No true Portlander can resist leaving a passive-aggressive note. But some of those notes are better than others.
Think back to the salad days of Portland's Nike-sponsored bike-share program BikeTown, an innocent time two weeks ago, before any of the bikes were actually on the streets. That's when indignant Southeast Taylor Street homeowner Tab Waterman affixed some handcrafted protest signs to a pole next to the orange bike racks newly installed in front of his house.
But in the meantime, the signs on Southeast Taylor Street drew responses. And responses to the responses. And several unrelated thoughts. All written on hand-lettered notes pasted to a stop sign.
It is Portland's greatest comment thread—an analog Reddit, or a bathroom stall where people only scrawl graffiti about bicycles.
Local tech-company founder Cabel Sasser spotted the sign debate this morning, and posted it to Twitter.
Let's take a closer look.
It begins with one of the original Waterman signs: a demand for more parking spaces, and the BikeTown hotline number. (We called to check.) Someone has already defaced this sign with the suggestion that free parking is not free.
Beneath the original sign is a love letter—and a Post-It note questioning whether bike-share is really affordable transportation.
There's also another Post-It note above the supportive sign, asking why Portland can't start over with a new bike-share program.
"Organize to create a free bike-share," it suggests, "without corporate influence."
Now we move to the back side of the original sign. Here is where the conversation takes a turn.
While still sort of discussing BikeTown, the next commenter (who took the time to type and print a sign) really wants to talk about gentrification, affordability and newcomers who priced longtime residents out of the Sunnyside neighborhood.
Also the phrase "recognize your privilege" is deployed. Shit has gotten real.
Because you may not be able to read the hand-written responses, let us offer some highlights:
"Believe me, I've lived in this 'hood longer than you… So don't get me started about the 'good-old days.'"
"Will you really use it? I live here and I don't use it."
"I own a bike and I use BikeTown!"
"What if you lived here, you couldn't lock your own bike to a rack in front of your home, and you work for Adidas?"
Speaking of what-ifs: What if BikeTown is a government plot to get Portlanders to give up their cars so they will be easier to round up into government camps?
That is the question posed in a series of seven notes taped to the bottom of the pole.
"They want you to stop driving," the notes say. "So when they barricade us in… we won't want or need to leave the city."
Makes you think. Makes you need to reply, really. Which is possible: Just ride your bike to the corner of Southeast Taylor Street and Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard with a piece of paper and some Scotch tape.
It's the Portland way to have a conversation.