Editorial Section Archives

Portland’s new era of transportation activism

Posted on November 3rd, 2017 at 3:35 pm.

SE Division Takeover-9.jpg

Bike Loud PDX organized a rally on SE Division Street in 2016.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

People who use a busy section of Willamette Boulevard in North Portland will be safer by the end of this month (if all goes according to plan). It’s an improvement we waited seven years for and it happened in just a few days, all thanks to smart and quick action by handful of volunteers who care deeply about the safety of our streets.

The astounding speed of the progress we just witnessed on Willamette is just the latest in a string of successes that can be tied directly to the actions of Portland’s considerable army of unpaid transportation reform activists.

The lineage of this DIY activism is a proud tradition in Portland and goes back far beyond my time on this beat; but it seems to be gaining steam of late due to a variety of factors — all of which were present on the Willamette Blvd effort.
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Living with vehicular violence in America

Posted on November 1st, 2017 at 10:25 am.

Interstate Avenue.jpg

(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

What happened in lower Manhattan is a nightmare.

Unfortunately it’s a recurring one for many of us who ride bicycles in cities.

The idea that cars are weapons is not new to us. What’s new — now that even more innocent lives have been lost — is that thinking of cars as weapons isn’t as radical of an idea as it was 24 hours ago.

Cars are weapons. When someone drives one it becomes a loaded weapon. But unlike guns, cars are used by nearly everyone, everywhere, everyday. And unlike guns, cars don’t attract attention from authorities and they carry none of the constroversial stigma that guns do. On the contrary, cars and trucks are incessantly glorified in ways that normalize reckless disregard for everyone on the road except the all-important, all-powerful person behind the wheel. “Keep streets mean,” is Dodge’s irresponsible tagline.

Yesterday everyone saw just how “mean” streets can get when a man opened fire with a rental truck on that bike path. It has been officially tagged terrorism by authorities, making it just the latest in a disturbing global trend. Terrorist groups like ISIS encourage followers to use cars to inflict mass murder. These extremists have found our gaping weak spot. Like a Trojan Horse, weaponized automobiles are an easy way to breach America’s trillion dollar homeland security complex.
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Opinion: I am deeply concerned about dangerous commercial trucks on Portland’s streets

Posted on September 5th, 2017 at 11:23 am.

Brett, Mark, Tamar, Kathryn, Tracey and Alan.

What do Tracey Sparling, Brett Jarolimek, Alan Marsan, Kathryn Rickson, Mark Angeles and Tamar Monhait have in common? All were killed in collisions with commercial trucks on Portland’s streets.

As a mother, daily bicycle commuter and lawyer for two of these families, this deeply concerns me.
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How can our community support the fight against white supremacy?

Posted on August 16th, 2017 at 11:29 am.

PDX Bike Swarm - ALEC F29 protests-8

A sign from a protest in February 2012.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Like many of you, I’m struggling to focus on anything but the sorry state of our nation.

The events in Charlottesville and their aftermath have made it clear that the white supremacy movement is alive and growing in America. And now that Donald Trump has cleared a space for hate to flourish, we’ve reached a new and dangerous place in the fight against it.

Why am I bringing this up on a bike blog?

BikePortland plays an important role in our community. As an independent media outlet, our relatively large audience is one of the smartest, most engaged, and most civically active groups of people in Portland. Because of that — and because of the privileges and safety I personally enjoy as a comfortable, independent, middle-class, business-owning white male — I have a responsibility to listen to the community and do what I can to help fight this cancer of hate and prevent it from metastizing.

I have some sense about what to do as an individual. What I need your help with is what to do as publisher and owner of this platform we’ve all created together here at BikePortland.
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Editorial: Jeff Reardon’s public disservice ad campaign has got to go

Posted on August 11th, 2017 at 11:50 am.

There are no winners here Rep. Reardon. This is not a game.

A video released Tuesday by Oregon House Representative Jeff Reardon portrayed someone in a Chevy Camaro running over an innocent person using a marked crosswalk. Prior to the graphic impact, the Camaro driver recklessly burns rubber from his tires (a violation of Oregon law), stares down his victim, clenches the wheel tighter, and proceeds to run through a red light. If this scenario happened in real life, there’s a good chance the driver would serve time in prison.

The “Look First. Walk Second” public service ad campaign is irresponsible, insensitive, and dangerous. It flies in the face of current traffic safety advocacy best practices and runs counter to the principles of Vision Zero. For an elected leader who says he cares about improving road safety, Reardon’s continued support of this campaign and his unwillingness to acknowledge very serious concerns raised by the public are shocking and outrageous.
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Editorial: Portland held hostage by motor vehicle menace

Posted on July 14th, 2017 at 11:36 am.

