Portland’s new commissioner-elect sees a carfree future where public transit is free and fast

One of the biggest local consequences of last night’s election is that Jo Ann Hardesty will be sworn-in as a Portland city commissioner in January.

Her presence on the five-member council could have far-reaching implications as we debate and consider major transportation-related issues in the coming years. Hardesty and her new colleagues on Portland City Council will have a say on key issues ranging from mega-projects to micromobility. Since we haven’t sat down with her for an extended conversation yet, I thought I’d share what she’s said on the record thus far.

Earlier this spring when the campaign for the primary was heating up, Hardesty didn’t even mention transportation as an issue on her website. Now she does. Here’s her platform as described on the “Climate Justice: One People, One Planet” page of her campaign website:

I live on Portland’s East side and use our bus system. My experiences as a Trimet rider have helped shape my belief that our community needs access to free and widely available public transportation. I believe in a Portland where you can get where you need to go without using a car and that you shouldn’t be punished for taking the bus by having it take twice as long to get there. This Portland is possible if we prioritize expanding our current system, making it free and securing and expanding our Youth Pass for students. We must make these changes because transportation is the second biggest expense for households after housing. As Portland grows we also need to support options like the SW Corridor Project that Metro is working on, and I look forward to working in coalition with Metro leaders to make these projects a reality.

All of this work needs to be done before we consider congestion pricing. People of color in our community have been pushed to the edges of town, and I don’t believe that it is just to then charge those community members for the privilege to come back for work or play. Additionally, when drivers look for alternatives to taxed roads, we know they will turn to other options. Those roads won’t be prepared for additional traffic and will jeopardize our commitment to Vision Zero. I am committed to building a Portland where no one should die trying to get where they need to go. I also believe that consideration of congestion pricing requires deep community conversations where everyone can participate. Under some models, the money raised through congestion pricing can only be used to build more roads such as freeways. That is not compatible with our city’s climate solution goals and we need to be thinking about how to invest in other modes of transportation. I look forward to working with community advocates and the team at PBOT to supporting the work they have been doing on these issues and to break through the political gridlock that has been holding us back.

A transportation-focused candidate forum in April hosted by the local chapter of Young Professionals in Transportation provided more detailed insights from Hardesty. Here are some excerpts from our coverage of that event:

On Vision Zero:

NAACP Porltand President Jo Ann Hardesty said Vision Zero uses too much of a “punitive approach” and she’d rather see more education. “$247 bucks is excessive for first ticket,” she said. “We need to be creating communities that are walkable and have amenities so that people are able to walk.” Hardesty said it’s “inexcusable” that a “city with so much riches” invests so much in downtown when other parts of the city have been “forgotten.”

On transportation and environmental justice:

A world-class transportation system in Portland would give everyone access to public transit and “the ability to have bicycles,” said Jo Ann Hardesty. She also pointed out that, “We had a ‘housing emergency’ not because 10,000 African-Americans were displaced from inner northeast between 2000 and 2010. The housing emergency came about when white middle-class people found it difficult to live in the city.” Hardesty said Portland needs elected leaders with guts to tell “the real story.” “We need to stop painting this as a progressive utopia where everything is wonderful and where all you have to do is get on your bike and life will be great,” she continued. “That is not for everybody. It hasn’t been that way for people of color.”

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On taming dangerous arterials:

A skeptical Jo Ann Hardesty threw a bit of cold water on the excitement over a PBOT-controlled 82nd Ave: “I wish I believed that the City of Portland taking on 82nd Avenue would make it better. I wish I believed that.” Hardesty added that because parts of east Portland still don’t have sidewalks, “We cannot talk about bike paths without talking about safety for community members who have paid their fair share in taxes and just are not getting the infrastructure.”

On how to stem the rise of fatal crashes involving people walking in east Portland:

Hardesty’s answer to this sounded like victim-blaming to one person I talked to after the event. After saying how some people drive too fast, Hardesty said, “I can tell you there are pedestrians that walk out in front of cars because they think they have bumpers and no one will hit them.” Hardesty added that our streets would be safer if we fostered more “community connectedness” and moved beyond division. “We need to come together and decide what kind of community we want to live in.”

On funding:

To raise money for transportation, Hardesty said she’d put a $2.50 tax on Uber and Lyft rides (which got a loud applause). She also mentioned (perhaps responding to Fish’s tough talk) that while she likes lower speed limits, she’s “absolutely terrified of more enforcement” and that she doesn’t feel safe, “When I hear public leaders talk about enhancing police presence… When we know African-Americans and Latinos are targeted for more enforcement than anyone else.”

