Sunday, December 10

Holiday Bike Drive

Today I was witness to an amazing feet of innovative community support. The Community Cycling Center runs it's annual Holiday Bike Drive, which gives hundreds of bikes away to low-income children. The CCC (as it's commonly called) is a non-profit organization devoted to helping people who cannot afford a bike to recieve not only a means of transportation, but a full education in safety as well. This year's Bike Drive was no exception in this goal. I was privilaged enough to have a few minutes with Alison Hill, the new director for CCC. She was very proud to talk about the new safety programs at the drive. These courses would ensure that both the children as well as their parents have a basic understanding of how to safely ride their bikes. I believe that it's very important to include parents in these safety classes. Since most parents themselves did not have this opportunity, they get an understanding of what children need to know on the road. Since most of these children, in their excitement to get a bike, may remember only part of what they learn. Mom and Dad, who's primary interest is keeping the young ones safe, can listen and remind the kids how to be safe.
We were all appreciative of Legacy Emanuel Hospital which was kind enough to host this enormous event. They generously gave the use of not only their lobby and a beautiful courtyard, but also the highly valuable driveway. Of course the bike drive was only possible due to the dozens of folks who gave their time and energy to check bikes, teach safety, organize people, and especially the brave men and women who stood outside in 20mph winds teaching kids how to ride and turn and stop.
This drive particularly hit home for me because in my younger years I enjoyed a freedom that most of my friends missed out on. Because I was allowed to travel around on my bicycle, I had the freedom to go anywhere in my neighborhood (and later the whole city) that I wanted to. It touches me on a very personal level when I hear about children who are obese, or who cannot leave their house because 'it's so scary out there.' I feel that children who never develop a sense of independance is at least as frightening.
I wish the CCC great success with their continued work to get Portland's population healthy, active, mobile, and happy.

Tuesday, November 21

Safety Dance

Traffic Calming
As I was heading down 41st to get a bike fixed, I ran into Joe, Ryan, and AmyEllen who were impossible to miss in their bright orange shirts. What these brave folks were doing was calming traffic on this semi-arterial known for speeding. The project was called Safety Dance, and these folks were Dancin in the Street to slow traffic. As I reported earlier, Americans are becoming increasingly frustrated with local governments which show little courage in keeping vehicles from threatening public safety. Folks are taking measures into their own hands in various forms. From Car Free Days, to political advocacy, to actions such as this which temporarilly ensure a safe throughway. I talked with the folks here about what could be done to humanize the street. It becomes difficult because the street is considered sacrosanct by the law. So it is illigal to put a blockage of any kind within the public roadway (of course sidewalks are okay). I suggested to them that one way to do this without a huge amount of work, would be to run a rope across the street and hang a safety banner above the traffic. This would be legal (I think) and effective. For the time being I applaud their efforts to regain control of our public thoroughfares for people.

"You can make a road for people, or you can make a road for cars.
You cannot make both."
Former Mayor Enrique PeƱalosa

Wednesday, November 1

Sellwood Bridge -When Can We Cross?

Recently I attended the first open house for the developing Sellwood Bridge Project. I spoke with several folks there and learned how incredibly complicated the issue is.

First of all the bridge is completely unrepairable. According to Reid Kells (vice president of SMILE), the west approach is barely holding due to shifting soil, the deck is falling through in multiple places, and the main structure is being constantly bandaged. I asked what the chances were of any section of the bridge completely failing before a replacement could be built. I was told the chances were about 50/50.

It was amazing to learn that the Sellwood bridge handles 30,000 vehicles per day (it was designed for 15,000), which is the same amount as the Hawthorne and Broadway Bridges. Given the size of many vehicles today, that averages out to 75,000 tons. (more on this). It should go without saying that if proper bicycle and public transit facilities had been implemented, the weight issue wouldn't be so prominant. According to an ODOT representative, 10,000 bicycles cause the same amount of damage to the roadway as a single motor vehicle.

We all know that the bike path on this bridge is absurdly inadequate. On this the everyone is in agreement. Not only is the sidewalk barely wide enough for pedestrians (much less both modes) but the west access is laughable. Nearly all comments supported more sensible bike/pedestrian space.
Unfortunately as with any transportation improvement project (I mean this in the truest form of the term), the issue comes down to dollars, which is why federal money is being sought to cover the difference. This of course requires a more lengthy development process.

As part of this process, the Sellwood Bridge community (mostly through SMILE) hosted the scoping meeting in order to give and recieve thoughts from the public. I was impressed by the sheer volume of materials that was available (it's still available online). And for public input there were huge boards where we could give our thoughts on different aspects of the river crossing.
One piece that was freighteningly important is that while the bridge was actually built in 1925, some of the structure had been recycled from the first Burnside Bridge (circa 1894). Since these girders had actually been designed for horse carraiges and trolleys, it's no wonder that they're failing under the load of innumerable SUVs and pickups.

The good news is that both local residents and Portland Metro agree that no more than two lanes are preferred. Metro's recommendations are to replace the Sellwood Bridge as a 2-lane bridge with improved bike/ped facilities. They recommend handling increased traffic via improvements to the Ross Island and I-205 bridges.

The solutions which were most often brought up were a ferry service, and a streetcar on the bridge when it's completed. Both people I talked to, as well as the comment boards rang loudly of support for a ferry service across the river. So far this hasn't been brought up by the city. But enough voices should keep it in the discussion. Although there has been quite a push for bus service across the bridge, I have not heard the city talk about streetcar access (certainly not to the degree that transit and bike facilities are). This is an important option as well which should be promoted.

On the other hand, there is definately a sizeable push for less-humane options. One suggestion on the drawing board is an offramp specifically for the Oaks Bottom facility. I of course brought up the issue of triple convergence regarding that idea. The reason traffic demand is so high there, is because of the vast amount of parking available. If there was bus access and less parking, many people would consider alternatives.

