Bike Buddies Giveaways Recap

Bikes for Humanity PDX is happy to announce the completion of our goal for the Bike Buddies Giveaway: 95 bikes, bells, locks and helmets to deserving kids who otherwise would be left bikeless!
The program began three years ago as a partnership with the BTA (now the Street Trust) in order to give Bike Safety Education graduates in Title IA schools the opportunity to continue to develop the skills and benefits learned in the Safe Routes to School program. 200 bikes, a dozen grant events, and an uncountable number of smiles later, we have completed the program as it was then envisioned.
For the last 95 bikes alone, 1,000+ mostly volunteer hours were put into collecting bikes at donation drives, refurbishing bikes at repair parties, and coordinating and running giveaway events, by volunteers and staff from Bikes for Humanity, Community Cycling Center, the Street Trust, Andando en Bicicleta en Cully, Portland Public Schools, and Catholic Charities. For a peak at how these events ran check out this post from the Community Cycling Center about the Beca de Bici event at Living Cully Plaza, and ours covering the grant events run since the summer of 2016.
Throughout this summer we connected bikes with kids. Parents of Bike Safety graduates brought their kids into our shop to choose their new-to-them freedom machines, install their bells, choose their helmets, and learn to use a u-lock. Two bikes were granted to recently adopted children whose case worker reached out to us looking for positive ways to direct energy. The Community Cycling Center helped us connect 12 bikes with kids finishing their summer bike safety scholarship programs. And one volunteer rode this 20″ Schwinn across town (with the help of the Orange/Yellow lines) to Vestal to grant to a student recommended by Street Trust instructors.
We were able to reach our goal of 90 bikes after we were connected with a community potluck and bike ride run by Butterfly Boxes and the United Nations Association at Kateri Park in the Catholic Charities complex down the street from our shop on Powell. We provided helmets donated by the Northwest Bicycle Safety Council and repairs for bikes that kids were to use on the ride. Working on those bike we quickly realized many of these bikes were either beyond repair, too small for their riders, or a combination of both. With some donated loaner bikes, the ride was a great success, and we began a conversation to start an earn-a-bike program for kids at Kateri who had finished the bike safety piece of the Safe Routes to School program.
Over the last weeks of the summer, students completed a basic bike mechanic curriculum while working on the bikes they and their neighbors would ultimately adopt. Students learned 6 skills that they in turn practiced and then shared with the next group. 9 bikes/bells/helmets/locks have been adopted so far by program graduates, with a few more slated to finish soon.
To complete this grant and successfully find potential bicycle adopters, we worked with 11 Portland-area organizations: the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (now the Street Trust), the Community Cycling Center, Andando en Bicicleta en Cully, Midtown Child Welfare, Portland Public Schools, Bike Farm, Northwest Transportation Alliance, Catholic Charities, Butterfly Boxes, and The United Nations Association Portland Chapter, and the Northwest Bicycle Safety Council.

Bike Buddies Giveaways

On Saturday May 20th Bikes for Humanity PDX granted 22 bikes to 4th and 5th graders in the Cully community who had finished Bike Safety Education with the Street Trust. This was our third grant this year, as part of our Bike Buddies Giveaway, and the 7th since we started 2 years ago. This program sets up students in Title I Portland Public Schools who are now ready to ride to school with a helmet, u-lock, and bell in addition to their bike, so they can build on the skills and enthusiasm gained through the Safe Routes to School bike safety program.

This program has partnered in the past with the Street Trust (formerly the BTA) who do Bike Safety Education in Portland classrooms, Portland Public Schools who have granted auditorium and cafeteria space for the events, and the Community Cycling Center who have donated 24″ bikes to us. Our grant event this time around was unique in this program as it connected with not only bike safety educators and the Community Cycling Center, but also with Andando en Bicicleta en Cully who went door to door in the neighborhood to find kids who fit the description of a grantee: had completed bike safety, wanted a bike, but could not afford one. Another key factor ABC has encountered in their history of advocacy is storage. Grantees would need a place to put their bike at night so it would not be stolen or suffer the effects of weather.