On congestion pricing:

Hardesty said, “Before we have a conversation about congestion pricing, we have to make sure the people we pushed out to the edges of our city are not harmed by this policy.” She doesn’t want people who live furthest away from the central city to be penalized and she doesn’t want it to be based on income.

Commissioner-elect Hardesty will also be the only member of Portland City Council to clearly oppose the I-5/Rose Quarter freeway expansion project. Here’s how she responded to a questionnaire from No More Freeways PDX:

“I am also strongly opposed to expanding I-5. There is a disconnect between our vision for 2050 climate justice resolution and freeway expansion, and expanding I-5 should be an absolute last resort to addressing crashes and congestions. I think the funds allocated to I-5 expansion would be better spent towards expanding transit and improving infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists.”

Another place to learn about Hardesty’s views is in BikePortland reader Tony Jordan’s editorial endorsement we published back in April.

Do you have experiences with or insights about Hardesty you can share?

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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In Oregon, election night was great for Democrats and progressive policies

Parking reform activist Tony Jordan at a campaign event for Jo Ann Hardesty (center).
(Photo: Tony Jordan)

In the first national election since Donald Trump assumed the presidency — and despite gerrymandered districts, voter suppressions efforts, and racist campaigning by some Republicans — America tilted to the left last night. Here in the Portland region, the swing toward Democrats and progressive policies was even more pronounced.

In the race to replace longtime Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, Jo Ann Hardesty cruised to an easy win over Loretta Smith. Hardesty becomes the first black woman to hold a council seat. Hardesty was endorsed by The Street Trust and nearly every transportation reformer in the BikePortland orbit was a major supporter.

Kathryn Harrington is the new Washington County Chair.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Women now have a 3-2 majority on Portland City Council, something Hardesty already seems to relish. OPB reported last night that during her victory speech she remarked, “We have big problems in this city but I am proud to be joining commissioner Amanda Fritz and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly. And I’m even going to be joining mayor … what’s his name? Ted Wheeler, and of course Commissioner Nick Fish.”

Portland voters also decided to pass the Measure 26-201, a.k.a. the Clean Energy Initiative. This innovative measure creates a new business licensing surcharge on large corporations to fund clean energy projects that will create jobs for nonprofits. Just as important as the policy is the coalition that came together to pass it. The steering committee included: the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, Coalition of Communities of Color, NAACP Portland Branch 1120, Native American Youth & Family Center, OPAL/Environmental Justice Oregon, Verde, 350PDX, Audubon Society of Portland, Columbia Riverkeeper, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Sierra Club. This is the type of coalition will be a huge inspiration to transportation advocates as they organize for a major funding measure of their own in 2020.

Beyond Portland, former Metro Councilor Kathryn Harrington won her bid for Washington County Chair. She handily beat Bob Terry, who delivered an anti-Portland, borderline racist, and fear-mongering mailer in the week before the election that he was forced to apologize for. Harrington should be a bulwark against the typically car-centric transportation politics in Washington County. She was endorsed by The Street Trust.

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Another big win for transportation in Washington County came in the race for Oregon House District 26 where Democrat Courtney Neron unseated incumbent Republican Richard Vial by a margin of 51 to 47 percent. Vial was considered a political moderate, but when it came to transportation policy he was dinosaur. Vial was a major proponent of building new mega-highways across farmlands in Washington County. In 2017 he pushed a failed bill that would have allowed cities and counties to form tolling districts to pay for highway projects. Vial’s bill was an attempt to fund his pet project, the “Northside Passage”. Vial was part of a worrying normalization of highway expansions and had a leadership position on several key House transportation committees (including one on carbon reduction). By contrast, Neron calls herself a “lifelong environmentalist” who thinks Oregon must, “aggressively address climate change.”

Overall, Oregon’s politics took a strong leftward swing. Governor Kate Brown easily won her race over Knute Buehler and Democrats now enjoy a supermajority in both the House and Senate. The Oregonian says this means, “Corporate tax hikes and progressive policy changes could be an easy sell in the 2019 session.” It’s also likely to have ramifications on transportation policy, even though that issue was heavily legislated in 2017. Would the $5.3 billion transportation package we passed in 2017 have been different if Democrats had a supermajority and didn’t have to give away highway projects and the silly new bike tax to get Republican votes for auto-related taxes and fee hikes? Probably. Other transportation-related topics often fall on party lines. Things like speed limits and distracted driving laws have been nearly party-line votes in the past. Safe street advocates should be very optimistic about their chances in 2019.

