Leaving passive-aggressive notes on cars is something of a civic sport in Portland. Parallel park too close to the neighbors’ Subaru? Expect some advice affixed to your windshield.
But one resident of the North Tabor neighborhood took the game to another level this week: He moved the city of Portland’s “Slow Streets” barrel out of the path of his commute and screwed a cardboard sign to the barrel explaining his actions.
“Stop blocking 2-way traffic with these signs,” reads the sign. “I don’t care if they are there, but they pose a potential traffic hazard to cars turning in from 47th. My wife and I often have our newborn in the car and do not think this potential hazard to her is ok. I hope you understand why I move the signs to the side. Thank you. Brian.”
On Oct. 18, Portland State University professor Nicolai Kruger posted to Twitter a picture of the sign screwed to the barrel at Northeast 47th Avenue and Davis Street, an area she frequents on her bike.
“How nice of Brian to be concerned about his child’s safety,” Kruger tweeted. “How about other people’s children? Like people who bike and walk?!”
In the summer of 2020, then-City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly and the Portland Bureau of Transportation debuted barrels reducing car traffic on residential streets, as pandemic shutdowns and social distancing increased walking in the road. PBOT has continued the program, turning existing neighborhood greenways into “local access only” slow streets by putting up temporary street barrels in order to slow down cars and ensure the road is shared with pedestrians and cyclists.
Kruger says she’s barely been able to see the effects of the barrels because of how often they are moved.
“Right away, since the weekend after those were installed,” says Kruger, “I noticed that those barrels and the sandwich boards get moved by people who don’t like them.”
Part of the problem may lie in the fact that these barrels are easily moveable.
“Because they’re easy to move, people do move them,” Kruger says. “Either they hit them with their cars or they just get annoyed that they’re there and go back later and pick them up and put them in the parking strip or off to the side.”
The city is now planning to replace temporary barriers with concrete barrels or planters.
“If somebody’s not paying attention and they hit that, yeah, that would damage their car,” says Kruger. “But that’s the whole point. It only takes once and you’ll know to go slow there.”