We worked with members of ABC to create a unique event at Living Cully Plaza that would be the product of the hard work of 4 different organizations: the Beca de Bici, a bike scholarship for graduates of the Safe Routes to School bike safety program

The Beca de Bici represents the partnership between Bikes for Humanity, the Community Cycling Center, Andando en Bicicleta en Cully, and the Street Trust

Bikes for Humanity volunteers solicited donated bikes, refurbished them with new and used parts, and provided locks, bells, and some helmets. ABC members found the students, provided volunteers to run the stations of the event, and set up the space at Living Cully Plaza. The Street Trust provided the education component to teach students to ride safely in the streets using geared bikes with hand brakes. The Community Cycling Center provided helmets, bike transportation, and tools, and their program coordinator Patty Otero, once a bike safety instructor at the BTA herself and a volunteer at our giveaway almost 2 years ago, made all of these pieces seamlessly fit together.

ABC members ran the stations for registration and helmet-fitting, and worked with Bikes for Humanity volunteers to do bike fitting, u-lock demonstrations, and bell installation. By the end, one student took over the u-lock demonstration piece. Twenty two bikes were granted, setting up 22 young Cully kids for a summer of fun, exercise, and empowerment, with a lifetime of bike rides and commutes to follow.

To finish this program, we have 17 more bikes to grant. We look forward to your support–either in donating, volunteering, or sharing our story–and we look forward to seeing everyone at the grand reopening of our shop in mid-June!

Our fleet of 9 bikes granted to 5th-grade students at Martin Luther King Elementary in April

  The stage at MLK Elementary where we granted 9 bikes in April

Fall Changes at Bikes for Humanity

November is a big month for Bikes for Humanity as we transition out of the bike season and gear up for our winter programs and a successful 2017. We are excited to announce our partnership with Braking Cycles, a Portland nonprofit that gives marginalized youth the resources and opportunities to become self-sufficient, secure, and healthy.

The space on Powell that has been our shop, classroom, and center of operations will be shared with a coffee shop run by Braking Cycles clients. Since we’ve expanded into the basement of the building we have been able to free up space that was once reserved for bike storage into more dynamic community-oriented purposes. As we prepare for the slowing shop activity that comes with the cold and rain, we are excited to share the space with another amazing organization. We will continue to offer our classes on Thursday nights, please continue to check for current shop hours as we work through our transition.

To celebrate this partnership and the transition of the space we will be holding our first annual Gear up Gala fundraiser on Saturday, November 12th, from 6-9pm. The Gear up Gala will take place at the shop at 3354 SE Powell, and include a dinner, silent auction, raffle items, live music, and much more. If you haven’t yet RSVP’d to the Gear up Gala, go to the event page and do so, and get your tickets! For only $10 you get entry, dinner, and a beverage of your choice – including a selection of donated beers from one of our sponsors, Hopworks Urban Brewery.

Through the open remodel of our space, we plan to remain open Thursdays and Saturdays, as renovations are underway to prepare for Braking Cycles’ projected open date of January 1st, 2017. To keep the shop running during this time, we need volunteer help to work on bikes, greet and help anyone coming in the shop, and generally keep the operation running.

Reach out to us at to tell us how you’d like to help. Check out the following volunteer opportunities, and let us know if you’d like to help and if another time would work instead:

Volunteer Night, Wednesdays 6:30-9pm

Christine will be hosting the shop for volunteers to work on refurbishing bikes for sale and for the Bike Buddies Giveaways for underprivileged graduates of the Safe Routes to School bike safety program

Open Shop Hours, Thursdays 12-6pm

Anna will be hosting the shop to the public and for volunteers to work on bikes or pitch in with shop operations

Thursday Night Volunteer Mechanics Class, Thursdays 6-9pm

Chris will continue to teach the class Thursday nights, and volunteers who have completed the course are encouraged to help out and work with students during the hands on portion

Open Shop Hours, Saturdays 10-6pm

Members of our board, key holders, and valued volunteers will all pitch in to keep us open to the public on Saturday, providing our services to folks who need them, and raising funds to keep our organization and its mission going.

Please keep posted to our website for current open shop hours.