What were some of your takeaways from last night — transportation or otherwise?

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Rage and revenge, then dialogue and understanding

Kiel Johnson (L) and Mark Holzmann.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Last Thursday, local advocate Kiel Johnson and I met with Mark Holzmann. Yes, the same Mark Holzmann who made headlines a week prior for his role in a sordid tale about road rage and revenge.

In an opinion piece published by The Oregonian, on his Facebook page, and on local TV news, Mark said he was victimized by a man on a bike who yelled at him and pounded on his car after the two were involved in a close-call near the Moda Center on October 22nd. Then a few days later Mark said he woke up and realized all four tires of his car had been slashed and someone had left a spooky and threatening note on his windshield.

Unfortunately that’s the full extent of the story most people heard. As such, it probably only served to perpetuate existing biases people have about each other.

But it’s what happened after the initial news cycle that I think is worth remembering about this story.

When I first heard about what happened to Mark, I was sad. I figured the narrative it would promote would only entrench people further into their worldview — the exact opposite of what we need in the country right now. It turns out I’ve been pleasantly surprised with what has happened since our story was posted on October 25th.

The first sign of hope was that Holzmann began posting in our comment section. I’ll often encourage news subjects and writers to participate in the comments because it can give much-needed depth and improve the dialogue around stories. But Mark started commenting before I even mentioned it to him. And he commented well. He was open-minded, tactful, and even a bit humorous with his replies. He entered “The belly of the beast” (which is how he referred to it at our meeting last week) and came out unscathed.

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“The silver lining for me, this motorist, has been a heightened awareness of safety and regards to rules and regulations of the Portland roadways in general.”
— Mark Holzmann

The next twist in the story was that Kiel Johnson started a GoFundMe campaign to reimburse Mark for the damage to his tires. Kiel, who owns the bike valet and bike shop under the Aerial Tram, is known for his thoughtful and creative bicycle activism. From earning national attention for his work on school bike trains to organizing around SW Barbur Blvd and the human protected Better Naito event, and his most recent effort to spur dialogue around the Lloyd-to-Woodlawn greenway project

Last week Kiel asked me to put him in touch with Mark so he could buy him a beer and give him the $190 he had raised. Mark suggested I join and I jumped at the chance.

We met near the scene of the crime at Dr. Jack’s on the Moda Center campus.

We had a great time and chatted for well over an hour. Kiel and I laughed when Mark said he, on a whim, jumped on an e-scooter for the first time to retrieve his car from the tire store (he loved it!).

We spent most the time talking about our lives and experiences, without a focus on the issue that brought us together. When we did focus on that, we talked a lot about the power of perspective. I did my best to share with Mark an explanation — and my concerns — about the way people reacted to his story. Kiel and Mark discussed what to do with the money. Mark said he wanted to donate it to a group that educates drivers about how to more aware of bicycle riders.

The thing Mark said I’ll remember most is how much this experience has broadened his understanding of cycling and people who ride in Portland.

Mark has updated his Facebook page to share our meeting with his friends (some of whom shared unkind feelings about bike riders upon hearing the initial story). “The silver lining for me, this motorist, has been a heightened awareness of safety and regards to rules and regulations of the Portland roadways in general,” he wrote, “I’ve made some great new friends in Jonathan and Kiel and who knows maybe I’ll be convinced to ride my bike to work a few times this next year!”

In a perfect world, a meeting like this would be the norm, not the exception. Or better yet, it wouldn’t have to happen at all. But since our world is far from perfect, I hope we’ve learned something from this episode. It’s a good reminder that the way things begin is often beyond our control; but how they end can be entirely up to us.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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A donated bike fleet will help Portland Street Medicine expand their reach

Dr. Bill Toepper (L) and Duncan Zevetski of Portland Street Medicine on two of the new bikes.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Portland has miles of bike paths that are inaccessible to cars. We also have many people who call the land on and around those paths, home. A local nonprofit that provides them with medical care now has powerful new tools that will allow them reach more people, more often: bicycles.

