YouTuber ‘CityNerd’ does Portland, and has choice words about Broadway

“Portland, I want to think the best of you, but this is extremely unserious behavior.”

– CityNerd

Ray Delahanty is not your average Portland pundit — especially when it comes to transportation takes. A Portland State University graduate and long-time Portland resident, he quit the transportation planning field during Covid and started making videos on YouTube. (Read this great profile of him published last month.)

Today he’s a full-time YouTuber and his channel (“that embraces all things cities and transportation, approaching things with a profound love for urban environments and an analytical bent”) has over 203,000 subscribers. A video he posted six days ago about downtown Portland has over 113,000 views and over 800 conments. Suffice it to say Ray has a ton of very loyal fans and his views on transportation travel very far.

So when his Portland video mentioned the Broadway bike lane scandal, a lot of people heard about it. (Note: When Ray was a planning consultant, he was part of the team hired by the Portland Bureau of Transportation to develop the Central City in Motion plan that the Broadway bike lane came out of, so he has considerable insights to share.)

Here’s what Ray said about Broadway in his video (it starts 9:27 mark):

“For years, my commute took me down SW Broadway, and the new protected bike lane that we did last year was something I was really excited to see — not only because I spent years white-knuckling it in the door-zone bike lane that used to be there, but it is a project that came out of Central City in Motion — a City of Portland effort that I’m extremely proud to have worked on.

Was it super busy? No. But keep in mind Portland State University at the south end of Broadway is a big driver of bike traffic and classes weren’t in yet, so it’s all good. Well… unless… breaking news… like two days after I left Portland, the PBOT director emailed staff and directed them to rip out the bike lane. The story is still evolving as I’m filming this, but pretty much everything we know about this is because PBOT staff aren’t on board and just leaked the whole thing to Jonathan at BikePortland… if it wasn’t for outlets like BikePortland, you wouldn’t even know half the stuff was going on in our cities. Jonathan has written BikePortland for like 18 years and still as important as ever so consider supporting it if you have the wherewithal…

Anyway; Portland, I want to think the best of you, but this is extremely unserious behavior. I worked on this project. It took years of planning and outreach, millions of dollars of staffing consultant time just to get Central City in Motion adopted… It took a whole bunch of analysis, countless meetings and outreach to get agreement on how we were going to fit that protected southbound facility on SW Broadway. And I know there were a lot of business owners who didn’t like it. But when City Council adopted the plan, it was basically saying ‘We think trying to meet mode share targets and climate-related goals is more important than pretty minor inconveniences for a few businesses.’

The hotels on SW Broadway have to put their valet on the far side of the protected bike lane. Well, you know what, when I stayed in Portland on this trip, I’d stayed in a hotel on SW Broadway and I had to take an Uber there from the airport because airport MAX line is under renovation. And guess what? It didn’t even register to me that I had to cross a bike lane with my suitcase. It literally made no difference and it has no impact on my likelihood of staying at that hotel again. What might impact the likelihood of staying in a hotel is whether the hotel owners are jerks or not.

And it’s really pretty insane, planners who are usually pretty progressive-minded people by nature are out here doing years of extensive community outreach to every impacted community. They’re doing land acknowledgments and stuff. But if a rich business owner wants to take out a bike lane, they can just like take a city council member out to a nice lunch or something? I can’t even imagine how demoralizing this is for staff and I know a lot of PBOT staff and I feel for them. All I can say is try to remember why you got into planning and engineering in the first place.”

Watch the video above or on the CityNerd channel.


In related news, I’ve received a trove of emails (1,121 pages long!) from a public records request related to the Broadway bike lane scandal. I’ve gone through it and have learned a lot more about why and how the entire fiasco might have unfolded. I’m working to confirm more details and am considering my next move. Stay tuned.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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hamiramani
6 months ago

Awesome that he brought up the downtown Broadway scandal.

But, I was even more excited to see him talk about the disaster that is the Burnside Bridge, especially the new-ish configuration at the east end where the bridge and MLK intersect. I take this bridge home during rush hour most days and feel terrified every single time. As Ray Delahanty notes, drivers essentially do whatever they want at that intersection. PBOT needs to harden that infrastructure.

Also, the ridiculous bike lane they place on MLK between the Burnside Bridge and Ankeny is, well, ridiculous. There is not guidance on how to use it and one wouldn’t event know it’s there unless you really look.

squareman
squareman
6 months ago
Reply to  hamiramani

He beautifully nails car dependency when he says near the end of the video:

… this is like an IQ test for drivers and a bunch of them are failing miserably. It’s pretty sad.

