‘Bullying works’ and other lessons from tactical urbanist Adam Egelman

“I think using your privilege is important. It’s important to step up for your community. It’s important to show the public that safe streets are worth taking risks for.

– Adam Egelman, Safe Street Rebel

I was surprised to bump into Adam Egelman at the Vision Zero Cities Conference this morning. Given that he was listed as “anonymous” on a panel yesterday, and identifiable only by the name of the group he organizes with, Safe Street Rebel, I figured folks like him prefer to stay in the shadows.

Egelman is part of a what conference organizers glowingly referred to as “illegal,” “confrontational,” and “illicit,” and, “a new breed of tactical urbanism that has sprung up across the U.S. and is transforming city streets without the permission of city governments.” “Direct action gets the goods,” reads the title of a panel Egelman participated in Wednesday.

Or, you might just know his group as the folks who garnered national headlines in August for sabotaging driverless taxis in San Francisco by placing traffic cones on the hoods.

Given that similar tactics bubble-up in Portland from time-to-time — most recently as a group called BlockOps that earned the ire of the Portland Bureau of Transportation for placing concrete curbs in a bike lane where woman was brutally hit by an errant driver who plowed right through plastic flex-posts — figured it would be fun to ask Egelman to share more about what he’s doing with Safe Street Rebel.

Screenshot of Safe Street Rebel Instagram account.

Jonathan Maus/BikePortland: What is your message to activists in other cities that, might just be a few folks with a social media account, but who aren’t as far along as your group?

Adam Egelman/Safe Street Rebel: I mean, we started with a Twitter account, too, and a group chat, and just all it takes is a group chat to come together with your friends and get out in the streets.

BikePortland: Can you give me a sense of scale or context in terms of what you are up to?

Egelman: We have a big group chat with about 250 people on it. That’s not really for organizing. It’s more for just chatting about what’s going on, and keeping each other up-to-date. But then we have breakout groups for things like guerrilla infrastructure, for community slow rides, and we try to have actions that accommodate all risk levels.

And even with the cone campaign, you know, there were people who were instrumental in that, who never put a cone on a robo-taxi, the person who made that viral Tiktok video for us never did that, but still really wanted to get involved. So I think it’s important to create a welcoming environment, so that anyone, regardless of their risk tolerance, can get involved. Yeah.

But on the other end of the spectrum, we also do tactical urbanism and guerrilla infrastructure. We’ve been learning how to drill plastic, soft-hit post into the streets.

BikePortland: Tell me more about “risk level.” I mean, you’re breaking the law. What do you tell activists who might be afraid of getting into something like that?

Egelman: I think using your privilege is important. You know, there are a lot of people in our community who can’t take that risk of getting arrested, whether that’s for immigration reasons, economic reasons, or whatever. But there are some who can. And it’s important to step up for your community. It’s important to show the public that safe streets are worth taking risks for.

BikePortland: So, like a protestor who goes to an action wanting to get arrested?

Egelman: Well, I’d emphasize that the most important thing is for you to get out of there and have the action end safely — not to finish the action… Getting arrested is not ideal. It can be dire for a lot of people economically, it could be the reason why you lose her job. We’d rather people sort of get out safely, then finish the install.

BikePortland: Speaking of getting arrested, what’s your position on police enforcement and street safety?

Egelman: Safe Street Rebel is explicitly anti-police. We’ve seen efforts from a lot of traditional advocacy groups calling for increased enforcement. We see cops as a reactionary band-aid, and something that’s not a preventative solution. There’s a limit to the deterrent effect they have. We think it’s important that we focus on literal, concrete solutions, because infrastructure will always be more effective than enforcement.

“We say ‘bullying works.'”

BikePortland: Do you see yourself as being an antagonist of transportation agencies? Or partners? What’s that relationship like?

Egelman: We have a love-hate relationship with SFMTA [San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency]. Wee have good relationships with the lower-level planners, who definitely agree with us in terms of our goals. But then, sometimes it can be tense with the directors and appointees of the Mayor’s office, for example, or people who favor car access, or, you know, oppose safe streets.

But we’re not like a libertarian kind of group. We want the city to make these improvements. We don’t want to be the only ones doing this. It’s also not sustainable for the community to do this entirely. So, just like the Portland group with installing concrete, it’s really just a way to push the city in the right direction.

