Last Thursday morning, one southeast Portland resident said she woke up to find the tires on her SUV were flat. A leaflet attached to her car door explained why the perpetrators did it: according to local news outlets KOIN and KGW, a climate activist group called the Tyre Extinguishers have claimed responsibility. (Some people also went on a big tire-deflating spree in northeast Portland in October, but no group claimed responsibility for that.)
The ‘Tyre Extinguishers’ (or TX for short) is the name given to an informal group of climate advocates around the world who have decided to engage in direct climate action by making it inconvenient to drive a gas-guzzling SUV. This group first sprouted up in Europe (hence the British spelling of ‘tire’) and has migrated to the USA in recent months. According to the group’s website, their mission is to “make it impossible to own a huge polluting 4×4 in the world’s urban areas.”
The woman whose SUV tires were deflated is named Nicole Driscoll, who told reporters she was in “emergency mode” when she realized her mode of transportation was temporarily out of commission until AAA could come fix the problem.
“I support activism, but this is not the right way,” she said. “Don’t mess with people’s property.”
I understand that Driscoll was frustrated to have her morning derailed. But the way local media framed this story leaves out a lot of context in favor of sensationalism about crime. And at a time when the impacts of the climate crisis are becoming more and more dire for people around the world, especially in poorer countries with negligible greenhouse gas emissions compared to the United States, this framing is irresponsible and anti-intellectual. It takes for granted the idea that the comfort of middle class and wealthy people is the most important issue facing our society – the idea that got us into this crisis in the first place.
The reason people are turning to direct action tactics like letting the air out of neighborhood gas-guzzlers in the middle of the night is because nothing else has worked.
“Governments and politicians have failed to protect us from these huge vehicles,” the TX website states. “Politely asking and protesting for these things has failed. It’s time for action.”
Scientists have been politely but emphatically explaining the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions in order to stop apocalyptic global warming for the better part of 50 years. They showed politicians and corporate leaders the potential for an easier, more comfortable transition toward renewable energy that is now impossible due to the scale of what we’re dealing with. Even protesters like Greta Thunberg, who is essentially the face of the international climate movement, advocate for diplomacy over direct action. Still, people are so scared of a life without fossil fuels they will use any excuse to ignore these messages. At what point do climate activists get up off the ground and realize Lucy is not going to stop pulling the football out from under our feet?
In the Twitter replies to the KGW story about Driscoll’s SUV (the reporting seems most concerned with the well-being of the inanimate object), people are sounding the alarm about how protest tactics like these will only alienate people from the climate movement.
“This type of performance theater is a massive turnoff. Even to folks who may sympathize with their sentiment,” one person on Twitter said.
But this misunderstands the Tyre Extinguishers’ strategy. These activists are smart enough to know that the kind of people who become hysterical about things like this were never going to join them in the first place. If someone claims to care about and understand the magnitude of the climate crisis, their support for protesters should not be so fragile it could deflate as fast as the tires on a Jeep Grand Cherokee.
The goal of actions like this is not to gain popularity and attract more people to the climate movement. The goal make it so annoying to own a needlessly huge car or truck that people will just stop buying them.
While I think news coverage of these events should be far more nuanced, the protesters wanted the news to cover this. They’re not going out in the middle of the night to deflate people’s tires just for fun – they’re obviously trying to make a point.
Other people make the point that individuals aren’t responsible for the climate crisis and protesters should “go after the private jets and military vehicles” instead. This is a common argument to defend oneself from criticism about living beyond a reasonable carbon footprint and is very rarely used in good faith. As we point out quite often on this site, personal transportation contributes massively to overall greenhouse gas emissions, in Oregon and across the country. Of course private jets and military vehicles should be the subjects of criticism, but who said we can’t walk and chew gum at the same time?
The biggest indictment of people who make so much hullabaloo over a situation like what happened to Driscoll is that the language they use shows a fundamental lack of understanding about the fact that other people are suffering in far worse ways than inconvenience. Here’s what I want to ask people worked into a tizzy about “property damage”: what about all the land currently being destroyed in floods, wildfires and droughts across the world? What about people who are dying in heat waves in India – or on Portland’s very own streets? What about the livelihoods of the children who have been killed by people driving ridiculously large SUVs and the parents who now must cope with that loss for the rest of their lives? How could you possibly complain about being late to work under these circumstances?
Oh, and one quick tip: if you wake up to find your SUV out of commission, ask someone who relies on active transportation to help you figure out a new route to work. I assure you that anyone who rides the bus or bikes to get around the city has dealt with their share of annoyances preventing them from getting where they need to be on time.
I do not condone property damage. But we need to think about the crimes perpetrated against all of humanity, especially the most vulnerable among us, by the fossil fuel industry and people who have bought into it. I acknowledge that having your morning disrupted is inconvenient, but Al Gore told you this was going to be inconvenient almost 20 years ago. We’ve waited far too long to be arguing about civility.
Taylor has been BikePortland’s staff writer since November 2021. She has also written for Street Roots and Eugene Weekly. Contact her at email@example.com
I feel extremely confident that if someone were to go door to door talking about the harm of SUVs I wouldn’t see Twitter posts about an article on it a day later. Say What you will about the protesting method but it has people talking, and this isn’t the sort of thing people will stubbornly go the other way on, no one will buy a second suv bc of this, but someone who heard about the protest and it’s reasoning might have second thoughts about the suv they were already indecisive about buying
No one is talking about oil, SUVs, or anything other than how dumb and childish the people doing it are. The action is so dumb and petty that the discussion is falling solely on the action rather than any “meaning” the actor was trying to attach to it.
There is no reason to think that inconveniencing people just trying to live their lives actually accomplishes anything. This was done just so the twitter set can feel good about themselves
I can be simultaneously enraged about the lack of action on climate change, but also recognize that people can easily be fired and have their life completely ruined simply for being late to work because of our unjust capitalist society. Frankly, it is showing astounding privilege to argue that complaining about being late for work is wrong.
I strongly disagree with this. The issue is not that people will stop caring about the climate crisis because people deflated their tires. The issue is that people will consider crime and their own livelihood to be a bigger issue, and will vote accordingly (even if they’re misguided). So in an election between someone focused on climate change and someone focused on crime, actions like this have the impact of diverting votes from the climate-focused candidate to the crime-focused candidate, leading to worse outcomes for climate change.
