A cartoon frog wants to help stoke cycling in Portland

Dr. Fraug on one of Portland’s greenways. (Photo: Mike Bennett)

With bike ridership in Portland going down, some point to the city’s “hidden” neighborhood greenway system as a reason more people aren’t cycling. Since many of the city’s most popular bike routes — residential streets that feature diverters and traffic calming measures to reduce rider stress — are out of sight, not everyone is aware they even exist.

Perhaps, the thinking goes, more signage on the greenways could help turn the tide. For that, we turn to north Portland artist and “public joy creator” Mike Bennett, who recently released some new designs to his roster of “Bennett Buddies” that we’d love to see taking up residence all over our greenways.

Bennett is the mastermind behind the iconic “slow down” street signs that feature famously slow animals like snails and sloths telling drivers to take their foot off the gas and get on their level. When these signs started to proliferate on Portland’s streets a couple years ago, we drew the connection between their popularity and the increase in driver speeding/lack of enforcement during the pandemic.

Unfortunately, the conditions on Portland’s streets haven’t improved much in that time, and people are still relying on yard signs to serve as de facto traffic enforcers. Even the City of Portland knows the value of signage to create an identity for greenways and has an aggressive yard sign program. At an informal gathering of bike activists Friday in the Lents neighborhood, BikeLoud PDX Board Member Aaron Kuehn shared draft designs of a new large sticker he’s creating for the group. It would be emblazoned with “Bike Loud” and the idea would be to stick it on traffic poles along good cycling routes to help others find their way.

Now Bennett and his new character Dr. Thadeus Fraug, a “self-diagnosed bicycle believer” who wants to keep his fellow “spoke-folk safe”, will add to that mix.

“With his highly visible ‘Bicycle Zone’ sign at his side, he’s a ribbeting reminder for drivers and an adorable addition to your neighborhood,” Dr. Fraug’s description reads. We envision him making his mark on greenways from NE Klickitat to NW Pettygrove as soon as possible.

Current signage on Portland’s neighborhood greenways is lacking, though it’s better on some routes than others. SE Clinton Street, for instance, features many orange bike street sign toppers and yard signs letting people know they’re on a greenway. But other greenway streets could really use a boost.

BikeLoud stickers and Bennett’s buddies won’t be able to fix Portland’s declining bike ridership on their own, but more awareness of where bike routes are certainly can’t hurt.

You can check out all the Bennett Buddies for sale here, and be sure to check out our 2021 Q&A with the artist where he talks more about his creative process behind making these critters.

Taylor Griggs (Staff Writer)

Taylor Griggs (Staff Writer)

Taylor has been BikePortland's staff writer since November 2021. She has also written for Street Roots and Eugene Weekly. Contact her at taylorgriggswriter@gmail.com

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Steven Smith
Steven Smith
11 months ago

Cool. But you’ve first got to find the greenway to see the sign.

joan
11 months ago

This is great! Since that nice green color is already associated with bike boxes and other bike infrastructure, it would be pretty great to see that same shade used by PBOT in signage like this too. In the meantime, thanks to Mike and BikeLoud for pushing forward this good idea.

dw
dw
11 months ago

Sorry for being cynical but I was riding around NoPo today and got close followed, harassed and run off the street 3 times on supposed greenways. One of them in front of a cop who did nothing. We don’t need kids’ cartoon characters to ‘raise awareness’. We need real, adult consequences for homicidal drivers.

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
11 months ago
Reply to  dw

The North Portland greenways could really use some more signage and traffic diverters

dw
dw
11 months ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

Agreed. I noticed a lot of drivers rat running to avoid collector and main streets that are barely congested even during rush hour.

EP
EP
11 months ago

Can we just get a giant Truckasaurus that dishes out instant traffic safety enforcement when it crushes and eats the vehicles of violators?!

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Harry Lime
Harry Lime
11 months ago

Oh. So in addition to the copyright infringements that got him press, Bennett does bland generic originals. Cool.

Chris I
Chris I
11 months ago
Reply to  Harry Lime

I can only assume he’s being sued for copyright infringement? Can you provide a link to the court case?

Harry Lime
Harry Lime
11 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

Why would you assume that? Of course he’s not, it’s considered “fan art” and any company would look like jerks doing that. Plus with no monetary gain, there’s no legal infringement.

However – he gained fame reproducing giant exact copies of other artists’ creations, correct?

If I used the word “plagiarism” instead of “copyright infringement” would you be happier?

Atreus
Atreus
11 months ago
Reply to  Harry Lime

That kind of stuff is covered under fair use, plus he doesn’t make any money off the copyrighted characters. Everything he sells for money are original designs.