We say ‘bullying works.’ It’s not a way of antagonizing it’s more of just showing what’s possible — quickly. If we can install soft-hit posts in response to a four-year-old being killed within five days, there’s no reason the city shouldn’t.

BikePortland: Anything else you want to say?

Egelman: This is as much community-building and making friends, and having fun with your friends, as it is direct action. You’ll make some of the best friends you’ll ever have doing this work and it’ll change your life.

SafeStreetRebel.com

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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Zach Katz
Zach Katz
8 months ago

This is amazing work. Civil disobedience is basically the only proven, time-tested method of effecting change (aside from accquiring formal power), so it’s great to see this method applied to better streets. Thank you Adam and others!

PS: If you can accquire the funding, it would be really cool to see more high-profile projects, e.g. blocking off major streets to cars, creating full-fledged protected bike lanes, etc.

Chris I
Chris I
8 months ago
Reply to  Zach Katz

Whatever happened to the money you raised for the Hawthorne bike lane?

Zach Katz
Zach Katz
7 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

The money was to sue PBOT for not building bike lanes and that lawsuit is actually happening! https://bikeportland.org/2023/07/24/15-portlanders-sign-on-as-plaintiffs-in-bicycle-bill-lawsuit-377484/amp

Dave Fronk
Dave Fronk
7 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

BOOM. Portland got played like a fiddle.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
7 months ago
Reply to  Dave Fronk

Red House vibes.

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  Zach Katz

Are you saying that civil disobedience aimed at, say, removing a diverter that for the benefit of drivers is morally equivalent to civil disobedience aimed at getting a diverter installed for the benefit of cyclists?

If not, who is the arbiter of what are “acceptable” topics for civil disobedience vs “unacceptable” ones? You?

If so, how do you avoid devolving into might-makes-right with competing civil disobedience camps?

There is a reason why rule of law is one of the most important foundations of human rights.

Daniel Reimer
8 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I am going to out on a limb and say that responding to peoples deaths that saw no response from city government falls into the category of “acceptable” civil disobedience.

When the rule of the law fails to respond to humanitarian and public health issues, what then?

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Reimer

When the rule of the law fails to respond to humanitarian and public health issues, what then?

Change the law.

Zach Katz
Zach Katz
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I’m not saying any of that. I’m saying that breaking the law is a great way to get bike lanes, which I want

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  Zach Katz

I’m saying that breaking the law is a great way to get bike lanes, which I want

Breaking the law is a great way for me to get what I want, too.

Zach Katz
Zach Katz
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Agreed!

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

When a committed minority of the population seeks to change an entrenched status quo, direct action and other forms of loud organizing that keep the alternative in the public’s eye has a proven track record.

For example, a wide body of research from Moscovici, Asch, and Milgram (and others) found that social change can occur via minority influence as long as the minority is consistent, committed, flexible, and disobeys authority.

A review of this work from The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Social Psychology:

https://pearl.plymouth.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/10026.1/4485/Gibson%20%20Smart%20-%20Social%20influence%20chapter%20FINAL%2012-11-15.pdf?sequence=1

John V
John V
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I don’t know what is the point of this question. Unless you disagree with the premise, that civil disobedience is a proven, time tested method of effecting change, which history backs up.

The thing is, people are already doing things outside the “rule of law”, and having nobody doing that in the other direction is just letting it happen. Furthermore, our existing “rule of law” such as it is, is more of a money and influence makes right system, which is basically causally disconnected from any will of the people. I mean, it’s not an all or nothing thing, but money buys influence and little individual or small groups of people can’t compete with money. This is how they compete.

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  John V

I don’t oppose civil disobedience as a general concept, and I readily acknowledge that it has led to some important social advances. I have participated in civil disobedience myself.

I completely support the right to free speech, and I accept that the cost of having it for myself means I need to support it for people I oppose. Limiting the speech of others means mine too can be unacceptably limited.

The same is true of civil disobedience — I support the principle of civil disobedience for my opponents to the same extent I support it for myself. The people erecting traffic diverters at midnight are on an equal footing from those dismantling them.

If you agree with that last paragraph, then we fundamentally agree, even if we might have different opinions about the where the bounds of acceptable civil disobedience lie.