I can’t think of anything dumber than walking around deflating tires. The act is purely masturbatory, so that adult children can feel like they are taking a direct action. If Ayn Rand was alive today, it feels like something she’d have the villains in her story do.
Deflating peoples tires is not a direct action. For better or worse, blowing up a Hummer dealership is a direct action. Painting cross walks is a direct action. Installing DIY traffic diverters is a direct action. Human protected bike lanes is a direct action.
Making peoples morning worse isn’t going to change anything. The only thing it achieves is a strong eye roll from anyone who happens to read about it in the news. Much like walking around in black clothes with your friends smashing random windows doesn’t achieve anything.
To all of the ‘activist’ in Portland I say this to you; actual change requires planning and thoughtfullness, not angst and too much time on the internet.
Deflating tires is definitely direct action – how could it not be? It’s an individual acting within their own power to make a political (and social) statement – disarming a vehicle. Direct action is not just a list of things you agree with. You may feel it won’t produce anything productive but that doesn’t really matter insofar in the definition of what direct action is or isn’t.
Wow, I’ve done a lot of direct actions today if any random thing counts. Making my coffee is a direct action, eating breakfast was a direct action.
If no one takes credit and it could easily be mistaken as the actions of some bored teenagers or a nail, its not a direct action
I never said it was. For example, I think blowing up the Hummer dealership probably did mostly harm to environmental movements, but it is undoubtedly a direct action.
Right, because making coffee is a political statement?
Deflating someones tires and then leaving a flier on the dash saying “I did this because your car pollutes my city and kills people” is obviously a political statement. No one is signing their name and taking credit, but that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of context.
It sure is! Making my own coffee is statement about the environment and avoiding single use cups. I also only drink local coffee, which is a statement in opposition to the corporatization of the market.
It’s more petty vandalism than anything else.
Okay, sure that’s a political statement if you explicitly state it in political terms – which you didn’t do before. You can see why I was confused.
Things can be “petty vandalism” and political action at the same time. They don’t have to be one or the other.
Not really, any mundane action can be a direct action in your mind, so I just assumed you’d see why it was a direct action without specifically saying why it was.
Absolutely they can be! I pull down survey markers every time I’m in the woods. Deflating some random persons tires falls under petty vandalism rather than political action though.
Deflating Kate Brown’s tires, or Lynne Peterson or ODOT leadership would have actual meaning. I’d count that as political action.
Again, if its a toss up between bored teenager/nail vs activist, its not a direct action.
No, it’s vandalism disguised as having some sort of societal meaning.
If they want meaningful change why aren’t they running for office?
Getting signatures for a ballot measure?
There are much more meaningful ways to enact change than being thugs and getting people to become against you.
Do you really think anyone who’s on the receiving end is going to become sympathetic to the cause? Likely they’ll talk to dozens of people and turn them against it as well.
Heck, look at the sympathetic blog post here for the vandalism and what people’s initial reactions are.
I mean judging by the reaction it clearly does have societal and political meaning.
But you seem to not understand the purpose or reasoning of direct action as a tactic. It is being done by people who (rightfully or not) judge the current political system as being ineffective or uncaring about their plight. It’s people working within the limitations of what they can do, here and now, to achieve a political goal.
You can say it’s ineffective, or counterproductive but it very obviously does have political and societal meaning. You can feel that there are more effective channels for change, but you are not the authority on that. How many meaningful, big changes have really happened via running for office and ballot measures? And how many have been a result of a direct action movement?
My goodness, this is such a lazy and one-dimensional take, it’s hard to know where to start. Let me try.
This type of vandalism is, by definition, random. You have no idea who the victims will be. You assume this only affects “middle class and wealthy people” but you can’t possibly know that when engaged in this kind of vandalism. This is not an intellectual exercise; we are talking about real people being randomly victimized.
For example, the daughter of a neighbor of mine is functionally homeless: she lives in her ~15 year old Suburban, which is about as big as SUVs get. Sometimes she stays with her mom for a few days, often brings her kids with her, and during those days she parks on the street, and leaves all of her belongings in the car. I know that she is part-time employed at a local business because there have been neighborhood fundraisers for her and the kids, but it’s obviously not enough to lift her out of poverty.
Now, Taylor and her pals come by one night and see “BIG CAR MAKE TYRE FLAT!!1!!” Mom wakes up in the morning and can’t get to work, or get the kids to school. And what’s your response to that, Taylor? “Ride a bike or take the bus! I’m inconvenienced sometimes, so you should be too!!”
Seriously, I’d love to hear you try to justify flattening this woman’s “tyres.” Is that “annoying” and “inconvenient,” or economically devastating? If she loses her job, so what, she deserved it for driving a car you don’t like? The cost of getting someone to come and fix the damage might mean she can’t make rent, and you say…what? Do you even care? (Also, she’s Black and overweight to the point of disability, so be sure to consider that in your response. I’d love to see you, a White woman, weave “equity” into whatever justification you can lift from twitter or wherever you get this nonsense.)
To say nothing of someone who, because of these actions, cannot get themselves or a loved one to a chemo appointment, get to Walgreen’s to pick up their insulin, etc. and cannot simply find a timely active transportation alternative.
Bike Portland has lost its mind! This is simply shameful. I find Jonathan’s request for financial support laughable in light of this short-sighted and potentially dangerous stance.
“Bike Portland has lost its mind!”
Yes, you are absolutely correct about that.
Thanks for the feedback. It’s an opinion piece.
You’re welcome, by the way, as it appears you read our stuff for free!
So when you walk out of your 700K house one day and find the tires slashed on both of your gas guzzlers, you’ll think “Welp, that’s what I deserve for being a driver!” And you’ll gladly shell out a thousand bucks for 8 new tires? Or do you, like Taylor, think you’ll be spared due to meeting some arbitrary standard for car age/cost and fuel efficiency?
Taylor’s byline is “Staff Writer”, in case you forgot.
Yes and as Staff Writer Taylor is entitled to her own opinion.
It’s not free, the articles have ads placed every few paragraphs.
