BikePortland just posted a link to a LA's Westside Bikeside blog, which features a somewhat bizarre discussion about bikes, race and Portland between LA's bike planner Michelle Mowery and City Councilman Bill Rosendahl.
LA hired Portland's much-lauded Alta Planning to write up its bike plan but, at least according to BikeSide and Rosendahl, the bike planners did not do good outreach or engage the community very well. What's up with that? Was the money spent poorly? No, says Mowery, LA is doing a worse job of bike planning because it's larger and more racially diverse. Notice that she begins her statement "with all due respect":
"With all due respect the City of Portland is 450,000 people. It’s a homogeneous community that is very white, and very progressive with respect to transportation. They have a trolley system that works very well, as well as their transit overall. We are a very diverse, disjointed city of 4 million people. They are 30 years ahead of us in the development of their, well, they’re not quite 30, they’re more like 20 years ahead of us in the development of their bikeway."
Alex Thompson at Westside Bikeside sounds off:
By saying that Portland is homogeneous and LA diverse, Mowery seems to be making an argument that diverse places are inherently slower to adopt bicycles, or inherently dysfunctional politically. It’s not clear to me, but it smacks of a freshman political science major selling a bad theory. I can think of two examples of racially diverse cities that are politically functional (at least as compares to LA), and are making huge strides toward bike friendliness.
Biking as a "white thing" is an issue Portland's Community Cycling Center is currently exploring as part of a project identifying barriers to biking in Portland.