Hierarchism – A Foundation of Discrimination

Hierarchism – Keen awareness and importance of social hierarchies, such as status, wealth, and power.

Hierarchist – One who gives high priority and importance to social hierarchies.  This may manifest in (1) intense motivation to get to the top, in (2) feeling threatened by and in competition with those perceived as below them, (3) an interest to distinguish themselves from other groups and degrade their standing, and (4) in the envy and reverence of those above them or at the top with whom they identify.


This article introduces the concept of hierarchism as an overarching characteristic that manifests discrimination of all types.  

Today’s society is battling racism, homophobia, misogyny, patriarchy, transphobia, anti-Semitism, police brutality, anti-Muslim, anti-science, anti-press, anti-government, anti-environmentalism, and fascism, to name a few.  These are antisocial ideologies that result in social unrest, individual oppression and harm, and environmental degradation. We find many of these discriminatory ideas perpetuated by the same people.  A racist will commonly also be homophobic and anti-government, for example.  As such, racism may be a phenomenon of a higher order than just enmity toward people of color.  This article suggests that hierarchism is a root characteristic that motivates and energizes all these types of discrimination. 

To be clear, this article is not suggesting that all types of discrimination are a product of hierarchism.  Nor is there any intent to reduce or deflect attention from these individual discriminations and the battles to eliminate them individually.  They each have their own sources, causes, and solutions, and must be addressed accordingly. This article is meant to further deconstruct the root causes of discrimination, colonization, with an antiracist purpose.

Note that this author is a 62-year old white male that has not experienced discrimination, has little expertise in this field beyond reading a few books on the matter, but hopes that this brings value to the antiracist movement.

This concept is also being introduced because it applies to the author’s focal topic of transportation injustice.  Hierarchism applies to our societal and institutional preference for cars over transit, biking, and walking, which currently have a stigma of inferiority. However, this is a topic for another article. 

Continue reading “Hierarchism – A Foundation of Discrimination”

Portland’s Epic Fail on The Hawthorne Decision – The Planning, Engineering, and Decider Disconnect

Portland has been a leader in the discipline of Planning for decades, and still is, but the disconnect is between Planning, Engineering, and the Deciders, and it’s systemic.  We cannot get to where we want until the system is fixed, and PBOT now has the right leader to do it, Commissioner Hardesty.  

In February 2021, PBOT (Portland Bureau of Transportation) had the chance to set the new paradigm for street space allocation, and it failed miserably. Epically.  This project could have been a model example locally and nationally, but instead PBOT continued its decade-long trend of car-oriented decisions.

While Portland has plans to aggressively reduce transportation-induced GHGs and traffic violence, they are increasing because good Plans do not trickle down to the Deciders, and those people are car-centric. 

To cause the mode shift necessary to meet the GHG and Vision Zero targets, paradigm shifts in pavement reallocation to other modes is necessary.  The mode shifts necessary are explicitly described in the 2015 Climate Action Plan, and mode priorities are explicitly described in the Transportation System Plan (TSP), and these were ignored and left out of the decision criteria for The Hawthorne Decision. 

The Deciders chose Alternative 2, which will result in no mode shift and no change in safety. Choosing Alternative 3 would have initiated a serious road space reallocation, optimized bike access, maximized safety, and had a seriously positive effect on the street environment, business, and ultimately on Portland’s future. The Hawthorne Decision is on the wrong side of justice. 

Continue reading “Portland’s Epic Fail on The Hawthorne Decision – The Planning, Engineering, and Decider Disconnect”

ODOT and the Rose Quarter: Inequitable Policies and Leaders that Continue Them.

In the first week of April, two different committees – one elected (Metro Council) and one appointed (Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC)) — made decisions that will move forward the widening of a 1.5-mile section of I-5 Rose Quarter for nearly $1 billion through a community of color writhing from decades of abuse from city planning. This project is clearly antithetical to the priorities propounded by our city, state, and regional leaders — climate change, Vision Zero (no traffic deaths), and racial justice – the triple threat.

After 60 years of these highway projects, we know what the reasons and results are: $1B to placate the ruling class and business community, at the expense of a community of color, adding car trips and crashes to our streets while not solving congestion, and exhausting funds that could solve these problems rather than exacerbate them.

So, What Went Wrong?

I contend there are 3 major issues here:

  1. Institutional Intransigence: ODOT was developed under systemic racism for white flight, and has systemic racism built into every plan, performance measure, and design standard. It has had decades to build a legislative lobby and a sham public process to grow its authority and revenue without any agenda change.
  2. The Talk and Walk Disparity: We have important people at the state, regional, and local levels that can talk eloquently about equity, climate, and Vision Zero, but then vote against them.
  3. The Inequity Norm: Most of us believe our democratic and public process creates equity, but no; it maintains and exacerbates inequity and privilege. Business-as-usual maintains privilege.

Quotes that align nicely with the above issues:

“We know that as we built unjust social systems and unjust legal systems and unjust freeways and unsafe streets… we can unbuild them.” Rukaiyah Adams, 2019.

“Only the language was polite; the rejection was firm and unequivocal.” Martin Luther King.

