s self endows theses to me as a rider.
2a. Dear lower-income folks, get a bike for your budget and body style. Pay for it as you would car insurance, gasoline or bus passes. If your body is unique in some way, odds are there is some accommodation available; ask your doctor or bicycle vendor.
2b. Hey lower-income folks, now that you have a bike,you may discover riding it gives you special powers and privileges, BUT you may need to still own a proper lock, lights and patch kit, as those may not covered in your new special-powers plan.
2c. Review this document: https://www.oregon.gov/odot/forms/dmv/37.pdf
It’s available in many languages and in audio format if you don’t read.
Now you are ready to gentrify stuff! Be safe and Have fun!
This attitude is all too common among bike advocates. IMO, it’s just as racist and classist as the NIMBYism that bike advocates view as problematic.
I too had to laugh at the supposed causal connection between bike lanes and gentrification – as if you build bike lanes and they cause the rich people to move in.
Sorry, but the rich people were moving in anyway, due to demographic changes, not bike lanes.
There is a growing literature arguing that bike lanes are associated with gentrification. This is about as consistent with causality as it’s possible to get in demography, sociology, and/or urban planning.
One of many example that specifically examines Portland: https://tram.mcgill.ca/Research/Publications/Cycling%20Gentrification.pdf
Ironically, a “Healthier Hawthorne” advocate recently bragged about to a recent high quality study that found that gentrification was explanatory for virtually all of the safety improvement associated with new bike facilities.
(Full text available on scihub.)
“due to demographic changes”
Cycling advocates actively fight for the policies that encourage these demographic changes. I think it is fair to say that cycling advocacy in Portland is pro-gentrification overall.
The strength of an association does not necessarily reflect causality, and this doesn’t change when a field lacks the tools to establish causality.
From the paper that was cited “However, aggregate census tract data captured at two time points makes interpretations of whether cycling infrastructure is a cause or effect of changing community characteristics inappropriate.”
“..does not necessarily reflect causality”
This is true for just about any association in demography or sociology. Your critique is akin to claiming that disparities in access to health, for example, are not causal because they are mostly based on regression analyses. There are quite a few publications finding a significant association between bike lanes and gentrification using regression analyses. I suggest that you google:
“bike lane” AND “gentrification” AND linear model | regression.
Moreover, the chicken and egg question seems to me to be beside the point given that just about every study finds racial and class disparities in the geographic distribution of bike lanes, and especially protected bike lanes. In the unlikely event that bike lanes are not an amenity that accelerates gentrification, the fact that they are distributed in such a grossly unequal manner should be enough for people to not be so reactive to these concerns.
The paper suggests the exact opposite in fact. Bike lanes don’t appear in lower income communities, so a community needs to be sufficiently wealthy before you can expect to see them.
A direct quote from the article:
Becoming sufficiently wealthy to see investment in amenities that wealthy and/or white people like is the text book definition of gentrification.
“Check people who think that riding a bike gives them special powers and special privileges.”
This struck me as an odd thing to say, and I don’t understand what she meant. Is she talking about white privilege here? If anyone could explain this statement in context, I would appreciate it.
Whatever might’ve been meant, it’s a distraction from what matters: making Portland a safer place to live and move. I’m far less interested in the personal journey of a speaker and far more interested in whether their ideas (and for those with power, their application of power) make Portland a safer place to ride.
Fair enough. But I don’t have any doubt Hardesty wants Portland streets to be safer for everyone. So I don’t think it’s a distraction to consider how the head of the transportation bureau thinks about cycling.
I read it as a rehash of the “cyclist need to follow the laws just like motorist!” trope.
She has used similar, if not more pointed, language in discussions about urban mountain biking before. Based on the context of this comment, it would appear she making a 2 part statement: “bike people” expect the world to revolve around them and those “bike people” are in shades of humanity in the “eggshell” column.
I would also argue that there is some truth to both statements, at least when it comes to the most vocal and visible bicyclists. It is not particularly true of people who bike more broadly. Bike advocates would do well to ponder this, I think, in their strategizing. For example, the Hawthorne advocacy right now is coming across more and more as privileged people that can’t get over it when they don’t get their own way, focusing on one of the whitest and most priviledged neighborhoods in the city. It’s not a great look.
