If there’s one thing Portlanders love, it’s cycling.
This proved to be true on November 1 when a group of concerned residents stood in front of a truck to prevent a bike lane removal in the Concordia neighborhood in Northeast Portland, Oregon.
Portland is a hub for bicyclers — Grist even called it “the cyclist's utopia” in a 2014 article — and car-free dwellers rely on safe bike lanes to move through the city.
That makes the unannounced removal of a new bike lane (located on Northeast 33rd Avenue) particularly frustrating for the community.
The bike lane had been installed less than a month ago, but residents were surprised when they saw a Portland Bureau of Transportation truck stripping down the lane Wednesday morning.
The Bureau claims the installation of the bike lane was a “mistake” due to a lack of “public outreach,” although the bike was part of a mobility corridor plan and was adopted by the city council with a 5-0 vote.
“PBOT did not conduct a parking study, look at the impacts and tradeoffs of the bike lane treatments, or the status quo,” a statement from the Bureau said. “Notice was not provided to adjacent residents and the critical step of discussing the project with neighbors was not completed.”
The truck sent to strip the lanes on Wednesday came at a cost of $25,000, according to KPTV FOX12, but protesters from local bike advocacy nonprofit BikeLoud PDX responded and halted the truck.
About a dozen BikeLoud community members showed up to the site and stood in front of the truck to stop the bike lane removal.
One contractor reportedly told one of the protesters that the city was there to “modify” the bike lanes, rather than “remove” them, though a neighbor in the area received a letter in their door that morning reading:
“PBOT will deploy contractors to remove lane striping in this section and return this section to its original condition.”
After a contentious stand-off, the trucks eventually left for the day, with organizers staying behind to continue their protest.
“As cars get larger and larger, as well as wider and wider, that means the edges of those cars are encroaching bike lanes less and less safe,” community member Chistopher Hale told KPTV FOX12. “As an ER physician, I’ve seen what happens when a vehicle hits an unprotected body.”
At the end of the day, protesters say they just want to move through their communities safely.
“Putting this bike lane and making it safe for people has been in the long-term plan,” Hale added.
In their call to action inviting members to stand against the removal on Twitter, BikeLoud also shared a similar sentiment:
“Portlanders rely on these lanes and removing them is dangerous and wrong,” the organization posted.
In another tweet, they added: “Join us as we bring voice to the Portlanders who rely on bike lanes as well as believe PBOT should spend its ‘valuable’ resources on making roads safer.”
While construction halted on Wednesday, it is unclear what will come next in the future of this — or other — Portland bike lanes. But one thing was made loud and clear Wednesday: Cyclists won’t surrender their safety without a fight.
Header image: A cyclist rides along an unspecified bike lane in downtown Portland. Photo courtesy of Oregon Department of Transportation (CC BY 2.0)