John
John
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Yeah, I agree, at least with the concern that it might be pointless. Similar to why I’m reluctant to (for myself or for others) go around carrying a gun like that gun carrying cyclist guy even though on a visceral level I want to and it would be justified in some way. I mean, I know nothing is stopping people from going out and destroying infrastructure. They do it now, to things like the flex posts. Not really sure what the solution is there, other than I can only hope that the people who really don’t want better infrastructure don’t care enough to go out and take down the stuff people like these and Block Ops are putting up. Like maybe they just oppose us as long as they don’t have to put out any effort about it. Or even if they do, I don’t know, maybe it’s making it clear to people in power that this is a place where infrastructure is wanted enough that someone will go out and install it themselves.

On the other hand, I feel like the people who really love cars and are car brain poisoned are already going to be doing everything they can to legally or illegally make things better for driving. And so I think it’s cool when people on the cycling side of things do a little civil disobedience because it’s needed for balance.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Not when you’re an ideologue.

BB
BB
8 months ago
Reply to  Zach Katz

Do you define civil disobedience as taking peoples money and moving to Amsterdam?
You did some really cool advocacy, now will you give people the money back they gave you in good faith?
I can’t believe you even responded to this with your history.
I bet the people who “liked” your post does not know your history.

Zach Katz
Zach Katz
7 months ago
Reply to  BB
bjorn
bjorn
7 months ago
Reply to  BB

I was concerned around the outcome of the hawthorne go fund me as well but it does appear that the money made it to bike loud and that they are using it generally for the purpose defined in the go fund me so I don’t see any reason that it should be refunded. Do you have information that some portion of the money was withheld for personal benefit or something? Honestly I think that if you gave money and you truly don’t agree with how it is being used bike loud would probably figure out a way to refund you.

Jon Aerepas
Jon Aerepas
8 months ago

Someone’s going to get killed doing this stuff in Portland and I hope we remember who was advocating for this type of confrontation / escalation. Bad look for the cycling community.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
8 months ago
Reply to  Jon Aerepas

I don’t give a fudge about the cycling community (whatever that is). My only interest in active transportation is in its potential to reduce transportation’s impact on ecocide and reduce the slaughter of my/your neighbors on our deadly road system. From my perspective what’s completely missing from transportation advocacy in PDX is the kind of grassroots direct action described in this piece. It’s tragic that bikeloudpdx is now a non-political accommodationist 501c3 (gag) despite the fact that is was explicitly founded to address this lack of radical grassroots activism in Portland.

Will
Will
7 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Seems like its founders weren’t up to the task of growing and maintaining a radical activist group. Perhaps they should have studied and committed to more enduring radical theories of change.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
7 months ago
Reply to  Will

subtle but excellent sarcasm, i think.
.
if someone is interested in markedly changing the status quo then studying theories of change, in general, is probably a good idea.

John V
John V
7 months ago
Reply to  Jon Aerepas

I’m more concerned about the person who did the killing than finger wagging and tone policing at activists actually doing something.

John
John
7 months ago
Reply to  Jon Aerepas

Someone’s going to get killed just by advocating for more people to ride a bike. It’s bound to happen. That doesn’t make it a bad thing to advocate for.
(I was just re-reading comments and didn’t realize I already responded to this, so feel free to not publish this one)

Morgan Blair
Morgan Blair
5 months ago
Reply to  Jon Aerepas

The “cycling community” is and always HAS been an opponent and an obstacle to safe infrastructure for bicycling. As for “someone’s going to get killed”, PEOPLE ARE DYING with the status quo.

Common Sense Portlander
Common Sense Portlander
8 months ago

I can’t believe you’d give this person a platform on your blog. There’s a right way and a wrong way to advocate for change. I think you just chose the latter. It’s a shame Jonathan. Truly.

Dave Fronk
Dave Fronk
8 months ago

Leave it to BikePortland to sabotage the future of biking in Portland.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
8 months ago

From an anti-capitalist perspective, coning driverless taxis funded by evil SUV/pickup-truck companies and monopolist tech is great direct action. However, from a safe-streets perspective using them as temporary diverters is even better praxis.

Dave Fronk
Dave Fronk
8 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Thanks for spelling it out for the folks at home: none of these “direct actions” are about making cities safer for cyclists or pedestrians, they’re just the same old far-left axe grinding about capitalists and corporations, blah blah blah.