Fred
Fred
6 months ago
Reply to  hamiramani

I wonder if we’ll see fewer of these terrible installations in 2025? – a pro will look at that area and say “I wouldn’t put a bike lane here – not safe. Let’s wait and do it right.”

But the political hacks in charge of PBOT have other ideas, and they’re in charge.

squareman
squareman
6 months ago

I subscribe to his channel and watch each video as it comes out. I highly recommend his stuff to any transportation and urbanist wonks. He speaks a bit wryly and slowly, so I actually watch his videos on 1.5–2x speed.

idlebytes
idlebytes
6 months ago

I can’t even imagine how demoralizing this is for staff and I know a lot of PBOT staff and I feel for them. All I can say is try to remember why you got into planning and engineering in the first place.”

Those last two sentences really sum up this whole debacle. Someone at PBOT came forward as a whistleblower because this is so beyond the pale. Mapps and Williams are literally ok with wasting millions of dollars of tax payers dollars to undo years of consulting, outreach and design all because a few business owners were upset.

Business owners who were part of the outreach and had concessions made to them already for this design. I’m glad this style of government and politicians like Mapps are on their way out. He was literally willing to reduce safety on Broadway and waste millions of tax payer dollars for what a $10,000 campaign donation and some cushy position after he’s done with his political career. It’s despicable.

PSU Prof
PSU Prof
6 months ago

Like, idiocy, like, yo.

_a Portland State University professor who speaks and,like, writes English

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
6 months ago
Reply to  PSU Prof

Totally Dude!

Fred
Fred
6 months ago

All I can say is try to remember why you got into planning and engineering in the first place.

That comment from the end of the piece doesn’t differentiate between the transportation professionals who *know* what they are doing and the political hacks (Mapps and Williams) who have no idea what they are doing but actually have the power to tell the pros what to do.

Williams’s “tear out the bike lane” email was the best example of this dissonance that I’ve ever seen.

I know I’m a broken record on this issue, but I can’t wait for 2025, when the political hacks are safely tucked away in city council and the pros are running the bureaus. No elected rep will be able to rip out a bike lane. This recent scandal shows exactly why charter reform was so badly needed.

dw
dw
6 months ago
Reply to  Fred

I don’t know if charter reform will necessarily result in better transportation policy implementation. I’m 100% sure that the representatives that get elected in East Portland will have “Rip out the evil business-killing bike lanes (/medians)” in their platform.

ShadowsFolly
ShadowsFolly
6 months ago
Reply to  dw

Then what can the non-auto driving community do to win the hearts and minds of those that might think about voting for such representatives?

Fred
Fred
6 months ago
Reply to  ShadowsFolly

Good question. People have been talking about that issue on this site for many years. The odds are so stacked against cycling, even in this supposedly bike-friendliest city. We’ll just have to hope the voters have a clue, I guess.

Dave
Dave
6 months ago
Reply to  Fred

It’s a long process. Read Tom Fuculoro’s excellent new book “Biking Uphill in the Rain” about how cycling facilities and culture have survived in Seattle.

dw
dw
6 months ago
Reply to  ShadowsFolly

Honestly I think that many bike advocates are completely blind to what many real folks view as the important issues. When it comes to homelessness and crime, they either wave it away as non-issues or throw around a bunch of urbanist jargon about how micromobility makes streets safer or whatever. While that is true, the East Portland family being awoken by gunshots three times in one night couldn’t give two shits about protected intersections or cycle tracks. Or they tried to do a family bike ride and got harassed by a screamer on the 205 path.

If we want to change anything related to transportation we need to meet people where they’re at and stop invalidating people’s loved experience. Basically we need a pro-bike/transit but also pro-cop candidate lol

John V
John V
6 months ago
Reply to  dw

I don’t actually believe any bike advocates on here or any I’ve ever heard of wave away homelessness and crime as non-issues. Lets please stop repeating this canard.

PS
PS
6 months ago
Reply to  John V

Imagine a cyclist is using the 205 bike path and a homeless persons dog bites the cyclist on the thigh and the takeaway from this blog is, “Please always leash your dogs! “.

That feels a lot like waving away of the actual cause of the issue.

