Bikes for All: The morning after
Bikes for All, a community conversation about access to bicycles and transportation and health equity took place last night at the New Columbia community center in N Portland. It was our first open forum conversation like this. We planned as best we could, spread the word, hoped people would show up, prayed that people would participate in the conversation. How was it? In a word: magic.
Read the notes for a detailed description.
About 50 people showed up, ranging from community members to activists to program providers to policy makers. We munched on tasty tamales from Hacienda’s MicroMercantes program as we put on our nametags.
Shelli Romero, the evening’s emcee and Oregon Department of Transportation employee, introduced the evening’s topics and the two other presenters â€“ me and Joseph Santos-Lyons from OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon.
Joseph presented first, launching into an eloquent introduction about how equity is about fairness, not about sameness, and how transportation is a major cost in everyone’s lives. He also encouraged everyone to think differently about who we consider to be our allies and networks.
Shelli Romero then talked about how she learned about social justice and activism from her parents and the work that she is doing at ODOT to increase access to the I-205 path.
From there, the conversation opened up for anyone to ask questions, offer observations, or share ideas. The conversation was intimate, honest, and open. Everyone listened actively and shared their questions and knowledge. The conversation that resulted was really incredible, ranging from clarifying questions, “What’s equity?” to more specific questions like “Are there bicycling encouragement programs for senior citizens?”
A few highlights:
- Two New Columbia residents, Egbevado and Charles, told us about how they saw and jumped in on the Midnight Mystery ride. They didn’t know what it was at the time, but they found the lure of 300 riders at 1 am irresistible. Their tale of accidentally joining in on bike fun and ending up in a golf course, under sprinklers, with 300 strangers, had everyone chuckling.
- Charles then offered to show ODOT and PBOT the need for safer places to ride in N Portland. Greg Raisman, a city staffer, piped in and offered to take him up on the offer to ride together. The two are now organizing two rides – one where they see the neighborhood through a local’s eyes. The other is to show new routes the city is working on.
- More challenging questions and concerns emerged, too. Including: how do we reach the 60% of people who are “interested, but concerned”? and recognizing the need to create pathways for jobs and leadership for people of color within environmental, transportation, and social service organizations.
- We talked about the new, healthy convenience store soon to open at New Columbia and how putting in bike parking and ensuring people can walk and bike there safely will reinforce to the neighbors the healthy community vision they are working toward.
There were so many more amazing stories that are far too hard to describe in my exhausted and still adrenaline-fueled body. What I do know is that a lot of people want to work together to create a stronger, healthier, and more connected community.
Would you like to get involved? There are two upcoming opportunities for you to ride with folks and continue the conversation:
- Egbevado and Charles are organizing a group ride from McCoy Park to Kelly Point Park on Monday (8/23) at 10 am.
- Next Thursday is the Equity Ride. Organized by Shelli at ODOT and with help from many other organizations, this ride will explore the I 205 Multi-Use Path and will be punctuated by brief presentations from many different organizations working toward creating a more safe and equitable Portland.
After we’ve caught our breath, we’ll review feedback from last night’s conversation and write up the notes in a summary on our website.
Thanks to everyone who showed up last night. We are so excited to see where this road leads.
Written by Alison Graves, Executive Director
Photos by Ben Latterell