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Monday, August 18, 2014

Upper class cycling culture and the demise of Portland’s bike movement @ellyblue

What happened to Portland’s bike scene?
Maybe first it would help to envision what it used to be. There was this booming, diverse, vibrant DIY bike activist and bike fun scene that transformed this city, from Critical Mass to Shift to any number of wild initiatives popping up. Any night of the week, there was some sort of free bike fun going on; anywhere you were in the city, if you were outdoors you were likely to see a mass of people riding by, all of them smiling. People were coming here from all over the country to see what we were doing and how they could replicate it in their own city. People were moving here so they could sell their car and live their dream.
We also have had a long-running statewide advocacy organization that’s tended to focus more on legislation and programs. It floundered a lot, and that was too bad, but it was also ok because there was so much else going on. But then, five years ago, all those other things just sort of petered out. People, myself included, would start stuff in bursts and fits, and other people would get excited, but then things wouldn’t really go anywhere. Now you look at any bike events calendar that still exists and it’s all corporate rides, races, mountain bike stuff. Where’d the fun go? Where’d the vibrant, wild, free energy go? More to the point, where’s the activism? In 2007, hundreds of people turned out for a citizen-led rally in response to two tragedies; as a direct result, Portland’s bike infrastructure leveled up. Nowadays, bike infrastructure gets improved when someone at the city feels like it, which is decreasingly often in the current funding climate. When individuals complain about conditions, they’re told to turn up at ill-timed budget hearings or just to become a member of that same advocacy organization that recently announced that they’re going to give the poor folks at the city a break from the minimal pressure they were previously putting on them.

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