Spotted on the 50s bikeway: Billboards, Portland-style

Spotted on the 50s bikeway: Billboards, Portland-style

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Ads follow eyeballs.
(Photos: M.Andersen)

I drove a car on Sunday. (No shame here — I needed to get to Jantzen Beach and back before Game of Thrones.)

One of the things I noticed was the fact that when you’re on a freeway, advertising becomes a significantly larger part of your life.

In some ways, of course, spending one’s transportation time away from commercial messages is nice. But in other ways, advertising does actually give you useful information, such as the news that it’s berry season at a local fast-food chain or the fact that a certain car wash offers a monthly subscription for unlimited washes.

Being advertised to can be annoying, but it’s also a sign that you’re part of a community worth catering to.

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Maybe that’s why I was so pleased, later on Sunday evening, to notice the little posters taped above the electronic “push to cross” buttons at 53rd Avenue and Burnside, on the 50s Bikeway.

They’re just ads for a show at the Holocene, and of course our culture already has a long and glorious history of attaching music posters to municipal infrastructure. But the precision of these little notices was unmistakable. This was an ad for you to look at and consider while leaning against the post, waiting for your bike-crossing light to turn green.

Which is, as of last year, something hundreds of Portlanders do each day at 52nd and Division.

Advertisements aren’t always a blessing. But ads follow eyeballs. And when your city starts to fill up with more ads that are five inches by eight and designed to be read while standing still, instead of 48 feet by 14 and designed to be read at 60 mph, that’s as good a sign as any that something about your city is working right.

Correction: An earlier version of this post referred to the wrong intersection.


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