The City of Portland has removed the new bike lanes on NE 33rd Ave

Looking north on NE 33rd from NE Holman. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Crews hired by the Portland Bureau of Transportation removed the bike lane on Northeast 33rd Avenue on Monday morning. They finished a job they started on November 1st but were forced to pause due to protestors who stood in front of their trucks.

There was no one to stop them this time.

Men in two trucks took turns going over sections of bright white and green paint. They peered out the windshield over their steering wheels as an attachment with stiff bristles aided by a spray of water whirred swiftly and erased infrastructure that — for the last three months — provided some safety for bicycle riders between a greenway route on NE Holman and existing bike lanes over Columbia Blvd at NE Dekum.

PBOT initially planned to remove this (relatively new) bike lane because they said it was installed by “mistake.” Due to an administrative error, PBOT striped the new lanes without notification to adjacent residents. When that mistake was compounded with strong opposition from some residents who saw it as a continuation of historic mistreatment by the City of Portland, PBOT felt it was impossible to leave the bike lanes in while they dealt with the neighborhood fallout.

In meeting last week, a top PBOT manager said the mishap “triggered emotional harm” and “connected to a perception that Portland is intentionally trying to ostracize and push out certain members of our community.”

As I watched the much-needed bike lane get removed, I was more frustrated than mad: Frustrated that PBOT still doesn’t possess the competence to avoid situations like this after more than a decade of controversial projects and decisions in north and northeast Portland; frustrated that yet another bike project has been unfairly attached to complex racial dynamics and a deep distrust of city government; and frustrated that this entirely avoidable episode sets us back even further in the important work of becoming a less car-dependent city.

Last week PBOT said they are still committed to making this section of 33rd Avenue safer for cycling. I hope we can write that story before we have to write one about a someone being hurt or killed while using this stressful, two-block section of road — a section designated as a “city bikeway” in Portland’s Transportation System Plan, that was recommended for a bike lane in PBOT’s 2021 Columbia/Lombard Mobility Plan, and where nearby residents requested a bike lane six years ago.

Now that the bike lane is removed, let’s hold PBOT to their promise that conversations can now begin about how to fulfill city plans and help all road users feel safer and more respected.

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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Portland Bicycle Mapper

Jonathon,

Are there plans to replace the median/island at the crosswalk @ NE 33rd and NE Rosa Parks that were removed with the grind and pave projection in August?
October 2023 Street View
October 2021 Street View

Josh G
Josh G
5 months ago

Wondering the same thing. Thx for the old pic. My commute will be back to the status quo, except the missing island slowed down cars on the hilly part quite a bit, and of course the buttery smooth new pavement will be icier due to the roughed up stripes. They didn’t even pick up the illegal giant leaf piles @Liberty, just moved them aside for the scrubber truck, so they will still be blocking drainage, just like before this whole debacle.

EP
EP
5 months ago

Meanwhile, out on Halsey; the road diet and center concrete island for a safer 70s greenway crossing at 76th has been delayed until spring. Apparently a striping truck broke down and the contractor couldn’t paint lines to restripe the road from 4 to 3 lanes from ~68th to 78th! So now we just sit and wait and keep a 4-lane drag strip in place for 6 months.

Oh, if only PBOT used its resources better. I know we could’ve used that paint (and more) all over town.

Doug Hecker
Doug Hecker
5 months ago
Reply to  EP

I honestly have no idea how the public has been so positive on the gas tax. I really hope it fails as these folks need a wake up call.

blumdrew
5 months ago

Good to know that PBOT is still committed to making this stretch of road safe for cycling. If only their were some kind of dedicated lane they could put onto it… oh well. At least no one feels ostracized or minimized by the city of Portland anymore!

Mark Remy
Mark Remy
5 months ago

I don’t mean to make light of this, because it absolutely sucks, but I read this…

There was no one to stop them this time.

…and immediately thought of Darth Vader in “Star Wars: A New Hope.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1jiLc4erP0

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
5 months ago

Cool! This looks much better. Let’s erase more bike lanes that upset folks!

Cars equal Equity

Happy Guy PDX
Happy Guy PDX
5 months ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

Yep, this is “equity” gone wrong.

Doug Hecker
Doug Hecker
5 months ago

Pretty pathetic that we “trust” them when they do things like this. Bye bye to the smooth pavement “for all.” This mistake should cost people their jobs. I’d like to know how much this kerfluffle ended up costing us in much need infrastructure elsewhere. I’d also like to remind folks that Art was extremely rude and short when I talked to him on the phone. He asked silly questions like “do you even live here” (like that actually matters) or “I said what I did to Bike Portland so maybe you should read the article.” Personally, Ive biked over 15k miles in Portland and been hit 3-4x and have received payouts in 2 of them. I’m not sure what his problem is. He is not accountable or fit for his duties if he is unable to speak to the public. Isn’t that how we got here? Poor public engagement. Meanwhile, the current project manager was great when I called. She didn’t ask where I lived or say anything about Bike Portland. She wasn’t rushed or unkind. We need more public servants like her.

cc_rider
cc_rider
5 months ago
Reply to  Doug Hecker

Jonathan wont allow criticisms of a public agency on his website. It’s less silly when you just don’t publish it at all instead of publishing it, sending me an email, and then deleting.

That’s a wrap for me. 10+ years reading.

Serenity
Serenity
5 months ago
Reply to  cc_rider

Jonathan won’t allow criticisms of as public agency since when?

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  cc_rider

Jonathan wont allow criticisms of a public agency on his website. 

That’s a load of BS.

Doug Hecker
Doug Hecker
5 months ago
Reply to  cc_rider

I’m not sure I’ve waded into the harsh criticism on this page for many years. But when JM states that “PBOT doesn’t possess the competence,” then even he seems to have pivoted in this area. JM also knows that how to reach out if I go off the handle and he hasn’t for years. Do we need to use language to challenge PBOT to do better? Absolutely. People are dying. We keep seeing 60+ people a year dying on our streets. We don’t have time for flowery compliments and pats on the back. I truly care less that VZ exists if they aren’t moving the needle. Do we really need a campaign to get people in cars to start caring about everyone else? How about if you have a license in Portland you have an additional VZ test? Or a 15 minute training on alternative forms of transportation? PBOT keeps doing archaic forms of outreach and we all suffer as a result. Quit wasting time on billboards and mailers. Who’s reading them? Please don’t forget that they work for us. Status quo isn’t enough.