As I spoke with Reid, we came to the understanding that federal dollars would not support a two lane bridge (which would cost only slightly less than a four lane bridge). However the feds are just looking at deck size. So it would be perfectly logical to create a 4-lane bridge design and use two lanes for traffic, one for bike lanes, and another one for a streetcar.
For those of you who use (or would like to be able to use) the Sellwood Bridge, I encourage you to give your opinion so that the planners know exactly what we expect to see in a replacement.

Tuesday, October 24

The Last Warm Bikey Weekend

This weekend was a magnificent break from the oncoming dark winter. I had a wonderful morning on Belmont exploring the pedestrian environment and brainstorming new ways to bring together community.
Then it was on to the Bike School to change a freewheel. While passing there I found out that 7 Corners Cyclery is moving from their historic location on Division. Cory has apparently grabbed space with virtually 3 times the room in a new building near Powell on SE 21st. He's conveniently located a block away from People's coop.
Bike Buddy
Sunday morning I took part in the Bike Buddy program. This program initiated by Southeast Uplift is a wonderful means of connecting experienced bike commuters with people who are interested, but a little intimidated by the idea of using their bicycle as transportation. Elisha joined the program without ever having learned how to ride a bike.
She recieved a bike from co-member Greg who got her through the initial training and was at it like a fish to water. I met with Elisha and listened to her thoughts and concerns. What I initially realized is that most people look at bicycling as scary because the only experience they have is with big scary arterials. thankfully most drivers don't use small feeder roads
So she didn't even know about the very people-friendly roads connecting her to the shopping district. I walked her down one of these and we were completely comfortable in the middle of the street. Now only a couple of weeks later, the two of us rode all the way to Gresham, and stopped in Powell Butte. Even the strong headwinds didn't slow us down. The most important lesson to gain from this is that the mind is fully in control. Nearly every day I hear someone tell me "Oh I could never do that." This is completely true. As long as a person decides that they can't do something, any hope of success vanishes. Elisha on the other hand, decided that she would succeed and therefore success was inevitable. Even crossing large roads like Foster was not a hindrance. I'm thrilled to be part of this program and to share it with others.
(to learn more about the bikebuddy program, you can download a flyer here)
After that short ride, it was time for a more ambitious adventure. I was leading a ride with Exchange Cycle Tours to the outskirts of Northwest Portland. We took an amazing ride through the Rose Garden and then through the suburbs of Beaverton, Hillsboro and Forest Grove. I was thrilled to have been joined by a couple of new women Elizabeth and Sara joined us and both had a great time. They were not only capable of completing a fast 50 mile ride, but they led the pack on the return.

It's great to see more women feeling confident about getting out on a bike. I am a strong advocate in supporting everyone to feel joyous in participating in whatever activity they desire.
Fortunately there are several people working to encourage women to ride safely and happily.
The fall colors and quiet roads made for a perfect climax to the awesome 2006 riding season. I look forward to sharing more wonderful ride experiences with the folks who came on this ride.
Then as if that weren't enough, I found out from Brian that the Ankeny Block party was still going strong with lots of folks connecting and sharing the community. So it was off to SE Ankeny to meet up with Savannah who helped organize the party. If you haven't been to a block party, I strongly recommend it. No words or photographs can describe the experience of standing in the middle of a public street and hearing nothing but the sound of human voices (especially being a block off of Burnside). There were some great people there, good music and food, lots of connections, and amazing artwork. We even had time to brainstorm ideas to keep this momentum going into the winter season. Thanks for biking this weekend, and I hope you will join me for an adventurous winter riding season. :-)

Thursday, October 5

Lake Oswego Connection

The Lake Oswego planning committee was a fascinating experience for me. Despite my trepidation, I was able to reach Lake Oswego with little difficulty thanks to the fine network of paths including the Fanno Creek Trail, and the Kruse Rd trail. Over 60 people crowded into the Adult Community Center in Lake Oswego, despite efforts to keep the meeting small. Several of the people who owned property along the Historic Trolley right-of-way were present along with Metro employees, planners and residents from as far away as Hillsboro.
The reason for such strong attendance is obvious. This is one of the most challenging transportation links Portland is examining at this time. Currently there is only one direct link between downtown Portland and downtown Lake Oswego and that is Hwy 43. This road is a traffic backup for drivers, a minimally serviced bus corridor, and a suicidal pathway for cyclists and pedestrians. Topography is the main causal effect. There are two box canyons along the corridor and the hills fall steeply to the shore of the Willamette River.

Even for the rail line itself there have been safety issues on some of the steeper slopes which necessitated construction of the rail tunnel. This tunnel as well as the rail bridge are the predominant obstacles to adding a bike/ped trail alongside the ROW.

This is why the Metro study is examining both the Historic Trolley Right-of-Way and Hwy 43 corridor. Nat Brown and Karen Withrow from Metro along with Kristen Hall facilitated the meeting and discussed the options that Metro has studied.
These options included:
  • A river ferry between Lake Oswego and downtown Portland
  • A streetcar line along the Historic Trolley Line
  • A direct transit option along Hwy 43
  • Use of the existing railroad bridge to create a bike/ped connection to Sellwood
This is not the first or the last meeting which will be held on the subject. Portland Metro is putting forth a significant effort to hear all sides and fully examine the issue.

Comments were mostly civil, but opininions were obviously strong at the meeting. The main comments for those who favored a bike/ped trail along the right-of-way included lighting, safety for users, access to the Sellwood Bridge, and options to provide a packed gravel path as an interrim stage.
Comments from those who apposed the bike/ped trail mostly focused on the legality of creating a trail alongside the ROW, as well as the safety of property owners, and access across the ROW.

