My dissertation research included ethnographic work on N. Williams Ave. I revisit often. My most recent visit this week revealed yet another jarring tour of how rapidly this street is isolating and then removing longstanding, people of color-owned businesses and their clientele.
Graffiti on closed business, surrounded by new development construction
Bicycle infrastructure does not exist in an urban vacuum. Every stripe of white paint or paved railroad has social context. This I know from my quest to understand why some residents are reluctant/resistant to support particular types of bicycle planning. Specifically, those who highlight historical class, racial, ethnic, and cultural disparities as reasons to fight against a bike lane.
A few years ago, the Albina neighborhood was the site of a very public debate about how bicycle infrastructure and gentrification are linked. (white) Bicycle advocates struggled to see the link, but longtime African American residents knew what was about to happen. It was merely a predictable cycle.
The City of Portland ignored/disinvested from N. Williams Ave. for a long time. For many decades, Black businesses thrived. Then when developers and the City got antsy about “cleaning up” the area, the businesses and nearby residents disappeared at varying speeds.
This is what remains.
Adonia Lugo at the League of American Bicyclists and I co-wrote an academic piece about LA and Minneapolis’s “world class” bicycling. You can access the full article here. No log in or special access needed!
Article summary: In many U.S.metropolitan areas, bicycle advocates have been breathing sighs of relief as their elected officials join with them in fighting for bicycle facilities. No longer a battle between bicyclists and their government, the partnerships have blossomed into more than just bicycle paths. Through two case studies, we explore how politicians are exploiting the growing appeal of bicycle culture for economic development. In Los Angeles an open streets event, CicLAvia, brings together a diverse array of residents but politicians and local business owners celebrate it for its potential to increase downtown development. In Minneapolis, the city government appears to have used a popular off-street bicycle path to ‘clean up’ areas of town and create prime real estate for luxury apartments. The city’s mayor unabashedly connects his dedication to bicycle infrastructure to recruiting the ‘creative class’ to Minneapolis. In this article we argue that advocates and policymakers who frame bicycle amenities as ‘creative class’ bait ignore and potentially undermine bicycle mobility by those who do not fit into this desired group of
citizens. Furthermore, conflating the practice of bicycling with specific urban development projects designed to accommodate it, limits what can be seen as ‘bike friendly’ neighbourhoods and manufactures scarcity in what should be a public resource: urban street.
I just returned from a four-day trip to Phoenix, Arizona. It was my first visit to the Southwest. The four days were spent with my boyfriend (Dakota) exploring a large swath of the Phoenix area including Tempe and Scottsdale. We managed to utilize every form of transportation available: light rail, bicycle, walking, private car, taxi, bus, and pedicab. In short, I was pleasantly surprised by my visit. My expectation of it being merely a place to not be shivering cold was greatly exceeded. Beyond the amazing vegan food, friendly people, diverse population, and fantastic street art I grew very curious about the bike culture which in it of itself could have held my attention for the entire trip.
Almost instantly upon walking my first few steps in the downtown area, something seemed really strange about biking in Phoenix. Not only were a lot of people bicycling, but the people bicycling were meant to be invisible.
My blog post about the media coverage of Marcus Nalls was re-posted by The Huffington Post. You can check it out here.