Charley
Charley
5 months ago
Reply to  cc_rider

“ Jonathan wont allow criticisms of a public agency on his website.”

Did you read the article? Maus specifically calls out PBOT lack of “competence” in the text.

Did you read the comments? There are several comments that are ver critical of PBOT.

“That’s a wrap for me. 10+ years reading.“
Ummm, have you really been reading?

Harry Lime
Harry Lime
5 months ago

It looks like there’s about 30 houses on 33rd between Holman & Dekum? How many of those houses are owned by Black people? Does it just take one black-owned house complaining about their lack of street parking to stop the whole project?

Doug Hecker
Doug Hecker
5 months ago
Reply to  Harry Lime

1 BIPOC owned house that equates bike lanes with gentrification + a person who is disabled and needs a street spot because their 4plex didn’t offer parking

Jay
Jay
5 months ago
Reply to  Harry Lime

Apparently so.

Zeekaras
Zeekaras
5 months ago
Reply to  Harry Lime

You have problem with black people? You have a problem with Black people owning houses? You have a problem with black people owning cars?

You racism just showed.

Sky
Sky
5 months ago
Reply to  Zeekaras

And what about all the black people who would have used those bike lanes?

Listening to marginalized people is good.

Listening to a single marginalized person’s opinion and then deciding that one opinion speaks for everyone in that community is racist

Harry Lime
Harry Lime
5 months ago
Reply to  Zeekaras

That’s quite a leap.

Harry Lime
Harry Lime
5 months ago
Reply to  Zeekaras

I have a problem with theoretically 1 house out of 30 changing policy, rather than 51% of them.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Zeekaras

This thread has gone off the rails.

Miguel
Miguel
5 months ago

If equity is best measured in outcomes, I cannot think of a better metaphor for Portland politics. Godspeed to those of you who have the stones to actually use the Columbia overpass on your bike.

Matt
Matt
5 months ago

The photo of the intrepid bike rider in the red jacket is a fitting visual representation of the seriousness of bike infrastructure in Portland in the waning days of 2023.

PBOT’s Etch A Sketch approach to bike lanes removes a meagre lick-of-paint bike lane, disconnecting it from another lick-of-paint bike lane, smeared with leaves and detritus, consigned to the drain corridor.

The video in the story begs the question, “How safe would you feel riding this section if they’d kept the 2 blocks of stenciling?”

If they return with their paint rollers, it will be a hollow achievement: Road Rouge for the Road Rage Age.

Happy Guy PDX
Happy Guy PDX
5 months ago

“In meeting last week, a top PBOT manager said the mishap “triggered emotional harm” and “connected to a perception that Portland is intentionally trying to ostracize and push out certain members of our community.”

This is the bizarre PBOT management code-speak that means: A Black person didn’t like the bike lane so we’re removing them.

Truly bizarre.

Aaron
5 months ago
Reply to  Happy Guy PDX

Ironically I think the removal of the bike lane could be described in the same way, triggering emotional harm to cyclists and appearing as Portland intentionally trying to ostracize and push out cyclists by making them feel increasingly unsafe on the road.

Fred
Fred
5 months ago
Reply to  Aaron

Yes, I think that’s what JM was implying.

Bjorn
Bjorn
5 months ago

I would love it if a lawyer could weigh in on if the city has opened itself up to serious liability if a cyclist is hurt or killed on this stretch since they have removed an existing safety feature with no attempt to mitigate the increased hazard.

Resopmok
Resopmok
5 months ago
Reply to  Bjorn

Don’t much about legal proceedings but it seems reasonable to add this as evidence in the bikeloud lawsuit. It shows continued harm being inflicted where the city is ignoring its own infrastructure plans an actively making streets more dangerous for cyclists.

Nathan
Nathan
5 months ago
Reply to  Resopmok

37th is 4 blocks away

Ray
Ray
5 months ago
Reply to  Nathan

Tell me how you get to Marine Drive on NE 37th.

Fred
Fred
5 months ago
Reply to  Nathan

The Bike Bill obligated the city to create cycling infrastructure everywhere – not a loose patchwork. At least that’s what the BL suit is arguing.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Fred

The Bike Bill obligates the city/state to add bike infrastructure when it rebuilds a street. The BL suit is about the fact that that requirement has been repeatedly ignored.

Fred
Fred
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Yes, and the underlying intention is just as I said: to have bike infrastructure everywhere, not a loose and unpredictable patchwork.

blumdrew
5 months ago
Reply to  Nathan

Good thing 37th crosses Lombard/Columbia to connect the residential areas in NE with the plethora of jobs in the Columbia/Lombard corridor. The reason 33rd is a critical piece of infrastructure is that it crosses Columbia/Lombard on a bridge, and any parallel route that doesn’t do that won’t be very useful

SD
SD
5 months ago

This is a mockery of genuine efforts to dismantle systemic racism and structural inequities. All parties that are framing this decision in terms of taking the higher ground and respecting vulnerable groups are merely acting out of self preservation. This may be the right call for them, but it is harmful to portray support for this decision as a compassionate or thoughtful outcome.

Steve B
Steve B
5 months ago
Reply to  SD

It is harmful to characterize efforts to better understand our neighbors and be more compassionate to their communities as “self-preservation”. Structural inequities exist in transportation projects like this one, even if you can’t personally see them.

SD
SD
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve B

Of course, better understanding people is crucial. Self-preservation is perpetuating structural violence and calling it a win because that shines the best light on the people involved and hides the remaining problems.

Sky
Sky
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve B

Go on, explain the structural inequalities of a bike lane. Telling people they can’t personally see them while not helping them to see it is just a massive waste of time.

Car centricity is structural inequality.