I mean Tire Extinguishers purposefully attempt to target wealthy neighborhoods, and to avoid things like cars used for work, for disabled folks, and such. If I were to walk around Laurlehurst and deflate tires of SUVs parked in driveways, I could be certain to avoid the situation you are highlighting. It’s random to some extent, but I mean it’s pretty easy to avoid targeting a car someone is living out of.
If you want to highlight this as being “lazy and one dimensional” I’m not really sure your counterexample does much, considering a 15-year old suburban that someone is living out of would most likely (hopefully?) be avoided by someone doing this. You are purposefully misrepresenting the purpose of the article, and the thought process behind it, by reducing it to “BIG CAR MAKE TYRE FLAT!!1!!”
I can’t speak for individual people, I am just reading what the “official” tire extinguishers website says as recommendations.
I mean seriously, you are relying on the pinpoint precision that local anarchists are known for when acting out their tantrums?
Shorter you: Sorry you’re unemployed and/or homeless now, we thought everyone parked in this neighborhood was rich ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
“Local anarchists”? The laugher here is that as industrial civilization falls apart (whatever it ends up looking like) you’re going to be more dependent on mutual aid than ever. Read some David Graeber or Ursula Le Guin (or countless other anarchists) and pull yourself up by your intellectual bootstraps.
What? lol. How in the world could they possibly know if a vehicle is used for for work or is owned by someone with a disability?
That is the actual, literal thought process behind it.
You know about. placards & license plates, right?
I didn’t know that Oregon has special license plates for cars ‘used for work’ (whatever the hell that means).
Not all people who have disabilities need or want disability placards.
I assume that a ~15 year old suburban is not likely to be owned by a wealthy person.
Well, you obviously spent a lot of energy replying to it.
A diversity of tactics if you will.
Are people really saying “I would otherwise care about climate change, but because of this I don’t care about climate change”? That’s incoherent. And I know people are often that, but I find it hard to believe. Yes it’s going to make people mad, but if this changes someone from caring about climate change to not caring about it, they absolutely did not care about climate change in the first place. They cared about it only insofar as they would never have to do anything about it.
I know people don’t want to hear it, but really the solution(s) to climate change will require doing something about capitalism and corporations. Personal actions won’t matter. But it’s *also* true that it will require some individual changes. This kind of activism is probably putting the cart before the horse, but I don’t shed any tears for the (expensive!) SUV drivers getting the air let out of their tires.
Destroying demand is also doing something about Fordist capitalism. Extractive corporations can be reigned in by mandates/regulation as well as by boycotts/strikes/sabotage.
I think it’s rather brave of folks going around and deflating heavily armed SUV owner’s tires. Aren’t shootings and road rage incidents in Portland hitting record highs like in most other US cities? Now what could possibly go wrong…
Yeah, sure, bravery at its finest. Going door-to-door and making your case in person is infinitely braver, and probably more likely to produce results.
You assume all SUV owners are heavily armed? Is that because you would be, or because you are, or what?
not my kind of thing, also it seems like it creates more trucks/traffic on the road, as folks need to have another vehicle enter their neighborhood (AAA in the example above) to assist them.
“What-aboutism” at its extreme. I expect commenters to slip into this type of lazy rationalism but not journalists. I guess creepy lurking vandalism is justifiable for BikePortland. Expect a SUV owner to exact their own direct action on TX activist
I think this type of action should focus on fancy SUVs in wealthy areas. IMO, it sends the wrong message to target a working-class person when low-end SUVs are fairly ubiquitous these days.
In fact the tyre extinguishers movement was inspired by the direct actions of Andreas Malm’s collective in Stockholm:
“Yes. What we did was went through rich neighborhoods and picked out SUVs. … And it’s very easy to deflate the tires of a car. You just unscrew the valve and you insert a little gravel or piece of stone or something like that and then you screw the valve back on and the air will be out of a tire in a couple of hours. So this was not property destruction. We didn’t damage anything. It created an inconvenience for the owners of SUVs.”
– Andreas Malm
For what it’s worth, the Tire Extinguishers website does highlight that specifically: https://www.tyreextinguishers.com/how-to-deflate-an-suv-tyre
This is important to add, Soren, thanks. I was going to add some Andreas Malm quotes as well but didn’t want to go on for thousands of words (although I certainly could on this topic).
Avoiding working class areas is a central part of the TX movement and the dynamic is probably different in the US (where more lower-income people own expensive cars) than in Europe.
I tried (admittedly not that hard) to figure out if the SUV in question was a fancy expensive one. From the pictures in the articles, it looks like it was a pretty fancy, newish SUV, so I don’t pity that particular person that much. I don’t know if the activists are indiscriminantly deflating any SUV or indeed targeting rich neighborhoods. I would expect if there was a poor working class Joe who lost their job or was put through any real hardship, that’s the story that local media would have reported. So this was the best they had.
When I used to work downtown, I often worked later than my colleagues, and so often knew the cleaning staff and other after-hours workers in my building. The (immigrant) woman cleaning the office drove a newish SUV. Perhaps she counts as “rich”, but I doubt it.
The lady who swoops in on trash night and collects the cans from my recycling bin drives a late model Lexus SUV. It’s nicer than any automobile than I’ll ever own, but I’m not gonna hate on someone who hustles for a living.
Speaking of… I’ve been on the receiving end of “bike activist” scorn for driving a mid-sized pickup truck… one that I barely drive. Dollars to donuts I’d wager that I ride at least 3x the miles any of those folks do in a given year.
It’s one thing to play revolutionary from the safety of your inner Portland neighborhood with PBOT catering to your every need: bike boxes, cyclotracks, “crossbikes”, etc. It’s something else entirely to be out there riding in the real world, outside of your comfort zone. Touring solo, actually “sharing the road” where bikes aren’t accommodated.
The entitlement of this website never fails to astound me.
A lot of the cycling activists.t in Portland the live out in the “real world” you’re talking about. Just because they come to inner Portland doesn’t mean they live here?
Touring is about as far from the “real world” as it gets.
Riding from outer Portland to inner Portland is hardly touring.
I was replying to JJ
I believe that a lot of car culture is less about personal choice and more about infrastructure, density, and incentives. In places where walking, public transit, and biking are more convenient ways of getting around, people do so without necessarily being pinko commie granola hippies (Tokyo has simultaneously one of the highest public transit uses in the world and one of the worst plastic packaging waste problems…the damn bananas in the grocery store are wrapped in plastic!). Ultimately, I believe that’s more scalable than getting everyone to just simply abandon their cars without making fundamental changes to the city.
