Thoughts on Hart Noecker and our community

Thoughts on Hart Noecker and our community

In case you have not heard by now, Hart Noecker, a man who was well-known in local bike activism circles and who we used several times as a source for stories over the years, has been the subject of serious allegations regarding his actions and behaviors in numerous personal and group relationships.

I care deeply about our community and the people impacted by Noecker’s actions and I take this situation very seriously. Also, since I’m the one who decided to feature him on this website on several occasions, I want to share my thoughts and offer some clarifications.

In the past several weeks since these accusations have been made public, I have talked about it with many people and have addressed it publicly on several forums including Facebook, the comment section of the Willamette Week, Twitter, and so on. (Note: I attended a community meeting where people told their stories about Noecker but left after organizers said it was over-capacity and only those directly impacted by him should remain.)

Because Noecker appeared on this site, some people in the community feel like I enabled him by giving him a platform to build social capital and gain power. I agree with that to some extent. However, I think more explanation is needed.

Noecker wrote one guest article for us (he was not paid for it) and he was mentioned in 19 other stories going back about three years (most mentions were in our stories about the Columbia River Crossing project). Given how active he was in the events, stories, projects, and policies we covered, it was natural for us to use him as a source. We also published some of the photographs he took at bike-related events.

At the time I used Noecker as a source and published his guest article, I had no idea about these allegations and I failed to see any red flags about his personal life. I did not know him personally and never spent time with him outside of talking to him for a story we were working on. I knew he made people uncomfortable, but I always thought people simply didn’t like — or approve of — his often provocative, brash, and aggressive style of activism. Despite this discomfort, I used him as a source because I’ve always tried to represent all views and perspectives — even uncomfortable ones — on this site.

Had I known then what I know now, I would have never used Noecker as a source nor would I have published his work.

In hindsight, I should have seen more red flags. But I did not. I’ve also learned in these past few weeks that it’s an example of a blindspot of my privileged position that I didn’t see how Noecker’s presence made some readers feel so unsafe that they tuned out anything he was associated with.

Suffice it to say, I’ve learned a lot in the past few weeks by talking to Byrd Jasper (his most public accuser), Noecker himself, his friends, and reading and staying engaged with all the Facebook posts, comments, meetings and so on.

Two weeks ago, I decided to delete every reference to Hart Noecker on BikePortland (an action initially requested of me by Jasper). That’s an unprecedented thing for me to do, but given how many people Noecker has negatively impacted in our community I did it to create a safer place and to make sure he can never use BikePortland as a platform again.

Going forward, Michael and I plan to re-double our efforts to make sure everything we do is as comfortable and inclusive as possible for the entire community. That includes a focus on elevating a broader range of voices, especially those of women and others who are currently underrepresented in our stories and discussions. I have also tightened my comment moderation standards and I’m considering publication of a code of conduct we expect everyone to abide by.

I am happy to answer any questions about this situation in the comments or via email.

— For more background, read the Willamette Week cover story, then read this “Statement from the survivors” and another response to the Willamette Week story (and how to create healthy activism communities) from Earth First Journal.

— Note: I have been in contact with Noecker and he is not making any public comments at this time.

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