Posing in front of Splendid Cycles, the shop at the Springwater entrance that donated the cargo bike.
(Click to enlarge)

Portland Street Medicine is a team of medical doctors, social workers, EMTs and volunteers who provide free care to people who live outside. Today at the northern entrance of the Springwater Corridor path in front of Splendid Cycles bike shop, Portland Street Medicine board members, staff and volunteers gathered to receive a new cargo bike. The bike was donated by Splendid Cycles owners Barb and Joel Grover — both of whom have seen many homeless people come through their shop over the years. Besides being a welcoming shop that often has its wide doors open, the Grovers installed a free, public water spigot several years ago that’s accessible 24/7. The spigot is well-known among people who live on the street.

“These bikes will give us easier and quicker access to places that are hard to get to.”
— Duncan Zevetski, Portland Street Medicine

It’s that spigot that brought Portland Street Medicine co-founder Drew Grabham into the Grovers’ shop. “We walked through their doors to introduce ourselves and get water and they said, ‘We want to help and give you a cargo bike.’”

“We had this frame and were looking for a nonprofit to donate it to,” said Barb Grover today. “These are work bikes and we want to see them working.” Barb’s husband Joel said they just want to help. “A parade of people come through our doors asking for help. So we see the need,” Joel said. “There’s sadness and happiness today. We’re doing what we can.”

In addition to a cargo bike outfitted with a lockable aluminum box, Portland Street Medicine has also received lights and other safe biking gear from River City Bicycles, four additional bikes thanks to a donation from Pedal Bike Tours and a box van from Daimler Trucks North America. The van will be outfitted with racks to the carry bikes.

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“These bikes will give us easier and quicker access to places that are hard to get to,” said Portland Street Medicine staffer Duncan Zevetski. The group already does frequent rounds in places like the Springwater Corridor and Eastbank Esplanade. But with bikes, they’ll be able to cover much more ground.

Volunteer Daniel Solchanyk pulled a large backpack out of the cargo box and explained how they carry supplies like gauze pads, ointment, sterile water, and other personal care items. He estimates they’ve cared for 400 patients since February. On a typical day they can reach about 20 people. Solchanyk said the bikes will probably allow them to reach at least 10 more people per day.

Solchanyk said they’re looking forward to using the bikes in partnership with Portland People’s Outreach Project, a needle exchange group that already uses bikes. “We’ve tagged along with them in the past, using our van,” Solchanyk said today, “And they’d beat us to every spot. It’s just faster by bike.”

For more on the great work this group is doing, check them out at PortlandStreetMedicine.org and make sure you give a wave, nod, or ring of your bell next time you pass by.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Urban anthropologist Adonia Lugo leads discussion on bike advocacy and race

Dr. Adonia Lugo and a small part of last night’s crowd.
(Photos: Catie Gould)

“How can bicycle advocacy be more inclusive?” and “How can we make streets safer without causing gentrification?” were central questions that Portlanders asked at a standing room only event on Thursday night.

“Transportation safety [advocacy] is tied up in other ways we decide who’s important and who’s not important.”
— Dr. Adonia Lugo

Adonia Lugo, a former bicycle activist with a PhD in anthropology, spoke at a packed event last night. Her recently published book, Bicycle / Race: Transportation, Culture, and Resistance (2018, Microcosm Publishing), follows the trajectory of her cycling experience — from becoming a bike commuter in Portland, to her work establishing the CicLAvia open streets event in Los Angeles, to her struggle to integrate equity during her tenure at the League of American Bicyclists in Washington D.C.

Lugo’s book looks at the way a focus on the traditional bike advocacy focus on infrastructure doesn’t go far enough to dismantle the injustices on our streets. Lugo explained that when advocates talk about street safety as a goal it usually only focuses on vehicular interactions, but “mobility justice” looks at the broader picture of how our bodies are not just vulnerable to cars, but some bodies are also vulnerable to racial profiling, sexual harassment, or even not having the right documents.

After leaving Portland and returning to Southern California where she grew up, Lugo noticed the people who biked were people of color who didn’t seem to have access to a car. And something clicked: “People who were dealing with so many kinds of oppression and so many ways of being held back and denied access to the American dream also weren’t going to be safe as they travelled because they couldn’t afford to drive. For me, looking at transportation and transportation safety is tied up in other ways we decide who’s important and who’s not important.”

