Portland-based activist and self-described public safety expert, Randy Philbrick (@pdxrandylee), is organizing an event this Friday where he and anyone else who shows up will park cars and trucks in the bus lane and bike lane on Southeast Division Street. “When citizens are ignored, this is what happens,” Philbrick wrote online last week.
According to tweets published by Philbrick under the guise of Portlanders for Positive Impact , the event is a protest against TriMet’s Division Transit project. That project wrapped up last fall and spent $175 million on bus service between downtown Portland and Gresham. It included changes to SE Division that the Portland Bureau of Transportation hoped would improve safety for all road users, speed up bus service, and provide more space for bicycle riders. Some business owners on Division have complained that the medians and other changes have made it hard for customers to access their locations.
Philbrick believes the PBOT is leading a “war on cars” and that “positive change” would be something that aligns more closely with his own ideas. “Tell Commissioner Mapps and PBOT that they need to include all community members in their infrastructure changes,” he wrote in a tweet.
The plan at the event Friday is for drivers to park in the new bus lanes, bike lanes, and the median on Division between SE 112th and 122nd.
Many people have responded with concern that this event will create major safety risks for road users. Philbrick rejects those concerns and says there is “no threat to public safety” and that the event will be peaceful. Here’s more from one of his Twitter replies:
“Cyclists can detour around the demonstration like motorists are made to do when they try to get home or to a local business because of the median. A median that is now a threat to public health and safety… These bike lanes is rarely used anyway.”
Blocking public transit and/or parking in a bike lane is against the law in Oregon. That also hasn’t stopped Philbrick, who thinks that his free speech rights to protest absolve him from following traffic laws (much the same way people might walk in the middle of the street and/or against red signals during a march).
Regardless of what happens Friday, this is a notable escalation of opposition to the Division Transit Project. Some business owners have testified against it several times at City Hall over the years, and City Commissioner Dan Ryan is one of their allies. He has brought up his own personal disdain for the changes at several council meetings over the last year. At a budget work session in March he described a “scary” situation that happened when he had trouble making a u-turn on the newly narrowed street. “This could be dangerous,” he said, before asking PBOT if it would be possible to re-assess the project.
Whatever happens should be interesting. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: For more on this event, watch this video posted yesterday by organizer Randy Philbrick.