Condemning human drivers as incurably flawed and then turning around and sabotaging self-driving cars? It’s so ridiculously counterproductive that of course y’all sign off on it. You can demonize your favorite targets and get a bunch of attention, while effectively doing nothing to make the world a better place to live. So brave.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
8 months ago
Reply to  Dave Fronk

You can demonize your favorite targets and get a bunch of attention, while effectively doing nothing to make the world a better place to live. So brave.

If those complaining about the demonization of mindless extractive capitalism cared about making the world a better place for all, they would viscerally understand that reality has an incredibly strong left-wing bias*.

* the ongoing climate-biodiversity crisis and associated increase in suffering

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

reality has an incredibly strong left-wing bias

I agree with this snarky formulation, and would add that reality also has a strong anti-progressive* bias.

*Here I am defining “progressive” as the illiberal left.

J_R
J_R
8 months ago

“infrastructure will always be more effective than enforcement.”

What’s the infrastructure solution to drunk driving?

What’s the infrastructure solution to motorists blowing through red lights?

🚲
🚲
8 months ago
Reply to  J_R

What’s the infrastructure solution to drunk driving?

Ignition interlocks. And 20-25 mph speed limiters within city limits

What’s the infrastructure solution to motorists blowing through red lights

Replacing lights with roundabouts that are tight enough that they can’t be driven above 15 mph

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  🚲

Interlocks and governors are not generally considered “infrastructure”. Roundabouts don’t fit in the physical space available at most intersections.

I’m not expressing opposition to any of these ideas, but they don’t really answer the question that was asked.

socially engineered
socially engineered
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Roundabouts wouldn’t have to be used at “most” intersections, just the most dangerous ones. In Portland these are all on multi-lane stroads:

https://www.portland.gov/transportation/vision-zero/high-crash-network

A standard USDOT “urban single-lane” roundabout measuring 110 feet curb-to-curb would fit comfortably within the existing junction at SE Powell and 122nd, for instance. Using an “urban compact” design (85 ft. diameter) would leave plenty of room for a raised and/or buffered bike lane as well:

https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/00067/000671.pdf

Converting both streets to a single lane in each direction (a standard “road diet”) to feed into a roundabout may restrict traffic flow enough to curtail speeding and reckless driving on its own.

2023_08_10_08b_Kleki (1) - Edited (2).png
Watts
Watts
7 months ago

Speeding is already regulated at intersections by traffic signals, and having lived somewhere with dense traffic and where roundabouts are the primary intersection type, I can assure you that vehicles can go plenty fast between them.

I’m still skeptical that roundabouts are feasible, but I wouldn’t oppose them if I were wrong.

socially engineered
socially engineered
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Yes, speeding *can be* regulated by traffic signals, but the question was what to do about motorists who disobey traffic signals. That’s where physical infrastructure (e.g. roundabouts) comes in.

There are plenty of infrastructure options to reduce speeding between intersections as well, including raised medians, speed humps, chicanes, street trees, reduced building setbacks, etc.:

https://nacto.org/publication/urban-street-design-guide/design-controls/design-speed/speed-reduction-mechanisms/

FHWA case studies have found that road diets can reduce crashes by half as a result of lower speeds and fewer collision opportunities, your anecdotal story notwithstanding:

https://highways.dot.gov/public-roads/septemberoctober-2011/going-road-diet

socially engineered
socially engineered
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I’ve noticed you mainly express your skepticism toward ideas that happen to challenge the status quo. I’m not sure “skeptical” is the right word for that attitude.

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  J_R

What’s the infrastructure solution to drunk driving/motorists blowing through red lights?

Pop-up steel pipes, automated machine guns, and rocket launchers. Don’t deny you’ve had this fantasy too.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Tank traps like they have around the US Capitol. I’ve seen them in Europe too.

Bjorn
Bjorn
8 months ago
Reply to  J_R

I think we are past the point of proving that Police are incapable of making a real dent in drunk driving which is quite illegal but still happens all the time. More cops certainly won’t do anything about distracted driving which they seem to view on par with a person walking while using earbuds. Infrastructure seems to be proving to be much more effective worldwide and with fewer negative consequences.

Watts
Watts
8 months ago
Reply to  Bjorn

Infrastructure seems to be proving to be much more effective

Infrastructure is great, and we should keep doing more of it! I think everyone here agrees with that.

But it is also slow and expensive, so we need some non-infrastructure solutions to fill the gaps and keep people from dying in the decades before the infrastructure upgrades are complete (or the autonomous vehicles become common).

