Bike Lanes: White People Ruin Everything

Well, that's it. Today I found out that the North Williams Stakeholder Advisory Committee has reached a decision and decided to go ahead with the bike lane expansion on North Williams Avenue. This, after months of debate, is yet another blow to the historical African American community in North Portland. What disgusts me most were the circus antics of the committee and City Council, pretending to give a shit what residents think. 

One of the biggest problems with the average Portlander is they have no idea what gentrification is, or how they're contributing to it. Portland used to have a vibrant Black community centered by a "main street" that is now occupied by the Rose Quarter transit center and highway ramps. Now as then, the city has ignored the history and legitimacy of the Black community in Portland. 

People continue to move here, and these people are overwhelmingly White, upper-middle class educated heterosexual couples. One such citizen, Angela Goldsmith, was interviewed by the Portland Mercury in their article "It's Not About the Bikes" (http://www.portlandmercury.com/portland/its-not-about-the-bikes/Content?oid=5619639) and opined: "I'm not selling my property so I don't give a shit." Really classy. Turns out Goldsmith was one of the first gentrifiers to swoop in after the construction of the Legacy hospital (which displaced hundreds of Black families and shut down local business) and buy a house. She now owns three properties in the area. I feel like Ms. Goldsmith is a prime example of the issues surrounding gentrification and the N. Williams Avenue problem. It's easy for a White person with power, privilege and money to dismiss the concerns as trifling.

I'm not really sure what else to say. I'm really angry right now, but honestly not surprised. I should have expected it. Right now I'm just questioning what I can do to fight back on behalf of the Black community. At least I'm talking about it.

For further reading about Portland's sordid history of gentrification and discrimination, please read Karen J. Gibson's "Bleeding Albina, A History of Community Disinvestment, 1940-2000". It can be found here: (http://www.kingneighborhood.org/history/Bleeding%20Albina:%20A%20History%20of%20Community%20Disinvestment,%201940-2000.pdf)

3 comentarios:

  1. I'm confused. How will the bike lane expansion drive out People of Color in Portland? I know here in SF gentrification operates in one way whereby young Whites move into a neighborhood and drive housing prices up, forcing out People of Color who can't afford to keep up. But aside from that I've never quite understood the concept as well as I should.

    1. There was a study done here in Portland in 2010 (I think--I'll have to find it) that showed people who commute by bike are disproportionately White. They tend to have better jobs which allow them the luxury of commuting nearby, showers at work, biking "culture" in the workplace etc. On the reverse, communities of color tend to be further out from the city center, with less access to bike commuting and in unsafe roadways. The cost of maintaining and owning a bike was also quoted as prohibited. Unfortunately, it seems that biking in Portland is something of a privilege. The issue in regards to Williams Avenue is that the street has already been embroiled in this gentrification dispute and many longtime (Black) residents feel that expanding the bike lane encourages more influx of White people in the area and spurs gentrification on as the area becomes even more "desirable" to upwardly mobile White families looking to buy a house/settle into a neighborhood.
      I hope this makes more sense. Also for the record, I'm not anti-bike or anti-bike lanes. I'm just anti-gentrification.

  2. Oh, and I want to clarify that the study was done in Portland by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.