Seeding the Grassroots: Portland’s newest bike advocacy group

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ABC’s Community Bike Educator training.
(Photo: Cristina Mihaescu,
courtesy of the CCC)

Exciting news in Portland’s bike advocacy landscape — there’s a new organization and they’re on a roll.

Yesterday, the Community Cycling Center, a Portland bicycle advocacy and education nonprofit, announced their partnership with a new organization, Andando en Bicicletas en Cully (ABC) — the translation is ‘Riding Bikes in Cully,’ a neighborhood in Northeast Portland. The group consists of residents of nonprofit affordable housing community Hacienda CDC, who, as the press release says, “are interested in promoting bicycling for the health of their children and their community.”

ABC has already gotten off to a running start, conducting a survey to determine the community’s needs and interests and training a dozen residents to be Community Bike Educators — and then hiring them to teach bike maintenance and safety skills to their neighbors. You can view a photo gallery of these stoked and smiling individuals learning to change flats and unstick derailleurs here.

The survey results are pretty interesting. Click on that infographic to the left to see it all laid out. Basically, the vast majority of people in the Hacienda CDC community are interested in bicycling. Many of them already have bikes. But residents report that a major barrier to bicycling is simply not having a secure place to keep the things — beyond the frustrating logistical issue of where to lock up in or out of your small apartment, most households report having had a bicycle stolen. Having identified this problem, ABC is responding by fundraising to build a bike storage facility.

A little history: The Community Cycling Center did a major rehaul of its activities a few years back, which included launching a program called Understanding Barriers to Bicycling, which involves identifying communities with a lot of people who might want to bike and engaging with people to figure out what might improve their bike transportation options. And voila, they’ve figured out some interesting stuff (I wrote about some of it a couple of years ago).

All this listening has led up to the next phase of their program, which they call “collaborative advocacy.” And from this, the partnership behind ABC was born.

As far as I can tell, the CCC has been for years the only bicycle advocacy organization in bikey Portland actively reaching out beyond the rapidly gentrifying inner city. There’s a lot of awkward hand-wringing over race and class and bike lanes in the comments over at BikePortland, but few bike leaders seem to have been willing to go out and ask questions and absorb the potentially uncomfortable and game-changing information they might find.

The CCC has set their sights on doing it better, and it’s a model that other organizations locally — and elsewhere — would do well to follow. After all, as a brand-new study has just found, it’s not just rich hipsters who want to bike. People in low-income neighborhoods embrace active transportation options when real ones are available — but that reality and availability are major caveats. Let’s get on it, folks.

If y’all who are attending the National Bike Summit this week are reading this — please get up at your sessions and happy hours and say we need more collaborative advocacy now, please! After all, what’s the good of a bicycle revolution if it’s only available to people who can afford to access it?

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