Guy
Guy
7 months ago
Reply to  Bjorn

Although drunk driving may still “happen all the time”, it has nevertheless precipitously decreased since the 1970s and 80s, when Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and their allies launched campaigns to dramatically strengthen penalties for convicted drunk drivers.

Enforcement and tougher sanctions can be highly effective against certain segments of the population. People who have enough disposable income to simply shell out for a taxi or Uber, for example. Whereas it’s less effective against people who lack those means, and who also generally have a lot less to lose altogether, because of their much more marginal and socioeconomically deprived status.

Accordingly, further dramatic decreases in the toll from those and other road fatalities can only mainly be brought about by larger shifts in society, including making driving motor vehicles less relatively attractive compared to alternatives.

dw
dw
7 months ago
Reply to  Guy

Ok cool. So then poor people can drink at home, take the bus, bike, walk, or just… not drink? Drunk driving is 100000000% a choice that people make. I don’t care what someone’s socioeconomic status is, if they make that choice they should absolutely face consequences. Life-trajectory altering consequences imo.

Guy
Guy
7 months ago
Reply to  dw

They do “face consequences”. It’s just that we are running into a point of diminishing returns from that approach. So realistically, we can either decide that the goals of reaching a more peaceable and harmonious society justify a more holistic approach, or we can keep doubling down on what have until extremely recently been the dominant policies of suppression, which have their own tradeoffs.

Certainly, there is a world where any “blue collar” criminal offense against public order (drunk driving, shoplifting, etc) results in swift, dire consequences for the perpetrator, and where those kinds of offenses are accordingly reduced to very minimal levels. A state like Saudi Arabia comes to mind. But the tradeoff is, you had better hope you never accidentally cut off one of that state’s paramilitary enforcers in traffic, or otherwise excite their unaccountable rage towards you, lest you suddenly find yourself whisked off to a dark dungeon for several months or years.

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  Guy

We may once have been at the point of “diminishing returns” from drunk driving enforcement, but we’ve pulled so far back from that point that most of the low hanging fruit has regrown. Sadly.

Regarding your comment about arbitrary arrest and punishment, I see no conflict between enforcing the law and preserving human rights. In fact, I don’t think you can have meaningful human rights in an environment where criminal law is rarely and randomly enforced.

Finally, I do not agree that shoplifting is merely a public order type of crime. I used to work at a small bookstore, and theft was a real hardship for the owners. I know you think that stealing from big companies is okay, but tell that to folks in the poorer parts of Portland who are losing their grocery store or pharmacy because the theft problem is so great.

socially engineered
socially engineered
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Nice corporate propaganda. Walmart, for instance, plans store closures in advance based on competition from other retailers and numerous other factors. Their executives go on Fox News to fearmonger about crime in hopes of getting taxpayers to pick up their security tab for them while earning tens of millions in stock options for themselves. I promise you they do not care about a few shoplifters.
https://retailwire.com/discussion/why-is-walmart-closing-its-portland-stores/

Watts
Watts
7 months ago

It was for sure the driving factor for closing the Fred Meyer near 82nd and Foster.

But regardless, maybe we can all agree that stealing is bad.

Guy
Guy
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Stealing is bad, for sure. Then I expect, accordingly, that you will get 100% behind our new DA’s decision to target wage theft for unprecedented attention by his office, a form of theft which happens to exceed all street theft combined by a wide margin. Especially seeing as how inequality DRIVES other forms of crime, especially violent crime, so a crime that itself EXACERBATES inequality is even more egregious.

https://www.epi.org/publication/wage-theft-bigger-problem-theft-protect/
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/income-inequalitys-most-disturbing-side-effect-homicide/

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  Guy

I also think wage theft is bad.

socially engineered
socially engineered
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Of course management *said* it was the main factor, and local media were happy to repeat it, because it helps their narrative. But you can’t believe everything people say. I’m sure a Clear-Eyed Realist™ can appreciate that.

Watts
Watts
7 months ago

Of course management *said* it was the main factor

They did say it, because it was true, at least according to my contact who worked at that Fred Meyer. But he was probably lying too.

socially engineered
socially engineered
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Maybe he was lying. Or maybe he misheard. Or maybe he thoughtlessly spread a rumor. Or maybe bosses privately said it to misdirect workers’ anger. The point is you can’t form beliefs based on what some unnamed guy said one time.