I spoke with people from both sides of the issue and learned a great deal from their comments. Some of the local neighbors brought up important issues such as safety in the tunnel [if a bike/ped trail were run on the ROW], property values, and trespassing.
Tom Comitz is a landowner who's property abuts the ROW. He felt that the city had resolved itself to building a trail along the ROW regardless of what residents wanted. Psychologists call this a confirmation bias.
One local resident told me that he's lived on his property since he was born, and he expects to pass the house to his children.
"Those guys will want to be crossing my property to get to the river. They can do so over someone's dead body and I'm going to be the one who decides which."
He cited an article in The Oregonian as exemplary of the security risk. His belief is that the traffic issues on Hwy 43 are overrated and that the solution is better management of the auto corridor.

Others had a different view.
One person spoke up at the meeting to say, "There aint no way that we're not going to have a trail [as part of this study].

Another person told me he has never spent a dime in Lake Oswego because of it's innaccessability. " Just as many towns along Rt 66 suffered when access to their downtown was removed, communities such as [Lake Oswego] don't do as well as they could because of limited accessability. These people have to realize that drivers don't window shop."

One planner had this to say*
"Well, I would say that they're not doing a good enough job ensuring that a high-quality trail will definitely be part of the project. Everything's still so "maybe" at this stage that I have no confidence about Metro's true commitment to getting a great trail built despite the challenges."

*Note: the planner whom I spoke with is not an employee of Metro.

The need for a better link to Lake Oswego is unquestionable. However with the land sloping steeply down from Rt 43 to the river, I don't personally know what solution would provide access for all three modes of travel.

Tuesday, September 26

Portland Car Free Day

Car Free Days was an amazing success. This celebration was part of World Car Free Day - an international campaign to encourage liveable streets and a pedestrian-friendly environment.
A huge amount of credit goes to Elly, Jackie, Carl, Sara, Adam, Steph, Kirsty, Dat, and several others. The two aspects which made this Car Free Day so successful was that it was next to Saturday Market, and it lasted more than one day.
The fact that the event was held next to Saturday Market meant that a huge number of people who wouldn't have come specifically for a Car-Free event, were exposed to the experience of pedestrian streets. And having Car Free Day last for the entire weekend meant that people who didn't hear about it beforehand, got word through sources like bikeportland. This meant that people were able to enjoy different aspects of Car Free Days depending on when they came.
For those who came on Friday, they found a fresh street which was filled with booths and hundreds of pamphlets about car-free living. There was a great doughnut eating contest which drew about 150 people with team BTA winning at 17 doughnuts in 5 minutes.
Of course the meistro of pastries was there to share the Breakfast love. Of course Mr. Timo also brought along his bike rack. Now that's not the little aluminum ones that go on a bike, this is a trimet bus rack so that bikey people like the lovely Bethany could try swingin their bike onto the rack.
We celebrated bikey fun with mocktails (that's cocktails without the alkihall) for pedestrians and bicyclists. Big thanks to Kirsty for bringing all that wonderful fare to the event. John was on task keeping the revelers well fed with his delicious raviolis and he donated half the proceeds to Shift's 'Get Lit' program.
We had plenty of great music and plenty of children playing in the newly freed public space. The true queen of the evening was Aurelia who took over the streets riding back and forth on Ankeny.
Then as dusk settled, our entertainment list included death defying fire juggling, and several movies. First was the cars that ate Paris, which was an odd British film about a town that took in car crash offerings. Then the next flick was Beijing by Bike which was very memorable.

Saturday brought bright sunshine and a new day of reveling for our celebration. We had yummy breakfast burritos and set up for information distribution geared toward Saturday Market. I had my car-less info booth working both Saturday and Sunday. Steven Kung got prepared for bike tune-ups as part of the Community Exchange bike school. The Trash Mountain Boys shared their eclectic tunes for the benefit of all. Then the music took a more amplified tone as groups like the Eclectic Bastards, the Underscore Orkestra, Johny Punchclock, and the 20 ft man.

What many people experienced as they traveled near Car Free Days was a distinctive shift in what a street can be. Those wandering in Saturday Market were safe and worried only about the occasional balloon puppet. Then they crossed 2nd Avenue which was scary, after that they were in the Car Free Days event and were safe again. Whether these people were interested or supportive made no difference. They experienced a strong message about what is comfortable and what is not. This was the most successful aspect of Car Free Days.
Just to see how pedestrian friendly environments affect foot traffic, I asked John to do some counts of people walking to the fair. On three seperate counts, we had around 120 people crossing 2nd Avenue in only 5 minutes. That's more than would pass through the Brewery Blocks in twice as long.
It's very clear: if you build it they will come, if you destroy it, they will leave. When our streets were once safe, there were many people walking throughout our neighborhoods. When the safety was destroyed by high-speed traffic, the pedestrians disapeared. And now as we create new pedestrian environments, the people come back outside.
Thanks to everyone who contributed, participated, and entertained.

Sunday, September 24

Global Climate Change Lawsuit

This amazing article displays the breakthroughs which can be achieved through courage and determination. The same way that cigarettes were belittled and eventually vilified, the same way child abuse was first questioned and then denounced. Now the innocuousness of auto emmissions is raising doubt. People are beginning to wake up to the effects of auto-dominated roadways in terms of both global climate change, and quality of life issues.

California sues car firms for global warming
· Green campaigners hail landmark action
· Six largest manufacturers creating 'public nuisance'

Dan Glaister in Los Angeles
Thursday September 21, 2006

America's most populous state, California, opened a new front in its struggle with climate change yesterday when it announced that it was suing the six largest carmakers in the US for allegedly contributing to global warming.

In the unprecedented lawsuit, the state accused Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Honda, Chrysler and Nissan of creating a "public nuisance" and costing it millions of dollars. Environmental campaigners hailed the lawsuit as a landmark event in the effort to deal with global warming.

The suit, filed in a US district court in northern California, alleges that vehicle emissions have contributed significantly to global warming, and argues that the car manufacturers should be held responsible for the past and future cost of combating this crisis.

