How bad have things gotten for the Oregon Department of Transportation and their reputation for mismanagement of urban arterials?
The agency has been made the subject of a satirical news post from high school journalism students.
The Cleveland Onion is an Instagram account created by students from Cleveland High School. It’s a nod to The Onion and is a satirical companion to the school’s official newspaper. Cleveland High sits on the corner of Southeast Powell Blvd (ODOT’s Highway 26) and SE 26th Avenue — just across the street from where many students and staff witnessed the horrific killing of Sarah Pliner when she was hit by a truck driver during their school lunch period on October 4th.
And the Pliner tragedy was not the first time Cleveland has faced the reality of violent traffic outside their school. In 2018 their principal had to issue a traffic safety warning to students ahead of a planned walkout.
Late last month The Cleveland Onion posted a photo of that intersection along with the headline: “ODOT Responds To High Cycling Fatalities By Adding Four Lanes To Powell Blvd to Prevent Cyclists From Trying To Cross At All.”
And here’s the rest of the post:
“The problem as we see it is that all these cyclists are throwing themselves into lanes of traffic that should really be reserved for people who can afford cars.” said ODOT in a statement this morning. “The fact is that many cars and semi trucks rely on being able to drive 50 miles per hour through a school zone to complete their daily commutes. We can’t just change the rules and layouts of our roads to accommodate the lives of pedestrians and cyclists. We have decided that in order to keep all these unwanted obstructions from getting in the way of gas-paying commuters, it would be best to expand the highway into Powell park and shave a little bit off Cleveland high school.”
This post is a stinging indictment of ODOT and shows how their reputation has transcended the realm of transportation advocates and is now part of popular culture. The post works, because like any good satire, it contains a shred of believability and allows us to lean on humor to deal with a tragic topic. Well done Cleveland students!
Another disappointing perspective. Surely this is of no instructional value to young people who need to learn how to navigate policy advocacy to see their ideas successfully implemented in the real world. This approach is easily ignored by policy makers and imparts no life learning.
It’s satire. Learning how to use satire to critique institutions is definitely a skill worth learning, and it’s also funny.
What kids these days really need is to produce dry policy proposals aiming the most milquetoast changes to the state bureaucrats, they aren’t allowed to poke fun at institutions, or use humor at all. No, what the youth of today need is more bureaucracy and more skills on navigating pointless administration. That way, they can get a Powell Boulevard Improvement Plan onto the 2040 Regional Transportation Priority List which can have a break-ground date of January 2045, just in time for their kids to attend CHS.
Hi Gregg. It’s just an instagram post. It’s not some type of advocacy strategy. Just kids having some fun and expressing their frustration with ODOT.
“No instructional value” and “no life learning”, wow. None at all.
Hope Gregg isn’t a teacher because these students would surely school him on how to not be uptight, patronizing, and irrelevant. Nice work Cleveland High! Keep speaking truth to power by any and all means necessary for the sort of life learning you’ll be putting to use every day.
He’s not a teacher… but he is the Director of Regulatory Compliance for the Oregon Trucking Association. Yeah, I’m sure the Cleveland kids have oodles of respect for his opinions.
So basically the kids should stay in their lane?
No, they should not cross ANY !anes! ;-0
PS. I am surprised that they know about The Onion since its so 2000s (at least when it had a print edition).
Gregg, I totally agree- You must not disparage or ‘bad mouth’ contractors of ODOT, most specifically those assigned to work through the Motor Carrier Transportation Division of ODOT, whether you are talking to other ODOT employees or to third parties.
Gregg, your response is also satire, right? Because otherwise…
I know that you’re used to being able to silence criticism of ODOT with a sternly written memo to underlings, so this must really rankle. Everyone knows the best way to influence ODOT policymakers is by offering them contracts in the freight industry while they are supposed to be regulating the freight industry, right?
I can’t tell if Gregg’s comment is satire or not.
A+ for satire.
I have met many highway engineers, usually but not always old fogies, who are 100% concerned for people’s safety, who sincerely believe the best way to prevent pedestrians and bicyclists from getting hurt is to make it totally 100% impossible to cross a dangerous facility like inner Powell. They regularly make freeways and other important highways as pedestrian inaccessible as possible, which of course means that if your car crashes or breaks down, you are doomed to die if you exit your vehicle, and too many pedestrians do die on freeways every year. It was certainly the prevailing feeling in the 50s and 60s, to not build sidewalks and to encourage everyone to drive, for not only personal safety but even more for society’s collective safety. Of course, anyone in the 1950s who still needed to walk or bike (or worse, wanted to do so voluntarily) were locked up, particularly if they were doing so while black.
The way DOTs prevent walking and bicycling include not adding any sidewalks; adding painted bike lanes on major highways where speeds are too dangerous for anyone bicycling (alas still common in Portland); not adding sidewalks on bus routes (or waiving the requirement that developers put them in); adding fences on the strip of land between the sidewalk and street and also on the median; banning & fining people for jay walking; and so on.
There’s a really good quote by Douglas Adams about people using a facility in a way that was designed specifically for them not to use it, but I forget what it was.
I thought anti-car nuts want, no, demand, separate infrastructure for the “vulnerable road users”? That’s exactly what a freeway is. If the truck was on a freeway Sarah would still be alive.
