Sunday, February 11

Velo Mobile

Today I met up with Mitch
who is the first velomobile owner in Portland. So what is a velomobile,
and how is it different from what we drive everyday?
"A velomobile is a fully enclosed recumbent (usually a trike) that is
designed for use in all weather. Despite their sleek looks, they are not racing
machines. They are quite fast on level ground and some velomobiles have won
in European HPV races but most designs put a premium on practicality."

The Go-One is built in Germany and comes fully assembled. This fascinating vehicle has most of the advantages of a car, while holding on to most of the advantages of a bicycle. I like what the marketing folks say on their website.
"What other vehicle can you "recharge" with an energy drink and
a powerbar." (Of course in Portaland, we use pastries)

Mitch can ride this to Hillsboro everyday without contributing to the traffic
and pollution of others on Hwy 26, yet he stays comfortably enclosed within the
carbon fiber shell. The velomobile weighs in at only 40kg. (75lbs.) which is amazing
for such a trike. It sports a headlight, turn signals, and a lithium-ion power-assist.
While the $11,000 price may be out of the range of many cyclists. The cost is
comparable to a small car, and the maintanance is dramatically lower. Since most
of the gearing is enclosed, and of course the engine is biological. So for people
who do travel long distances without the choice of waiting until dry weather,
a vehicle like this does have it's usefullness.

Sunday, February 4

Tree Planting -bikeystyle

So as Carl mentioned in his 'revolutions' post, we should all find some way to better ourselves each year. So for New Years, my resolution was to go beyond my small little bikey world, and be active in other ecologically fulfilling communities. I chose to plant trees this year as a statement of compassion. Of course in order to avoid hypocracy, I rode my bike over to the Friends of Trees planting event. I also brought along my trailer in case there was a need for tree hauling capacity. Needless to say I made quite an impression on the tree planting group. In fact I was mentioned in front of Mayor Potter for having offered to haul trees with my bike trailer. Then I was photographed by PGE's photographer, and finally I got about three trees over to the planting spots (it felt meager, but of course the trees weighed 80-100 lbs). I had a great time contributing to the beauty of my city and sharing with neighbors. I also learned a great deal from Steve who has planted dozens of trees throughout Portland. The homeowners of course were supremely grateful for our efforts (even though we were volunteers, the homeowners do pay for the service). I look forward to working again with Friends of Trees until the season ends in March.

Friday, February 2

Can Powell Ever Be Safe?

There have been several Powell Blvd Streetscape Plan meetings to allow ODOT to
"continue to allow SE Powell Boulevard to serve vehicle traffic movement while also improving the safety, accessibility and the aesthetic environment for pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders." (never mind that this is an oxymoron)
The effort is impressive. PDOT printed out huge maps of the entire stretch from the Ross Island Bridge to the I-205. Not surprisingly, the lions share of the comments were focused on the portion west of 20th. This is most likely because nobody with any choice would dare walk or ride a bike near east Powell. Those few who do are unlikely to be aware of meetings such as this. There were several mentions of creating traffic islands, bike paths on sections of McLaughlin where it crosses Powell, better signals, and more clear crosswalks. There were several comments about making safer connections between Cleveland High School and Powell Park at 26th, and creating access from 26th to 21st behind the park. Many people are similarly unhappy about crossing in the 40s and 50s given the bike crossing at 42nd and the high transit use at 50th. But the single hot button issue was how to deal with Powell and 17th. This area is a no-mans land because the Union Pacific tracks cut off access east-west, and the arterial cuts off access north-south. This completely cuts off Brooklyn from the rest of Portland. One woman I spoke to had spent an hour desperately trying to figure out how to get across. The current proposal is to rebuild the pedestrian passageway alongside Powell so that it sits closer to the road. This is one which I spoke out against because the lack of connections makes it equally unpleasant no matter how high it is above the street. Auto traffic has never been shown to reduce crime. People just drive by when something happens if they see it at all.
The other options for crossing the tracks (such as the pedestrian bridges) are laughable in their accessability. I spoke with several PDOT representatives on this and heard a lot of doubt that Union Pacific would be open to a new crossing. This is because they constantly move trains in and out of the switching yard and they have legitimate safety concerns. I heard one option that a new crossing could be made at the expense of removing a different one. So I proposed sacrificing a grade crossing on Division (there are currently three) if it allowed us to switch it with a crossing at Powell. However the folks at Wednesdays meeting appeared much more willing to talk strongly with Union Pacific. It's simply not acceptable that we should have the equivalent of two highways bisecting southeast Portland.