"Global warming is causing significant harm to California's environment, economy, agriculture and public health," said the state's Democratic attorney general, Bill Lockyer, who filed the complaint. "The impacts are costing millions of dollars and the price tag is increasing ... It is time to hold these companies responsible for their contribution to this crisis."

California is the largest car market in the US, with more than 2m new vehicles registered every year, compared with about 2.5m for the entire UK. Car sales in the state totalled $83bn (£44bn) in 2005 according to the Automobile Alliance, an industry group representing carmakers. The 29m registered vehicles in the state drive a total of 320bn miles in the year.

The complaint further argues that monitoring and addressing the effects of global warming has cost the state millions of dollars. "Global warming has already injured California, its environment, its economy, and the health and well-being of its citizens," the complaint states, adding that dealing with global warming's harmful effects in the future, "will almost certainly cost millions more".

Roda Verheyen, co-director of Friends of the Earth's Climate Justice Programme, welcomed the development, saying: "This was a case waiting to happen. It is the most significant piece of climate change litigation that has ever been brought."

Daniel Becker, director of the Sierra Club's global warming programme, said the lawsuit built on initiatives taken by California and other states: "While the Bush administration continues to burrow its head in the sand, California has taken out a whole arsenal to combat emissions."

He said California's boldness stemmed in part from the attitude of its governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican who has been outspoken in his determination to combat global warming.

The Automobile Alliance in a statement said car manufacturers were already working to produce more fuel-efficient cars. Arguing that it needed more time to study the complaint, it noted that a similar suit, which saw energy companies sued on public nuisance grounds, had
failed. "Using nuisance suits to address global warming would involve the courts in deciding political questions beyond their jurisdiction," the alliance said. "This opens the door to lawsuits targeting any activity that uses fossil fuel for energy."

The lawsuit comes as California aggressively pursues a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. A law passed in 2004 will force carmakers to reduce carbon dioxide exhaust emissions by 30%. That measure is currently being challenged by car manufacturers.

Last month the California state legislature approved a measure to force utilities to cut emissions, and the state has sued the federal government for failing to address the effects of global warming.

Tuesday, September 12

SHIFT Birthday Weekend

This weekend offered another HUGE amount of bikey fun. For those who think September is the time to put your bike in the garage, SHIFT came out to prove it isn't.
The fun began before the weekend even began with a special Breakfast on the Bridge. The wonderful Shifty folks brought a camping stove and pancake batter out to the bridge so our cycling friends could enjoy a hot breakfast on the way to work. Of course it was also a shameless promotion of all the special Shift Birthday events going on over the weekend. Dat was working hard as usual talking to people about all the fun that Shift has to offer. Carl did the safety thing, and Steph grilled up breakfast.
Then after work it was time for some mystery. The midnight mystery ride. (unfortunately I overslept, but it was supposedly very fun).
Saturday it was on to Maria Atkinson's bike breakfast. I met Maria at Pedalpalooza and she's been inspired to host her own breakfast bike rides. We were joined by Joel (who has his own coffee delivery), Michael (who occassionally does his commute to Swan Island by bike), and Amber (who was doing her first long distance bike ride). We had a great easy paced ride through Sellwood and down to the waterfront. We even took a dip in the Salmon Fountain. After leaving downtown, I lead the group over to the Exchange Cycle Tours for the free Saturday clinic. The group was impressed with the amount of work that Steven has done. So all of you who have bikes in need of repair, you are welcome to come by and take advantage of our services.
After the clinic it was on to the EcoTrust Salmon Festival where all the great shifters were hard at work (many of them for triple shifts) parking bikes. In addition there was a free service wherein a bike owner would get a picture of themselves with their bike and a sticker with the serial number of the bike. This looks very promising as a bike theft deterrent. We had lots of fun and for those who managed to avoid the man-eating Salmon, the day was largely uneventful.
The salmon festival has been a great annual event promoting ecological living and intelligent choices. There were many aspects of this festival which impressed me. From the closed streets (closed to cars that is, not people), the eclectic and entertaining people to the great music, and wonderful businesses (Environmental Building Supplies, Earth Advantage, Bioneers, and the Office of Sustainable Development).
Well after a power-packed Saturday, it was time for another chock full day. I headed over to the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge where I got to enjoy unique views in an area normally covered with water. The wildlife was prolific and the scenery magnificent. Then I helped schlep supplies to the park where Dat was working overtime as usual getting the Shiftnic off the ground. (I swear he could run these events with one arm tied to his back) Then I headed out to Gresham for the Exchange Cycle Tours ride. We did a leisurely ride through Gresham and up to Powell Butte. The views were great and the climbing was adventurous. But we were all excited to head over to Laurelhurst for the great barbeque.
It was so much fun to connect with all of these great people that I see each month. SHIFT is the only organization that I know of which is successful at promoting a culture around bikey fun. There is no stigma about having certain gear, or being a specific type of bicyclist (commuter, roadie, 'bent', tandem, etc). Everyone is welcome here. The Birthday was a magnificent example of what a few dedicated people can do with enough incentive.
Thanks for four great years!