That said, what is a personal choice is whether or not you own an SUV specifically. I ride my bike more often than I drive these days but there are certain errands where driving is just the most feasible option here in Portland. I own a Honda Civic though. SUVs are just gratuitous and unnecessary in most cases, even given that the city and country at large make it highly inconvenient not to own a car.
I’m not 100% sure where the Tyre Extinguishers will lead us as far as behavioral changes and future policies are concerned. I don’t know how effective they will be. However, I can’t think of successful protest movements (including the Civil Rights movement) that didn’t involve inconvenience to the public. The inconvenience is what gets people to pay attention. Even though the Tyre Extinguishers are focused on personal choice rather than the systemic change that I support more, systemic change needs the general public on board. There is some universe out there in which the Tyre Extinguishers and people throwing soup at paintings get the necessary conversations happening and that leads to fundamental change. I don’t know if that universe is this one, but if we’re grasping at straws as we are at this point, then I can’t fault them for trying.
Inconvenience does not equal vandalism.
Protest. Block the state capital. Block city hall. That’s causing inconvenience WITHOUT causing vandalism.
I know, the difference is lost on folks.
You’re right, the difference is lost on me. So why don’t you explain to us exactly what the difference between inconvenience and vandalism is?
I’m always wary of taking the “you are protesting wrong!” side of things, but here I am…. Coming at this from the perspective of somebody who for years lived car free, eventually bought an SUV to support somewhat rare family weekend trips (sidebar: is a Rav4 on the hit list, as a crossover SUV? probably not if it is a hybrid right?), but still mostly travels by bicycle.
Deflating the tires of 25 Escalades at the Cadillac dealership? Ok, sure.
But going after individuals while lacking any sort of context? C’mon.
I’m a cyclist. A disabled cyclist. I own an SUV because I can fit my mobility devices inside when necessary. Deflating my tires would only cause me to miss work and use my energy to get my car going again. Instead of using that energy to teach. Because that’s my job. So, try to figure out a more mature response. Maybe one that makes people want to join you. Not loathe you. Or me when I get the chance to be on my bike.
There are other vehicles that get better gas mileage that will accept your mobility devices. Ford Transit mini van comes to mind. But I understand your basic thought process: it’s similar to the way I come up with “reasons” to justify buying another bicycle (I already have 10).
I hope you realize how patronizing it is to tell a disabled person what their needs are. Many people with mobility issues cannot contort their bodies into the position required by low-slung vehicles (like the Ford Transit minivan you prescribe).
Sometimes when you don’t fully understand an issue, it’s just better to listen.
“I support activism, but this is not the right way,”
The right kind of activism always seems to be the kind that doesn’t inconvenience anybody or ask them to change their lifestyle.
If deflating tires is a “smart protest tactic,” I guess that means that dumping tacks in the bike lane along the Columbia River Highway is also a smart tactic to keep bicyclists from clogging up the road. After all, bicyclists on that road are doing it only for recreation; they are not doing something constructive, like going to work.
By praising this “tactic” you are clearly advocating vandalism. That is despicable.
Not the same at all. Deflating a person’s tires is not the same as slashing them. An SUV with tires leaking air is not going to give anyone a sudden flat on a busy street, and possibly cause them to cause spin out.
So if someone were to hit the bike racks at Providence Park during a game and deflate all the bike tires, that’s ok?
Deflating tires forces the debate. It’s really easy to carry on driving a large motor vehicle because the waste product, however toxic, is generally invisible and odorless even as it is distributed into the breathing supply of every other person in the community. We look askance at any person who doesn’t clean up their dog’s defecation but car exhaust is just fine?
A person who finds their car temporarily disabled has to ask why do they hate me so much? The answer they don’t want to hear is: because you regularly defile the only habitable ecosystem within a radius of at least 4 light years. That’s 37,842,921,890,000 km, more or less. AAA doesn’t go there.
No, I haven’t forgotten about global impacts and no I don’t imagine that EVs have no waste. For the moment I’m addressing the outrageous thing that people do to my air supply right here every day.
I may not live long enough to see the worst of climate change, but the notion of private property rights could change in surprising ways even before the Pacific Ocean backs up to Willamette Falls.
Love it. I would be honored to have my car tyres deflated. Good work folks. The more we talk about climate destabilization, the better.
Comments of the year ^
“ The more we talk about climate destabilization, the better.”
Everything else is just noise.
Ok. It seems like the main argument people are making here is to theorize about a potential emergency that deflated tires could cause. Believe it or not, I’ve thought about it quite a lot and I don’t think this is a hole in my logic.
If we keep fabricating imaginary situations about why people don’t deserve to be slightly inconvenienced in the name of solving the greatest problem humanity has ever faced, nothing is ever going to get done. And just to put a fine point on it – nobody cares when someone who relies on public transit or active transportation is inconvenienced. Why does nobody get into the comments of articles about TriMet reducing their bus service to ask about the people who may need to use the bus to get to the hospital or get to work on time? People are inconvenienced all the time for far less noble causes.
We are in an emergency. We aren’t acting like it. Continuing to drive SUVs in a city is akin to sitting inside a house on fire and pouring gas on the floor.
So, we’ll “hopefully” avoid targeting any people with a legitimate need to drive, and if any of The Poors are caught up as collateral damage, suck it up buttercup? Does that summarize your position?
Move over, Deplorables. There’s a new sheriff in town. Good grief.
New SUVs are extremely expensive. People know which ones are new and which ones aren’t. This is a straw man argument.
FFS Taylor, where have you been for the past 30 months? This is what is actually happening out there, and is exactly what you are encouraging:
The notion that the local anarchists who engage in these tactics are somehow making informed, rational choices about who to target and who to avoid is hopelessly naïve.
Will you at least concede that maybe, just once, someone gets it wrong and a disabled or poor person has their tires slashed and it results in a job loss or critical missed appointment? Or do you really think this has a 100% success rate at targeting “the rich” and that they all deserve it? Which is it?
Enough with the strawmen. The person who knifed a bunch of tires had nothing to do with this tire extinguisher action.
