Balloons, Bombs, and Back Alleys

Tags: , , , ,

Balloons, Bombs, and Back Alleys

Last Friday was a busy day in Roanoke for bike – and there I was taking the day off on my new compressed work week schedule.  First there was Intermodal Love, of which the folks at the Taubman Museum got some great photos (you may need a Facebook account to see them) and for which many balloons were released into the wild.  Kieren Culture organized the city’s first Alley Cat race, which I understand drew a crowd of about 25 racers, some of whom were visiting from Blacksburg.  Finally, the night ended with the first Starbomb from the Mill Mountain Star, inspired by Portland’s weekly Zoobomb and a direct result of the film Veer having been shown at the Taubman a few weeks ago.

Tomorrow is World Carfree Day, and those RIDE Solutions has been emphasizing transit and walking, you can always take the Carless Challenge to continue the bike theme (though, one way or the other, please consider registering for the Meals without Wheels and support great local restaurant Blue 5 in their support of World Carfree Day).

The best part, for me, is when I browse the photos of these events and see so many faces that I don’t recognize.  The hard work of the region’s core group of bike advocates and enthusiasts is paying off, and its great to see new people getting involved and getting excited.

3 thoughts on “Balloons, Bombs, and Back Alleys

  1. I wonder about the safety of Starbomb. Let’s hope no one gets hurt doing this. I wonder if they are riding down the Mill Mountain Greenway – if so there seems to be a lot of potential for injury to pedestrians.

    • I share your concerns, Don. It’s tough to find accident information on Zoobombing against which to compare, though the injuries that do happen seem to be the riders hurting themselves rather than bad interactions with cars/pedestrians. I hope everyone is careful out there.

  2. Zoobombers: Crackdown by cops is over the top
    Cyclists who fly down Portland’s West Hills plan to talk with police
    August 3, 2007
    Joseph Rose
    The Portland Oregonian

    Nearly 50 bicyclists gathered in a forest clearing in Portland’s West Hills, waiting in the twilight for someone to announce the start of last Sunday’s Zoobomb ride. Instead, they heard this: “The cops are waiting for us!”

    Rather than starting their weekly daredevil ride at the usual spot—a paved road near the Oregon Zoo where a scouting party reported seeing squad cars waiting—the bikers braved a curvy, gravel-patched route where some edges drop 20 feet or more into the darkness. They call it “back door.”

    But the Zoobombers, a group with a storied history of run-ins with Portland police, have grown weary of such cat-and-mouse games this summer. Next week, some of the cyclists plan to hold a Zoo-summit with the city’s traffic commander, hoping to end what they see as excessive enforcement of stop signs and red lights in recent weeks.

    “The pepper is showing up and just waiting for us in the dark,” said Morgan “Turbo” Nielsen, using Zoobomb code for the police. “Basically, on this ride, it’s pretty tough to stop every time you’re supposed to. It’s like someone wants to shut us down.”

    Portland police Lt. Mark Kruger, however, said there is no conspiracy to defuse the Zoobomb. The interim Traffic Division commander said the stepped-up patrols are a response to complaints about the late-night cyclists barreling past traffic flaggers in construction zones along West Burnside Street and zigzagging across lanes on U.S. 26.

    And a $30,000 Oregon Department of Transportation grant has helped pay for the stings. More than anything, Kruger said, he sees the effort as a way to make this fixture of the local bicycle culture safer.

    Police in unmarked patrol cars and on motorcycles cornered and ticketed 14 Zoobombers, including Nielsen, on July 15 after they allegedly rolled through a stop sign en masse near a U.S. 26 on-ramp. Last Sunday, police handed out 10 more citations—with $242 fines—along residential streets in the hills.

    This week, Kruger sat behind a computer monitor in his Southeast Portland office, showing video footage taken from police cruisers during Zoobombs. On the screen at one point, about a dozen riders, many without helmets and lights, weaved in and out of highway traffic. “The shoulder of the road is perfectly legal,” Kruger said. “But this lane-surfing, when they go all the way to the center lane, is dangerous. And it’s unacceptable.”

    Reluctant to stop the riders on the busy highway, especially since many Zoobombers openly admit trying to elude police who attempt to pull them over, Kruger said his officers try to nab them for stop-sign violations on their way to the off-ramps.

    Every Sunday after sunset for the past five years, the Zoobombers have piled onto MAX trains that take them to the Oregon Zoo station. After taking an elevator to the parking lot, they walk or ride their bikes to the top of a nearby hill, waiting for waves of riders to show up. About 10 p.m., following a countdown and a shout of “Zoobomb!” the pack zooms en masse into the city. Several runs down the hill typically end about 1 a.m. Occasionally, they take U.S. 26 between the zoo and Jefferson Street exits, a run they call “Hellway.”

    Similar run-ins with police last summer, when the highway was completely closed to bike traffic due to construction, led to a meeting with police at which the bombers agreed to stop running the highway for a while.

    If the bombers need to know why the police have started cracking down again, Kruger said, they should take a look at bicycle-fatality statistics. Riders running stop signs and red lights are among the leading causes of deadly collisions with vehicles, he said. Another: Drunk drivers hitting cyclists from behind—which Kruger says is his primary concern with the lane-surfing down the Sunset Highway.

    “All the ‘Keep Portland Weird’ bumper stickers in town aren’t going to save the Zoobombers from themselves,” Kruger said. The fact that the group didn’t ride U.S. 26 last Sunday and now wants a meeting with police, he added, shows “the message has been sent and received.”

    Portland attorney Mark Ginsberg, who specializes in representing bicyclists, will host the meeting—still in the final planning stages—at his downtown office. “The enforcement level is greater than in the past,” Ginsberg said. “I think this (meeting) will relieve some of the pressure.”

    Last Sunday, many regular Zoobombers were ready to ditch the “Hellway” route altogether, saying it isn’t worth the constant run-ins with traffic cops. “It’s fun,” said one rider, “but it’s dangerous and someone’s eventually going to die. And if someone dies, the Zoobomb’s over.”

    Thomas “T-Mass” Dealmeida, however, said he would argue against abandoning the run. “I’d end it to save Zoobomb,” he said, “but we’re all part of a phenomenon. And Hellway gives people driving out there a chance to see us doing crazy speeds like 35 or 40 mph—and to realize that, in fact, we’re in complete control.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Translate »