Burnout happens: Here’s how local activists cope

Activism isn’t always this exciting. Burnout can happen when progress ebbs and fatigue sets in.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

“Burnout is a way of telling you that your form of activism was perhaps not very full circle.”
– Gloria Steinem

Burnout is a part of activism that doesn’t get talked about often enough.

Ever since we celebrated the fourth anniversary of BikeLoudPDX (the all-volunteer activism group I co-chair) in August 2018, I began to feel conflicted about my bike activism. I still had moments of excitement and interest that had drawn me to the group and this kind of work in the first place, but I was feeling overwhelmed, unmotivated, and sometimes resentful and angry.

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How Portland got a bus/bike only lane on Southwest Madison

It didn’t just happen.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Story by BikePortland Contributor Catie Gould

On May 17th, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) issued a press release to announce a reconfiguration of SW Madison Street aimed at faster bus service. “The upgrade of SW Madison is the first Central City in Motion project to be implemented, just six months after the plan was passed by Portland City Council,” the press release touted. Five days later it was done.

But for a handful of transportation advocates, the work began two years earlier. Today we’re peeling back the curtain to share what went on behind the scenes.

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Adventures in Activism: Time management tips from two busy Portlanders

Catie Gould.

This post is by our activism co-editor Catie Gould, a very busy local transportation activist who has a full-time job on the side.

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Does the New Year have you hoping to get more done?

Certainly the times demand a lot of us. How on earth can we manage everything — working, doing the laundry, spending time with loved ones — all while finding time to reform our transportation system and combat climate change in a way that doesn’t burn us out?

Often overwhelmed myself, I sought out the advice from two of my Portland heroes. I hope their stories help you stay effective and inspired!

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Adventures in Activism: Tools of the trade

Portland transportation activist Ted Buehler uses his trusty measuring devices (in his bike basket) to uncover the dangers of rail tracks.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

“Who’s running Portland right now? You. Pick a problem that really matters to you. Seek organizations addressing it and give them anything you’ve got: time, money, intellect, energy, even tweets. But don’t sit this out. You must engage.”

That’s what Portland activist and former city council candidate Sarah Iannarone posted Wednesday in response to a Willamette Week cover story on Mayor Ted Wheeler’s first two years in office.

How can you “engage” in transportation advocacy? You’re in the right place, since one of our missions here at BikePortland is to get you inspired and informed enough to have a valuable role in local policy and project decisions. But you need tools. Our activism editors Catie Gould and Emily Guise of BikeLoudPDX have put together a list tools they use to sharpen their activism skills.

Take it away Catie and Emily….

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Activism insight: You don’t need to change the world to make a difference

There are over 20 yard signs like these on 7th Avenue.
(Photos: Kiel Johnson)

BikePortland supporter and contributor Kiel Johnson (owner of the Go By Bike valet) has been working to create more support for a neighborhood greenway on 7th Avenue as part of PBOT’s Lloyd-to-Woodlawn project. This is his latest post in a series.

You don’t need to change the world to make a difference.

That’s what I’ve learned from these past few months of hunkering down on my advocacy for a NE 7th Avenue neighborhood greenway. If built as proposed, the project would transform 7th — from I-84 to Woodlawn — into a street where safety of all users is the priority.

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We can’t fix what we don’t know: Why access to information is key to Vision Zero


*Watch how many people drive in front of this man while he waits for a chance to cross.

This post was written by our Adventures in Activism column co-editor Catie Gould.

On the evening of April 7th, Alex Hubert was crossing to the MAX platform to catch a northbound Yellow Line train back home when he was struck by a car. There was no police alert on Twitter. There were no news reports. But I was there.

This post is about my attempt to learn more about the safety issues at the intersection and find out why they haven’t been fixed.

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My neighbors actually showed up! Maybe it was just the free ice cream

50 people showed up to our neighborhood park to talk with each other about the project.
(Photos: Kiel Johnson)

This is the conclusion to Kiel Johnson’s grassroots effort to talk to more of his neighbors about a transportation project. Don’t miss part one and part two.

After three days of knocking on doors inviting our neighbors to an ice cream social to discuss the proposed Lloyd to Woodlawn Neighborhood Greenway, it was time to find out if anyone would actually show up.