Lugo sees bicycling as a powerful decolonizing force, a way for people to feel powerful and mobile in their public spaces, and a way to reduce their tie into materialism and oil consumption. But a lot of advocates don’t see biking in the same way. “For a lot of people who get involved in bicycling or bike advocacy, their lives are maybe not that bad structurally, maybe they have access to economic security, maybe they grew up in a house their family owned, maybe they got to go to college, maybe they have a six-figure job and they love bicycling, and riding a bike is that one time of the day that they don’t feel safe or they feel like something is wrong with the system.”

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The issue with infrastructure-only advocacy done mostly by people of privilege, Lugo says, is that when we define the problem of safety so narrowly, we often come up with a narrow set of solutions.

During her presentation, Lugo walked us through how the urban planning field is fraught with inequality. This field has decided to take examples of roads in Northern Europe that we like, and change roads in U.S. cities to be similar. In doing that, a whole industry was built that perpetuates the problems of who gets to decide which urban design projects are failures, and which ones are still worth pursuing. The planning process requires access and agreement to public officials and agencies, and planning and design firms who benefit from our public tax dollars. When those people get paid for months to manage those projects before community engagement even begins it reinforces the unequal power dynamic.

What would a better public engagement process look like? There is no easy checklist to follow and Lugo wouldn’t want to create one. Often well-meaning advocates push for projects on behalf of these communities, without people from the community itself defining the problem of what needs to be solved. Engagement needs to happen much earlier — before proposals have momentum behind them — to be authentic. Funding also needs to be more flexible to accommodate types of “human infrastructure” that the community needs; such as neighborhood bike shops and programming for residents. Lugo believe we need to invest in experimental processes for a different kind of community engagement.

Several people in the audience asked about the controversy around North Williams, and the current tension around the Lloyd to Woodlawn greenway project. There were no easy answers about what the path forward should be, but Lugo recommended some books that dive deeper into the topic of bike lanes and gentrification such as Bike Lanes are White Lanes (2016, University of Nebraska Press) by Melody Hoffman and Bicycle Justice and Urban Transformation: Biking for All? (2016, Routledge), which Lugo also co-authored.

For Lugo, the fight for transportation justice isn’t all about a war on cars. America’s history of segregation and racism should be the main story, not just a footnote.

— Catie Gould, @Citizen_Cate on Twitter

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Jobs of the Week: Velotech, Ride Report

Looking for a new place to spread you cycling wings? We’ve got two newly posted jobs for your perusal.

Learn more about each one via the links below…

–> Shipping Specialist – Velotech

–> Software Engineer – Ride Report

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For a complete list of available jobs, click here.

Be the first to know about new job opportunities by signing up for our daily Job Listings email or by following @BikePortland on Twitter.

These are paid listings. And they work! If you’d like to post a job on the Portland region’s “Best Local Blog” two years running, you can purchase a listing online for just $75. Learn more at our Job Listings page.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Road rage incident caused by unsafe cycling conditions on SW Terwilliger

This is what the bike lane on SW Terwilliger Parkway looked like yesterday during the evening commute. Those two white lines on the left are a buffer zone, the actual bike lane is to the right, buried in leaves.
(Photo: Steven Mitchell)

On Monday morning we highlighted a Tweet from Portlander Steven Mitchell who rides regularly on SW Terwilliger Blvd.

“SW Terwilliger bike lanes are terribly dangerous right now,” he wrote, tagging @BikePortland and @PBOTInfo, “Piles of slick leaves and standing water. Be safe!”

Then yesterday he posted video (watch it below) that showed him trying to avoid the slimy accumulation of leaves, only to be the victim of an unsafe pass by a man driving a pickup truck.

After the man seemed to have scraped Mitchell during the close pass, he then pull over in a turnout, got out of his vehicle and approached him. The truck driver threatened Mitchell with an expletive-laced rant of insults and seemed to have gotten right up into his personal space. The good news about this interaction is that — as often happens when people get out of their bubbles and engage each other face-to-face — cooler heads prevailed. The driver went from calling Mitchell a “bitch” when he first jumped out of his truck, to referring to him as “brother” right before he got back in his truck and drove away.

The bad news about this interaction is that it happened in the first place.

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Why did it happen? Because the bike lane was so full of fallen leaves and other debris that Mitchell was biking in the adjacent lane that’s shared with auto users. The truck driver didn’t think he should be there.

“Leaving the leaves too long means an inch thick layer of caked leaves that are dangerous and slippery, especially going downhill in curves at 25 mph.”
— Barbara Stedman, Hillsdale resident

It was just one week ago today we featured another serious road rage interaction that happened near the Moda Center. What got lost in the drama of that story is why it happened in the first place: high-stress roadway conditions that lead to people taking out their frustrations on each other.

