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!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here's more on public space reclamation.