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Hi I’m Kiel, want to come to an ice cream social to talk about a transportation project?

Let’s do this.
(Photos: Kate and Kiel Johnson)

This is the second post by Kiel Johnson in a series about his effort to talk to his neighbors about the Lloyd to Woodlawn neighborhood greenway project.

This past week my wife Kate and I went door-to-door from NE 7th and Alberta to NE Thompson inviting people to an ice cream social to talk about the proposed Lloyd to Woodlawn Neighborhood Greenway. As I shared last week, the purpose of the event was to create a low-stress place for neighbors to meet each other and share their opinions about the proposal that would add diverters and create a new family-friendly bikeway between I-84 in the Lloyd to Dekum Street in Woodlawn.

For a 32-year-old, knocking on the doors of complete strangers is not the easiest thing to do.

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Taking greenway activism door-to-door in northeast Portland

My door-knocking partner, Kate Johnson.
(Photo: Kiel Johnson)

This post is written by Kiel Johnson, a local business owner, transportation activist, and northeast Portland resident.

Over the next few weeks, in their downtown offices, city staff will determine the route for the Lloyd to Woodlawn Neighborhood Greenway using a combination of personal egos, local political winds, community feedback, and hopefully, reason. Whenever the city wants to make it a little harder to drive a car somewhere they are always faced with passionate opposition. Trying to do it in inner northeast Portland, an area that has undergone rapid gentrification and change, is even more difficult.

I recently moved to NE 7th so this process has gotten a lot closer to home. Over the next weeks I am going to share my attempt to navigate this complexity and advocate for the route greenway route to be on NE 7th. Our society has wronged a lot of groups and as a white male I have benefited from a lot of those policies. Is it possible to address this privilege while also advocating for something that will be a big change for a lot of people? My approach is to include as many people and viewpoints as possible and make sure everyone is heard, even if I disagree with them.

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‘Mobility for All’ initiative seeks to create one-stop shop for transportation access

A panel answered questions about the benefits of the program at a workshop held at Metro in June. From Right to left: Jan Campbell, Chair of the Special Transportation Fund Advisory Committee; Adrian Pearmine, DKS Associates; Bob Stacey, Oregon Metro Councilor District 6; Brenda Durbin, Director of Clackamas County Social Services; Julie Wilkie, Executive Director of Ride Connection.

“Right now we have a second-class transportation system for folks that have accessibility issues and it just plain isn’t fair.”
— Adrian Pearmine, DKS Associates.

Seniors and people living with a disability who need accessible transportation across the Portland region have dealt with a patchwork of inadequate services for years.

A new initiative called Mobility for All hopes to change that by creating a one-call, one-click regional transportation information system.

Today, many communities in the Portland Metro do not have accessible or frequent transit, requiring residents with special needs to reserve rides days in advance in order to get around. Service varies significantly in rural communities, and getting across the region through multiple service providers can be daunting. One of those options, TriMet’s privately operated LIFT paratransit service, was recently under fire at a Workers Rights Board hearing in May for inadequate scheduling systems and long wait times for riders among other complaints from employees and community members.

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Bringing the ‘Bike Lane Uprising’ to Portland

What was the outcome of this? How often does it happen? I have no idea.

Catie Gould and Emily Guise are co-editors of our Adventures in Activism column.

It’s a scenario familiar to anyone biking in a city: you’re riding down the bike lane, when suddenly you’re forced to brake and swerve around an unforeseen obstacle blocking your way. At best, this is annoying; at worst, it is deadly.

Reporting these issues can be extremely frustrating. In Portland, there is no way to send a photo to the Parking Enforcement number, and callers rarely know if a ticket was ever issued. Reports to the 823-SAFE hotline can take months to be reviewed and disappear into a database that is not publicly accessible. This leads people to resort to social media, which raises only temporary awareness.

A new website aims to fill the gap. Since Bike Lane Uprising launched in September 2017, it has received over 2200 bike lane obstructions reports. Christina Whitehouse, an industrial designer in Chicago, has been surprised by how quickly it has taken off. The site allows people to submit incidents of bike lane infractions which are posted online and entered into a database and mapped. As more people contribute, Whitehouse can create heatmaps to identify conflict zones, trends, and notify businesses that are repeat offenders.

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