March 8, 1995: Cyclists Sue the City Over the Blazers' New Arena

In July 1993, the city of Portland broke ground for the arena now known as the Moda Center. Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen and then-mayor Vera Katz wielded backhoes to begin construction of the glitzy new arena.

Most of the city was excited at creating a new home for Portland's only major-league sports team—but bicycle advocates were chafed.

Hard to imagine now, but the original plans for the area had no bike lanes. The green boxes that carry cyclists across the Broadway Bridge and up to the Vancouver-Williams corridor weren't in the plans, and neither was the bikeway on the lower deck of the Steel Bridge.

Portland's nascent Bicycle Transportation Alliance wanted to change that, and thought it had a trump card in the Oregon Bicycle Bill, a 1971 law that requires the inclusion of facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists wherever a road is built or rebuilt.

The BTA asked city commissioners to update the plans, and were rebuffed. Commissioner Earl Blumenauer, now a bow-tied U.S. congressman who makes bikes part of his shtick, told the BTA the project was exempt from the Bicycle Bill. According to BTA co-founder Rex Burkholder, Blumenauer attempted to dissuade the BTA from pushing the issue further.

Katz also opposed updating the plans to include the bikeway that now connects to the floating esplanade named for her. According to Burkholder, she said, "So, sue us."

The BTA did just that, filing the landmark lawsuit Bicycle Transportation Alliance v. City of Portland. On March 8, 1995, the BTA won in the Oregon Court of Appeals, and the plans were redrawn.

The area, which became a crucial connection point to North and Northeast Portland, currently gets 3,000 to 4,000 daily bike trips, numbers rivaled only by the Springwater Corridor and Hawthorne Bridge.

And it's not just about bikes: Try to imagine the gentrification of North and Northeast Portland if bike-loving hipsters had to cross all the way down at the Burnside Bridge.

"It put the state and other cities on notice that if you wanted to construct or reconstruct any individual roadway, you were going to have to provide bicycle paths," says BTA spokesman Gerik Kransky.

Kransky cautions against celebrating the Bicycle Bill or court judgment too much.

From the Archives:

Power to the Pedal, February 17, 2010 cover story on the Bicycle Transportation Alliance

1974: Mt. Hood Freeway Killed

1975: Soccer City, USA | A Vet Shuts Down Nuclear Power

1976: A Home for Refugees | Intel Changes the Economy

1978: Bill Walton Sits Down

1979: Busing Ends in Portland Schools | Oregon Wine Gets Famous

1982: Courts Pave Way for Nudie Bars | The Other Daily Paper Folds

1984: Satyricon's First Show | A Bartender Becomes Mayor | The Air Jordan Saves Nike

1985: First Female Police Chief Ousted | Wieden+Kennedy's Most Important Ad

1986: Dark Horse Comics' First Issue

1988: Inaugural Oregon Brewers' Fest | Rise of Hate Groups

1989: NW Rowhouses Burn | Gus Van Sant's Portland Hits Screen

1990: Our First Great Restaurant | Oregon's Longest Tax Revolt

1991: Cleaning up the Willamette

1995: Bicyclists Sue Portland

1996: Vera Katz Builds a Wall | March to Save City Nightclub | Powell's Rebuffs Amazon

1997: Path Cleared for Pearl District

1999: Stumptown Coffee Opens | Fight Club Hits DVD

2000: Largest Union Pension Fraud Ever

2003: Fred Meets Carrie | Suicide of Elliott Smith

2004: Gay Marriage Legalized (Briefly) | Goldschmidt Exposed | Eastside Portland Rises

2006: The Death of James Chasse Jr.

2008: Our Fanciest Restaurant Ever Bombs

2009: Sam Adams Admits Lying

2011: Occupy Portland

WWeek 2015

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.