How Bike Racks Are Weaponized To Displace Unhoused People

In Portland, a set of mysteriously installed bike racks is prompting questions about their true purpose.

1 minute read

June 7, 2022, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Powell's Bookstore

Bike racks outside of Powell's City of Books, Portland, Oregon | LO Kin-hei / Shutterstock

In an article in the Portland Mercury, Alex Zielinski describes “perhaps the most Portland form of ‘hostile architecture’: bike racks.” A set of 22 bike racks was mysteriously installed on a block of NW Broadway, prompting questions about who installed them and why. 

“Notably, this wall of bike racks appeared in front of what appears to be a vacant, boarded-up building with no attractions that would require hoards of bike parking,” Zielinski points out. However, “It's not unusual for multiple tents and other ad-hoc shelters to line this block in particular. The city's homeless encampment reporting system shows that members of the public have repeatedly reported campers on the sidewalk that's now dotted with bike racks.”

Portland isn’t the only place where bike racks have served as an anti-homeless measure. “In 2017, Seattle's transportation department coordinated with police to install bike racks on a sidewalk shortly after sweeping a homeless camp in the area. In this case, however, it's not a city-sponsored program.” In fact, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) was not aware of the installation. The owner of the adjacent vacant property did not respond to an inquiry about the bike racks.

Thursday, June 2, 2022 in The Portland Mercury

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