The reason I chose to advocate for Hawthorne is because I live next to it and would like my own neighborhood to be better. Is that somehow morally wrong? I walk down Hawthorne almost every day and deeply understand the problems with it and the needs it has, which enabled me to understand why it’s a dangerous street and how it could/should be improved. Would it not be MUCH more egregious for me—or any other privileged inner-city advocates—to advocate for bike lanes in a neighborhood far from where we live? Would we not be accused of trying to gentrify an outer neighborhood? Have advocates not been strongly shunned for doing this in historically black NE neighborhoods? What’s the difference?
It seems inevitable to me that privileged people are, in almost all cases, going to be the ones most vocally advocating for better bike infrastructure. As David Binnig points out in his excellent letter to Commissioner Hardesty , many low-income people and BIPOC people—who arguably need this infrastructure the most—don’t have the time or energy (or even interest!) to fight for it as much as more privileged folk do. With that in mind, how do you get them to be advocates in the first place? And even if you were successful in doing that, how would you do so in a way that isn’t seen as tokenizing them?
PBOT crash data illustrates that this danger is concentrated in the area that just got upgraded to a million dollar+ protected bike lane (that is far superior to the meandering, narrow, and semi-unprotected bike lane that “wealthier hawthorne” has chosen as a hill to die on).
It’s tragic that you assume that black, brown, and poor people don’t advocate for bike lanes as much as you do simply because of who they are while ignoring the many examples of fierce advocacy for safer streets, pedestrian facilities, and transit by black, brown, and poor folk.
Have you ever considered that wealthy white people living in transportation-rich Sunnyside/Richmond have different priorities from people who were displaced from their neighborhoods by gentrification and/or who live in neighborhoods that have experienced decades of racist and classist neglect?
Ally-ship is too hard so I’m just going to advocate for the things I want.
Of *course* plenty of black, brown, and poor people do amazing work advocating for safer streets, and I’m grateful for it! My point was specifically in regards to Hawthorne.
Over the past year, I’ve talked to almost every single business owner on Hawthorne—many of whom are BIPOC and live in East Portland—and hundreds of people on the street—many of whom are also BIPOC and live in outer neighborhoods—and almost *everyone* thinks protected bike lanes and removing the center turn lane would be an improvement for both cycling and pedestrian safety.
The most striking conversation I had was with a Hispanic guy around my age who was delivering with DoorDash on his bike and had *just* gotten hit by a car on Hawthorne seconds prior to my filming him. See for yourself at 9:26: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BmsM959p6Y. Just because he didn’t start a website and make a big fuss about protected bike lanes, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t dramatically improve his life.
Ironically, the only people who seem to think bike lanes on Hawthorne are somehow inequitable are a small group of privileged white people on BikePortland. In my experience, this perception is completely detached from reality.
Hi Zach, I’m a very low income renter who has been on unemployment for 15 months.
This was said in a moment when she turned and asked for help from BAC members to make bicycling more welcome to folks who don’t bike. It did seem a bit odd at the time as well, but I feel like this was the Commissioner expressing something about bike riders that she personally doesn’t like and it just popped into her head in the moment.
Thanks for that. That’s the impression I got from reading.
I guess I will just comment by saying I think that kind of language is unhelpful. It’s a negative stereotype. And, you would think that, if anyone could understand the value of avoiding using negative stereotypes about others, it would be Ms Hardesty.
Does anyone know where we can donate to the Clint Culpepper For City Council campaign?
Oh, this tired old trope? Correlation does not imply causation. Just because bike lanes happened to show up around the time that decades of redevelopment efforts led by the city / PDC began to take hold, does not mean that bike lanes caused gentrification. This is an astonishingly dishonest take from JoAnn.
If you’re looking for a scapegoat, why not blame the influx of people moving to Portland in the 90s, 00s and beyond? It didn’t happen overnight. Or the city, for allowing “red-lining” to warehouse POC in N / NE from at least the 1940s onward?
Nah… it’s bike lanes. Those pesky bike lanes, again.
I was in the meeting.
Hardesty was stating a fact: Some neighborhoods did change when bike lanes come in. Keep in mind this conversations aren’t always about the technical facts of why something happens… They are also about emotions and lived experience and how people perceive things. The fact is some Black Portlanders associate bike lanes with radical change and gentrification of their neighborhoods. We ignore how they feel about this at great peril (ask me how I know this lesson so well).