More bike infrastructure is equitable for society, but let’s ignora all black people who are forced to drive because biking isn’t a safe option for them.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
5 months ago

On the BMP 2030, when does the NEPA process kick in? Is it a case-by-case basis like here on NE33rd? Or was it supposed to be a blanket policy where PBOT ignores whole districts like East Portland and Cully until neighbors raise objections?

Let's Active
Let's Active
5 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Yeah, it’s a case-by-case basis. There is no overall NEPA process for a city planning document. NEPA is for individual projects once the design process begins.

Zeekaras
Zeekaras
5 months ago

One down.so many more to get rid of. At least it’s a start. Stop wasting money on bike lanes and Greenways. Portland did away with laws to prevent urban sprawl and is just too big for retrofitting bikes now. You want them on your street? Fine. You pay for them. Stop making the rest of us pay for what <1% of us will use.

Charley
Charley
5 months ago
Reply to  Zeekaras

Have you looked into the relative costs of maintaining and building bike vs car infrastructure? Car infrastructure costs *way* more. Given that not everyone drives, and gas taxes don’t cover all the costs of car infrastructure, you’ve got it bassackwards.

Have you looked into the relative costs of bicycle-involved crashes vs car-involved crashes? Again, take a look at the cost of auto-related crashes and pollution to our health care systems. Again, you’ll find that drivers are the cause of this negative externality, and are handsomely subsidized to continue it!

I think you may not be aware of the enormous subsidy that car drivers get. That’s normal! It’s an incredibly expensive subsidy, but it’s been so many decades, and it’s so pervasive that it’s like trying to be aware of the air we breathe.

The cost of building and maintaining bike infrastructure is minuscule in comparison.

RIP
RIP
5 months ago
Reply to  Zeekaras

Methinks this person does not understand the purpose of Urban Growth Boundaries or Comprehensive Planning. I also believe that they misunderstand various ongoing efforts of varying success rates to get more middle density housing built in Portland.

While the percentage of people in Portland that ride bicycles on a regular basis is far from a majority, and it is much smaller than it was only a few years ago, the number is still much higher than 1%, for what it’s worth.

Ray
Ray
5 months ago

Paid parking permits for every vehicle registered in Portland for every street and neighborhood! Tie it to vehicle size/weight and aggressively ticket offenders. This seems like it would shift the conversation a little.

Nathan
Nathan
5 months ago
Reply to  Ray

Why do you hate our working class and minority communities that often live further away and this less apt or capable to bike everywhere?

Ray
Ray
5 months ago
Reply to  Nathan

Use the revenue generated to properly fund public transit expansion. I don’t hate working class (I am working class) or minorities. I do dislike the idea of entitled access to public right of way for storage of private property.

Fred
Fred
5 months ago
Reply to  Ray

I live in the leafy suburbs but whenever I cycle in the denser neighborhoods closer to downtown, like Irvington, I am amazed by the amount of street storage for cars. Taxpayers have basically been subsidizing private-car storage for a hundred years.

The space we’ll need for cycling, scootering, and other low-carbon uses is already there – it just needs to be allocated differently. The paradigm for car storage needs to change.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Fred

Taxpayers have basically been subsidizing private-car storage for a hundred years.

You mean gas-tax payers?

Ray
Ray
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

You yourself have said that the gas tax is insufficient and very likely to diminish greatly with the adoption of EV’s.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Ray

I have indeed said that myself. What does that tell us about the past 100 years that Fred referenced?

Ray
Ray
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Perhaps I read your tone incorrectly (very easy to do in text-based communication). Sincere apologies if that is the case.
I read it as an assertion that gas-tax payers (drivers/parkers) are the ones footing the bill for the right to park. Again, I apologize if I misunderstood.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Ray

You read me right, and I believe your summary is essentially correct. If not drivers, who is footing the bill, and is there actually any bill at all?

RIP
RIP
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

There’s certainly an opportunity cost associated with unlimited and well neigh unregulated free vehicle storage in public rights of way. That’s valuable publicly owned real estate that is being given away for private uses that could easily be repurposed for countless other uses.

The actual cost of maintaining the right of way in which vehicles are stored is probably not all that great (at least it isn’t when PBOT isn’t spending tens of thousands of dollars to grind off bike lanes to make room for more vehicle storage…), considering that most of the roads on which cars are parked were built by developers back in ancient historical times, when most people traveled by street car, and private car ownership rates were much lower than they are today. And PBOT spends very little, if any, money to maintain local service streets, which is the street typology on which the majority of private cars are stored.

But PBOT does have a policy of repaving, resurfacing, and otherwise maintaining collector and arterial streets. When the city decides to use the limited funding that PBOT has to support or condone private vehicle storage on streets that they maintain, such as NE 33rd Ave, that’s a choice. Considering that Portland just announced that the city will be funneling more than $100 Million that was generated by the PCEF corporate tax into PBOT in coming years, the connection between vehicle user fees and the road maintenance budget is becoming ever more tenuous (even if PBOT insists with a straight face that money will be used to sweep bike lanes, which nobody believes).

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I’m curious – were the streets built with gas taxes?

I honestly don’t know where to look to get real answers.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Trike Guy

were the streets built with gas taxes?

I wondered about that too. Probably not. But who knows, it was 100 years ago in many cases, and at what point does it stop mattering?

RIP
RIP
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

It stops mattering when people stop insisting that car infrastructure should take preeminence because car drivers paid for the roads with their car driver taxes. Until then, we’ll keep chasing our tails forever, I suppose.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  RIP

“It stops mattering when people stop insisting that car infrastructure should take preeminence because car drivers paid for the roads”

The proper response to people who make that argument is to point out that it’s ridiculous.

Fred
Fred
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

No, I meant taxpayers. You continue to push the old lie that drivers pay for all their infrastructure b/c they pay gas taxes, which has been proven repeatedly to be false.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Fred

old lie which has been proven repeatedly to be false.

Has it? When? I have never seen a document that showed it not to be true, aside from the federal transfers into the highway fund which we’ve discussed before. Some of that money almost certainly did make it to PBOT, but not much.