2016 Portland Tour de Brew

Bikes for Humanity is proud and excited to announce our partnership with Water for Good in putting on the 2016 Portland Tour de Brew. This charity bike ride has helped raise funds in cities across the country for WFG’s efforts to provide clean water in the Central African Republic. This year’s event will equally benefit B4H, and is a great opportunity for us to keep the shop open and vital through the lean winter months.


We are five weeks out from the event and looking for help getting the word out and getting folks excited.  We have 7 amazing local world-class breweries participating and hosting stops on the two rides.



This bike ride is important to me for a myriad of reasons. It has been fun to organize, meeting the brewers and designing the routes, and I am excited to co-lead it with the amazing volunteers who will be pitching in. More personally, this has allowed me to give back to an organization that has done so much for me.

Two years ago I was struggling to find my role in the Southeast Portland community, and to get by on $800 a month. Getting around on a bike made it possible, and a joy in the summer time. Transportation was free, empowering, and made me feel good and connected with my city. But the moment something went wrong I was vulnerable to who knows how much expense. In the past I had friends who showed me the basics of bike maintenance. My partner’s father took me through the step-by-step overhaul process of an early-90s Miyata I bought for $15 at a silent auction. Turning it into a resuscitated speed machine was one the most satisfying experiences of my life. But I had not found such a community since moving back to Portland in July of 1013. Until my partner signed me up for the Bikes for Humanity 10-week volunteer mechanics class.

Taking that initial class with the amazing Chris Nelson was an experience that was both accessible and enlightening. Oh so that’s why the bike does that when you do that! I found myself saying over and over again. The levels of complexity and diversity in the world of bicycles are daunting, as different eras, regions of the world, levels of quality create a universe of seemingly similar yet subtly different two-wheelers. Yet the VMC provided the framework to start to comprehend it, and volunteering at the shop and at external events provided the specific experiences to be able to confidently approach a bike and say, oh, your front hub is loose, let me fix that for you. Bikes for Humanity is a kind of language lab in which you are immersed in new vocabularies, words for things you didn’t know existed. Like learning a second language, being surrounded by native speakers excited about sharing their knowledge is critically important.

I am one of many Bikes for Humanity success stories. We have had UBI graduates looking to further their skills after finishing their program, and gone on to work in the bike industry. Mechanics who have moved into town looking to ingratiate themselves in the community, and doing so by volunteering and investing in their new adopted home. We have gone on to work at A Better Cycle, City Bikes, the Community Cycling Center, Sellwood Cycle Repair, and many more spots, including Go By Bike where I currently work full time.

We are not a nonprofit that survives off of grants, endowments, or professional fundraising campaigns. We are dedicated individuals who see the value of community service as its own reward. We look forward to riding bikes with you Saturday, September 17th!

<3 Andrew Shaw-Kitch, Bikes for Humanity board member

The author installing brakes at the People's Co-op Earth Day celebration

The author installing brakes at the People’s Co-op Earth Day celebration

Northeast Sunday Parkways this weekend

11222407_876313552451833_3089131085493723341_nThe third Sunday Parkways of the season is in two short days! Bikes for Humanity will be providing repairs, safety checks, and pumping up a bunch of tires to help folks get excited about riding bikes in Portland. The amazing event put on by the city closes down streets in the neighborhood to link the parks of Northeast so the community can ride, roll, or stroll together on a beautiful sunny day.

B4H will be in Alberta Park, so come and say hello, or better yet, volunteer with us and help someone love their ride, learn some new mechanical knowledge, or tell visitors why Bikes for Humanity is important to you. Here’s the sign up!


Learn more about Ciclovía, the Bogota, Colombia event that has inspired events like Sunday Parkways across the world.


The Waterfront Blues Festival is here!

Bikes for Humanity once again will be partnering with Oregon Food Bank to monitor the bike corrals for folks who ride to the event. We are proud to help encourage folks to choose to bike to the event, and will once again be providing safety checks and minor repairs for riders in need of some bike consult.

Volunteers who have signed up can find us at the South entrance as seen on this map, just south of the Hawthorne Bridge, between Clay and Columbia on Naito Pkwy.

