The New Portland Bike Activism

Parades are out. Cone bombing is in. Here’s the new wave of biketivism.

In years of greenways, green bike-box turn lanes and green-faced Mayor Charlie Hales riding wobblingly across Tilikum Crossing just to prove he's down, it may seem like the bike activist wars are over.

But after years of being "America's Bike Capital," anti-bike backlash has left Portland falling behind cities like Minneapolis in the hearts and minds of cyclists—and new breeds of biketivists are adopting guerrilla tactics to get their point across.

Cone Bombing

Cars sometimes veer into bike lanes or are confused into believing they are, in fact, very tiny car lanes. The solution? Make their borders solid and orange and cone-shaped.

A "middle-aged" anonymous bike activist who calls himself "Agent 1" has taken to dropping cones onto crosswalks and bike lanes so they're more visible—or less passable—to cars whizzing by. You can see the results on Twitter account @PBOTrans. Or you can just drive down North Williams Avenue.

Sign Bombing

Cars trying to avoid the construction tangle and traffic snarl of Southeast Division Street have been speeding down parallel Clinton Street instead, now barricaded with reinforced diverters that look like a suspicious Third World roadblock.

Cone bomber Agent 1 got hooked up with sign-making companies and put up legitimate-looking speed-limit signs that read: SPEED 20 IS PLENTY. They are not legally binding.

Asked by WW, he said he's just doing what the Portland Bureau of Transportation would do if it could get away with it. "The state won't let them," he told WW in March. "I'm just helping them."

This seems to be true-ish: "The message we agree with," says PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera, "but we can't condone the tactics of making their own signs."

Car Shaming

Remember the Beaverton plumber fired by his boss after being filmed yelling anti-Hispanic, racist insults at an American-born woman of Jordanian descent?

Well, this is the bike version—employing social media to shame bad car parkers and road ragers.

Sometimes the offenses are dangerous—as in August 2015, when BikePortland reported that cyclist Tony Tapay caught a car on camera passing him recklessly at high speeds and almost running over another cyclist.

Other times, it's the stuff documented by Twitter activist Kyle Rohr (@antipex), who takes pictures of cars and Sysco delivery trucks parked across or very close to bike lanes and tags them "Entitlement." He apparently also calls police to report improperly parked cars so they get tickets, and documents this on Twitter.

Protest Signs

Southeast Foster Road is currently home to a faceoff involving bright signs for and against a planned lane reallotment.

A group of stores along Foster, led by EuroClassic Furniture owner Jon Shleifer, has been plastering their windows with multicolored butcher-paper signs to protest the introduction of bike lanes to the busy street. The "road diet" will also expand pedestrian space on sidewalks and add trees.

"It Will Be a Mess. Foster Cut Down To 2 Lanes. Call Mayor" reads a sign at Euroclassic. Other signs have popped up at Lucy's Hair Salon, Sew & Vac, and the vacant building across the street from EuroClassic.

But now there's a counter-protest by businesses that want bikes and sidewalks and pretty trees. Matthew Micetic of Red Castle Games made his own signs and gave them to a few local businesses. A sign at beer bar N.W.I.P.A. reads simply "Slow Down and Shop Foster."

At Foster Road bars Starday and O'Malley's, the signs are mostly nonsense: "Loud Noises." "U.S. Out of FoPo." "Save the Whales!" O'Malley's owner Glen Wallace says he's just making fun of the late protest to the city plan—which was approved by the City Council in 2014.

"My signs are a ridiculous response to a ridiculous response," Wallace says. "I thought of the two dumbest things I could think of."


Welcome to Bikey Town | Bike Bars | Nice Rack

My Night as a Pedicab Driver | Tykes on Bikes

Bikes vs. the World | Bike Gear for Spring

The New Portland Bike Activism

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