One of 10 deaths in the past three weeks.

Another person was killed in a collision involving an automobile user just after midnight this morning. It was the 20th 24th fatality on Portland roads so far this year and the 10th in just the last three weeks.

Portland Police say the latest tragedy occurred on Southeast Powell Blvd east of 50th. In a statement they wrote that,

“Preliminary information learned from the investigation suggests the pedestrian crossed southbound over Southeast Powell Boulevard east of Southeast 50th Avenue and was struck by a vehicle. The pedestrian reportedly made an unexpected movement in front of an oncoming vehicle while crossing… The pedestrian was not in a cross-walk at the time of the collision. The driver of the vehicle remained at the scene, contacted 9-1-1 to report the crash and is cooperating with the investigation. At this time it does not appear the driver of the vehicle was impaired while driving.”

While the PPB includes a boilerplate paragraph about Vision Zero in all their traffic crash statements these days, the statement fails to live up to the spirit of that goal.

A city committed to zero traffic deaths by 2025 should not publish blame-oriented statements about a traffic crash so soon after it happens. Especially when the victim is a vulnerable road user. That type of tone and framing is speculative, unnecessary, and makes the culture change we need much harder to accomplish.

Beyond this death on Powell, it’s clear that Portland isn’t doing enough — fast enough — to achieve Vision Zero.
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Editorial: In need of leadership, The Street Trust faces daunting road

Posted on April 25th, 2017 at 3:07 pm.

The Street Trust (formerly the Bicycle Transportation Alliance) is going through a major transition. With 15 paid staff and an annual budget of $1.3 million, the organization is currently looking for a new executive director and a communications director, forming a new 501(c)(4) political organizing committee, and launching a new strategic plan to guide their work for the next five years.

These major initiatives come on the heels of a name-change and expansion of their mission last summer.

No matter how you slice it, this is a lot of change for an organization that continues to search for that magic mix of leadership, vision, political power and community support that will allow them to lead the ever-growing transportation reform movement in Portland and beyond.
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Thoughts on car culture, truck side guards, and the “cyclist community”

Posted on April 6th, 2017 at 5:12 pm.

Just over two months ago 53-year-old Alan Marsan was killed while bicycling on North Interstate Avenue. He was going north and a large commercial truck turned right across his path.

Based on observations from the scene it was a classic right hook. The truck was stopped a few dozen feet from the intersection and Marsan and his bike were lodged just in front of the rear wheels.

That collision was just the latest in a long line of right hooks that have left bicycle riders dead in Portland over the years. As I stood at the scene of Marsan’s death, the names of other people who’ve died in fatal right hook collisions with trucks flashed through my head: Tracey Sparling, Brett Jarolimek, Kathryn Rickson, Kirke Johnson, Lydia Johnson (no relation).

Bicycles, large trucks and right hooks is one of Portland’s most vexing traffic safety problems. It’s maddening that we haven’t made more progress on it in the past decade.
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It can happen here: The normalization of highway expansions

Posted on April 3rd, 2017 at 2:51 pm.

Car traffic seen from Burnside Bridge-1

View of Portland via the Burnside Bridge in 2009. This problem needs better management, not more freedom to grow.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

We are living in a time of extremes: climate, politics and public opinion have all ceded the moderate middle in favor of the faraway edges. When it comes to policy debates, ideas that once seemed too extreme to be taken seriously have managed to crawl their way back into the mainstream.
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Don’t blame the weather for this mess (or snow plows, or bad drivers, or…)

Posted on December 15th, 2016 at 9:58 am.

Portland made national news last night — and this image told quite a story.

Portland made national news last night — and this image told quite a story.

Welcome to the morning after.

After a few inches of snow fell on Wednesday afternoon, our region’s transportation system ground to a halt. Major freeways, arterials, and even many neighborhood streets were either completely gridlocked or impassable due to abandoned cars left in scrap heaps of twisted metal and broken dreams. Thousands of people were stranded for hours and backups continued on Highway 26 until midnight (midnight!). Thanks to an Associated Press story, the insanity of it all has brought us national attention.

Now we’ve entered the autopsy stage where everyone is trying to figure out how it happened.

The Oregonian broke it down to five reasons: We don’t use salt on our roads; people don’t carry chains; people don’t know how to drive in the snow; Portland doesn’t have enough snow plows, and transit is, “not equipped for hilly Portland.”

Sigh. Of course they forgot to mention something.

Here’s the inconvenient truth: Our over-reliance on single-occupancy motor vehicle use has real consequences. It leads to lots of injuries and deaths, it poisons our lungs, and it makes our transportation system extremely fragile and inefficient.
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