That’s fine for activist JoAnn Hardesty but Commish JoAnn Hardesty needs to deal in facts.
As Mack was saying, bike lanes are usually introduced after a neighborhood starts to gentrify, it doesn’t start the gentrification process.
Keeping east Portland dangerous wont stop the rents/home prices from going up.
I agree. Moving from activist to elected official is a complicated transition. I too was disappointed at many of her comments.
“As Mack was saying, bike lanes are usually introduced after a neighborhood starts to gentrify, it doesn’t start the gentrification process.”
The idea that gentrification is some sort of switch that flips on or off is patently false and speaks to how many advocates really don’t know what they are talking about when it comes to these issues.
1. Are you implying that gentification is an infinte loop with no ending or beginning?
2. Gentrification describes a transformative process. While the beginning of the gentrification process is undefined and only comprehensible in retrospect, it does have a beginning.
And I’m sure your comment wasn’t intended as a direct attack on me by implying that I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I think your comments are a pretty good candidate for “judge not lest ye be judged”
It was an attack on the circular reasoning that “bike lanes” somehow always precede gentrification.
*bike lanes always follow gentrifiction
Your reasoning is circular, not mine. In fact, the paper you posted above supports what I’m saying, bike lanes are generally placed in wealthy communities hence only wealthy communities and those with rising affluent socio-economic status receive them.
And as an FYI, you can edit your posts afterwards
The edit function does not work for me in chromium in linux.
This seems to put feelings before facts. All neighborhoods should have bike lanes, regardless of racial composition or medidan income or whatever metric. They’re as essential as sidewalks or crosswalks or automobile lanes. If you can cite a real world example or study proving how bike lanes displaced POC or made primarily-POC neighborhoods demonstrably worse, I’m all ears. Until then it’s all confirmation bias.
I think you’re missing my point.
I don’t see these things as a binary of “feelings or facts”. I’m saying you have to understand reality of people’s history and feelings in order to actually make the right decisions about how to plan stuff… especially new stuff that isn’t as relatable to some people as it is to others.
I absolutely agree that Portland leaders (including myself at time, but I think I’ve evolved and gotten better at it in the past 10 years or so) have not always done a good time of re-orienting this narrative that bike lanes = gentrification. My concern is that PBOT has not only failed to embrace and re-orient this narrative, they have exacerbated it. And that concerns me because streets that allow people the choice to ride bikes are ultimately much more equitable streets and they are streets that give our city so many other imperative benefits that shouldn’t be up for debate.
This is a complicated topic! Just trying to say we have to have eyes wide open and I don’t see the value in pushing back when some expresses concerns that bike lanes = gentrification and radical change to some people. Those feelings matter and are important. Should they always dictate outcomes? I don’t think so. But we must hear them and respect them or we won’t make the progress we need to make. Hope that clarifies my stance on this stuff.
My take is that better marketing is needed, not more cautious planning.
Good marketing works wonders: It makes people feel heard and respected, takes their history and feelings into account, and makes them feel good about themselves.
If good marketing can make billions of people want to smoke cigarettes, it can certainly make people excited about protected bike lanes.
I totally, totally agree with this, particularly when it comes to marketing for something you genuinely believe in, like good bike infrastructure.
I really urge you to think about what kind of marketing the Hawthorne push is achieving. I know you feel passionately about it, I’m sure for good reasons, but I really don’t think it’s a good look for the bike advocacy community, it plays right into the stereotypes Hardesty displays above, about bike people being entitled white people. I don’t think it’s the right fight.
Why do you think advocating for protected bike lanes and pedestrian improvements on one of the inner city’s most dangerous streets isn’t “a good look” for the advocacy community? Is it just because the surrounding neighborhoods are predominantly wealthy and white? And if so, are the people who are not wealthy and not white who use Hawthorne or own businesses on it (of which there are many) not worth fighting for? Or is there some other reason I’m missing?
You need to hear the emotional concern behind the incorrect fact, yes. But that doesn’t mean you excuse the incorrect fact! You name and acknowledge the valid feeling about the crappiness of gentrification and the fears or just association of bike lanes hurting the black community, and then you educate to correct the misunderstanding. You need to do both.
