Aaron Renier
Two Fridays ago, Mayor Potter touched a nerve when he hopped on his bike and joined Critical Mass--a small group of activist cyclists--for their evening commute. Critical Mass is one of Portland's most recognized events, but one that had been pointedly ignored by the previous mayor.

"What's the big deal," Potter exclaimed just before the ride took off, "it's just a bike ride."

But for the Oregonian editorial board--a largely anonymous group made up of seemingly self-righteous conservatives--it was a big deal. Last week the Oregonian shouted down Potter, using an unsigned editorial, a huffing-and-puffing column, and several letters to the editor as their megaphone.

The first volley of attacks came on Tuesday morning when the editorial board called Potter's decision to join the Critical Mass ride "more than a little puzzling." They lambasted Potter for endorsing an activity that, at its core, is an attempt to bring attention to bicycle safety and biking as an alternative means for commuting--even if that means slowing down other gasoline-powered commuters one night per month.

Referring to car commuters, the editorial reads: "But who the heck cares about them? All they do is contribute to the economy of one of the rare American central cities that works pretty well." And in a confusing stab at sarcasm, the editorial adds, "And, anyway, they probably just live in the suburbs."

But, as usual, the editorial board chose to skip over any facts, figures, or statistics. Instead they chose to appeal to the lowest common denominator, lumping citizens into two groups: car commuters and productive members of Portland society, or egocentric cyclists. But here are facts the Oregonian chose to ignore: the Bicycle Transportation Alliance estimates as many as 10 percent of residents bike to work each day. Furthermore, by easing parking constraints and traffic congestion, these cyclists contribute greatly to the "rare central city" that this editorial board seems to value so greatly.

Furthermore, the Oregonian goes on to chastise Potter for wasting time on "weird" events such as Critical Mass. "Sometimes mayors have to promise to solve a problem by working on policies and city ordinances and other boring stuff like that," they wrote. But again the editorial obscures information and purposefully misleads for the sake of their misguided point. For starters, Potter devoted all of 45 minutes to the bike ride; time, it should be noted, that was after his working hours, on a Friday evening.

Although the Mercury may not always be 100% behind Potter, at least he's making an effort to listen to ignored voices of the city--which in this divisive time is perhaps the most important chore for an elected official. On the other side of the coin, the Oregonian editorial board is seemingly hell-bent on driving wedges between this city's factions--between, for example, cyclists and drivers, as well as the city and suburbs.

Consider a few recent scrapes between cyclists and motorists--and not by just any motorists, but city employees. A year ago, the assistant director for the Office of Emergency Management nearly mowed down a cyclist and then threatened the woman: "I'm a city employee and can have you arrested!" And, this past Thursday, Channel 8 ran a story about another cyclist who also was run down by a city employee.

This is not the first time the Oregonian has vilified cyclists. A year ago, columnist Renee S. Mitchell published a list of tirades from her readers regarding cyclists. When one reader, Dawn Lewis, left an agitated voicemail, Mitchell put her unfiltered comments into the paper: "The bicyclists in this town drive me crazy," stated Lewis. "I would love to see one of them get hit by a bus. Not killed but just shaken up."

Two days later, this mean-spirited wish came true when a bicyclist was killed in broad daylight by a Tri-Met bus.

For Potter to join Critical Mass sends an important message: regardless of what has happened in the past, city hall supports cyclists. Kudos to Potter for trying to bring a solution to the table--as opposed to the Oregonian, who seems all too happy to perpetuate the problem.