Gentle tire deflation ≠ Slashing a tire with a knife
Didn’t you know, all lefties are a monolith. /s
FFS, Sigma! Now you’re assuming the anarchists can’t think & can’t make decisions for themselves. Everyone makes mistakes, occasionally. Even you.
I know this is an opinion piece, but your take is so bad that it’s gonna harm your credibility as a writer.
I am having a really hard time finding any sympathy for someone who uses phrases like “The Poors.”
It’s the exact same excuse they make when opposing any meaningful change to our transportation network that might reduce driving and help with climate change.
Can’t have congestion pricing because tradespeople, the poor and the disabled have to drive. Can’t narrow that road because what if an emergency happens and an ambulance can’t get through.
Never mind the fact that there are ways to mitigate those issues. They don’t actually care about them it’s just an excuse to maintain the status quo.
You’re right that if they can’t bare the thought of even this amount of inconvenience they were never going to do anything to address climate change because lets be honest 99.9% of them will never have this done to their vehicle.
I’m still furious that Portland punted on congestion pricing in inner Portland (as part of the POEM process).
Conversely, if we keep fabricating imaginary situations about why people *do* deserve to be slightly inconvenienced in the name of solving the greatest problem humanity has ever faced, nothing is ever going to get done.
What? You can’t say the opposite of what I said and think it holds the same meaning. I’m not fabricating an imaginary scenario about why people deserve to be slightly inconvenienced. Every single time someone drives an ICE SUV (won’t get into the problems of EVs here), they emit needless greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet as we speak. Some people have better reasons for driving them than others, and I won’t theorize about that, but I’m certainly not fabricating an imaginary situation about why someone shouldn’t drive an SUV. There are plenty of real situations to point to.
Actually doing something about it for real will feel like an inconvenience – for just about everybody. We need to change how we live, collectively. But the political will is not there. Very little seems to budge in that regard since the first Earth Day over 50 years ago.
I agree that we are in an emergency and it can cause despair that people are not actig urgently. I disagree that random vandalism is smart tactic. I believe that we need to face uncomfortable truths and we will need to drastically change our lifestyles, but I strongly hope we can do it together. The last 5 years have shown us the ugliness of increasing tribalism and violence. TX strikes me as analogous to window smashing in the name of racial justice. There were people who lost their businesses over that. My point is that there are are villains, but the people driving SUVs are not them. It is selfish and clueless, but not villainous. The villains are Phil Knight, Jeff Bezos, Zuckerberg, et. The billionaires who exploit and control our economy and our politics. Having enough money for an SUV or the poor taste to buy one is not reason to target and vandalize them. Attack the power and the systems that are ruining our planet- alienating people that are really our wealthier neighbors will only promote counter-productive divisions and tribalism. It is so mean, and petty, and a total distraction from the very real oligarchs we should be targeting.
Class war already does that.
This is ridiculous. I could see this being published on someone’s Facebook page, but not Bike Portland. This is very dangerous, what if someone puts a lentil or gravel or whatever and deflates it not enough for it to go flat, but enough to lower the pressure enough that it became dangerous driving on the highway in the rain. We become inconvenienced biking or on the bus but no one usually goes out of their way to inconvenience us. The situation is dire, but the “us vs. them” mentality is sustainable and will only anger a lot of people and put people at risk to no effect. No one is going to stop driving their SUV because some kid deflated their tire.
If people would like to help remove nails and garbage that puncture bicycle tires and blocks sidewalks, please help out this Saturday between Hall Blvd and Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway.
It is on SW Scholls Ferry Road in that section.
“As an aside, I am a progressive”. Gotta laugh at people’s deluded self-mythologizing sometimes. Time for some anger management therapy and sorry that society is not serving your sense of entitlement properly.
As an aside, I fully support the spirit of this piece, and the SUV tire-popping, and am so glad that Jonathan has brought Taylor on board for their valuable perspective.
Would be interesting to poll people based on their age here but I’d put money on a BP generational split. With the future of a biodiverse earth on the line, though, I don’t think there are any direct actions that aren’t morally justifiable, including the most spectacular and least “effective” in the eyes of middle-aged, property-owning, “still-invested-in-the-status-quo-but-hey-I’m-progressive” white people. We can argue on message boards til the cows come home with the Bryan Morrises of the world but popping SUV tires is likely to seem like a walk in the park in the coming decades as things get more desperate and young people get more real.
Phrase of the day!
BikePortland has finally devolved into nothing but fringe nonsense. It’s a shame because Portland and the surrounding areas really does need a credible advocate community for cycling. This sure isn’t it anymore.
A “credible advocate,” you say? I assume you think that’s what you are?
I found a Reddit thread with a valuable Q&A about some of the common criticisms against TX. I found this helpful to read and will copy it here:
Your hypothetical ignores the context and the context is everything here.
Perhaps ban construction of drive-thrus and car dealerships in Oregon. Perhaps ban metal-studded car tires in Oregon. Maybe ask for in-person city council meetings in Beaverton to enact car parking meters in their growing downtown (which has the second-busiest transit center in Oregon). Which person in the Oregon’s state capitol has brought a bill for banning metal-studded car tires? Ironically, ODOT openly communicates and has done a study about the damage caused by metal-studded tires.
I’d guess a significant percentage of vehicles used for hauling stuff for work, or for storing wheelchairs (or for disabled use in general) don’t have any markings. So the response doesn’t really answer the questions.
This one seems illogical, given that living in the suburbs is a choice–not a necessity–for people who drive expensive SUVs. It’s like saying, “If you commute more than 10 miles to work, you’re exempt from being targeted. So the solution to avoiding being targeted is to move from Laurelhurst to Newberg and drive 10x more. I guess the answer is TX is only focused on urban SUVs.
People do target bikes.
The entire point of TX is not to change the mind of individuals but to cut through the profound climate crisis apathy of our societies and communicate that driving an SUV is a really shitty thing to do. If more people start thinking and talking about this then TX may end up having real impact.
So the goal of the tire deflaters it not to change the mind of individuals, but to make a real impact by changing the minds of individuals?
What is the “real impact” you’re talking about here? I mean obviously the tire deflators make people generally care less about climate change by de-sensitizing the masses to actual climate activism. But if you aren’t trying to change minds, what are you trying to do?