And even to the extent that some income tax money did make it into the road system, the huge majority of that was paid for by drivers.

RIP
RIP
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Most neighborhood streets in Portland were built by developers. Developers were not subsidized by gas taxes or vehicle user fees. State highways were funded by gas taxes in Oregon starting in 1919. Some of the bigger historical toll roads like Macadam, Boones Ferry, Taylors Ferry, etc, were built by speculators who hoped to profit off of fees that would be paid by a mix of car drivers, people traveling by horse or carriages, and people on foot.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  RIP

“Most neighborhood streets in Portland were built by developers.”

As I was thinking through it, this was a conclusion I was coming to as well. That would mean private money paid for all that parking that taxpayers are supposedly subsidizing.

Harry Lime
Harry Lime
5 months ago
Reply to  Nathan

Adjust the permit price based on income, same as we’re adjusting bridge tolls and upcoming road tolls. And start adjusting speeding and parking fines based on income.

Nathan
Nathan
5 months ago

NE 37th is perfectly viable for me to bike S-N. What’s next anger over not putting bike lanes on E-W NE Halsey for anyone unwilling to pick up NE Hancock 2-blocks away?

Ray
Ray
5 months ago
Reply to  Nathan

For the umpteenth time, NE 37th doesn’t cross Lombard.

Nathan
Nathan
5 months ago
Reply to  Ray

Isn’t that just all industrial land, the DEQ, and strip clubs? How many cyclists per day go up there?

Ray
Ray
5 months ago
Reply to  Nathan

It’s also the only direct access in NE to one of the most popular, oldest, and well-loved multi-use paths in Portland. Take a trip up there on a Summer day and count for yourself.

*edit* This attitude reminds me of the development of beach access in old NYC, when they purposely made bridges too low for busses, carrying (gasp) Black people to go under them.
*edit2* There are also people that may work at any of the places you mentioned that just want a safe way to NOT RELY ON AUTOS to get there.

Fred
Fred
5 months ago
Reply to  Nathan

Why do people drive on Interstate when I-5 is just a few blocks away?

blumdrew
5 months ago
Reply to  Nathan

Well people do in fact work at industrial jobs, and some of them bike to work. I used to bike to an industrial park in Nashville, TN and would have loved to have a bike lane protecting me on a miserable railroad undercrossing.

EEE
EEE
5 months ago
Reply to  Nathan

Isn’t that just all industrial land, the DEQ, and strip clubs jobs

Yes.

How many cyclists per day go up there?

Probably more if there was better infrastructure, including for recreation given it’s direct connection to the Columbia River MUP.

Josh G
Josh G
5 months ago
Reply to  Nathan

It’s my commute. There is no crossing of Ainsworth from 33-37th.

SarahJ
5 months ago
Reply to  Nathan

I work at an outdoor company on Columbia, between 60th and Cully. I don’t own a car and bike there 5 days a week, along with some of my coworkers. Most of us either use 60th or Cully, depending on whether one wants to play frogger from Cully without a light to cross Columbia, or ride on terrible sidewalks/dodge buses from First Student from 60th to have a light to cross. I do see other cyclists, and people walking/using scooters, nike bikes, etc. Just because you don’t think people cycle out there doesn’t mean that it is true. I keep waiting for more safe infrastructure, so I find this bike lane removal particularly disheartening because I know how unsafe it feels (There are no bike lanes on 60th or Cully between Lombard and Columbia)

Serenity
Serenity
5 months ago

Is PBOT actively trying to destroy Portland?

Fred
Fred
5 months ago
Reply to  Serenity

Not actively in the sense of purposefully but more through sheer incompetence.

What’s that old saying? Something like: “Don’t attribute these outcomes to malice when sheer incompetence is more likely.”

Serenity
Serenity
5 months ago
Reply to  Fred

Close, but same idea. “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”
Yes … Possibly.

SD
SD
5 months ago

One of the best bike lane/ street calming projects that Portland has ever planned to implement, the NE 7th bike lane, was near completion when it was derailed. It was designed, the community had been notified and a plan to break ground was in place when someone sabotaged it by complaining about two parking spaces on 7th that they might lose. They then used their political power to turn the community and the city against the changes. The entire project fell apart after this, and 7th remains a dangerous arterial with frequent speeding, threatening and bullying by drivers. The alternate plans floated at the time have not materialized.

Those two parking spaces are never used.

Steve B
Steve B
5 months ago
Reply to  SD

This is not accurate. There were a litany of concerns about the 7th ave project, it did not come down to just two parking spaces, and while 7th ave may not be the most comfortable road in the city it has never been a “dangerous arterial”. That said, there have been recent updates to 7th as part of the project (further proof it did not “fall apart”) that have calmed 7th further with speed bumps and road narrowing and by my observation appear to be working quite well.

SD
SD
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve B

That litany of concerns was piled onto the initial complaints that centered around two parking spaces on 7th that are still not used. I ride 7th daily. It is just as dangerous as ever. The conscientious drivers behave a bit better. The dangerous drivers are unfazed. Almost every trip, I see someone bottom out their car going over 30mph on speed bumps, squeezing me into the gutter, which is sometimes covered in wet leaves, or tailgating. This is part of a pattern of continued disinvestment in underserved communities that inspires “activists” to hand out prizes to each other. Try riding 7th with kids.

Fred
Fred
5 months ago

One insight I’ve gained from this discussion is that apparently one household with an elderly person needs parking on the street, which is to say that the household had come to depend on this parking – not that there were any PBOT-sanctioned parking spaces on this street – and the bike lanes ran afoul of what had been a longstanding but unsanctioned practice.

In other words, there *IS* a way for an elderly or disabled person to reserve a parking space on a street – there’s a city program, run by PBOT. But that was never done in this case.

So that was the so-called screw-up here, and it trumps the transportation needs of thousands of people who ride bikes. And that is the real tragedy.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Fred

trumps the transportation needs of thousands of people who ride bikes.

Thousands of people need to ride bikes on this segment of NE 33rd?

idlebytes
idlebytes
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Thousands of people need to ride bikes on this segment of NE 33rd?