Watts
Watts
7 months ago

I guess if I’m going to have to trust either someone I know in a position to know, or someone I don’t know quoted on TV, it’s going to be an easy choice.

socially engineered
socially engineered
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I’m sure it will, just like it should be an easy choice for everyone else to be skeptical about this random guy you claim to know ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

socially engineered
socially engineered
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

“According to Jeffrey Temple, Fred Meyer’s Director of Corporate Affairs, the store has been under-performing and the decision was based on long-term business forecasts.” https://katu.com/amp/news/local/fred-meyer-closing-portland-store-at-se-82nd-and-foster

Dunno where you’re getting the idea that the store closing was “for sure” due to theft.

Guy
Guy
7 months ago

Apropos of which, Judd Legum’s article in Popular Information recently on the same subject of store closures allegedly tied to shoplifting may interest you:

https://open.substack.com/pub/popularinformation/p/target-says-its-closing-9-stores

To which I would add, is it not interesting that big retailers like Target, who greatly fear organizing and unionization efforts among their workers, are also very conveniently signal boosting the favorite “crime wave” tropes of tough-on-crime reactionaries who are most reliably in their court on issues like opposing unions, blocking better workplace protections for working people, etc?

A case of one hand washing the other, perhaps?

Guy
Guy
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

If by “most of the low hanging fruit has regrown” you mean we’re right back where we started or worse compared to the major crackdown of the 1980s and 90s, you’re greatly mistaken. Although there has been a recent uptick, we are nowhere near the relative levels of alcohol implicated road fatalities we were before MADD. See the figure from NHTSA cited below (table 13).
https://www.safehome.org/resources/dui-statistics/

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  Guy

According to that data, we’re back to the levels of the mid 1990s, and we’ve demonstrated we can do a lot better than that with today’s tools, techniques, and technology.

Guy
Guy
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

A lot of other things have also been happening in the time since we “gave up” some, but not all, the improvements to our lowest relative numbers of alcohol related traffic fatalities. Highly notable among them, US life expectancies have worsened, reversing decades long trends. And this sad and shocking reversal even predates the country’s shocking and abysmal response to the pandemic. So it’s hard to chalk it all entirely up to some sudden, unaccountable “loss of moral fiber”, or even flagging enforcement efforts (even though there is clear evidence for misbehavior by the police when it comes to deliberate work slowdowns on their part).

bjorn
bjorn
7 months ago
Reply to  Guy

I agree that campaigns that have changed people’s beliefs around the acceptability of drunk driving have been effective, but we have also reached all of the people we are going to reach through PSA’s, there is a lot of drunk driving still happening, and cops aren’t stopping it, and neither are MADD ads. Unfortunately MADD is actually just a prohibition org masquerading as a safety org so they refuse to support things like running transit later etc as a way to stop drunk driving. When I lived in corvallis they put in a small traffic island (they went cheap so it could not really be called a traffic circle, but it was a 4 foot tall circle of concrete full of dirt with some plants in it, and it was wide enough that if you just drove straight through the intersection you would hit it. In the few years I lived nearby it caught and instantly stopped 3 drunk drivers who I know of completely disabling their vehicles and leading to their arrests. Infrastructure is the answer and we would do better to defund the police and use the money on concrete in the streets.

Guy
Guy
7 months ago
Reply to  bjorn

When you start talking about something like running trains later, you are treading very dangerous ground. Because you are then implying that we have to consider the totality of concrete, material conditions that impact social problems, rather than adhering to orthodox bourgeois and reactionary doctrine, according to which individuals are all completely sovereign, morally autonomous islands in a sea of random events.

Guy
Guy
7 months ago
Reply to  J_R

It amazes me, speaking of “infrastructure”, that practically nobody ever speaks about “continuous sidewalks” ala Amsterdam, The Netherlands. (See
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9OfBpQgLXUc&pp=ygUkTm90IGp1c3QgYmlrZXMgY29udGludW91cyBzaWRld2Fsa3Mg

)

Admittedly, it’d be an exceedingly radical approach in North America, and might require years and years of traffic engineering studies, and even code changes, before even the first one could ever be built.

