(Photos by Hart Noecker/Rebel Metropolis)
Portland is poised to enter a new era of bike activism; and it might look a lot like the old one.
After laying dormant for over six years, Critical Mass appears to be showing real signs of life. People who were at the ride this past Friday night have expressed enthusiasm and optimism about how it went and it’s already on the calendar again next month.
“The advance of bike infrastructure in Portland is pretty pathetic, relative to what we need to accommodate bike traffic.”
— Ted Buehler, ride participant and citizen bike advocate
According to various sources there were between 60 and 75 people at the ride. They looped through major streets and intersections downtown, crossed over the Willamette, rolled east to 28th and then back downtown via Broadway and the Steel Bridge — all while riding many abreast across several lanes.
The mass would reach a key intersection, and riders would swarm in a circle, blocking traffic in all directions. Ironically, most of the car honks this disruption elicited seemed friendly in nature, as drivers would wave and snap photos of the mass. When those honks would become aggressive or when somebody would try to push their car through the mass, everybody would exit the intersection, continuing to ride on.
Some riders chanted, “What do we want? Bike lanes on Burnside!” and Noecker says there was a lot of discussion about the need for Critical Mass to return to its former size and influence. Another person I asked about the ride, who has ridden in it since its inception in Portland in 1994, said without hesitation he and others plan to keep doing it each month.
“Bombed down W Burnside from 14th to 2nd. Spectacular. Took 2 lanes of Wiedler, 3 lanes of Broadway.
Some of you may take offence to this, but some cars were slowed down in the process. Perhaps by up to two minutes! And yes, some of them were antagonized. Perhaps even 10% of said drivers.”
Buehler says the antagonism is necessary in order to shake Portland from its post-Platinum stupor and create a new sense of urgency around bicycling. “The advance of bike infrastructure in Portland is pretty pathetic, relative to what we need to accommodate bike traffic,” he wrote in a comment. “If you want to see change, you need to speak up, act, ride, shout, write, participate in civil disobedience, and encourage others to do the same.”
He points to a recent (and very well-done) article in The Portland Mercury titled Slow Leak where reporter Dirk VanderHart says Portlanders “may have to get mad” if significant gains in bike conditions are to be made:
But that’s exactly why 6 percent has been so hard to surpass. If Portland wants to reach its potential, Portlanders may have to get mad. The city’s old playbook is no longer enough, and worries that Portland’s finally lost its bike mojo have grown louder, in just the past few weeks, than at any point in recent history.
The next Critical Mass is Friday, July 25th. Meet at the North Park Blocks at 5:30 pm.
— For more community discussion about Critical Mass in Portland, read the comment thread from our post on Friday.