Sunday, August 27

ECT ride along the Oregon Coast

The Exchange Cycle Tours is currently traveling on it's most impressive Oregon Coast trip. They are traveling the entire Oregon Coast, and I was privilaged enough to join them on the first leg of the journey in Astoria. We had a good sized group of 5 people including Steve, Jack, Ryan and Larry (who owns Bad Boys Bike Shop). Once our bikes were loaded up, we took off across Miles crossing which was a great deal safer than Young's Bay Bridge (which is not recommended).
We then traveled through some nice coastal floodplains before taking a visit to the Fort Clatsop state Park. After mistakenly stopping at the parking lot, we headed up to the park itself which was very nice and clean looking. The fort looked incredibly good considering the recent fire. It was almost completely rebuilt, and stood as an exemple of the real American spirit (which has recently been basterdized for political gain). These were the actual conditions our pioneers lived in, and their simple existance examplified a number of lifestyle decisions which modern Americans could embrace to reduce the hardships which will otherwise be endured by the next generation (such as a minimal building footprint). But I digress.
We left along Louis & Clark Rd and traveled south along the same route that the Hood to Coast convoy was using. I would normally have been very unhappy with the large amount of traffic which we were subjected to. However what stood out in my experience, was that every single vehicle passed us at least a meter of space (1). Given that the most frustrating aspect of traffic is the uncertainty in a driver's ability to safely pass, this was a singular experience for me. I've never traveled in heavy traffic without having to keep a sharp eye on other vehicles. Add to that many of the hilarious logos that some vans were sporting ("running from our kids", "coastal whine") and it was about as pleasant as traveling down Clinton.
While cycling along this road, we met up with Daryl who was cycling along the same road. Daryl told us of his previous feet to cycle the entire Oregon coastal route in one day. It sounded like an incredible journey, and he certainly looked like he was in shape enough to do so again. This is one of the many reasons why I love cycling so much. Like jogging, the lack of enclosure allows for great sharing with other people who might have otherwise remained strangers.
When we rejoined Hwy 101 the regular vacationing traffic resumed. As we headed into Seaside, the traffic was backed up for about 2 miles. This often brings me to wonder what people think as we pass. Do they feel envy, awe, jealousy? Do they feel gratitude that we on our bikes are reducing the traffic problem? Unfortunately I have little faith that they are aware of such benefits.
We stopped in for lunch at Seaside and I chatted with the shop owner about how the Hood to Coast event affects the city. Was the increased traffic more problematic? Or was it offset by the money that the event brings. She seemed to feel quite positive that the benefits of the run and the business it brings overshadows the traffic problem. Other people who I talked to ranged from neutral to negative. Apparently there's no consensus on the matter.
After a great lunch, we picked up some maps and headed out of Seaside (past more traffic) and out along the marvelous coastal scenery. Many of the areas we passed through reminded me of the Palos Verdes coast. We passed some great locations, like Hug Point and Pizza Cove. I got a fun shot of Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach before we headed back into the hills. At the Rockwork lookout we took some group shots and the panorama was amazing. No photograph could capture the awesome scale of the mountains we had surmounted.

We continued on through some great mountain country and everyone trooped through the hills well despite many comments of being out of shape. Touring is not something that a person has to be at a high fitness level for. Bike touring is an activity which builds strength over time, and encourages slow inhalation of the countryside.
We headed into Nehalem towards evening with plenty of time to get set up for the night. The road to the campsite was very depressing. A huge section of forestland had been demolished in order to expand the local dump. The whole area had been devastated. We even had a small spill on one of the sharp turns coming towards the park. There was however some contrast within the Nehalem Bay State Park where we traveled through a marvelous 8 meter wide road through the woods. It was similar to the roads around Mt Hood in peacefulness and beauty. We checked in and got to our campsite where everyone set up their tent and got things laid out. I was so excited to see other cycling campers there that I made some attempts to socialize with the other campers. The campsites were great in that there was a large sandbox for each tent. It was incredibly comfy to lay on.
Our group then went out to dinner at Wandas, a great local restaurant which was obviously reaping the benefits of the thriving tourist market. The food was great and I had a good time.
When we returned, we saw Gary who was riding his beautiful recumbent south from Astoria. He'd been riding along Hwy 101 with us for a stretch, and it was great to see that he'd made it nicely. The next morning I waited for everyone to pack up and looked on in amazement at what's considered 'normal' recreation. Apparently it involves no less than one vehicle, a trailer, and possibly a motorhome. I wonder how many millions of dollars our state parks could save (for use protecting wild areas and building trails) if the money didn't have to be spent on asphalt and concrete. I talked a bit with Gary about recumbents and the 'tecky' aspects of bicycling.
When we got to Wanda's later that morning, we found that Gary had saved us a table at the overpacked restaurant. This was a perfect example of how wonderful life can be when people have a lifestyle which is amenible to socializing.
For breakfast I had french toast with fresh blackberries. The important point is that the berries were my harvest from the bushes that grew along the path. Americans have so much to benefit from the huge amount of edible flora that grows all over.
We traveled out of Nehalem on on Rt 101 and saw the most beautiful scenery of the trip on this stretch of road. As soon as we left town the views became incredible. Even with the weather changing from foggy to clear in a matter of minutes, there was always something to look at.
We stopped in Garibaldi and saw a museum before heading on to Tillamook. Here we stopped at the cheese factory and saw the amazing plethora of yummy foods produced right here in Oregon. After the tour I departed company with the group and headed on along Rt 6 back to Portland. Thanks to Jeff Smith (of PDOT fame) I had pre-printed maps of the route back to Forest Grove (and public transit access).
The roads through the coastal range provide an amazing contrast. The scenery is undoubtedly the best scenery in the area, with thick forests, undulating hillsides, and gushing rivers. However the roads are thick with motorhomes, and trucks pulling ATVs during the most beautiful time of year. Near the summit I stopped at a perfect little alcove with a waterfall providing the most delicious water that I've ever tasted.
With time running short, I pushed my legs hard to reach west Portland before nightfall. So it was with huge relief that I passed the summit at 450 meters and headed downhill to Forest Grove. I stopped quickly for directions and some food from a local store, then continued east through some gorgeous farm country. Providence shined upon me when I found a great little niche by a field with some overgrown orchards. I had a great desert of blackberries and watched twilight fade into a marvelous star-filled sky.
The Oregon Coast is definately a great scenic destination, but you want to search out the less vehicle-centric locations in order to truly enjoy it's majesty.