“Some Black Portlanders associate bike lanes with radical change and gentrification” is an absolutely true statement, and people with that view are absolutely correct.
I bought commercial property in NE three decades ago, when you could buy a house on a double lot on my block for under $10K (not a typo). What most people would define as gentrification had already been going on for years, and was readily apparent to people in the area. However, white people investing or moving into the area were still outliers. There were no high-visibility bike lanes then to speak of.
When the high-profile bike lanes started going in, it didn’t create gentrification, and longtime N/NE minority business owners and residents that I knew didn’t think that, either. What the bike lanes DID do was put a stamp of approval on the neighborhood as a place to move into and develop, for people that previously had been afraid to set foot in it. So the bike lanes going in didn’t create that, but it helped open the floodgates. Within a few years, the area became almost unrecognizable, in terms of new buildings, different businesses and what types of people you see walking down the street.
You could say the radical change would have happened without the bike lanes, probably with some accuracy, but that doesn’t change the association—bike lanes go in, the neighborhood changes drastically.
Also, the City does new bike lanes (and sidewalk improvements) for that exact reason of spurring investment–it was done on NE MLK, on N Russell, on N. Interstate…In all cases those were streets already well into gentrification, which rocketed after the improvements.
All of the bike lanes added in deep east Portland seem to refute this supposed correlation. Some of the poorest, least-desirable neighborhoods have pretty decent bike infrastructure out here (Halsey/Weidler east of Gateway, Burnside/Holgate east of 205, etc).
And then you have streets like Mississippi and Fremont, which have exactly zero bike infrastructure, and are booming just as much as the Williams/Vancouver area.
I think you’re trying to refute something that I didn’t say, or didn’t intend to say. When people are talking about “Some Black Portlanders associate bike lanes with radical change and gentrification” they (as I was) are virtually always talking about an association that arose in Albina area in N/NE Portland two and three decades ago.
I said that that statement is true–that some Black Portlanders do believe that. I don’t think anyone would argue otherwise.
When I said “people with that view are absolutely correct” I was thinking of that same group of people, and it is true that for them, the association was a correct one. And as I wrote, the change may have happened without the bike lanes.
In regard to Mississippi/Fremont changing as rapidly as Williams/Vancouver, without having bike lanes, that’s not refuting anything. They’re all in exactly the same neighborhood, only a short walk away. People living in the area are familiar and close to all those streets. In fact, seeing development on Mississippi and Fremont, and not just the streets the bike lanes are on, only reinforces the association between bike lanes and radical change, because the change wasn’t limited only to Williams and Vancouver.
If bike lanes in other parts of the City are not being accompanied by rapid change and development, that doesn’t change the validity of the association some Black Portlanders developed with what happened in N/NE Portland years ago, or refute anything I said. It may an argument–and a good one–that adding bike lanes doesn’t always lead to rapid change, but that’s another subject.
It was incorrect, yes. But dishonest? You seem to have some claim to mind reading. This is a common misconception, and I’d wager a VERY common one in black Portland, because that was their experience. This is exactly the kind of thing that I wouldn’t expect a politician to know, and exactly the kind of thing bike advocates or planning professionals should educate her on.
Thank you Clint Culpepper
Point of wonkishness – is the Bike Plan a binding city policy or non binding? Often big important things get adopted by resolution or as non-binding because it’s the only way to get something adopted. But if it’s non-binding, then there’s actually no imperative to implement it.
It’s binding! It was initially adopted as a resolution (which is non-binding, unlike an ordinance). But then the entire plan (with a few updates) was put into the Comprehensive Plan and adopted with as binding policy.
(I just looked into this myself FWIW.)
And yet they ignore it anyway!
No they don’t.
PBOT has built and is building a lot of bike stuff and doing a lot of things based on Bike Plan policy.
Just because the Bike Plan isn’t fully built out and we are going through some bike-specific struggles at the moment, doesn’t mean “they ignore it”.
I have to push back Jonathan. Compare the 2030 bike map to the current state. Remember, some of the streets marked as “bike lane protected or buffered,” aren’t actually labeled correctly (eg Williams). I would estimate 5-10% complete? 28th, Hawthorne, Fremont, Division all of which had bike lanes on the 2030 plan and all of which had somewhat recent plans. That very much looks like ignoring it.
