Last week was one of the wildest I’ve ever had on this site. Among everything that happened, I was continually impressed with how our community responded: people showed up on a moment’s notice to testify at council, people wrote letters, they spoke out at meetings, organized events — and of course, many of you wrote comments.
So much of what we do here at BikePortland is made better by having a very open and accessible comment section. Out of the 422 (and counting) comments on our six Broadway bike lane stories last week, there were many that deserve to be singled out. But the one I’ve chosen for Comment of the Week stands apart. It’s a comment on my podcast interview with Mapps from reader MelK that I think nails some very important aspects of the controversy, and gets at the larger issue of how many politicians totally misread what we do here.
Read her comment below:
Towards the end of the interview, Mapps makes a comment about having to take into account all Portlanders’ concerns, while claiming that Jonathan only has to concern himself with BikePortland readers/cyclists. This is a false dichotomy. Yes, we read BikePortland, but many of us are here not because we identify as “cyclists,” but because we are regular Portlanders just trying to move through our city and want to do so safely. Aside from walking, biking is the cleanest, healthiest, most affordable, and most environmentally and socially just form of transportation. I am one of the “all Portlanders” that Mapps speaks of; it just so happens that my usual mode is the one that reflects the values I’m trying to impart to my kids and my community: one that emits no carbon dioxide or particulate pollution, one that causes far fewer fatalities and severe injuries than driving, one that improves my physical health, and one that ties me to my city and community. These are all things Commissioner Mapps claims he believes in and supports, and yet because I read BikePortland, I get lumped in as just a “cyclist.”
I don’t believe it’s a huge ask that our safety be prioritized over economic interests. When my husband and I put our 4- and 6-year-old on the back of our bikes to get them to and from school in the central city every day, it is imperative that we have protection. Automobile-related injuries and deaths are at an all-time high and it’s not easy to continue putting myself and my family in the “vulnerable road user” category. Yet we do it because we truly believe that biking is climate action, and as a parent I have to make the extremely difficult decision to weigh my kids’ long-term future against our short-term interests. The only way I know how to do that and not let the anxiety take over is to fight for safer and more equitable streets, which in turn will someday mean healthier and more resilient communities.
This should have been an easy one for Mapps. Getting complaints about a bike lane from wealthy business owners? Cool. Chat with them, make it clear that he can work with them if and only if any changes either maintain or add to the safety of his constituents, whose right to move themselves and their children from A to B safely is a priority. I was hoping for a PBOT commissioner and mayoral candidate who understands that, but Mapps clearly does not. Unfortunately, even if he appears to suddenly get it as we approach election day, we can no longer trust that he’s being honest and genuine about that.
Thank you MelK and all the others who contributed to an outstanding week of comments. You can read MelK’s comment in context here.