The person whose SUV tire is deflated.
People target my bike all the time because they don’t want me on the road. Most of the time when I’m riding it. They yell things, throw things, and run me off the road all because they believe bikes don’t belong on the road. I shrug it off most of the time and yell infrequently but quite a few people have given up riding all together because of it. Even more people never even try to ride because they’re afraid something similar will happen to them.
So ya I’m not too concerned about inconveniencing a group of people so selfish that they buy the biggest, most dangerous, worst for the environment vehicle they can find.
“People target my bike all the time because they don’t want me on the road. Most of the time when I’m riding it. They yell things, throw things, and run me off the road”
I’ve noticed that some people are either magnets for this sort of behavior, or overstate their experiences. In the decades I’ve spent riding the streets of Portland, I’ve had maybe one or two incidents like this. Most of my friends ride bikes for transportation as well, and I hardly ever hear that they had been so harassed.
Though I ride more than I drive, I get more harassment when I am in my car than on my bike.
“Bullying and harassment” is the perfect description of what these people do. Such tactics are never an effective way to make lasting change, and can make it harder to persuade people to take meaningful action.
Letting the air out of someone’s tires is neither vandalism nor destruction of property.
I just sent this to KGW:
You recently published a story about “climate activists” deflating people’s SUV tires: https://www.kgw.com/article/news/crime/climate-activists-deflate-suv-tires-portland-oregon/283-a2d3ac17-a910-4db7-8525-540ebb84d14f. You should know that BikePortland writer Taylor Griggs and publisher Jonathan Maus are basically advocating for this sort of vandalism by saying it’s “a smart protest tactic” and “stuff like this does some good“. Look here: https://www.kgw.com/article/news/crime/climate-activists-deflate-suv-tires-portland-oregon/283-a2d3ac17-a910-4db7-8525-540ebb84d14f and here: https://forums.bikeportland.org/t/is-this-helpful-portland-climate-vandalism/2321/3. BikePortland used to be about bicycle advocacy. That’s not the case anymore.
And a similar report to the Portland Police.
Wow, man. We get that you are diametrically opposed, you’ve made that abundantly clear in the comments over and over, but that’s just sour grapes. It is an opinion piece and opinion pieces often create heated discussions – but please don’t waste the PPB’s time by taking your whine to them too.
Nah, this place is primarily an echo chamber so there is frequently quite a bit of disconnect from the average person. It reminds me of a quote I saw on Reddit several years ago – it was so good I copied it.
“Liberal progressives are incurious people who are incapable of self reflection. They confuse academic qualifications for intelligence and believe they are morally and intellectually superior to the deplorable. The mix of arrogance & elitism is toxic and one of their greatest weaknesses.”
The quote sounds like something that Tom Wolfe or Mark Twain might have written, or at least in that style; or maybe one of Oscar Wild’s lessor-known quotes?
At the vary least, this echo chamber will generate over 200 comments on this opinion piece alone, which will be good for publicity and advertisers. As another person once said, “All publicity is good publicity.” It’s all about making money by being controversial and BP staff subtly supporting their secret in-the-closet Republican views by deflating tires. No doubt AAA and Les Schwab sponsored this piece.
I am a liberal progressive, but this is just stupid, self-defeating, and petty criminal behavior. You can’t build a liberal, progressive society when you allow anarchists and drug addicts to commit property and violent crime against decent people with impunity any more than you can allow fascists to attempt to overthrow our democracy with violence.
Narrator: “yet, as many expected and were disappointed to see, Bryan was not actually ‘done with BikePortland’.”
Wow so cool reporting a bike advocacy newspaper to the cops for saying something you don’t like!
Fuck off. Freedom of press/free speech is a thing
Yay! Vandalism attacks against random people! Win the hearts and minds and so rally political support for change! Good work everyone!!!
Letting air out of tires is not actual destruction of any type. The air can be replaced and no physical object in the chain of events has been damaged in any way.
And yet the vehicle has been disabled. Feel free to continue arguing semantics, but I think most people would characterize the situation differently than you do.
If someone deflates my car tire, do I get to let the air out of a random bicyclist’s tire? It only seems fair.
Maybe we should only let the air out of ebike tires since they’re much worse for the environment than real bicycles.
Wow, just wow. This blog has finally jumped the shark. It’s come close before recently, every time it defended illegal camping on our bike and ped infrastructure.
I’m a cyclist who owns a car. I’m guessing that this describes most of your other longtime readers as well. Furthermore I’m pretty sure Jonathan Maus owns one as well (I recall a story a year or so ago about driving out into the Gorge to ride the new state trail?).
This just pisses all over us. It’s a total misunderstanding of how adults live in the real world. Just completely divorced from reality. It’s the perspective of an immature and vindictive person looking to hurt others in your own community. You have zero regard for others and I can no longer look past it.
It makes me sick and I’m done with BikePortland. Goodbye.
WOW…its been a long time since a topic generated this much discussion on BP…it might be a record for a Griggs piece. 😉
It would be interesting for a 3rd party to research if the Oregon case law / intent of the legislature considers “deflating” as reduction of air without no damage the same as puncturing. Seems as if the jail time and fine is pretty steep otherwise (for similar deflating) compared to other “crimes”.
Take care to not delate too much as this may cause unintended damage to the inflation PSI sensors. And additionally watch out for simple old fashioned trespassing while conducting your “earth advocacy”…
…and for the “kids” who may have been too young to remember the past…
Getting it wrong generates more interest than getting it right.
Is that Jonathan’s byline on this clearly-marked opinion piece?
Why target only SUVs and not huge pickups? Those are generally just as huge, unnecessary and dangerous.
Why target only in-city and not suburban vehicles? Suburbs can be just as–or more–wealthy, and suburban SUVs probably get driven far more.
I’m not advocating for including those–or for doing any of this at all even. I’m wondering about the logic behind the narrow focus.
You should probably go to ask TX that question.
Perhaps one of them can make themselves available for a face to face discussion.
I did (no response yet) but also wanted my comment to be part of this discussion.
Maybe we can find an acceptable middle-ground where they only can let air out of SUV tires when they are parked right up to the corner on a narrow street, blocking the intersection sight-lines?
The only time I’ve let the air out of someone else’s tires was to harass the people camping at the end of my street who kept bringing back stolen cars. Hard to move stolen goods with flat tires.