It’s a choke point to access Columbia… so yes. Also to get to thousands a year you only need 6 people to bike through here a day. Are there thousands of people needing to park here? Are you really trying to justify making space for a similar amount of vehicles that aren’t moving all day vs ones that are for convenience vs safety?

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  idlebytes

There’s not 6 unique people riding there every day. But regardless, my point was not to say “and therefore parking is necessary”; my point was to call out a statement that no one will believe is true, which undermines our credibility.

So no, I’m not trying to justify parking on that basis.

I hope the city is looking at other solutions for making cycling safer in the corridor perhaps by slowing traffic, narrowing lanes, creating the conditions for drivers and cyclists to share the space and do so safely.

So far the “bike lanes or bust” approach has resulted in “bust”.

Kurt Griffith
Kurt Griffith
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

“There’s not 6 unique people riding there every day. ” You just lost all credibility. You now have zero.

EP
EP
5 months ago
Reply to  Fred

**Moving this down here, as it follows this comment better**

That’s quite the wildcard if a bike lane is planned for years somewhere, and then new development goes in without off-street parking required (but on-street parking allowed) and then because someone moves in and needs handicap parking, on-street parking now has to be allowed, but the whole bike lane can’t exist.
They can’t tell a disabled person they can’t move into the 4plex, but they also shouldn’t scrap a whole planned project because one person lives somewhere. I guess PBOT should’ve marked the street no-parking when the 4-plex went in, regardless of bike lane project completion timing, so they aren’t taking away some “pre-existing condition” of on-street parking and creating a hardship.

Charley
Charley
5 months ago
Reply to  EP

True.

As many journalists have been pointing out recently (Derek Thompson and Ezra Klein are high profile examples), our governments have become practically incapable of progress.

Especially in blue cities, we have accreted *so many* veto points to any kind of building that it’s prevented us from installing bike lanes, building housing for students of local universities, enacting congestion pricing, building affordable housing for citizens, and redeveloping abandoned parking lots.

Given sufficient leverage, incredibly small numbers of citizens can prevent the building of nearly anything.

As it happens, this has the effect of locking in whatever status quo we now have. With regards to pollution and climate change, it’s difficult to replace fossil fuel infrastructure with new greener infrastructure, because the existing dirty infra is already built, and doesn’t have to go through an environmental assessment. A new solar or wind facility faces years of costly NEPA scrutiny and local NIMBY activism. . . meanwhile the old pipelines are still leaky, and the old coal plants still belch out pollution that kills people now.

It’s a temporal double standard that kills people, helps to ruin our climate, and is ironically brought to you by folks like the Sierra Club.

With all due respect to the travails of living with the need for handicapped parking, we should not allow our government to be so hobbled that we can’t build our way to a greener future.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Charley

Given sufficient leverage, incredibly small numbers of citizens can prevent the building of nearly anything.

And we’re trying to do it again with the Rose Quarter and the CRC.

Charley
Charley
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I think you’re right. However, given the amount of money going into this project, I think the CRC is going to happen, at least in some form.

I think your contrarian point is valid: there are lots of urbanists on BP who celebrate the use of our civic veto machinery to stall the CRC, while also bemoaning the use of that machinery to stall bike lanes.

If you’re implying that’s hypocritical, I could not disagree more strongly.

In the current system, it can take years to create …
– an LNG pipeline
– a highway widening

but also take years to create…
– bike lanes
– solar panel installations
– a much-needed bridge replacement

To me, the problem is that the veto system applies to a project no matter the value of that project.

I’m not value neutral on this: fossil fuel infrastructure should get a ton of scrutiny because of its obvious harms to health and climate, while bike lanes, housing, and solar panels provide massive social good.

It is a blindly stupid incentive system to subject every kind of project to the same degree of scrutiny, especially given that fossil fuels create climate change impacts and human health impacts which represent HUGE cost burdens for all levels of government. It is incredibly wasteful to ignore these costs.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Charley

If you’re implying that’s hypocritical

I’m saying it’s hypocritical, yes, but more importantly it’s self-defeating.

To me, the problem is that the veto system applies to a project no matter the value of that project

To say the public gets input on projects I don’t like but not on ones I do like is untenable. As I said elsewhere, it’s like free speech; for it to work, it has to be available to everyone, not just to people who agree with you.

If you establish the principle that there is no public comment allowed on “good” or “necessary” projects, how do you keep ODOT from classifying the CRC as “good” and “necessary” and keeping the meddling public out?

It is a blindly stupid incentive system to subject every kind of project to the same degree of scrutiny

Not if you want to maintain your ability to subject bad projects to scrutiny when officials would be happy to define it away.

I’m not value neutral on this

Nor am I, but the system has to be or we’ll lose our ability to have influence when we need it.

Charley
Charley
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I think you’re making it sound way harder than this needs to be!

Legislators define things all the time, and they are certainly capable of defining projects as dissimilar as housing, bike lanes, and renewable energy projects, as compared to projects such as highway expansions, LNG terminals, and coal power plants.

Do you *really, truly believe* that activities as diverse as these should be regulated in an identical way? If so, you’re crazy!

If not, wouldn’t you agree that the regulations could entail differing degrees of public input? Various levels of government have chosen to give tax breaks for green energy projects; we are clearly putting a hand on the scales with regard to taxes. Why should we treat social goods identically to noxious social ills with regard to institutional veto points?

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Charley

I suppose if I could decide which types of projects were worthy of a higher degree of public scrutiny, and which one should be exempt, then I’d support it. But I don’t trust you or Mitch McConnell or Donald Trump or Joe Manchin or even Joe Biden (Willow oil project) to make that decision.

Maybe that’s the sort of power you want to be subject to the vagaries of who is in government at the moment, but I think that would be a disaster.

Given our history and even what’s happening today, I can’t imagine how you could believe that power wouldn’t be misused.

Is there anybody even in local government today that you trust enough to exempt bike lanes from any sort of pushback, while continuing to allow the cost of the CRC and RQ to balloon over process challenges? Mingus Mapps maybe? Tina Kotek? Lynn Peterson?