Phil Knight escaped Cleveland.
Joe Biden was nearby recently.
Fogies of the world, unite!
You have nothing to lose but your lives!
I am not surprised that people keep getting injured and killed along this stretch of Powell. Just this morning I was crossing at the official bike way light on 28th and Powell when I almost became its next victim. I waited for my light to turn green, watched the traffic stop, (I always check to make sure the traffic stops because I have seen so many people run the light here.) SUV in the right-hand westbound lane was at a full stop. It had been at least 5 – 6 second now that I had a green light, I began to proceed through the intersection, now in front of the first car in the right lane that is stopped, now the left-hand west bound lane is visible, and here is a truck racing right at me going about 60 miles an hour directly at me. I barely got out of the way in time to avoid being splattered all over the road. So, in case it’s not clear, the person driving the white truck, blatantly ran a red light at a designated bike and pedestrian crossing adjacent to a school at probably twice the speed limit while the adjacent traffic was all stopped. It was merely a second difference between being living and most likely death. My anxiety over this has not recovered all day and I am a 6000 to 9000 mile a year cyclist that has commuted by bike to work for over 10 years now. What are we going to do about this?!
Make a law and get someone to enforce it . . . oh wait . . ./s
A law that isn’t enforced isn’t really a law at all in any meaningful sense.
I have had the same experience as Dean at the “improved” 28th Avenue ped/bike crossing. Three lanes of traffic may stop, but too often the fourth lane has a speeding vehicle in it that nearly takes my life. I count to 5 before I cross, to avoid the red light speeders who gun it to avoid stopping, but that doesn’t prevent the drivers who purposely or distractedly run reds there at all points in the light cycle.
That crossing is not much of an improvement unless we somehow reduce speeds and discourage dangerous/distracted driving on Powell. Road Diet NOW!
Don’t use the ‘officially designated’ crossing at SE 28th would be my first suggestion. Don’t use the crossing at SE 26th either. Find somewhere else to cross or die, damn cyclist!
My, what an inviting group of folks interested in hearing divergent opinions!
reeeeeeeeeeee teenagers don’t act exactly how I want them to!
All good satire has a kernel of truth in it – and while no ODOT person has said those words, their actions have.
If you think there’s an alternative form of advocacy that’s more effective, why not throw it out there? Make your criticism constructive and let these kids know how to really effect change. Your comment came off all sour grapes and get off my lawn.
Gregg, you were the first to provide a counterpoint.
You can dish it out, but you can’t take it?
Whether you agree or not with their actions, it is great to see high school students get engaged with an issue that sorely needs more citizen engagement. Hats off to them!
SO what is next?…the K-5 students throwing juice boxes at ODOT vehicles or monkeys at the Portland Zoo throwing poop at ODOT engineers!?! Where will this insanity end?! May be the school should just move? Oops…the school was built in 1916 and ODOT was created in 1969. So …So the real fix:NOT designing / operating arterials in school zones this way…AND not placing new schools along similar roadways.
Sick. These kids are alright.
+1 for the reference.
So proud of this pulling outward on the left flank from CHS students.
Satire – yet so very close to home, it almost isn’t.
Leave it to the kids to say, “The emperor has no clothes.”
Some (like Dal Ponte), think the kids, and all of us plebeians really, should just nod and bow and curtsy to powers like ODOT. But strong schools and strong teachers, as their primary objective, teach citizenship – that is, how to be participatory members of their political community.
Cleveland High School, at their best, is raising up our youth to be orators, artists, scientists, engineers, teachers, tradespeople, and, yes, diplomats. They all have important roles in the revolution. But what a shot-in-the-arm to see that they are raising up social satirists, too. This Cleveland Onion post provides not only a brief and empowering moment of comic relief from the deadly serious subject, it is also an effective strategy to draw attention and promote change.
I’m all for direct action but why are they victimizing those of us who are just trying to drive to work by blocking traffic every Friday morning in December?. This won’t change any minds, but only inconvenience us tax payers who own this road. It wont change anything and will get them in trouble. A pointed letter writing campaign will be much more effective and lead to faster press coverage of this unfortunate accident area.
Next time, don’t use your “tax payer” status as a cudgel and you may appear slightly less absurd.
Go around? The same way all of us not in multi-ton vehicles have to take circuitous routes.
So, redirect trucks and SUVs from the highway onto residential streets? Good idea.
Us HWY 26 aka Powell Blvd is NOT for bicycles PERIOD.
Take your bikes to CLINTON ST (A bicycle Bi-Way)& STAY off the HIGHWAY originally designed for Cars & Trucks carrying Loggs from the Mt. Hood Nat. Forest.
My irony meter just broke – and it went to 11.
Powell was a major street well before motor vehicles existed.
Haven’t seen a logging truck (or logging cars) on Portland streets (not the interstate freeways) in a gazillion years. Maybe it is time the streets were used for more practical purposes that meet with the needs of current residents, not ones from 50 years ago?
This is the funniest post on BikeLoud, since awhile. If you really want to make a raukus …. I suggest activist crash the annual spring safety conference held by the Oregon Trucking Association. Any OTA event is rife for protest, satire and or just straight up shaming them for killing our friends.