The situation on SW Terwilliger is especially frustrating because it stems from a problem that happens every year when leaves, mud and branches from heavily wooded area around the road (a major north-south bikeway) spill into the bike lane. (Leaves in bike lanes are a perennial problem all over Portland.)

Barbara Stedman lives in Hillsdale. I commuted into downtown with her and her family back in 2012. She was worried about the debris in the bike lanes back then, and she remains concerned today. She responded to our Tweet by writing, “They [PBOT] just don’t sweep often enough, especially in leaf season. After a storm like this weekend they should be out first thing Monday morning. Leaving the leaves too long means an inch thick layer of caked leaves that are dangerous and slippery, especially going downhill in curves at 25 mph. Yes, you can move into the full lane, but then you have aggressive people in cars who don’t like to slow down to the speed limit.”

That appears to be exactly what happened to Mitchell yesterday.

We’re glad that this incident ended without anyone getting hurt and we’re grateful that Mitchell has such amazing conflict resolution skills (listen to the full exchange for a master class at talking to other road users).

We’re also glad to hear that PBOT has dispatched a maintenance crew to the clean up the bike lanes. If you ride SW Terwilliger, please let us know what the conditions are like so we can make sure it has been cleaned up. Remember you can reach PBOT’s Maintenance Dispatcher by calling (503) 823-1700 or via email at pdxroads@portlandoregon.gov.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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A man was arrested today for purposely driving his car into protestors downtown

Mark Dickerson.

Family and supporters of Patrick Kimmons, a 27-year-old black man shot by Portland Police last month, protested outside the Multnomah County Courthouse today. They were responding to a grand jury’s decision to not indict the officers who shot him.

The protest took place on SW 4th Avenue and, according to the Portland Police Bureau, responding officers urged people to get onto the sidewalk. As they addressed the scene, a 55-year-old man purposely drove into them. Here’s the police statement:

“The officers contacted the demonstrators and requested they move off the roadway and onto the sidewalk; however, the group remained on the roadway, blocking vehicle traffic. As officers developed a plan to divert traffic, officers continued to request the protestors move to the sidewalk. While officers continued to communicate with the crowd and direct them to the sidewalk, the driver of a dark blue Chevrolet 2500 pick-up traveled north on Southwest 4th Avenue into the crowd of people and struck a protester. The protester did not require medical treatment.

Officers located and stopped the Chevrolet truck and driver near the intersection of Southwest 3rd Avenue and Southwest Madison Street. The driver was taken into custody without incident.”

The driver, Mark Dickerson, was put in jail and faces charges of Assault in the Fourth Degree, Reckless Endangering, and Reckless Driving.

I’m not close to the Patrick Kimmons case; but I approach this from a transportation/safe streets journalism and advocacy perspective. What happened today should not be seen as separate from the growing rhetoric around protestors and their use of the streets.

Earlier this month the story about protestors who yelled at and damaged the car of a man who tried to drive around them went viral. The story became fodder for the national narrative of divisiveness and became a provocative example of “Antifa mobs” that had “taken over Portland streets.” This type of rhetoric plays into peoples’ existing political biases and their frustrations about not being able to freely drive wherever they want, whenever they want.

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When you are in control of multi-ton steel vehicle with enough power to easily hurt or kill another person, it’s very easy for charged rhetoric to spill over into action.

Last week we reported on two local business owners who made public statements that running people over with cars was an acceptable behavior. When Portlander Mark Holzmann shared his story on his Facebook page about a bike rider who allegedly slashed his tires after a road rage incident, at least one of Holzmann’s friends replied in a comment that the bicycle rider was part of the “Antifa mob.”

This stuff is dangerous. In today’s emotional political climate where protests are common, older white men feel victimized by a rapidly changing society, and hate toward others feels like it’s at an all-time high, we can’t allow our streets to become even more dangerous because people think it’s justifiable to mow protestors down with their cars.

When I put a spotlight on the comments of those two business owners, some people said I should “relax” and “lighten up” and that it was “just a joke.”

As someone who attends street protests and uses our roads without the protection of a large steel box around me, I don’t think it’s funny at all.

I hope today’s incident doesn’t result in a crackdown on street protests and even more heavy-handed tactics from the PPB. The right for the public to assemble and air grievances should have a higher priority than the privilege of driving a large motorized vehicle through our streets.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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