And even if there is, how do you prevent their successor from doing the opposite?

Charley
Charley
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

You’re right about the seesaw of modern federal elections: sometimes the stubborn slowness of federal policy change spares us from radical shifts in bad directions.

But, while elected governments (strong side eye at the US Supreme Court) are ultimately accountable to the will of the voter, the citizen veto we are talking about ties the hands of all, and you can’t kick citizens out of office.

Legislative bodies can, do, and *should* put their hands on the scales of our development. Those bodies should primarily be responsive *at the ballot box*.

Do you trust them with regard to taxes?

Why not have a citizen feedback process with regards to criminal law? People really like Martha Stewart; should private citizens have had the right to gum up and prevent her prosecution?

What about elections themselves? If enough engaged citizens feel that Trump was robbed of the election in 2020, should we have allowed a public feedback process to derail the inauguration of Joe Biden?

I’m guessing you don’t think so. In which case I’d have to ask why you apply this principle of sclerotic public scrutiny so *particularly*?

We live in a democracy, however imperfect. It’s natural to disagree with policy decisions at least sometimes, but at least I can pull the voting booth lever. What am I supposed to do about random citizens taking advantage of public feedback processes to halt projects that are meant to help all?

And it’s funny how worried you are about right of center politicians having the power to change policy: these politicians don’t seem very concerned about this because their policy preferences (slow down renewable energy development, protect fossil fuel interests) are the primary beneficiaries of the sclerosis I’d like to end.

Maybe you’re worried about a free-for-all of fossil fuel development. But there are a massive number of delayed renewable energy projects that would obviate the need for new fossil fuel projects… if only they could pass our strict regulations. We are literally inhaling the carbon pollution that results from that delay, with every breath.

Final thought:
I think we need to *streamline* public feedback processes for an easily defined set of pro-social policies and types of development. I’m not saying to do away with the whole principle.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Charley

I think we need to *streamline* public feedback processes for an easily defined set of pro-social policies and types of development. I’m not saying to do away with the whole principle.

I hear you, but I can’t see how this streamlining would not get extended to “critical” projects like the CRC and RQ (that many would describe as “meant to help all”). If your position is that we need to streamline public feedback on all projects, then you are at least consistent, though we would disagree.

But it sounds as if your position is to somehow get a reliable and consistent definition of “pro-social” that will correctly filter projects based on your political preferences, that will resist abuse. Building two tracks, one for favored projects and one for less-favored projects seems to me to be infeasible without the near certainty that those tracks will be abused over time.

Back to free speech: it would be great if we could give the government the right to censor hateful racist propaganda (for example), but we can only do that if we accept the risk (or the inevitability) that we would lose politically unpopular “pro-social” speech rights as well. Likewise here. If abuse could be prevented, I’d support a two-track system for development projects. But it can’t be, and I won’t support weakening the process of public input to make advancing some projects easier. It has to be all or nothing, or we will just end up with nothing (or worse).

We give the public opportunities for leverage because the government’s power of development has been poorly used in the past. I am not willing to dismantle hard-won and much needed protections to resist bad projects even if it makes some projects I (strongly) support more difficult.

Reasonable people can disagree on the tradeoff between ease of development and environmental protection, but your position of favoring only your preferred projects is untenable.

Charley
Charley
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Reasonable people can disagree on the tradeoff between ease of development and environmental protection, but your position of favoring only your preferred projects is untenable.

Governments favor specific things all the time!

Currently our system favors existing fossil fuel infrastructure, because it’s not subject to the flying hoops that we currently impose on green infrastructure.

If you’re fine with the status quo of dirty energy and dangerous roads, just come out and say it! I personally would prefer we not lock in all of the obvious climate and health impacts of the status quo.

It has to be all or nothing

Well, there’s no point having a conversation with that kind of maximalism on the other end.

If there was a single unifying theme to my comments on this website, it’s that the world is a riot of colors, and no useful political thought is black and white.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Charley

fossil fuel infrastructure is not subject to the flying hoops that we currently impose on green infrastructure.

There are plenty of hoops fossil fuel infrastructure has to jump through, and I want to keep it that way.

The people you want to entrust with allowing certain classes of development decisions to bypass scrutiny are to some degree supporters of that same infrastructure, from Biden’s approval of Willow and deal with Manchin to Rubio’s secretish deal with Zenith.

These (my erstwhile allies!) are not people I trust to make the right decisions on large infrastructure projects. You apparently do. That’s fine, but I truly don’t understand why you think it will work out long term.

If you’re fine with the status quo of dirty energy and dangerous roads, just come out and say it!

To the contrary — I think relaxing public oversight will only further the most damaging aspects of the status quo, bringing a larger CRC and worse RQ project, but I’ll do you the courtesy of not accusing you of secretly supporting projects like these.

the world is a riot of colors, and no useful political thought is black and white.

On that we fully agree.

PS I would not describe my position on this issue or on free speech as “maximalism”, but rather “neutralism”; in both realms, the government has to remain content-neutral otherwise it becomes impossible to stop the erosion of our rights. There are many restrictions on both public oversight and free speech that I support.

Charley
Charley
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

If you don’t trust elected legislative bodies to pass laws, and elected executives to enact them, then there’s really nothing I can say to convince you otherwise. I mean, I get the distrust of politicians, but we already live under a set of laws passed and executed by politicians. You’re not on BP every day complaining about the right of a President to declare war, or of the Congress to regulate things like the way health insurance works, or tax rates.

If your argument is that we just can’t trust them with the power to do anything right, then you and I disagree so fundamentally that I don’t think we’ll come to understanding.

I disagree that the government is neutral, or ever has been neutral. I think it’s absurd to argue that our laws are currently optimized in terms of either process or outcome.

The status quo bias imbedded in these systems is fundamentally conservative. I think conservatism has a lot to teach us, but that leaving our laws in stasis is a prescription for failure.