John V
John V
6 months ago
Reply to  PS

That feels a lot like waving away of the actual cause of the issue.

No it actually sounds like the most direct solution to a dog biting someone. It’s true no matter what you think about homelessness. It’s not waving away anything.

Watts-off
Watts-off
6 months ago
Reply to  John V

The most direct solution to a drunk driver is to arrest them, but direct solutions are not always the most effective solutions.

PS
PS
6 months ago
Reply to  John V

No, it’s cognitive dissonance to believe that the likelihood of this is equal among all dog owners, so all dog owners need to be reminded to leash their pets.

qqq
qqq
6 months ago
Reply to  PS

Unleashed dogs are even popping up in bike projects before they’re even built!:
https://bikeportland.org/2023/10/05/urban-trails-a-bold-plan-for-the-next-generation-of-portland-bikeways-380055

Dave Fronk
Dave Fronk
6 months ago
Reply to  dw

100% this. Bike advocates are harming their own cause and doubling down like Trump (and so many other politicians these days). It’s disappointing to see, and it makes me root against them. I mean, they also often have bad / unworkable / unrealistic ideas, but the toxic attitudes and combative tactics just makes stuff worse for anyone on two wheels.

I see a lot of support for that stuff here, and it frustrates me to no end. This is not the way.

Watts
Watts
6 months ago
Reply to  ShadowsFolly

What can the non-auto driving community do to win the hearts and minds of those that might think about voting for such representatives?

Every time I hear someone talk about how we need to make transit look better by making driving harder/slower/more expensive, I cringe.

Watts
Watts
6 months ago
Reply to  Fred

…political hacks are safely tucked away in city council and the pros are running the bureaus.

Williams is an example of one such a “pro”. We’re still going to get plenty of duds. Always have, always will.

John V
John V
6 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Except she explicitly has Mapps as her boss, was not hired based on qualifications, and was acting on his behalf to run the bureau he has direct control over. So it’s not really the same thing.

Watts
Watts
6 months ago
Reply to  John V

I don’t know why she was hired, and I don’t know why the next director will be hired. Nor do you.

Every organization has bad hires. It’s not like voters granted magical powers to the new city managers.

John V
John V
6 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Actually I do know why she was hired.

https://www.theskanner.com/news/newsbriefs/34889-commissioner-mapps-hires-new-portland-bureau-of-transportation-director

 Commissioner Mapps Hires New Portland Bureau of Transportation Director

She was hired because Mapps wanted to hire her and that’s all it takes. This is the thing that will be different.

Watts
Watts
6 months ago
Reply to  John V

She was hired because Mapps wanted to hire her and that’s all it takes. This is the thing that will be different.

Will it be different? The city manager (or, more likely, one of their 5 sub-managers each of whom will oversee a portfolio of bureaus) will hire the head folks, for whatever reasons they have. Just like today.

Vive la différence.

Lazy Spinner
Lazy Spinner
6 months ago

More evidence that Portland, as we would like it, is essentially over. dw makes a good point about charter reform and the new council – East Portland will likely elect more populist center-right councilors that will view bike infrastructure as an expensive impediment to business and jobs. It won’t be hard to convince their constituents that bikes are an elitist Westside hobby/obsession that hurts blue collar people in the form of higher taxes, money taken away from schools, lost businesses and jobs, higher rent, etc. I also would not put it past some candidates to claim that bike lanes make it easier for the homeless to invade your neighborhood.

In politics, it doesn’t matter if these things are accurate. It just has to sound plausible while creating anger and motivating people to vote. We are in for some strange and interesting times ahead.

Fred
Fred
6 months ago
Reply to  Lazy Spinner

Yes, but we have to remember that these new councilmembers will NOT have direct control in the way the current council has, or the council has had forever in Portland. The new city council will mostly make policy; they will NOT ride herd over specific budgets and “own” bureaus the way current councilors do.

Local reps who want to tear out a bike lane will need to convince the pros – whom they do not control directly – that it’s a good idea to do so, and build support in the council to pass an ordinance, create policy, etc. It will be WAY harder to get away with shenanigans like what we just witnessed with Mapps and Williams.

In sum I see reasons to be hopeful about the new system.

Ummm....
Ummm....
6 months ago
Reply to  Fred

these new councilmembers will NOT have direct control

Ummmm…the mayor and his appointed city manager will have dictatorial control over the day-to-day running of city bureaus. I guess an even more authoritarian structure is somehow better…right? Right???

