Comment of the Week: We’ve found the voice of southwest Portland!

Nothing stings like satire. Writing in response to our StreetsPDX and southest Portland’s sidewalk problem post, “Young SW Advocate-in-Training” brought some comic relief, and maybe even thrust a dagger or two into the heart of some zombie tropes about southwest that just won’t die. In training as an advocate? I’d say sitting on the knee of Jonathan Swift.

Here’s what Young SW Advocate-in-Training had to say:

As a parent and a resident of SW Portland, I was heartened to read about PBOT’s new Safer In Cars Initiative. Formerly the Safe Streets Initiative, this new direction will be better aligned with our existing infrastructure, our current transportation investments, and our society’s values.

Let’s face it, in SW Portland, it’s not safe to have your children walk or bike anywhere. Our kids belong in the back seat of our car. The benefits are immense. First, driving in a car is a much healthier option than walking or biking once you consider SW Portland’s lack of sidewalks and the inertial difference between a four-year old and an Amazon delivery truck. Second, sidewalk infill projects that encourage active transportation are not good for the environment due to the negative impacts of increased storm water. Third, the future is digital, getting kids outside could mean an awkward face to face social interaction. This only slows their progress in developing digital relationships from the safety of their own homes (or back seats of our cars!). And finally, reducing or altogether eliminating sidewalk infill projects can help bridge the $500M funding gap for critical and more beneficial projects like the I-5 Rose Quarter project so we can get people back to their Southwest Washington tax havens 5 minutes quicker.

Our children are our future. Let’s invest in them. We don’t even have to teach them. They learn directly from us through the examples that we set. We can do this!
/s

Thank you Young Advocate, and also you deep divers in the rest of the thread. Where else on internet can you have a relatively civil discussion about land use and transportation?

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero is on the board of SWTrails PDX, and was the chair of her neighborhood association's transportation committee. A proud graduate of the PBOT/PSU transportation class, she got interested in local transportation issues because of service cuts to her bus, the 51. Lisa has lived in Portland for 23 years and can be reached at lisacaballero853@gmail.com.

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qqq
qqq
3 months ago

One thing (among many) that’s particularly masterful about this is the “it’s for the children” focus. Pretty much every bad project or idea I’ve ever opposed has been “for the children”. That way opponents can be cast as “You must not care about children” people.

Good projects will occasionally portray themselves as being pro-children–typically when they actually do affect children, like those involving schools or parks. But bad projects almost always do, unless they are one of the other sacred categories–anti-crime, pro-family, pro-jobs…

The scary thing about this quote is that I could see many people missing the sarcasm and supporting it.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
3 months ago

Unfortunately I’ve heard this comment more or less verbatim out here in North Carolina without any satire intended – they really mean it – from parents, teachers, government planners and lawyers, and from stroadway officials, of all races and economic classes. It was also apparently a common mindset in the 1950s, but with racial undertones – that only poor people walked, most of whom were presumably black, that we’d all be much safer if we all got around by car, either as drivers or as passengers. Many advocates for AVLs still spout out this crap.

The “Safer In Cars Initiative” takes a more serious aspect if you happen to be black in an area with a lot of drive-by shootings and armed robbery – many blacks and Hispanics here in NC are scared to leave their cars, including a lot of kids – as many people know others who have been shot and even a few killed. The city I live in is amazingly “safe” for those of us who happen to be born white – for those who happen to be born black, Greensboro NC is pretty dangerous, particularly on the east and south sides of town, though not as bad as Charlotte and some other cities. Many Latinos here are sincerely worried about armed kidnappings and being held for ransom, while blacks are less concerned and whites are oblivious.

Fred
Fred
3 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

AVL = automated vehicle location?

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
3 months ago
Reply to  Fred

Autonomous Vehicle – robot cars

Fred
Fred
3 months ago

This is a truly great COTW – comedy gold, I would say.

All great comedy has the ring of truth, as this comment does, since people tend to act rationally – especially parents who reasonably want their children to grow up.

The streets are actually a lot safer than most parents think they are, but the consequences of a single misstep can be so devastating that parents simply won’t risk their children’s lives on the streets, especially in places like SW Portland where there is almost ZERO infrastructure for peds and bikes.

I guess what I love most about the COTW is how it calls out the hypocrisy of so many PBOT initiatives that simply kiss up to grand notions of sustainability and safety while PBOT moves full speed ahead to prioritize car and truck speed and throughput. As the great Richard Pryor said, “Who you gonna believe: me or your lyin’ eyes?”