1 I use metric measurements to encourage understanding of international units of measure

Monday, August 21

Cycle to Snowline

Trillium Lake and Timberline Lodge

Over the past weekend I went out with the Exchange Cycle Tours on a ride to Trillium Lake. We left Gresham early enough to have enough time out there. After departing from the Gresham MAX station, we left via the Springwater Corridor, and rode through Boring before connecting with Hwy 26. [It's best to avoid connecting with Rt 26 for as long as you can, because it's quite unpleasant until the road narrows to 2 lanes near Zigzag.]

It was in this area that we experienced the one flat tire of the trip. Given the distance and road conditions, that was quite fortuitous. The ride alternated between unpleasant conditions with minimal roadside space, and wonderful conditions with shade trees growing alongside the road.

After Lolo Pass Rd, the route began to climb and the views grew more impressive. We had great views of the mountains, and took many more rest stops as the grade became steeper. While I don't have photos to describe it, we had the amazing experience of cycling through a storm of butterflys in the area. All around us were white or orange butterflys floating along the roadside. This is one experience that auto-dependants are unlucky enough to miss out on. It brings me such joy to see these animals fluttering a few inches in front of me.

It became worrisome, as the afternoon waned, if we would make it to our destination before nightfall. With the sun beginning to set while we were still in Government Camp, the situation became more disconcerting. However we didn't lose our composure. We had lights, and the traffic was minimal so late in the evening. After getting dinner, we rode through the twilight towards Trillium Lake. By staying together and riding responsibly, there were no problems.

The only bad news was that all the auto-dependants had raced ahead and consumed all the camping spots in the campground by the time we arrived. At first I was unhappy about this. However while we rode around the camp access road, it became clear that camping amongst a sea of motor homes would have been no vacation. It felt more like cycling through a trailer park than a national park. In my opinion, the whole reason to make the excursion so far from the city, is to get away from the motorized public. We therefore cycled down the road and found a nearly deserted camping spot by a dirt road, and had a fairly peaceful evening.

In the morning Steve set up an impromptu stove and with a single match, had breakfast cooking on it. Not everyone of course was so bright eyed. I had been working hard the day before sharing in the bikey fun, and therefore was a bit less chipper.

After cleaning up the camp, we headed to Trillium Lake which is amazingly majestic. Thankfully due to the ban on motor boats, we had a mostly peaceful morning swimming and enjoying the views. Then once the urban campers began filing in, we headed out on the return trip.

But when we reached Timberline Hwy, we caught site of the zoobombers. For those of you who don't know zoobombing, it means using small BMX bikes to ride down a steep descent at ridiculously high speeds. While they caught rides with sympathetic drivers, we hauled ourselves up the last 600 meters (2000ft) to Timberline Lodge. I wasn't at first excited about the climb; but the rest of the group was willing, and I have little trouble climbing hills since I do it every day. So we headed up the road, making our way slowly toward the top. The effort was more than worth it when we reached Timberline and found ourselves within walking distance of the snowline (at 1800m). It was unbelievable to have a snowball fight in August, knowing we had reached such an elevation with muscle power alone.

Being a bicycle commuter at the top of Mt. Hood does make a person feel like an outsider. After all, the chances of meeting any other bicycle advocate was near zero. So it was with utter amazement that I see the revered Reverend at Timberline. [Rev Phil is an unusual member of Portland's SHIFT community. He has hosted numerous bike-movie events, and he also plays a leading role in zoobomb] While I have never been a fan or advocate for such extremism, I gained new respect and some sympathy for the group after hanging out with them at Timberline. Not only were they very impressed and courtious to us, they even offered to trade bikes with us for the descent. I thought that was a big offer on their part. Especially since they make the effort to come all the way out to Mt. Hood in order to ride these low-slung bikes which offer less aerodynamic drag. So the three of us joined them on their next run down the mountain and while I didn't break any speed records, the crew apparently hit 40mph on the descent. I was also impressed that the group was so amicable given I had hardly topped 25mph. It's great to live in a community where people from very diverse backgrounds can share great bikey experiences. [I later heard that the bombers had been struck by a murderous group while traveling at high speed on the same road which our group had traveled. I compare this with someone who would hurl a stick into the spokes of a motorcycle because they see it as offensive.]

After leaving the bombers at Government Camp, we continued on our uneventful trip back to Portland. While the trip up there took almost 9 hours, the trip back took about 3 1/2.

For those who feel that a 60 mile ride would be daunting, there is the option of taking the MAX to Gresham, and hoping on the free Sandy Area Metro to Sandy. This cuts the trip by 1/3 leaving plenty of time to climb the elevation to Government Camp.

Thursday, August 17

Bridge Pedal Couch-in

While participating in discussions during Elly's Carfree meeting, I brought up the idea of mimicking street reclamations such has been done by Micheal Rakowitz and the Rebar collective. The concept was to bring a living room to the bridge pedal route and show what streets could be like if cars were not consuming such a large amount of space.

Since I was going to be traveling to places where there was only one available mode (the bicycle) my plan was to use the schlepper II and glean from the concept of the bike move to bring a living room to the highway.

For those who haven't experienced bike trailer usage, it can range the gamut from simply loading some items into a child trailer to more impressive feats of bike haulage. In carrying large items like a bed or a couch, certain skills are required. You have to use a larger turning radius, give more room to stop (and avoid it if possible), put the bike into granny gear before accelerating from a stop, and don't go too fast on the descents.

Early in the morning I loaded up the trailer with a couch, rug, small table, lounge chair, and a wall painting. I headed towards downtown, and trucked the load up to the Ross Island Bridge. I was a little nervous that the police or ride organizers would give me a hard time about being in the way of traffic, but amazingly there was nothing but support. I set up the living room and waved to the cyclists passing by. Despite being on a descent, there was still a lot of connections made. At least half the riders passing by waved, smiled, or offered positive comments.

It was interesting to see the Ross Island Bridge filled with all modes of transport. There were two eastbound lanes of traffic, one westbound lane full of bicyclists, and one lane of regular bus traffic. The road was noticably quieter, and the unpleasant smell of exhaust was barely perceptible.