If you have yet to sign up, the form is here. It runs all weekend, and three-hour shifts are available on all days. Since the WBF has switched to a paid model and we have submitted our rosters, we cannot guarantee admission to the festival if you have yet to sign up. However, the more folks we have helping out with the bikes the merrier! We look forward to seeing everyone there.


8 New Bikes Finished at Chain Reaction

Right before I walked into the basement room of the Estate Hotel to join the last night of March’s session of Chain Reaction, an innertube had exploded. When you inflate an tube toward triple-digit PSIs, in case you haven’t had the pleasure of this experience, and something proves to be imperfect with your installation, the rim, the tire, or anything really, the resulting noise resembles a gun shot, and the sonic effect, as you would imagine, is significantly more resonant indoors.

I didn’t realize this had just happened when I entered the former underground storage space and was introduced by the Matthew to the budding mechanics. I was there to help with last minute repairs, safety checks, and test rides of these newly refurbished bikes, and had arrived late after just getting off of work.

When each bike finished the checklist at the end of the zine-style Chain Reaction curriculum Matthew produced for the cohort, it was ready to reenter the world with its new owner who built the bike back up from the scraps of nearly as many previously functioning bikes as their are components to a bike. When my role there was established I was introduced to each of the 8 budding mechanics, their bikes in and out of the stands, and how close we were to the completion of each.

B–‘s single-speed Univega was ready to go, but the innertube of the front tire just burst after he tried to bring it above 100 psi to make sure everything was as prime as possible for his bike ride. Whenever I can I encourage folks not to worry so much about inflating their concerns about tire pressure. If you take the time every couple of weeks to bring yourself up to 50 psi, there’s nothing to worry about, and the squish will soak up the bumps before they impact your poor wrists. I don’t however want to be held responsible for pinch flats by anyone riding on a flat tire: if you can squeeze your tire easily, find a pump!

Matthew wasn’t sure if there was a usable 27″/700c tube for B–‘s sleek, thin tires, but he directed him to the hanging collection of tubes to find out while he juggled the needs of the other 7 bikes. I checked in with F– about the shifting on his bike. He had it pretty finely tuned, and the chain ended up where it needed to be eventually. I told him that as long as the upper and lower limits were set right, which it seemed he had done, it would pass a safety check since neither the front or rear derailleurs would throw the chain off course. If he wanted to make the chain react in seamless conjunction with the shifter, I told him, he would have to talk to Matthew.

B– had found a tube, but it was evident it had a hole in it. With each inflation, the air quickly breathed back out, like a lung receiving then expelling air. I could either do a test ride or help him learn how to patch a tube. It seemed logical to me to help those further behind in the process to make sure everyone could finish for the evening around the same time, so I helped B– find a marker and a patch kit to get the tube ready.

It wasn’t until I started working with B– that I remembered what it means to blow a tube. Years ago, I was riding a bike my friend had lent me, and suddenly, and for no apparent reason, the back tire exploded, making an awful, massive noise, and deflating instantaneously. Not only was it startling and viscerally upsetting, but, worse, I was no longer able to ride the bike, a couple miles from home. And you can’t patch a blown tube. It looks as though someone ripped a knife through it. I suddenly realized that in the moments before I entered the space, everyone just experienced a fairly traumatic experience, with B– catching the worst of it. I thought at first I knew what that meant, that now we needed to find another tube to put in the tire, but then remembered what it really meant: the enthusiastic effort to put air and give life to the tire turned wrong and made an overwhelming sound that will likely trigger everyone in the room into a sudden flight or flight impulse. B– needed to start over in a very literal way, just another moment in a long series of having to let go and begin again. But the steps were apparent and real, and I knew how to explain them to him:

1. Identify where the air is leaking out, and circle the hole with a sharpie, putting an X through the circle. This helps you identify where the hole is when the tube deflates and everything on the surface becomes indistinguishable.

2. Rub the surface where the patch will go over this hole with sandpaper to reveal a surface that the patch will easily mold to.