Martiin DeBoolisvadre
Martiin DeBoolisvadre
11 months ago
Reply to  Harry Lime

He’s gamed the system. Got his start spoon-feeding his tracings to Portland redditors, who ate it up because painting a Pokemon on plywood is… something.

Dozens of threads followed, and I suspect there was compensation for the moderators over there, but at some point he hit critical mass and the local mainstream media picked up on his “art”.

You’re correct that there’s nothing especially notable about it, besides “he’s from Portland!” and sadly that’s enough for a lot of folks to jump on the bandwagon.

Unfortunately this blog seems just as “starstruck” (lol) as the other outlets, so this article reads like a press release. What people need to realize is that everything Bennett does is promotion. This is his business and his career. Maybe BikePortland should ask him to buy an ad instead of giving it to him for free?

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin

Hi. Thanks for the comment. Have you considered that I don’t care if his art is simple or if he’s just doing it to promote himself and his business? It’s related to biking and traffic safety and he’s a local dude, so yes, I consider it worthy of sharing here. Not sure why you have such a beef against him.

Dwk
Dwk
11 months ago

Local artist tries to promote himself and sell things… Outrageous!

Orville
Orville
11 months ago

Well If you step back and look at the disfunctional bike system Portland has you might understand some of the reasons behind the issues. Bike lanes. Greenways, shared streets other disconnected systems. Train wreck of connectivity

Frank Perillo
Frank Perillo
11 months ago

Cartoon signs? Really? Amazing how out of touch the city is with what’s really going on. Or they just choose to ignore it.

dw
dw
11 months ago
Reply to  Frank Perillo

As far as I can tell, it’s not the city, it’s a local artist doing this of their own volition.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin
Reply to  Frank Perillo

Hi Frank, You might want to get more in touch with this story before sharing negativity about it. It is a private thing and has nothing to do with the city.

donel a courtney
donel a courtney
11 months ago

Jonathan “the city” could mean everyone in portland or the munipality. Before calling out your readers for seemingly no good reason you might give him the benefit of the doubt.

Fred
Fred
11 months ago

A cartoon frog wants to help stoke cycling in Portland

NEWS FLASH: A cartoon frog isn’t going to increase cycling, but you know what might? – PBOT maintaining the bike infrastructure they build.

Most traditional bike lanes that were swept after the recent winter storm are mostly full of gravel again, but the newer protected lanes (in SW Portland, at least) were never swept at all. Portland – “the best cycling city in America” – is all talk.

Aaron
11 months ago

These signs can only help for sure but as a new car free rider in Portland I find them minimally helpful. They feel more decorative than official so I tend to overlook them when navigating and any solution with small signage like this means I have to constantly be scanning the periphery of the street which takes away some portion of my attention that could be spent on awareness of cars and such.

I really just want to see big green painted bike lanes right down either side of the street. Even if they’re marked as a shared lane that cars can drive on (maybe just green without the solid white lines?) they would make it obvious that I’m on the right road and they’d be easily visible from a distance.

X
X
11 months ago
Reply to  Aaron

To me the green surface is somewhat more useful than a bunch of sharrows which hardly move the needle at all.

I’d like to see a category of Portland street where there are no signs at all, cars are allowed but they can’t park on public property, and *pedestrians have absolute legal right of way over wheeled vehicles in all circumstances*. No other rules. To enter this space a vehicle would have to pass a gate or retractable bollard with a prominent sign explaining the two rules.

Since cars exist there has to be public parking somewhere but if it slowly gets farther away and more expensive that’s ok with me. If there’s profit spend the money on transit.

My major problem with green lanes is that the installation literally stinks. I’m breathing here.

Granpa
Granpa
11 months ago

A frog, as in the video game Frogger? How appropriate that a game has the protagonist dicing in lethal traffic is represented on Portland bikeways

Brandon
Brandon
11 months ago

I know this is just supposed to be a whimsical and fun thing, but I don’t think it helps drivers see people on bikes as people just like them using a serious means of transportation. A drooling, oblivious-looking frog is like the stereotype a lot of drivers have of people on bikes. Dehumanization is a big factor in driver vs bike aggression. We should be doing things that change that, not strengthen it.

https://usa.streetsblog.org/2019/03/28/study-aggressive-driving-is-linked-to-seeing-cyclists-as-less-than-human/

Martiin DeBoolisvadre
Martiin DeBoolisvadre
11 months ago

I find it quite fitting that the photo shows one of these frogs literally covering a PBOT sign placed to denote a road hazard.

Thomas G Stillwater
Thomas G Stillwater
11 months ago

“Bicycle Zone” implies that areas without these signs aren’t suitable for bikes. Not a great look.