Since I had placed myself on a downhill portion, I was afraid that nobody would stop. But it was great to see that Maurice had stopped in to chat and share the couch. She actually became the spokesmodel when a local reporter stopped in to take a shot of us.
After that Helen, who was waiting for her husband, stopped and relaxed in the 'living room' while I thanked people for riding and encouraged them to ride every day (it would have been easier with Jeff's bullhorn). We chatted about why I was here, how I managed to get a couch onto the bridge, and she definately came away with a different point of view.
I also got to chat with Steven Kung from Exchange Cycle Tourswho rode bridge pedal as part of the weekly Sunday rides.

After that Jeff Manning from The Oregonian had a seat on the couch and interviewed me for an article that he was writing on Bridge Pedal. It was amazing to get so much publicity for such a simple event. Hopefully the trend continues and we have a continuously increasing amount of bikes in print.

Interestingly enough there was a huge amount of traffic building up on the eastbound side just as Bridge Pedal was ending. While I loaded the trailer, it became clear what had happened. Due to one single car being stalled on the bridge, the entirety of the traffic stream was backed up for 1/2 mile. I was completely amazed at the amount of delay that could be caused by only one person.

This set the stage for the next half hour. Traffic resumed on the westbound side of the bridge, and I got my vehicle ready to go. I don't know if any warning was given, I saw a few cyclists trapped on the bridge with cars zooming by around 10am. Fortunately with my HUGE mass, I was able to safely prevent cars from traveling in the right lane, which left the lane free for these folks. One mom riding with her son almost rode onto the highway entrance, since she was obviously unused to traveling through Portland on her bike. I guided her over to 1st ave which is a bikeable route to downtown and stayed behind her until we reached the esplanade.

All in all the publicity was great, the outreach was fantastic, and it was a completely successful event. I look forward to more successful public outreach events like this one along with my companions in the bike community.
Yea bikes!

Diagonal Crossing

The most innovative example of transportation planning which I've been blessed to enjoy in Portland is the diagonal bike signal installed at the northern terminus of the Eastbank Esplanade. Formally cyclists leaving the path had to carefully negotiate around right-turning vehicles, even when the light was green.

With the installation of the signal, a loop in the sidewalk activates a bike-only green signal and traffic in both directions is halted which provides a safe crossing for pedestrians and cyclists. Given the heavy use by cyclists traveling between the eastbank esplanade and the Rose Quarter, this is a well appreciated safety solution.

Sunday, July 23

Seattle To Portland

This weekend's STP was an incredible experience. 7-8000 of us went to the University of Washington just so that we could ride 200+ miles in a single weekend. There were so many awesome people on amazing bikes that I truly had sensory overload.

We started out at the Amtrak station in Portland where I saw a few of the Portland crew heading up on a train line added just for STP. The ride was incredibly beautiful and scenic. I chatted with Carl Larson who's been a great advocate in Portland, and also with Ellee Thalheimer who was doing STP in one day. What really cracked me up was that I sat next to a woman who was visiting Seattle and showed her on the map where I was staying overnight (which was about 4-5 miles from the station) and she looked at me incredulously, "You're going to bike 5 miles?!"

It was great fun to arrive at the Seattle station and put my bike together along with a couple dozen other people. We all shared tools, advice, and encouragement. I connected with a friend of one rider who helped us all get from the station to the University and that saved a lot of time.

Saturday morning I got the the start at 4:30am just in time to see the first of the insanely fast one day riders going off. There was a huge amount of support, both mechanically and logistically. I had a chance to true up my wheels before handing off my bags and .

Unfortunately I made the mistake of doing an errand in downtown Seattle and then had to figure out how to get from downtown over to Lake Washington Blvd which was across a highway and a small mountain range. Even with a Seattle map it was very difficult to find out how to get across, and I probably did an extra 3-4 miles. But I did get to see the Space Needle.

After connecting with a couple of local cyclists, I found my way to the lake, and had a blast cycling through southern Seattle and on down Washington State. I passed the aftermath of one crash where a cyclist went down when two riders got to close to each other. There wasn't much we could do for him, he was just scraped up. So we put a light bandage on him and I rode with him to the next rest stop so he could get it dressed. On that note it amazed me that people always think that cycling is dangerous. But on a ride like this with thousands of other people, most of the crashes involve nothing more than minor cuts & scrapes (more on that later).

At the same rest stop I met up with Bob who is a handicapt cyclist. Now I've met several handicapt cyclists before who use arm-powered trikes, but this individual had only ONE ARM. He powered, steered and shifted all with his one arm (Lance eat your heart out). This really blows every excuse I've heard out of the water. If a guy with only one limb can cycle to work every day, there is no reason why people with all four limbs can't do so.

As we left the suburbs of Seattle behind, we began winding our way through smaller farm towns like Puyallup. The scenery here became much more pleasant and the roads much quieter. Somewhere out here in farm country I passed the second really interesting bike. The guy had cow fabric around his bike rack, and a horse head attached to the handlebars. His decorations would be perfect on any shift event.

At the halfway point I caught up with Greg Raisman who was driving his cadillac. With the dash mounted cupholders and stereo system, he could even make Timo jealous. I thought it would be fun to ride with him a ways and enjoy some tunes as well. But to my amazement the longer bike didn't slow him down one bit. He left me in the dust on the first descent (I'll show you that a cadillac is not a [bike] to scorn).

I was able to chat with so many interesting people on the ride. I rode alongside two guys who had just crossed the country, and arrived in Seattle shortly beforehand. They decided to ride with us (since they were going that way anyway) and did another 130 something miles that day (fully loaded). I talked with a guy from New York who recognized my Transportation Alternatives sticker (yes I took the old commuter bike on this trip).