3. Squeeze vulcanizing fluid onto the sandpapered area and rub with the tip of the tube to distribute over the area.

4. Wait five minutes, take foil backing off patch, and squeeze onto the tube, rubbing outward from center of patch in all directions

I set a timer for five minutes and told B– I would be back when we were ready for the next step. I checked in with Tristan meanwhile because I saw he had pliers for his rear shifting cable. I asked him if we wanted the cable cutters, but he explained he was trying to get a kink out the cable by bending it back with the tip. I understood the principle, but I didn’t know you could do that. Working with bikes is like that sometimes. There are all these tricks that you encounter, but you can’t really recommend them until you’ve tried them a few times on your own without catastrophic results, or someone you trust tells you it’s sound advice. Having said that, I can’t recommend trying to remove a kink as such from a cable, but I don’t think it would compromise the cable too much, and you might just get it a little straighter.

It was about then that Matthew had diagnosed that F–‘s chain was stretched, and was skipping the cogs of the rear cassette because of the worn chain’s difficulty engaging. The chain was broken and laid out on the concrete floor next to a replacement, used of course, but usable. The easiest way to replace old parts, housing, chains, or whatever, is simply to replicate what was on there before. You could put a new chain on and eventually find out exactly how long it’s supposed to be, or you could just measure it against the old one. It’s always a lesson in hubris and haste when you’ve dismantled something to replace without memorizing or taking a quick picture of what it looked like before.

There’s always something to improve on a bike, especially an old bike cobbled together with used parts, but there’s always the urge to call it early and get out on the road. Especially if you’ve been working almost three hours ironing out the shifting, braking, and that ever-evasive sweet spot between no play and smooth as possible. That qualifier “as possible” could drive a person crazy as they go back and forth between loosening to the point play arises, and then tighten again to find the smoothness to be wanting.

The machine of Chain Reaction was inspiring to see. Each of the four stands was its own unique universe, like a hub, bottom bracket, or rear derailleur, pedal, headset, or caliper brake. But the thing moves together. Those finished with their bikes, Matthew and myself included, can consult as individuals voice doubts, concerns, or needs. We get tossed like chain by a derailleur to a new situation and fall in with its flow. But the conversation flowed between the 10 individuals present fluidly. A couple had established themselves as the jokers, giving everybody a hard time, quoting Cheech and Chong to each other from opposite sides of the room while they waited for their bikes to be safety checked and test rode. D– waxed lyrical about the perfection of his ninja bike, and how he owes his impeccable style to consulting with ladies instead of men. Tristan was trying to replace his grips, and figuring out how to get the old ones off the handlebars. B– was now applying a fourth patch to his tube, after identifying a fourth hole after the third patch. Everything was running smoothly so I took R–‘s Huffy coaster out for a test ride. I was shown the elevator and took the bike upstairs, past the woman at the front desk who asked if I was there for the NA meeting when I arrived, and outside to see how this bike held up out of the stand. A crowd had gathered around the entrance to the building. Someone had their phone hooked up to a boom box and was blasting music. I turned right on Couch and realized it was 9pm on a Friday, and all of this was happening out here, lines for the clubs, suburbanites finding parking, the sidewalks full of excitement. I crossed third and fourth, alternately accelerating and pushing back on the pedals to brake like I did on my first bike. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked.

I realized I would enjoy riding this bike around, and came back. “We got another bike,” Matthew called out to cheers. I test ride more and more as the party developed outside. At the same time B– found a fifth hole to patch. A despair that would have cracked someone else an hour earlier began to settle on B–. It was now 9, when the session is supposed to end. Half of the folks had left with their bikes, a month of commitment fulfilled.

B– had mentioned “The Bike Gods,” previously, in what seemed like jest. But hanging over a pile of scrapped frames, on the opposite end of the room from the rest of the tubes, was a single tube. At the peak of frustration B– noticed it. 27 x 1.25″ with a schrader valve. It held air. It even had a dust cap on it. Maybe the Bike Gods do exist, or at least the bike bunny. But why did it have to happen this way, with so much agony before the ease of what needed to be done could occur? Part of me thought, well, that’s how you learn something, somebody convinces you of the necessity of doing something five times in a row. B– can definitely patch a tube now, and he will always be able to recall the night he learned. But that kind of lesson has to sink in.

