North Williams Avenue in Portland has become a controversial street in the last few months. Currently, on the one way street, there are two lanes for cars plus a bike lane, but the bike lane often overflows as cyclists leave downtown at rush hour. The Portland Bureau of Transportation planned on transforming one of the two car lanes into a wider bike lane, but the project has been delayed. That’s because some in the historically African-American neighborhood felt that the project didn’t adequately address important issues like gentrification, equity and race.
Entrepreneur Sam Thompson said in a recent Skanner article, “…bike lanes will get $600 million over the next 20 years, but there is half a million for gang outreach for the next two years.” While it’s difficult to draw conclusions by comparing the sizes of unrelated budgets and wish lists, Thompson’s comments reflect a perception in some quarters that the City of Portland is more concerned with increasing bicycling than it is with helping minorities. Some, like the Community Cycling Center, say that these two things need not be mutually exclusive, but the perception remains that proportionately more whites ride bicycles than minorities. Data from a national study (pdf) backs this up, though the disparity has been shrinking.
How do you think your racial identity relates to your mode of transportation? Do you think that cycling infrastructure disproportionately benefits whites? Do you think city planners have done enough to build consensus around cycling projects?
- Jonathan Maus: Editor of Bikeportland.org
- Jerrell Waddell: Assistant pastor, Life Change Christian Center
- Zan Gibbs: Adult program manager for Community Cycling Center
- Deborah Leopold Hutchins: Founder of Sistas Weekend Cyclers