What a moronic article promoting vandalism. No wonder this publication isn’t respected…
You mean you don’t respect it. Yet you read it, and take the time to reply.
Owners of modified sports cars drive for recreation at high speed in rigs with disabled pollution controls so that they can use more fuel to produce more power. These drivers are dangerous with more power than skill. They conspicuously flaunt social and environmental responsibility and by the rationale of this opinion piece, would be an appropriate target of TX if they were not in the same youthful cohort asTX. Instead BP posts a beauty shot of the car and love note to the car heads
Um yeah… I didn’t write this piece. Taylor did.
Some of you are having a very hard time accepting the fact that people can have opinions that you disagree with. Or that perhaps Taylor and I might have different ways of seeing things. Shocking I know!
You and Taylor seem to be having a hard time accepting the fact that people don’t want to be the victims of crimes like vandalism and destruction of their property. And yes, letting the air out of someone’s tires can destroy the sidewalls of tires, tire pressure sensors, and damage wheels.
I love how they say it’s an opinion and then run away from any accountability for their opinions.
Does this “opinion” piece suggest the bot issue hasn’t been resolved?
My biggest gripe: does anyone really think they’re going to see their car temporarily inoperable with a holier-than-thou note left on it and think “Oh shit I’ve seen the error of my ways. Quick, where’s my bike!?”
Driving an SUV everywhere is absolutely bonkers. Not as bonkers as thinking this is an effective strategy for dealing with some of the poor/convenient choices leading to climate change.
Subversion and vigilante action can be effective. Not like this, this is polarizing. Very bad marketing at best.
I’d rather see the cowards who pull this shit knock doors and talk about alternative ways of getting around in a humanizing way. Success rate would move from 0% to… honestly, 1%. Dismal but infinitely better.
My second biggest gripe: this article making it sound like this is a good thing making us bicyclists look fanatical.
I’m a longtime reader of this site but mainly a lurker who doesn’t comment. I’ve always enjoyed reading the articles on here and appreciate that it cates to bikers of different backgrounds and interests – commuters, bike activists, MTBers, roadies, family bikers, etc. This is one of the big things that makes both this site and bikes in general great – people of different backgrounds getting together who are just really into bikes, the most amazing piece of machinery every created. I’m really disappointed to see an article like this published here. Not only do I agree with others who have posted here that it’s counterproductive for climate change activism, but I’m really sad to see an article that pushes such divisiveness in an era characterized by so much division/polarization already. Many avid bike users in Portland also own cars, both for recreation (including carrying their bikes, skis or other outdoor exploration tools around our beautiful state!) but also for work, taking kids to school and other important parts of life that sometimes can’t be achieved without a vehicle. Lots of places that gravel/MTB users go require SUVs for access, and this is part of bike culture. This site should be celebrating bikes and bikers of all stripes and interests. Honestly I really hope the author and admin here would take a few quiet minutes to consider this and just take this article down.
Thanks for the feedback. I hear you.
I happen to not-particularly-agree with the opinions expressed by TX or Taylor, but I appreciate the provocation. It made me think. I’d rather have a robust and vigorous discussion of these issues rather than not, because if we can’t, then what kind of a democracy do we actually have?
Leave the post up.
climate change activism in the USA has been a disastrous failure so I can understand why some think now is the time for desperate action.
one prominent example of this failure:
The arguments that it’s not vandalism because nothing is damaged isn’t important to me. You CAN make a case that nothing is damaged, and if nothing is damaged it’s not vandalism. But you can take that level of technicality in another direction and say, well if it’s not vandalism, it’s theft. The air may have no value to the deflator, but it certainly did to the vehicle’s owner, and it’s certainly not free to replace it in most cases.
It’s Criminal mischief in the third degree. A Class C misdemeanor. I doubt anyone would have to fork over $500 or more to get their tires inflated so it’s unlikely it would qualify for second or first degree.
I suppose they could try to combine multiple acts in one charge but I’m not versed enough in Oregon law to know how that would work out. Certainly a car dealership being targeted would qualify since it’s a single entity that owns all those vehicles.
The problem with this sort of action is not that it is direct action or even that it is vandalism. The problem is that it’s hitting the wrong target. Direct action against individual drivers furthers the neo-liberal rationale that society’s ills are the problems of individuals, who should be held accountable individually. So, on this logic, climate disaster is my fault if I don’t recycle, reduce my driving, or consume less. While recycling, using active transportation and transit, and consuming less are all admirable behaviors, they are not going to effect the kind of change that we need to make.
Climate activists have to think bigger. If you want fewer SUVs on the road, then go after the makers of the SUVs, the policy makers who allow them on the road, the delivery fleets who insist they need them. And if you’re really committed to radicalism, then use direct action against a corporate target.
Climate change is a collective problem, and it needs a collective solution. Fragmenting the populace by targeting individuals in direct action campaigns just plays into the hands of climate deniers. Automakers can sit back and laugh at a divided (and car-dependent) public as long as we are fighting each other rather than holding them accountable for producing absurdly dangerous and wasteful vehicles.
Of course they will, if they are done collectively. Human beings are social creatures and when a highly motivated group of individuals highlights the shamefulness of driving SUVs this may very well have an impact.
We should do this but it’s hard to hold automakers accountable when consumers are also driving demand for ever more deadly SUVs. Individuals can’t solve the climate crisis but please stop pretending that people lack agency — individually or collectively. To hold automakers accountable we need an awful lot people who recognize that SUVs are both an environmental disaster and a human one.
Very well said, thank you!
Comment of the week?
Lets unite against the super-rich and the corporations! WE need to move beyond divisiveness
This even existing on bikeportland is enough for me to stay away. I’ve used it as a resource for years. But this really isn’t a direction I will follow. You’ve lost your way.
Thanks for the feedback Dan.
Jonathan, in my opinion you as publisher bear the responsibility for the content of opinion pieces that you include here, even when they are written by a staff writer. You seem to be aware of that responsibility inasmuch as you utilize site moderators. If a reader wrote and suggested citizens deflate bicycle tires all across the city to express their dissatisfaction with bike riders I doubt such a comment would make it past the moderator. In this instance I am greatly disappointed you have chosen to publish this content. I had moved very close to the position of accepting Bike Portland as a voice of reason and regularly read content to expand my personal thinking on issues of mutual concern to the trucking industry and the biking community. This content takes Bike Portland several large steps backwards. I encourage you to remove this content. You have higher standards. Entirely up to you, of course.