I instead asked what he plans to do with his new bike. He tells me he’s going to ride every morning, crisscrossing the bridges. There’s an AA meeting he likes on the east side. He chose his pedals so he could ride barefoot in the summer. I told him where I worked so he could stop by whenever he wanted to. He hasn’t been on the new bridge, Tilikum Crossing, yet, and he hopes to ride over at soon as possible.


The Last Fix-it Fair of the Season


Alas, there are only three Fix-it Fairs in a year, and the last of this season is upon us. Mark it on your calendars: February 20th, at George Middle School. This is of course also good news as it means that there is one more opportunity to learn about sustainable practices in your home, get an old appliance repaired and back in order, and give back to the community as Bikes for Humanity volunteer!

It also means that the days are getting longer and warmer, and that spring is right around the corner.

There are a myriad of volunteer opportunities for mechanics and non-mechanics alike. We need help transported our mobile bike shop up to St. Johns from Southeast Portland in an epic bike move. Or, if anyone wanted to put a couple stands in their car and drove them up, we wouldn’t complain.

We need a volunteer to teach a flat fix/chain maintenance workshop at 10AM at the school. We need greeters to sign folks up for bike repairs and talk about Bikes for Humanity. And, of course, we need folks working on bikes, engaging with the community about what their doing, and learning or teaching in the process. And then of course, there’s the bike move back.

Here’s the sign-up again one more time: CLICK HERE!

The Clinton Street Greenway of 2016

The following is a B4HPDX volunteer’s reflections on bicycle infrastructure in Portland and does not represent the views of Bikes for Humanity PDX. Rather B4HPDX welcomes conversations about cycling conditions as a means of engaging and empowering commuters, and fostering community around bicycling. 

These past few weeks, riding the stretch of Clinton between 12th and 21st, I have been so excited about the new diverters placed at 17th, that I didn’t notice until yesterday that there’s no longer a stop sign for bike traffic. the four-way has become a two-way stop, and cars heading north or south have to wait until the bikes are clear to carry on. But while that’s the beginning of a new era of the Clinton Street Bike Boulevard, that’s the end of the story to be told here. So let’s go back a little.


1924 map of streetcar system from

For anyone regularly commuting on Clinton in the last few years, it surely has felt like a rollercoaster of conditions. Ten years ago, 2 blocks to the north, Division Street was a quiet thoroughfare easily navigable by car. The old Division Line Road—representing the southern boundary of the original square mile plats established south of Section Line Road (now Stark) by the Willamette Stone marker in the West Hills—has an over century-long history of getting folks east and west by privatized non-human power. Clinton Street has an adjacent history which featured the Richmond Streetcar, quiet neighborhood usage, and what would ultimately become the iconic bikeway of SE Portland.

In lieu of the Mt. Hood Freeway or any other late-20th-century form of car-only freeway through Southeast Portland, drivers make their way downtown from the eastern suburbs by way of Powell, Division, Burnside, or heading further north to the east-west freeway that was built through Sullivan’s Gulch. Division and Burnside both have free car storage at the edge of their roads that suddenly become tow-away zones during rush hour. As a long-time volunteer for the IPRC at 10th and Division, I can testify to how frustrating it is for a person to come out of whatever they started doing at 4pm when the street was full of parked, and to find no car at all, least of all theirs. And for those driving east on Burnside in the right lane after rush hour, it can be quite a shock to suddenly find a parked car where you expected to roll on at 35 miles an hour.

Letting folks drive their cars successfully during peak hours on these east-west arterials is obviously a delicate dance. It is built on a combination of state, local, and federal transportation policy, daily habits, and unexpected changes. One such change is the dramatic development along Division. Nothing throws a wrench in the commute of a stream of cars like someone trying to parallel park, a family crossing the street to do some window shopping, or the wait at an internationally recognized restaurant spilling into the street. Sleepy Division has become a destination, for tourists and new arrivals alike, and a model for Hales-era mixed-use density. Blocks that previously housed a dozen or so folks in single-family homes, now hold stories of apartments, letting dozens more live where only a few did before. The old model—gas-powered thruway on Division, people-powered greenway on Clinton—began to flip a little as Division became an affluent pedestrian’s paradise, bike corrals began to replace parking spots, and as cars began to choose Clinton over Division because of ubiquitous construction, parallel-parking tourists, and general living, breathing city hubbub.