I’m not going to defend PBOT. I was just trying to push back a little on anyone who thinks they’re doing nothing. I agree they are ignoring it too much and I’d like to see them start to follow it more!
Not only are they not building much of the planned infrastructure, their inaction is causing them to move backwards on goals. So yeah, not much to defend.
Or perhaps the anti-poor policies supported by many cycling advocates have contributed more to the decline in cycling and transit use than PBOT’s long history of neglect.
I’m pretty sure that’s why we are having this conversation.
But Jonathan, what does that really mean? If there are no actual build-by dates or consequences for not following the comprehensive plan, how is it binding in any real sense? We’ve seen multiple streets that have been rebuilt, and according to the 2030 plan should have infra, but simply dont. How can that be binding?
I use “binding” as a purely legal term. It means the plan has teeth… Our problem is that no one has a mouth.
It’s “binding” in that it is official city policy, even though, as you point out, the “policy” appears to mean nothing.
I have some experience with city government legal issues, and the problem occurs everywhere throughout Oregon. For example, the City of Bend’s official policy, adopted via a Downtown Parking Plan ordinance, is to prioritize downtown on-street parking for the public doing shopping downtown. But they have just taken away numerous parking spaces to build privately-controlled outdoor dining.
Probably the major question from a legal perspective is, Who would have standing to sue the city for violating its own laws? Certainly citizens, I would argue. But who has the time and money to sue the city?
But the only reasonable conclusion you can draw from a wholistic perspective, the broader lesson here (as I’ve posed here and elsewhere), is that this (the bike plan, PBOT’s Vision Zero, and all other rhetoric from City officials) is nothing more than Orwellian double-speak.
Some people think this is “conspiracy theory,” but there is (IMO) a clearly orchestrated attempt to pacify the public with high-minded words and ambitious plans to transform the city into an active transportation paradise. But then there’s never enough money, it’s less important than other things, and the politicians are all totally cowed by the big-money lobbies, etc…
In sum, it’s a distraction to keep you engaged while they have no intention of changing anything. Just look at the facts: Portland has gone backward on these issues for 20 years now. This plan is total nonsense, and the emperor wears no clothes.
Move over BAC! This sounds like a job for the …………………………….The Street Trust!
LOL, in the end both the BAC and the Street Trust are toothless in the face of entrenched old PDX business interests (the same ones who have silently condoned the behaviour of the police in this city for, um, decades(?)), and are also responsible for this:
city leadership will never come to the table with the ‘bike community’ (whatever that means…because it doesn’t mean anything at all; all kinds of people ride bikes in this city for all kinds of reasons) to do anything vaguely progressive, because that’s just the way it is.
The Commissioner system is certainly more than partly responsible and I’m sure Hardesty would rather be spending her time on issues that she feels are more germaine to her; but that doesn’t absolve her from the responsibility of doing a better job of figuring this out.
Yeah… I was laughing when I wrote this, but in all seriousness this is what “The Street Trust” or any safe streets advocacy organization that bills itself as politically savvy should have locked down. Besides collecting donations, giving awards to friends and crafting strongly worded, easily forgettable missives, they need to routinely being on key elected official’s agendas and making the case for safe streets, including bike infrastructure. The fact that Hardesty is so clueless about biking in Portland is a glaring dropped ball by The Street Trust. The fact that Hardesty says no one is talking to her about bike lanes should be an F’ing five alarm fire bell going off at The Street Trust right now. Maybe they have spelled things out for Hardesty already, maybe this is part of their master plan, but right now it looks like their sleeping and too scared to use the B word.
Unfortunately, I dont’ think that will help. The head of The Street Trust (Sarah Iannarone) is cut from the same cloth as Joanne Hardesty. Still an activist, not a consensus builder
Hardesty has what Iannarone does not, years of experience in organizations that carry weight in Portland, as well as relationships with people who will have their name on a bridge sooner or later. Also, she’s a vet, a fact that has its own value in Otegon politics. Hardesty joined the Navy in a year when it was not an easy or popular choice.
You can’t equate Hardesty with Iannarone and dismiss them both.
