“As Bike Loud PDX continues to grow, The Street Trust made a very generous offer to fiscally sponsor our organization.”
— Bike Loud leadership
The Street Trust is now the fiscal sponsor of Bike Loud PDX and several of its leading volunteers are on the larger organization’s board of directors. The relationship allows Bike Loud to accept grants and tax-deductible donations through The Street Trust while its federal nonprofit status is still pending.
It’s an interesting and natural evolution for the local streets advocacy ecosystem since Bike Loud was initially formed by activists who were concerned that The Street Trust had become too quiet.
The Street Trust began (as the Bicycle Transportation Alliance) in 1990. While they came to prominence as a scrappy group that sued the City of Portland (and won), they settled into a more conservative style of advocacy around 2010 when they hired Rob Sadowsky. In 2012, after The Street Trust was publicly criticized for being lap dogs by their own founder Rex Burkholder, Sadowsky shared on BikePortland that he, “doesn’t criticize loudly,” and that he prefers backroom diplomacy over big public rallies. In an in-depth report on The Street Trust we published in 2014, as Portlanders grappled with a loss of urgency and interest around cycling, Sadowsky clarified his style: “I could go scream at [former PBOT Commissioner] Steve Novick and I could go get 1,000 postcards or phone calls, but that’s not going to help me the next time with Steve Novick,” he said. “I’m not going to lock my neck to City Hall with a u-lock.”
Eight days after Sadowsky shared that comment on BikePortland, a group of cycling activists decided it was time to create a more assertive voice and Bike Loud PDX was formed. They connected through the BikePortland comment section after someone asked, “Who’s a cycling equivalent of the Tea Party?”
Bike Loud filled a huge void in grassroots bike activism in Portland. Their ascendance had a nearly immediate and positive impact on cycling in Portland. They earned respect from City Hall and still maintained a good working relationship with The Street Trust. Last month we shared how Bike Loud is moving into a new chapter and it turns out The Street Trust is making that growth possible. In addition to the fiscal sponsorship, two Bike Loud volunteers (the group has no paid staff) — Hami Ramani and Paul Buchanan — are now The Street Trust board members.
In an email today, Bike Loud leadership referred to themselves as, “One of a constellation of advocacy organizations pushing our state and local electeds and agencies to do more to address the increasing traffic violence on our streets.” “As Bike Loud PDX continues to grow,” the statement continued. “The Street Trust made a very generous offer to fiscally sponsor our organization as a stepping stone to Bike Loud becoming its own registered non-profit. Funds raised through the fiscal sponsorship are currently being allocated to our new Bike Loud Chapters.”
Catie Gould is a former co-chair of Bike Loud. She shared via email today that she’s excited for what a stronger partnership with The Street Trust can do for the group. “I think a lot of people want to get into activism because they want to change things on the street, and not figure out how to set up bank accounts and document donations properly,” she said. Asked if she thinks the cozier relationship will quiet Bike Loud’s voice, she said, “I’m not very concerned about it driving what Bike Loud does. I’d say our “loudness” is much more of a product of who’s volunteering at the time and what they want to work on… The advocacy landscape is always shifting… Certainly, we didn’t see eye to eye all the time, but the Street Trust has been one of the more reliable partners for us over the years. We’ve co-hosted events together, so this isn’t totally out of left field.”
Gould acknowledged that having access to more funding could complicate Bike Loud’s work, but overall it’s a necessary step. “I’ve always been nervous about making that change, and how it might change the power dynamics, but running off of volunteer energy is challenging in its own way… so I’m excited to see what they’ll do next, and glad they have more resources and support than when I started.”
If you want to support Bike Loud with a tax deductible donation, you can now write out a check to “The Street Trust” and put “Bike Loud” in the memo line, then mail it off to 618 NW Glisan Street #203, Portland Oregon 97209. To volunteer with Bike Loud, visit subscribe.bikeloudpdx.org
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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