However dramatically Clinton has changed as adjacent Division has developed, the changes that have occurred only in the last month, the first of 2016, cannot be understated. I moved out to the end of the Clinton Street Bikeway in the summer of 2013 and rode it nearly every day. However, my 3-9pm job on the west side took me down the hill at a quiet time in the afternoon, and back up it at an even quieter hour. The bike-centric infrastructure at Cesar Chavez made the whole experience even more pleasant as I would trip the signal approaching the light, and wouldn’t even have to decelerate before it would change for me, forcing any cars to turn off Clinton. As my schedule began to change and I would ride at variable times, I could see that not all was well on Clinton after all. One Friday night climbing east it felt like I was in the parking lot of a festival, with doors swinging open, cars 3-point turning and trying to park, and pedestrians crossing the street en masse on their way to experience Portland’s newest destination.

An organization of Southeasterners formed to stand up for bicyclists, residents, and families who had become used to a Clinton without heavy car traffic. The expectation of a greenway is what I often see on Clinton: folks of all ages on the sidewalks, runners comfortable enough to opt to run in the street and give pedestrians wider berth on the sidewalk, bikes fully taking the lane, and the occasional car driving a block or two before opting for a more explicitly car-centric space. However, with construction on Division, new residents, and more visitors, this was decreasingly the reality. There was nothing to prevent a car from driving along Clinton from 38th to 12th, and going 15 miles an hour behind a cyclist may easily be considered more pleasant than stopping and starting that whole way and averaging about the same speed. And so Bike Loud PDX was formed, and their guerrilla diverters installed. Jonathan Maus, founder and editor of BikePortland, received a phone call at 4:33 in the morning saying he should come down to 34th and Clinton and check out an example of direct citizen involvement in neighborhood planning.

By the time he got there, Maus writes, “City of Portland crews were busy removing six large steel drums that had been placed in an arc on SE Clinton. The drums were placed on their sides and they stayed in place thanks to square steel rods welded onto them. A hole was cut into the middle where soil and plants had been placed. Each drum was hand-painted with an array of colorful scenes. One of them had ‘Don’t drive, fly a kite,’ scrawled on the side.”

Around this same time, members of the community looking at that same intersection, wanted to take out a lane on the stretch of 34th connecting Division and Clinton. Nothing seemed to come of those efforts either, and time passed. In the summer of 2015 the mayor started to ride his bike to work, and the first commute started at 26th and Clinton. With his entourage of half a dozen cyclists, Hales was spared any dangerous passes for the 5 block stretch to 21st and the Ladd’s Addition jog to the Hawthorne Bridge, and there the story of a safer Clinton stagnated.

Suddenly stagnation became action as the new year began. Paint lines marking extended curbs began to be cut out of the street, and those marking future diverters at 17th forbade something positive for bike commuters. What was most exciting, especially for Bikes for Humanity volunteers and clients who rely on Clinton to ride from the west, and 34th coming from the north, was what I saw riding down Clinton on January 6th:


Automotive traffic was no longer allowed from Division south to Clinton, and bikes received a prominent sharrow for the ride south. The only complication is at the Division end cars are still allowed to enter the street to access the parking lot at the other end for a drive-in style restaurant turned noodle house, whose entrance you can see here in the foreground:

CYEuWhcUsAAd-M4Look to this BikePortland article for a detailed analysis of this 50-foot stretch before the bikeway takes over. Things got even more exciting as the diverters at 17th were put in, but those at 32nd seemed instead to incite confusion, from bicyclists and drivers alike. When I first saw them on January 11th a group was asking cyclists to sign a giant thank you card to PBOT, which I was happy to do. There was a celebratory feeling in the air in front of the Clinton Street Market on 34th, free cookies, and the David Bowie memorial ride ended there. In the next week, every ride I took past the new “semi diverters” at 32nd, I saw either curious onlookers, confused cyclists, or a car deciding to cut through past the temporary blocks anyhow.

