It’s one thing when when haters or NIMBYs put up an anti-bicycling sign. It’s another thing when a city government staffer does it. And it’s on a whole different level when a city staffer does it with what feels like an intent to push an agenda that doesn’t even align with city policy.
That’s why I and many readers were so dismayed by the signs installed in Mt. Tabor Park late last month. When an eagle-eyed reader first told me about the signs, they seemed so legit that I immediately gave the Portland Parks & Recreation bureau the benefit of the doubt. But as I looked into it further and then heard from another reader who had similar concerns, the incident came into focus. As I reported last week, a Parks staffer acknowledged the signs were legit and told the concerned citizen that the signs aligned with their preference for keeping bicycles off unpaved roads in the park.
The problem of course, is that bikes are actually allowed on some unpaved roads and paths in the park. And the signs — which were erected in a misleading location — also referenced nonexistent and non-applicable city code in what appeared to be an attempt to threaten law-abiding park users with enforcement. Thankfully Parks took down the signs once the situation became public.
Even though the signs were quickly removed, I remained unsettled about the idea that there might be rogue city employees using our tax dollars to create and install bogus, anti-bicycling signage. I emailed Parks Commissioner Dan Ryan’s office to ask if my view of the incident was correct. And if I was reading the situation correctly, I wanted to know if that employee (or employees) would face any discipline.
Ryan’s office passed my inquiry over to Portland Parks media relations leader Mark Ross. He said the sign was installed in error and there is no disciplinary action planned for any employees. Ross referred to the episode as a “mistake” (he previously said it was “unintentional”). Ross also said:
“Portland Parks & Recreation appreciates a neighbor bringing it to our attention. We are making sure that staff across the Bureau follow protocols about ensuring content is accurate and appropriate before signs are installed in the Portland Parks & Recreation system.”
Ross then reiterated that Parks is working on creating a clearer map (confusion over usage rules at Mt. Tabor Park have led to people yelling at bike riders) and a “system-wide comprehensive signage program that will prioritize safety and be informed by city code.” Ross added that they intend to look at bureau-wide signage practices in order to “improve protocols and avoid errors going forward.”
I’ve heard Ross mention that effort before, and it sounds like something that will improve our Parks for everyone. When asked for more details, Ross said Parks has not yet identified a project manager but the effort is in the planning queue. That’s a good sign. We’ll keep our eyes and ears open for an developments.