There were also several people on tandems, trikes, folding bikes, fixies, high-tech carbon bikes, a unicycle, a scateboard, and everything else you could think of. We also had a lot of support from the folks we passed. People would come out to chear us on, sell lemonade, or give out water. In Roy we even had a local dairy giving out chocolate milk.

At Tenino we had the opportunity to hop onto a beautiful rails-to-trails. The ride was so much more pleasant with only quiet bike traffic. I said hello to Elly Blue who was looking spiffy in her bike regalia, and then I continued on this great trail. About 15 miles from the midpoint I was passed by a two guys on a tandem recumbent trike. As many folks know I've become not only a bike-junkie, but also a trike-junkie. I figured that his is probably my only chance to see a manufactured tandem-trike up close. So I made it my point to keep up with them until their next stop. Well apparently I didn't realize what I was getting into, because they were averaging a 20mph cruising speed and had much less wind resistance. I did a pretty good job of keeping up for 10 miles or so, but they did eventually lose me on a long descent and got to Centralia about 10 minutes ahead.

Well it was a huge thrill getting into Centralia and setting a new personal record of 105 miles in less than 9 hours (including getting lost time). Not only that, but I did it with no lycra, no jersey, no carbon, and most importantly; no support SUV (not that I'm against some of the useful bike gear, I just want people to understand that it isn't required). I sat around like a zombie for awhile before connecting with my friend Eric. We had a blast enjoying lunch at local spot in Centralia and chatting with the people. After that I rode back a mile or so to get some great shots of people coming in.

Centralia College had become transformed into a tent city (albiet a high tech one) during the afternoon. Every patch of unpaved land was covered in tents occupied by exhausted bikers. They really pulled out the red carpet for us (literally) I did some more work on my bike thanks to a local mechanic near Centralia College, listened to some good blues tunes, and then headed in for the night.

The next day I decided to take it easy, since Portland is nothing new to me, I wanted to drink in my fill of the beautiful rural areas which are normally too far away (and sometimes unsafe). So I woke up at a leisurely 5:30 and had a great pancake breakfast (sans ).

We each headed out individually this time and cruised out of town through the most beautiful countryside I've seen in a long time. I soaked in the countryside and had a wonderful ride through this area. But then the hills came. Those who have ridden with me know that I do very well on flat roads and inclines, but I have real trouble with descents. So I ended up losing a lot of time compared to those around me. I also took very few pictures.

One thing that was interesting was that only a few people caught the non-sexual innuendo behind my sign. A lot of people may have thought I was just being lustful, but I was just using the humor to make a point to the 90% of riders who ride in their vehicles with their 'vehicle' on top and then drive the bike for recreation.

Some of the interesting comments I heard from people around me; One driver asked what we were out riding for. The guy quickly responded "Self punishment." To which I responded, "It's the Ride for Masochism 2006."

I believe it was in Lexington that we stopped at a school where the kids were selling food and drinks to the riders. The group was raising money for the "Future Business Leaders of America." It's a big sticking point to me that we spend so many millions of tax dollars on road widening and improvement projects, but yet schools have to do fundraisers for basic necessities. So I told these kids in business terms what was going on. I said that the cost of sending a child to college is about $6800 per year for 18 years [source unsubstantiated]. Meanwhile the cost of owning and operating a motor vehicle is $7200 per year [AAA]. Therefore if a parent gives up one car shortly after their child is born, they save enough money to pay for a full college sholorship.

We passed through some more interesting little towns (like Vader) and eventually reached our lunch point. Here the food started getting scarce and there were some limits on what was available. The park was beautiful though and I had a great lunch with Greg Raisman, his wife Beth, and some of their friends.

We all headed on toward Longview and towards Oregon. A couple of miles from the bridge I saw traffic backed up in a huge line, While the right lane was filled with bikes speeding by. The drivers were probably upset, but it was much more safe and peaceful to be able to ride comfortably past so much traffic (and they were probably warned ahead that there would be a traffic jam). The reason for the traffic became clear when we reached the Lewis & Clark Bridge (which niether Lewis, Clark, or anyone on foot would be willing to cross). As with most other state river crossings, there is only enough room for vehicles and nothing else. So traffic had to be held back while several hundred cyclists at a time were sent across. It was pretty grueling due to the high span and thus the large incline. But we made it to Oregon and on to Hwy 30. While I expected that the whole of Hwy 30 would be miserable (as it is near Portland), the outskirts by Goble and Dear Island were actually beautiful (due to the road being only two lanes here).

I saw a most incredible crash along Hwy 30 where two cyclists had ridden close to each other. The first thing I saw was a woman riding on the gravel at the edge of the road and I just knew she was going to fall. She fell into the path of oncoming riders and the man directly behind her actually rode over her head. A few yards down he threw himself off the bike and practically endoed himself in his concern for the woman. I checked on both of them, and it turns out that the helmet had saved her from getting injured. What was so amazing was that in this particularly scary crash, the worst injury sustained was a slight scraping of her skin. These crashes are usually not debilitating because of the high degree of manueverability and low weight of the bicycle.
Interestingly enough I kept thinking we were almost done by the time we hit St. Helens, because for me these areas are withing cycling distance of home, so it seemed really close. But after doing 175 miles, there was definately plenty of distance and hill climbing to tire us out. For any of you who have ridden to Sauvie's Island, or Scappoose, you know how unpleasant the road is. So I'm going to look into alternative ways to Portland, probably on the 205 crossing. I left the ride and took Kittridge Ave to Front Street. This route has more tracks, but hardly any cars on the weekends. The ride into Portland was pretty common, and I took my favorate bike paths to Lloyd Center. At the end I got my badge of honor and chatted with some folks at the park.
This was definately the most grueling, exciting, amazing, and memorable ride that I've done in at least 5 years. Thanks to the Cascade Bike Club, the volunteers, the supportive residents along the way, and everyone who helped put it on.