Watts
Watts
6 months ago
Reply to  Ummm....

I guess an even more authoritarian structure is somehow better…right?

It is, at least if you have an inside track to the mayor.

Serenity
Serenity
6 months ago
Reply to  Fred

Hopefully.

Watts
Watts
6 months ago
Reply to  Fred

these new councilmembers will NOT have direct control in the way the current council has, or the council has had forever in Portland.

They will have exactly the same influence — council will set the budget and priorities of each bureau, just as they always have. What will change is that you no longer have the potential for political influence over someone who has responsibility for a bureau. Broadway shows the danger of this, but there are many many occasions where this has helped as well, most of them not newsworthy.

In other words, your ability to influence a project will drop considerably.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Watts

I’m not following you Watts. I’ve found that the best way to influence a project (and I’ve influenced a few) is by interacting with the project manager. Contacting Council members has never accomplished anything for me.

I expect to have better communication with counselors when three of them are representing my district, rather than, say, being actively hostile to it, or using the area as a go-to paper tiger.

Watts
Watts
6 months ago

interacting with the project manager

I agree this is important, and sometimes this is sufficient. But the project manager is much more likely to be responsive if their boss directs you to them, which is what is happening when someone from the Commissioner-in-charge forwards you to that person.

Without that “forwarding”, you are left to find the project manager yourself and prevail on them to give you some of their time, and hope they’ll be responsive. This works much better for those of us who are well-connected, confident, and able to navigate the bureaus ourselves, or are able to make a big enough political stink if we are rebuffed.

Your elected councilors are not necessarily going to have the kind of access the Commissioner-in-charge has today; kind of like when someone from Ryan’s suggests you call a PBOT planner. It can work, but not so much.

John V
John V
6 months ago
Reply to  Lazy Spinner

Who cares if East Portland elects a center-right councilor? That’s just being democratic if it happens. They’re also 1/4 of the council, not the whole thing, and they don’t get their own East Portland city manager who is somehow politically responsible to them. Furthermore, the voting system we got in charter reform allows for the possibility of some peoples’ second choices to win, but it doesn’t make it so every councilor is going to represent the most extreme fringe (business) views. More likely we’ll actually just get three middle of the road candidates. All the doom and gloom you and dw are expressing is just unwarranted imo.

Watts
Watts
6 months ago
Reply to  John V

They’re also 1/4 of the council

Gonzales is just 1/5 of the current city council, and there’s a lot of consternation and hand-wringing over him. His election (and that of Mapps, Ryan, Rubio, and Wheeler) was “just being democratic” as well.

I agree that doom and gloom is unwarranted. We have no idea how the elections are going to shake out, though I am reasonably confident that folks with a “clean up Portland” message are going to do well. I haven’t (yet) seen much overlap between those folks and the “protected bicycle network everywhere” people, who, even if they capture the vote of every single bike rider in the city, aren’t going to get many seats without finding a way to appeal to a much broader constituency made up mostly of people who drive a lot.

John V
John V
6 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Yeah a few people on council right now suck, what is your point?

folks with a “clean up Portland” message are going to do well.

If that’s true, it would have been true next election no matter what. What does this have to do with a city manager who is not actually running for office and isn’t under the direct control of one of these “clean up Portland” candidates? It sounds like you’re making the point for me. Extreme right candidates (such as they may be elected) won’t actually be able to be put in the position of controlling PBOT. Sounds great to me. You have to get most of the council on board to influence PBOT, and if you do that it’s really how it should be.

And people can win with the help of relatively small organized groups, if indeed “the cycling community” is organized. This is actually doubly true with the new electoral system. And a candidate doesn’t have to make cycling infrastructure the only policy or thing they talk about to get our support.

Watts-off
Watts-off
6 months ago
Reply to  John V

My analysis of the election have nothing to do with the city manager (and neither did the post I was replying to); I was just agreeing that it’s too soon to worry about some hypothetical election results. I also agree that the same issues would motivate voters under the old and new system, though under the new system we’re electing an entire council whereas under the old one we’d only be electing half of it. That will give current issues a bit more oomph than they would otherwise have.

You have to get most of the council on board to influence PBOT, and if you do that it’s really how it should be.

Indeed, especially if you like the status quo.

Dave Fronk
Dave Fronk
6 months ago

tl;dr: guy who previously worked on the project is upset that the city is considering revising his mediocre design.

Oh well.