Nobody’s going to bring up the fact that the Street Trust spun off a political action fund in 2018 specifically to endorse Hardesty based on her knowledge of infrastructure investments in active transportation? You know, their first ever endorsement as reported here: https://bikeportland.org/2018/08/29/the-street-trust-makes-first-ever-political-endorsements-with-nods-to-hardesty-harrington-288194
A quote from their endorsement process:
It sure sounds like they either didn’t bother to ask her about bike infrastructure, or they were perfectly fine with these answers when they decided to endorse. If her position now is that she hadn’t put much thought into it, then why in the world would the Street Trust go out of their way to endorse her based on her responses to questions on this topic 3 years ago?
“ walking, biking and transit “ – the Street Trust may have figured two out of three ain’t bad.
Mingus rides his bike regularly. She is just wrong about not having council members who are bicyclists
To me the way forward for improved bicycle transportation in Portland is straightforward.
1. Get rid of the weak mayoral system.
2. Don’t vote activists into office. They stay as activists and only act on their projects of interest, ignoring their other responsibilities.
Kenny, even with those fixes (and they might help), safety advocates are still relying on the good will of PBoT and any leaders associated with voting for specific projects. We need to either legislate a network of PBLs via something similar to the bike bill or Cambridge’s Cycling Safety Ordinance, which it seems might actually pass in city council because it is abstract. PBoT will have no say in deciding how important parking is in each project given such a change, nor will it be able to use bizarre rationalizations to maintain car capacity and parking. The other choice is lawsuit which seems to be pretty unpredictable in its outcome, but could be effective.
I think folks should step back from any narrow “bike” viewpoint and consider how Commr Hardesty views things.
From what I’ve seen, I think – others may disagree, we’re trying to discern this from her actions and statements – that her priorities are focused on lower-income and non-white communities and in particular East Portland past 82nd, and on how can those communities safely cross the street, get to work, find a place to live, be better served by the city including police, fire, etc.
If that is correct, it shouldn’t really be a surprise if she’s not particularly focused on bike lanes in close-in, affluent areas of Portland. What percent of low income East Portland residents ride bikes to their jobs, as opposed to take the bus or drive? Not a lot. What percent of EaPo traffic deaths have been on a bike, as opposed to pedestrians? Not a lot. What percent of bike advocates are visibly from the communities that Commr Hardesty focuses on? Not a lot.
I understand the arguments that bike infrastructure benefits everyone etc, and I’m not expressing support for Commr Hardesty or the reverse. I’m just saying that this commissioner’s views as expressed at the BAC meeting should not be a surprise to anyone.
I am disappointed that she does not share much enthusiasm about bike lanes or bike infrastructure but as someone who doesn’t ride much and who mostly walks and uses public transit (I don’t have a car), I am encouraged by her stating her priority around pedestrian safety:
“my priority is slowing down cars and getting [fixed speed and red light] cameras out. My priority can’t be bike lanes when people are dying on the streets because cars are going too fast.”
This is a shift from her campaign a few years ago, where it seemed like she was victim blaming pedestrians and seemed allergic to any kind of traffic enforcement, including cameras. I voted for her despite that, and she and Rubio seem like the only decent commissioners we have right now.
As far as the 2030 bike plan goes, have you taken a look at all the other plans that Portland has made that the city has failed to follow through on or is extremely behind on? It’s not just the bike plan, not that it should make us feel better. It does seem our inefficient commissioner system is partly to blame for it, since we play musical chairs with our municipal departments every few years.
Nobody on city council who rides? Not counting the mayor. Well that’s disappointing. You would think that in a city that wants to be a great city for cycling, a platform for cycling would be a high priority during elections in the first place.
Hardesty had her facts wrong. In addition to the mayor, city council members Mingus Mapps is a regular bike rider.
There’s a lot of understandable venom directed at Hardesty here–I’m disappointed and a bit astonished too. But the cycling community should not make her its enemy, there’s still so much room to bring her on board and see how cycling dovetails with her own priorities. Don’t give her a reason to dig in and keep her mind closed, by being antagonistic.
Comm Mingus Mapps has talked (with you) extensively about his biking. Moreover, his ex-wife and two middle school aged sons are and have been biking around Buckman ALL THE TIME for years.