I believe better laws are possible, and that better laws will lead to better processes and better outcomes. We apparently disagree on that.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Charley

It appears you are, intentionally or not, mischaracterizing my views to make them seem far more expansive and extreme than they are, while avoiding my main point, which is the danger of creating a system that says “special rules only for x” when that approach has such a long, rich, and varied history of failure.

That may be an effective debating tactic, but it makes for uninteresting conversation.

If you don’t trust elected legislative bodies to pass laws, and elected executives to enact them, then there’s really nothing I can say to convince you otherwise.

I do trust them, even if I’m wary.

If your argument is that we just can’t trust them with the power to do anything right,

That’s not my argument.

I think it’s absurd to argue that our laws are currently optimized in terms of either process or outcome.

I think so too, and I’m not arguing that.

I believe better laws are possible, and that better laws will lead to better processes and better outcomes. We apparently disagree on that.

We agree on that.

Charley
Charley
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Yeah I guess I don’t understand you.

This is what I think you’re arguing:

You’re arguing that if we didn’t have public feedback systems with so many veto points, then bad projects would get built.

Even if the veto points end up preventing the development of greener housing, safer transportation facilities, and renewable energy generation, that’s okay because without those veto points, we’d get more fossil fuel oriented development.

You don’t support speeding up green development by removing the red tape applying to *specifically defined green development types of projects*, because politicians could simply redefine their fossil fuel projects as green projects.

Is that right?
————————————-

Maybe I’ll try to ask questions to figure out where you’re coming from.

A. Are you not concerned that the barriers to renewable electricity facilities will slow down our transition to cleaner energy? I am concerned that fossil fuels will continue to dominate, as long as the regulatory burden falls harder on renewables (given that existing dirty infrastructure doesn’t have to pass through the NEPA or community feedback processes that are slowing, stopping, or making green developments too expensive to build).

B. Do you really think that it’s impossible to define green projects sufficiently narrowly that a bad actor couldn’t slip fossil fuel development in, as a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

Examples:

Do you think Joe Manchin would be able to get the courts to sign off on a plan to build an LNG pipeline, by simply calling it a solar installation?

Could an exurban developer build a subdivision of McMansions on a farm or forest, by simply calling it multi family housing on a transit corridor?

Would the Rose Quarter highway expansion finally get built, with a bunch of new lanes, just because ODOT claims it’s just a bike lane?

If you think these examples are too rhetorical in nature, I’m happy to entertain any that *you* provide.

C. You’ve characterized my position as “special rules, only for x”. Which I think is kinda close, but I take issue with the term “special.”

Would you say that drugs are regulated this way: with “special” rules for ibuprofen, as compared to fentanyl?

Do you agree that the government regulates alcohol differently from coffee, and if so, would you characterize the laxer regulation of coffee as “special?”

Does the government regulate the use of nuclear power plant (as in a submarine) differently from the use of a coal power plant (as in a steam locomotive)? Is coal power subject to “special” rules?

Now that I’ve pointed this out, are you worried that someone like Joe Manchin could sneak a nuclear power plant into his district by claiming that it’s actually a coal plant?

If you’re not, can you explain the difference?

I’m guessing you agree that all of these examples actually are reasonable. In that case, won’t you acknowledge that the government is not blind, that it’s not “special” to regulate alcohol different from coffee, and that even though it’s obviously not “neutral” to regulate this way, it’s normal and good for our government to do it?

D.
As I tried to show above, it’s normal (not “special”) in our system of laws and regulations, for governments regulate more dangerous activities more strictly than less dangerous activities.

For that reason, I don’t think there’s anything “special” about stricter scrutiny of projects that create fine particulate fossil fuel pollution, as compared to projects that do not.

Do you agree or disagree with that?

Do you agree that this kind of pollution is more dangerous than whatever pollution could be associated with renewable energy projects?

If so, why should fossil fuel projects be regulated the same?

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Charley

Your summary is close enough. I think your ideas of how to categorize projects is highly simplistic: an otherwise good project in a bad location could be a net negative, and defining rules that are clear, comprehensive, and ungamable might be impossible.

To answer your specific questions. A: I’m not particularly concerned. I think the economics (along with government subsidies) will continue to drive accelerating adoption of renewable energy and it’s application to novel problems in new ways. I am very optimistic about that transformation. Policy, technology, and economics are aligned, and that’s a powerful combination.

B: On an intellectual level, I’m skeptical about whether it is possible to draw up good definitions, but when you consider who would have to adopt them, I lose all confidence. So on a practical level, I think it would be difficult, and I think it would be impossible to sustain those definitions over time when there would be such a strong incentive to erode them. To answer one of your specifics, it might be possible for Manchin to get his LNG project classified as an emissions reduction project because it was displacing coal and (perhaps) was in a special high poverty exemption zone, or was deemed “critical” in exchange for his support on a close vote on aid to Ukraine.

C. No I don’t like your examples. They are all very general types of regulation based on clear qualitative categorical differences (would anyone disagree about the difference between coal power and nuclear power and the need for different regulations for each?). Development is highly situational and site specific. A power plant in one location could have dramatically different impact than the same plant in a different location. “Sensitive location” is very subjective. I’m probably not articulating this well, but I don’t think your examples make valid analogs for the impacts I’m concerned about. We don’t, for example, have regulations about who can get a specific medicine. Instead, we have doctors who make judgements on a case-by-case basis.

D. Do I agree that specific hazards merit special regulations? Of course. I don’t think anyone has proposed that all energy projects require the same regulation. Oil wells are regulated differently than wind farms, and this will always be true. If that’s what this conversation is about to you, then we fully agree differential regulation is appropriate.

To me the issue is whether the public should have a meaningful voice over development decisions that directly and differentially impact people and natural resources in very location specific and situationally unique ways. I understand your position to be that certain projects are so important that they should be exempted from strict public oversight, but I disagree. I think any exemption process will be used to fast track projects I don’t want fast tracked. Even a solar farm in the habitat of an endangered bird or atop a not-officially-recognized culturally sensitive area might be bad, whatever it’s merits from a climate standpoint might be.

Charley
Charley
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Well, we’ll have to disagree on that.