I appreciate your feedback. I have reread this piece and have thought about it (and am continuing to do so).
I disagree with you and a lot of folks on this thread. What Taylor is doing is critiquing a form of activism that she happens to think is effective. It’s clearly labeled as her opinion, and should be read as such. I think Taylor’s opinion and voice — as a person in their mid-20s frustrated by lack of action on climate change — is extremely important to hear and to respect right now (which is why I’ve chosen to amplify similar voices in the past).
There’s nothing in this piece that says “BikePortland condones vandalism.” People need to read carefully.
I am also aware that there is a large contingent in Portland right now that is eager to attack anything they deem too “left” and weaponize it and discredit it. I have personally experienced these type of attacks myself online and I feel like that’s part of what’s happening to this post.
Your hypothetical leaves out important context that I think matters a lot in this situation.
Personally, I think conversations like this are important to have. I plan to keep the piece up. It meets my standards and if folks feel like it “takes bikeportland backwards” well then I say, stick around and move forward with us.
Thanks for the feedback. I value your engagement and readership of this site and hope you will stick around and keep an open mind.
“If it enrages, it engages” is a strategy for internet success. This thread has over 140 comments in less than a day and many of those express outrage at the perceived enabling of vandalism. Lots of clicks and mission accomplished
that is not and has never been what i care about. you know that. you are just using that as a way to attack this story.
So is pointing out that someone who has 3 children is hugely hypocritical if you are flattening the tires of a person with no children OK?
This article is embarrassing for you,
Yes I do know sowing outrage is not your intent. Nonetheless the outage and clicks are an outcome. And yes I am attacking the story. I expect more outcomes to result from it that will end badly. There is a straight line from outrage to violence and the character of society now draws that line as short
Many of the “outraged” commenters give thoughtful reasons why they feel how they do. Other commenters are supportive, also giving thoughtful reasons why. Others are asking thoughtful questions. The result is a good discussion about this specific protest, plus a broader one about what types of protest are effective, and when is inconveniencing people or breaking the law justified. Mission accomplished.
“What Taylor is doing is critiquing a form of activism”
Lionizing, more like.
Doesn’t a critique require a critical voice? The opinion piece just reads as advocacy. It doesn’t address the concerns of people who are opposed to stuff like this. There is no critical lens
It boils down to “The action is okay because climate change is bad”, which isn’t very thoughtful or interesting.
I hope these climate activists vow to never have children or get themselves sterilized. Reproducing will have a far larger climate impact than someone driving.
if they have any conviction at all, they’ll not have offspring – ever.
You are confusing climate activists with eco-fascism
I’ll point you all to Bike Snob for a excellent contrary opinion on this tactic.
I like that – people who want to engage in this tactic should start by deflating tires of people they know and then tell them why they did it. Everybody knows someone who has an SUV and you can engage them in a pleasant conversation after you deflate their tires.
I don’t like this new direction for BikePortland. It’s a bad look for the cycling community and it’s only going to be used to inspire more vehicular violence against us.
We have to share the world with other people. Taylor, Jonathan: this is not the way. I fear that innocent people are going to lose their lives because of what’s been published / encouraged in this article.
Maybe “it was just an opinion” will feel different then?
Does this extension rebellion car that I walked by two years ago qualify as a sport utility vehicle (SUV). Should I change my tag? Is the measure of a SUV based on gross vehicle weight?
When you say (paraphrasing) “This person doesn’t need to drive an SUV, I’ll deflate their tires” the first thing that comes to mind is “she deserved it, just look at what she was wearing.” Yes, even climate activists can’t seem to get away from Rape Culture. Sad to see BikePortland promoting it.
Isn’t there a square footage for homes that is over the limit?
Maus has 3 children, should people with children be shunned?
Asking for protesting clarification?
This opinion piece is immature and intellectually lazy and the action’s impact ineffective and counter-productive and ultimately socially divisive. Tire deflating doesn’t reflect BikePortland’s long history of smart advocacy, community unity, and progressive stance. I hope the article will be taken down.
Wow!!! I have to admit, I almost didn’t read this article because I kinda thought it was old news (Sorry BP). But, now I am so glad that I read it and the COMMENTS! Ms. Griggs opened a magic portal between BP and NextDoor that sucked in all this high-octane moral panic about the deflation of our beautiful way of life. People that were sleep-walking toward the collapse of our life-sustaining ecosystem forgot about their catalytic converters and the unsightliness of poverty for long enough to write about the catastrophic harm caused to people who had to put air back into their tires. Even better, I learned that it is the people who are protesting climate change that cause other people to make climate change even worse. Who knew?
As an avid driver, I understand how what appears to be small inconveniences are actually the ravenous moths eating at the very social fabric that makes life worth living. When someone appears to slow down car speeds, touches a car they don’t own, or deflates a tire; AND then I imagine this happening to all the tires every day; AND then I imagine very unique circumstances where this might, at the very right moment, maybe cause more harm than driving an SUV everyday…. I lose my freaking mind! Aaarhghghaahgh!
But, now that I have had some time to reflect (as the avid cyclist that I am, BTW) I am seeing how the real “inconvenience to freak-out ratio” works in favor of tire deflation. This post, other news coverage, and the tire flattening has brought so much attention to the very important issue of climate destabilization, without any real harm. So cool! Thanks to all the hyberbolic pearl-clutching comments on this article, I get how awesome letting the air out can be. Heck, I just flattened my and my neighbors’ car tires and we had a good laugh while we pumped them back up. He was worried about being late to work, but in considering the many ways that the car-based transportation system that we have all become addicted to often fails us, we just had another good laugh about the tyranny of capitalism. Ha!
I guess it’s like Jonathan always says “read the comments,” the ridiculous things that climate-change-denying drivers say just might make you want to flatten some tires.
Nominated for comment of the week.
Fight back against eco-fascist radicals with this one crazy trick!!!
That was great, and useful.
I learned how to caulk my bathtub from a wonderful YouTube woman who pushed the double entendre as far as it could go.