Granpa
Granpa
8 months ago

Sienfeld’s Kramer changed road striping in a typically funny episode. It of course resulted in chaos. I would call that direct action. The word “bullying “ has negative connotations which it deservedly earns. Bullying is used in the US House of Representatives and by a former president which both result in chaos. I won’t even discuss interpersonal bullying, but it is a terrible word choice that casts its perpetrator in a negative light. Still those actions will likely result in chaos and personal injury

qqq
qqq
8 months ago
Reply to  Granpa

I agree his use of “bullying” is bad. It diminishes bullying, and makes him sound like someone who’s never really experienced it and doesn’t understand what it really means.

If I were going to use “bullying” in reference to this subject, I’d use it the other way–that people who walk or bike are bullied by the people using streets and those who ignore or downplay their requests to use or design streets in ways that are safe for them. Sticking up for people who walk or bike is in some ways an anti-bullying position.

If you call what you do “bullying”, you invite opponents to bully you back. In this case, those (much stronger, pro-vehicle) opponents can now say, “Oh–LIKE YOU JUST SAID–we’re not bullying, we’re just showing you what’s possible”. Then they pass bike taxes and registration laws, restrict where people can bike, walk, cross the street, etc.

socially engineered
socially engineered
7 months ago
Reply to  qqq

Does the pro-car lobby really need an invitation to bully vulnerable road users or restrict the places they can go? Pretty sure that has already been going on for decades lol

qqq
qqq
7 months ago

Of course they have. I wasn’t meaning to say that they haven’t, I was saying that when pro-biking groups minimize “bullying” by defining it as “just showing what’s possible” then so can pro-car groups.  

socially engineered
socially engineered
7 months ago
Reply to  qqq

They don’t need to; they’ve already defined what is possible at the exclusion of anyone outside of a car.

qqq
qqq
7 months ago

I agree they don’t need to.

socially engineered
socially engineered
7 months ago
Reply to  qqq

ODOT didn’t need any such excuse to close over 180 crosswalks while justifying it in the name of safety:

https://bikeportland.org/2023/02/09/odot-will-close-181-crosswalks-in-the-portland-region-this-year-in-the-name-of-safety-370239

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qqq
qqq
7 months ago

Those are a perfect example what could be defined as bullying against pedestrians–an agency pushing those through without regard for the needs of people walking, because they can push them through.

And that’s why I think if pro-biking/walking groups are going to bring “bullying” into the discussion, it would be better (and more accurate) to describe their own efforts as “anti-bullying” rather than bullying.

socially engineered
socially engineered
7 months ago
Reply to  qqq

I’m in favor of using language that motivates people and is easily remembered. Bullying is a tool, and a very effective one at that. Marginalized people getting together to turn the bullying back on the bullies is appealing to a lot of folks and has a long history of promoting egalitarian social structures. Anthropologist Christopher Boehm calls this a “reverse dominance hierarchy”:

“Egalitarian Behavior and Reverse Dominance Hierarchy” https://www.unl.edu/rhames/courses/current/readings/boehm.pdf

qqq
qqq
7 months ago

I guess I’d call “Marginalized people getting together to turn the bullying back on the bullies” as anti-bullying, not bullying.

And I don’t doubt that a group or movement describing what they do as “bullying” is easily remembered and does motivate some people. It doesn’t motivate me because I view bullying as negative, not as an “effective tool”. I realize lots of people DO view it as an effective tool, and an enjoyable one, which is probably why it’s such a pervasive problem.

socially engineered
socially engineered
7 months ago
Reply to  qqq

Sure, bullying has a negative connotation. So does violence. But every policy adopted to keep people safe also relies on the threat of violence. Bullying is really no different; the point is to change who the target of the bullying is. I think it’s a lot more useful to tell people, “bully your elected officials” than to say, “work against the bullying that your elected officials have been doing”. The first offers a clear course of action; the second is vague and reactive.

dw
dw
8 months ago

Safe Street Rebel is explicitly anti-police. We’ve seen efforts from a lot of traditional advocacy groups calling for increased enforcement. We see cops as a reactionary band-aid, and something that’s not a preventative solution. There’s a limit to the deterrent effect they have. We think it’s important that we focus on literal, concrete solutions, because infrastructure will always be more effective than enforcement.

This is where “advocates” lose most regular people. All these white folks who live in wealthy and safe neighborhoods out here lecturing about how cops are bad and just one more bike lane bro will solve all the problems.