“As we critique the racist power, we show our privilege and inaction by critiquing every effective strategy, ultimately justifying our inaction on the comfortable seat of privilege. “ Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, How to be an Antiracist, p 214.

Continue reading “ODOT and the Rose Quarter: Inequitable Policies and Leaders that Continue Them.”

Portland’s Climate-Denying Freeway Plans and ODOT’s Public Deception

Portland has been a national leader in transportation, and now it is about to become a national failure at a time of crisis. Portland will go backward, when it has the funds, the knowledge, and the wherewithal to move forward.

Portland’s Planning

For a city known for its environmentalism, urban planning, public transportation, public involvement, and progressive politicians, Portland is about to blasphemize the Sunrise Movement, the Albina Vision Plan, Portland Public Schools, and its national environmental reputation. ODOT, in cooperation with “Climate” Governor Kate Brown, Mayor Ted Wheeler, and Metro President Lynn Peterson are about to step aside and watch ODOT jam billions of dollars of freeway-widening projects down our proverbial throats with the claim that it’s good for the climate and has no effect on equity.  ODOT has produced a deceitful Rose Quarter Environmental Assessment (EA) that claims this, and has a new Director willing to propagate this fully-debunked myth.

These projects will result —  as all highway expansions do — in more VMT, more GHG emissions, more deaths, and less walking, biking, and transit use, while worsening social equity; exactly the opposite of what we need in this time of crisis.

Old-School ODOT

Continue reading “Portland’s Climate-Denying Freeway Plans and ODOT’s Public Deception”

The Right-Hand Rule for Passing a Bike

Combined 2

In all my years as a driver, a cyclist, and a transportation planner, I have never seen or heard driving instructions on how to pass a bike, so here are mine. Please comment on them (email at bottom), if you think they could be improved. Also, save, share, and distribute the illustration or the illustration with the full description, if you think it’s helpful.  I am imagining only good can come from this.

Since I was a kid, I have had instructions on how to walk across a street firmly jammed into my head. Look both ways. Don’t run. They include a cute little limerick:

  • Stop, look, and listen,
  • before you cross the street.
  • First you use your eyes and ears,
  • and then you use your feet.

Riding a bicycle is a bit dangerous on its own, even before taking it out in traffic. We have all had bad bike wrecks that did not involve cars, however, most bike deaths involve a motor vehicle. According to the National Center for Health Statistics: of U.S. “preventable” cycling deaths in 2017, 66% (2/3) of them involved motor vehicles.  One study indicated that in 50% of these car-bike crashes, the fault was attributed to the driver. Continue reading “The Right-Hand Rule for Passing a Bike”

Bad Transportation Planning in a Time of Crisis – Bloomington, IN.

“I want you to panic… I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.” Greta Thunberg, Jan 24, 2019

I have been watching the leaders of my hometown of Bloomington, Indiana claim a concern for climate and equity, create GHG inventories, action plans, and transportation plans, and then go on with business-as-usual, or worse, as if just writing the documents was enough. I’m frightened to find that some of the most progressive cities in the U.S. are behaving similarly, like Portland, Eugene, and Los Angeles.

Let’s be honest, our transportation system in the US is an unjust, unsustainable, inequitable system that must change. It is car-centric, it kills 40,000 people annually, it is most cities’ largest GHG producer, it is a massive burden on the poor, and it wrongly prioritizes cars over transit because the ruling class prefers them. Continue reading “Bad Transportation Planning in a Time of Crisis – Bloomington, IN.”

Transportation’s Exclusionary Measure “v/c” (volume/capacity) currently means vehicles/color.

When it became illegal to overtly exclude people of color from purchasing neighborhood homes, the powers-that-be excluded people more subtly using land-use codes and neighborhood covenants like single-family residential zones, minimum lot sizes, and minimum square footage.   In transportation, two extensively-used measures that exclude are v/c (volume/capacity) and LOS (Level-of-Service; derived directly from v/c).

The traffic engineering standard of v/c has been used for decades to describe how well a road can handle its traffic, and to determine when a road needs more lanes. Atlanta StreetAs v (actual traffic volume) approaches c (maximum volume at capacity) and v/c nears the value of 1, the road congests.  The practice is to reduce v/c below a specified maximum value (an “engineering standard”) by increasing the road capacity “c” with added lanes until v/c is below the standard, and will stay below it for the next 20 years. Continue reading “Transportation’s Exclusionary Measure “v/c” (volume/capacity) currently means vehicles/color.”

Midblock Pedestrian Crosswalks – It’s Time for a Sign

It is time.  It is time for pedestrians to have a real, regulatory, and instructive sign of their own at midblock crosswalks that drivers recognize and heed.   A Yield-to-Pedestrians sign.

Midblock crosswalks are often just markings on the pavement, and drivers don’t see them until they are on top of them.


Of course, there are plenty of drivers that are unaware they are required to yield to pedestrians, and some that are simply uninterested in yielding.  Compliance is abysmal, and that is why pedestrians get hit — and both compliance and injuries get worse with higher-speed roads.  Continue reading “Midblock Pedestrian Crosswalks – It’s Time for a Sign”