Portland Cycling Activists May Have A Bumpier Road Ahead Than Imagined

Summary

Expect fewer protected bike lanes from Charlie Hales says KATU’s Bob Heye.
(Screen grab – Watch video below)

Jonathan may be seeing the glass half full. In a recent article on the new mayor Hayes’ transportation plans he writes:

KATU News ran a segment on their newscast and website tonight that made shocking pronouncements about how mayor-elect Charlie Hales’ transportation plans would impact bicycling.

“Charlie Hales said he plans to shift the focus of Portland’s transportation budget from bike projects to road repairs,” reads a caption to a video of the segment (watch it below).

“One big change Portlanders can expect,” continues the story, “Bike projects will take a back seat to road repairs in Hales’ administration. Hales said bike projects are important, but the city has ignored road maintenance for too long.”

KATU News anchor Steve Dunn, in an introduction to the piece, said, “Our top story… A big gripe from people all over the past few years was City Hall putting bike projects over major street repairs…” “But in Hales’ acceptance speech he made it clear he… expects to get back to basics,” continued co-anchor Debra Knapp.

And the reporter on the story, Bob Heye, said, “Hales wants Portland’s 60 miles of unpaved streets covered as soon as possible and other streets repaired before there are any more bike projects.” Then, while standing next to a bike box for added effect, Heye then added, “Sam Adams made bicycles a priority — including these famous green bike boxes, and now these beige bike buffer lanes [on NE Multnomah] — With Charlie Hales as mayor, there’s probably going to be less of this.”

“We will continue to support all modes, including bikes, in our capital improvement program.”
— Mayor-elect Charlie Hales, in response to the KATU story

Not surprisingly, many people were shocked at this story. I was flabbergasted. I could not figure out why Hales would make such a poor communications and policy blunder before even taking office. And why, of all things, would he target “bike projects”? As the story sunk in, I struggled to figure out how to give Hales the benefit of the doubt on this one (which is something I always try to do, but in this case, if KATU was right, his position would have been indefensible).

Then, as I looked more closely at KATU’s story, it appeared that what they were reporting was not backed up by Hales’ actual comments. I began to wonder if KATU misrepresented his statements to make them seem more anti-bike than they actually were. (After all, this is the station that brought us the extremely misleading and divisive “Bike Paths to Nowhere” story.)

After hearing from both Hales and KATU, I think my hunch was right.

TakeAways

Like the GOP Faithful who had gorged on a steady diet of Conservative Narrative leading up to this month’s re-election of President Barack Obama, the equally gullible Cycling Community is willing to see the glass half full on future expenditures for cycling infrastructure rather than consider the alternatives.

We have managed to convince ourselves that the new transportation bill here in the United States does not necessarily mean any struggles ahead as we vie for tight dollars alongside highway, streets and mass transit concerns. But frankly, that is exactly what placing us on a diet really means in the end. The tail is no longer going to be able to wag the dog.

Now as good reporter as Jonathan is he has to know that a skilled politician is likely to want to leave himself some wiggle room. He will tell the reporters one thing (off the record) and you the cycling advocate another (off the record). But at the end of the day he will always have to deal with the political realities of getting scarce dollars for his constituents from the Federal and State sources on which he must rely.

Now ask yourself these questions with your mayoral thinking cap on:

  • Which transportation segment represents the greatest number of voters come re-election time?
  • On average which transportation segment is likely to have the deepest pockets come re-election time?
  • Which transportation segment has provided the least brash and arrogant face to the news gathers cameras and do I want to be associated with that group when crunch comes and it surely will.

Folks the chickens are coming home to roost. For every time that a Critical Mass Ride here in Chicago has pissed off motorists votes have been lost in the looming scramble for scarce financial resources to repair infrastructure already in place, let along build new stuff for a group that the general public sees and petulant, arrogance and self-absorbed. Furthermore it takes very little investigative journalism or even effort for people to scan ChainLink for offensive remarks about cars and their drivers.

This is going to shape up much the way that the GOP Defeat at the polls did, with the folks bearing the nastier message being surprised that Hispanics, Blacks and Females gave them the shove. Motorists are the majority and always have been. When it comes time for the monies to be divided up people who drive will vote their pocketbooks.

The Buffalo Wings and Beer Crowd Is Not Gonna Bike

One huge miscalculation is evident in the Cycling Movement’s playbook. We are always following it would seem Mitt Romney’s logic. When he was asked about the immigration problem he essentially punted by suggesting that undocumented workers, “self-deport”. Yeah, right. The only reason these folks are here is because the Civil War brought about the Emancipation Proclamation and slaves are no longer fashionable. Otherwise the same group of states that voted for Romney would have their manual labor needs met without having to invite undocumented workers across the border to work at sub-standard wages.

We keep talking about increasing the number of commuting cyclists by 3-to-5 times their current numbers. And our aim is to have the kinds of numbers evident in places like Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Yeah, right. This is however the land of Buffalo Wings and Beer. We do not see ourselves as hopping on a bicycle to get to work. We are far more likely to want a pick-em-up truck with more horsepower than is needed and enough room to carry our rifle across the back window.

You cannot be serious when you consider these kinds of guys pulling up the local bar on any other bike than a Harley. Get real. Maybe the dyes they are using in tattoos these days have some carcinogen that inhibits blood flow to the brain. But my take on America is that if they cannot accept a Black President without threatening secession they sure as hell are not going to straddle a Dutch Bike riding flip flops. Or maybe I just haven’t drunk enough of the Cycling Movement Kool-Aid to understand my misunderstanding.

The Fiscal Cliff Is Going To Be Our Undoing

Just as the GOP Faithful had plans to “help the nigger in the White House move back to the ghettos of Chicago” we have miscalculated when it comes to the bad will we have generated when trying to sound tough but arrogant on camera and in print. We have provided an absolute gold mine of “proof” that we are never going to be interested in “Sharing The Road” but instead of removing as many cars from it as humanly possible. The ChainLink is an absolute gold mine of the hate speech aimed at not only the automobiles the Buffalo Wings and Beer crowd drive but at them as well.

Now consider the smarting these guys feel having that nigger in the White House for four more years. Now ask yourself upon whom are they going to vent their frustrations? They made noises about this very thing in Colorado at the outset of the GOP Primary. They were actively pointing people to the European-style Infrastructure that big cities have been attempting to build. That approach is going to be labelled one more instance of where Obama has spoiled their fun. In places like Chicago and New York they are going to want to exact their pound of flesh.

In Illinois the two parties are gearing up to do battle over the budget and increased taxation voted in during the previous election cycle. That is all going to mean a tougher row to hoe for cyclists. Why on earth would Fiscal Conservatives want to “waste green paint on roadways” when they could be cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy? They would not. They would be eager to get even and bicyclists are in their crosshairs.

Buckle up, Portland!