In this last case it seems the infrastructure had turned cars into the scofflaws that bicyclists are notoriously labeled. Had the tables turned? Were these cars politically conscious rule breakers seeking to make a point? Was this a peculiarly American form of civil disobedience fighting for the rights of free mobility in the way that critical mass once flipped the script of automotive dominance?

One could easily argue, no, of course not, but an incident the following weekend would be more instructive. A cyclist was headed down Clinton, headed west from 34th, about to enter the intersection when 34th when it became apparent the car was going to illegally continue east by skirting into the oncoming lane around the barrels of concrete. PJ happens to be a bike activist, “a reluctant loudmouth activist” in his twitter profile, “loudmouth” because what he speaks up for seems ludicrously obvious. “I wish I didn’t have to complain about stuff,” he says, “and I wouldn’t if it weren’t broken. That’s why ‘reluctant.'” With this in mind, and being of a community which has spent years of trying to get functioning diverters in this spot, PJ refused to yield to this car, offering a second chance for it to make the legal choice to turn north or south on 32nd. Its driver refused, creating yet another January stand off in our fine state of Oregon. But unlike two armed groups on two sides of a wildlife refuge, there is a huge imbalance between a bike and a car: one is violent and the other is not. As PJ writes, “until we understand the asymmetry of power in travel modes, we will get nowhere.”

The only statement made by someone driving a car where they are not supposed to is that the safety of others exists beneath convenience, while a bicyclist who rides where they are not “supposed to” makes a point of the danger inherent in urban spaces handed over completely to the car. PJ’s front wheel-to-bumper stand off with this car symbolizes this disconnect between the perceptions of drivers with those who ride exposed next to them, or in this case in front of them. When the driver attempted to communicate by accelerating into PJ, it may have felt like a stern request that he be let through. But to PJ this felt like assault, and very likely would have been legally considered as such had the bystanders been on PJ’s side instead of imploring him to let the driver through. Ultimately, instead of choosing to run over PJ and his bicycle, the driver turned around, another minor victory for Clinton Street Bike Blvd.’s legacy as a viable greenway.

What PJ would liked to have seen instead, he says, was something along the lines of 16th and Tillamook in Northeast, in which a strip of concrete and planters force cars to turn right, with a little strip of raised cycle track that only bikes could fit through. The first example I had seen of this was when I first visited Eugene in the fall of 2004. I was walking with a friend through a park back to their house and encountered this peculiar piece of infrastructure. It was explained to me and my mind was blown. I didn’t even realize we were allowed to cut off car access to certain roads to make more livable spaces, much less actually make it happen. But we can. And I know in a few minutes when I head down Clinton, I won’t have to accelerate into the stop sign at 17th to prevent a car from passing me and stopping suddenly at the intersection. I can ease right through it knowing that some simple infrastructure will prevent the driver from continuing to let a ton of metal and explosions pursue me down the street.


Sidewalk Sale, Saturday February 6th, 10AM-6PM

Spring cleaning is coming early at our shop and classroom this year, and that means even better deals on already affordable bikes!


Our last sidewalk sale, summer 2015

Come on out to our shop on Powell the first Saturday of February to get a ready-to-ride commuter bike, a frame, parts or components for a project bike, or anything else we have on hand for a screaming deal. As we gear up for a new year of granting bikes, mechanics education, and free repairs at external events, we are culling the heard of bikes that don’t directly benefit our vision for the year. But getting bikes to people who need them is in line with our mission anyhow, and will allow us to reorganize the shop and streamline the work to be done therein. Our ultra-knowledgeable shop manager Chris will let you know everything that needs to be done to get these unfinished bikes road ready, and how much of an investment those refurbishments will run–we’ll even do it for you if you find yourself falling in love with one of these under-utilized beauties. We can schedule a time to get your bike in the stand and quote you a price. Better yet, you could become a volunteer and earn an hour of stand time for every two hours you devote to someone else’s future bike!

So spread the word: anyone who’s been looking to adopt a bike and become a commuter can get on the road and be set for the price of a few tanks of gas. Anyone who needs some new gear for a year of riding can browse our inventory donated from a bike shop in the Dalles. And anyone who wants a $500 Thule bike case for half the price, this little home for a bike needs a home!