We stopped doing traffic enforcement three years ago in the name of equity, and now more black and brown people are dying on our streets than ever.

Is enforcement the only solution? Absolutely not, but there needs to be some accountability. You can do all the traffic calming you want but there are still the sociopaths who will choose to drive dangerously. There needs to be consequences for dangerous and anti-social behavior. I’m tired of almost getting killed by drivers who are clearly drunk, playing on their phones, or just straight up murderous. It feels like being punished for doing the right thing.

Having no enforcement of traffic laws only does two things for biking:
1) Alienates those who have a choice of mode. People don’t feel safe biking on our streets because they know that somebody will probably try to kill them.
2) Punishes those who have no other option. For the people that rely on their bike for transportation, they now have a more dangerous and reckless driving culture to deal with.

In the Netherlands, the object of “urbanist” fetishism, you can get a ticket for playing on your phone while biking. You can get hefty fines for speeding. You get taken off the road if you drive in a way that endangers vulnerable road users. Yeah, they have great infrastructure, but they have the enforcement that makes it work too. Meanwhile here in Portland we get no traffic enforcement and $100k PBOT art projects made of plastic and paint that have next to zero effect on actual safety.

Streets only get repaved once every 30-40 years. There’s no reality – capitalist, socialist, or in between – where it’s possible to completely redesign every single street overnight. So folks trying to walk without dying on 122nd just get to sit around and wait as per Adam and his fellow revolutionary cosplayers’ agenda?

Fuck that. Punish the people who choose to act in a way that is killing our fellow Portlanders.

Granpa
Granpa
8 months ago
Reply to  dw

I can’t believe I am nominating your post for comment of the week. I usually disagree with you. A sole reliance on infrastructure to eliminate traffic violence is a fantasy. There is always a greater idiot with a work around (here, hold my beer)

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
8 months ago
Reply to  dw

you can get a ticket for playing on your phone while biking.

“in theory”
.
In reality, scofflaw cycling in urban Netherlands is the norm.

Don’t imitate the Dutch: Amsterdammers are notorious for breaking the rules: cycling through red lights or biking at night without lights.

https://www.iamsterdam.com/en/travel-stay/getting-around/cycling-in-amsterdam

socially engineered
socially engineered
7 months ago
Reply to  dw

“We stopped doing traffic enforcement 3 years ago in the name of equity…”

This is Newsmax-level spin. PPB’s traffic division was gutted due to staff shortages (amid citywide budget cuts) before any discussion of “equity” took place: https://www.opb.org/article/2023/05/09/portland-oregon-police-reinstating-traffic-safety-division/

Far from having “next to zero effect on actual safety”, research has shown that protected and separated bike lanes reduce traffic deaths by 44 percent and serious injuries by 50 percent: https://usa.streetsblog.org/2019/05/29/protect-yourself-separated-bike-lanes-means-safer-streets-study-says

dw
dw
7 months ago

Cool, but PBOT isn’t putting in separated and protected bike lanes. They’re putting in paint and plastic that drivers just plow over.

socially engineered
socially engineered
7 months ago
Reply to  dw

Portland was specifically one of the cities studied, having a 63.5% reduction in fatal crashes between the 1990s and 2010s as the city built more bike infrastructure:

“Why Cities With High Bicycling Rates Are Safer for All Road Users” https://drive.google.com/file/d/1oUZ2mKGBSWwBwpU3i_2RGm9NlWhOi1mw

Plastic posts are still referred as a type of separation and/or protection in the literature:

https://www.peopleforbikes.org/reports/protected-bikes-lanes-101

https://nacto.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/2-4_FHWA-Separated-Bike-Lane-Guide-ch-5_2014.pdf

I agree that paint and plastic are not much protection against a car. Yes, they can be driven over. So can concrete curbs and sidewalks in the right vehicle. That doesn’t mean they have no effect, or that we should abandon all incremental safety steps.

Screenshot 2023-10-21 at 3.07.06 PM - Edited.png
Dingus
Dingus
8 months ago

Great write up. Indeed, direct action does often gain better results than asking nicely and complaining. Just ask auto workers and nurses. Great write up. More of this energy please!

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
7 months ago
Reply to  Dingus

Indeed, direct action does often gain better results than asking nicely and complaining

also groveling for driver approval (e.g. BTA/Alta’s bike ambassadors and BikeLoud’s bike love)