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.