At any rate, your favored policy of government by lawsuit is winning these days:

https://www.oregonlive.com/environment/2023/12/oregon-court-strikes-down-state-climate-program-rules-in-favor-of-utilities-industry.html

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Charley

This decision has absolutely nothing to do with what we were talking about. This is not a construction project being over-scrutinized by the public, it is about whether the DEQ issued proper notice for its rulemaking.

It’s a disappointing decision, but the solution here is not to say the agencies only mostly sort of need to follow their own rules some of the time. The solution here is to follow the rules.

Charley
Charley
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

This is exactly what I am talking about!

A government of democratically elected representatives and executive cannot even regulate the noxious pollution within its boundaries, thanks to lawsuits from well-moneyed, entrenched corporate interests.

I’m surprised, given your skepticism toward politicians, that you can’t muster any skepticism towards the litigants of this case. It seems to me that corporate lawyers will always find some way to slow down the transition to green energy, if we give them so many veto points.

Why continue to do so?

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Charley

Of course we can regulate pollution, we just need to follow the agreed upon process. The court did not say any of the regulations DEQ wanted were problematic, only that they had to follow the process the agency set out for itself. A process which the agency itself can change.

This was not as “veto point”. It sounds like DEQ messed up in this case, and that the error can be corrected.

Charley
Charley
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

We have literally set it up so that it’s harder to regulate dangerous pollution.

“… did not meet heightened disclosure requirements.

The requirements come into play when the state adopts rules that apply to industries that must obtain a so-called Title V air permit, reserved for major sources of air pollution.”

Does it make sense to you that we should have *heightened requirements* to regulate worse activities??? Like, we give them more rights than we give non-major polluters???

I think this is an insane incentive structure. Again, if you think it’s impossible to regulate this more effectively, there’s nothing I can say to that degree of pessimism.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Charley

“Does it make sense to you that we should have *heightened requirements* to regulate worse activities???”

It’s really hard to answer that without a fuller understanding of what the process is and why it was set up the way it was.

There’s probably more to it than what you can get out of a passing statement in Oregonian article.

Charley
Charley
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

“Hard to answer” is right!

If these regulations are so complicated that even the regulators themselves cannot make a disclosure of new regulation without making fatal mistakes in their mere disclosure of the regulation, and so complicated that the Oregonian cannot explain how they made such mistakes, then I think the regulations are probably not good, and that it doesn’t make much sense to defend them as some kind of bulwark against tyranny!

1.
This form of “public” feedback doesn’t come from citizens concerned about environmental degradation, but from the polluters themselves. This is moneyed corporate interests versus the clearly stated preferences of the voters of the state of Oregon, and the result is more pollution.

This is anti-democratic. It’s no wonder voters are fed up: we can vote for Dem candidates at every election and still fail, because decades ago some politicians set up this “public” feedback system that doesn’t allow us to change anything, years later.

2.
Notice that since the ruling didn’t actually address the regulation itself, but only the disclosure thereof, it seems possible that, once the appropriate pdf is furnished, the fossil fuel industry will get to challenge the regulation itself.

Maybe I’m wrong, but it sure sounds like the industry believes that I’m correct: “While we believe that there are additional fatal flaws in the rulemaking, as this opinion notes, this confirmation is as far as the court’s analysis needed to go.” That would imply that when the corrected document is released, they get another chance to delay the regulation further, by asking the Court to resolved the question of the regulation itself.

The Climate Protection Program document dates back to December 2021. That was two years ago. Since the fossil fuel industry really only cares about delaying the inevitable, and polluting as much as possible before cheap renewable energy swamps their business model, they have no interest in the quick resolution of any court cases.

If the issue was just that they didn’t know what the regulation said, they could have asked. But instead, this disclosure technicality was cleverly added on to their general challenge of the regulation.

Some questions for you:
If a subsequent challenge actually examines the content of the regulation, and not just its disclosure, do you feel confident that the Court of Appeals will resolve it within two years?

If the State needs to appeal to the Supreme Court, how long do you think that will take? Another two years?

If it takes 5 years just to enact this regulation, are you satisfied with that speed?

How many more chances should we give these corporate lawyers for their “public feedback”?

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Charley

As I’ve said before, I have no problem changing regulations, especially if they really are overly complicated, though we don’t know that from this case. That an article in the Oregonian doesn’t explain a particular thing clearly (especially something they referred to in passing and didn’t even attempt to explore in any detail) means nothing at all.

You reference the “clearly stated preferences of the voters of the state of Oregon”, and I’m not sure what you’re referring to. Did the voters Oregon clearly articulate some particular preference here? Somehow I missed that.

Nor do I know what you mean by “unchangeable rules”. The DEQ (and other agencies) change rules all the time. One notable recentish example is “Cleaner Air Oregon” which changed the fundamental way in which air toxics are regulated, making emission standards much stricter than they were. I am unaware of any significant challenge to that process.

How is any of this undemocratic? Because someone is able to sue an agency for not following the rules? The rule of law would seem to require that the government follow its own procedure and not just skip steps arbitrarily. I think what you are asking for is far less democratic than what is actually happening. Certainly if an agency takes an action that is not legal, people should have the right to challenge that.

Do we at least agree that government agencies should follow the law, and there should be ways to challenge them if they don’t? Because that’s what it seems this is about.

Letting agencies violate the law (as long as it’s for good things!) and providing no way to challenge them strikes me as far from democratic, and probably couldn’t be done on a practical level anyway.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Charley

By the way, Title V pollutants are far from “the worst”. They are emitted by almost everyone who burns gasoline, natural gas, or wood, so it may make sense to have a different regulatory process than for industrial pollutants such as hexavalent chromium which are emitted by a small number of facilities and is more acutely toxic.

If you strip out your rhetorical framing and instead focus on the facts, then yes, it might well make sense to have a different process for regulating these pollutants than for others, especially when you consider the political realities of the regulation process.

Dominic
Dominic
5 months ago

So what’s pbots long term strategy? Pay the money to put it on, pay to scrub it, pay the lawsuit they just opened themselves up to and pay to put it back?

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Dominic

What lawsuit are you referring to?