Monday, December 22

Thursday, September 4

Carfree Mt St Helens

The Mt St Helens trip was truly amazing. This was the first time I had ever planned
to cycle most of the way from Portland to Mt St Helens. The distance of 70 miles doesn't seem impossible until you figure that our destination was at 2700 ft. Team hardcore left southeast Portland Friday afternoon on our fully loaded ATBs (all terain bicycles) and followed an awesome route through east Vancouver on low-traffic streets. We wound our way through the beautiful suburban blacktop towards farm country. The highlight was definately Padden Parkway.
By the time we left Padden for the rural lands, the golden hour had approached and the scenery was simply stunning. When we finally reached the road which John's parents lived on, it was a wonderful precurser, as the road was very small and we saw no cars.
The next morning Jim and Joyce arrived and so the four of us squeezed into Jim's pickup for a short lift to Cougar.
It was a grand adventure to climb to the foothills of Mt St Helens. We enjoyed amazing viewsof the awesome landscape. There is so much more depth and meaning to the experience of cycling somewhere. We passed through deep woods, a few fields of clearcut, and decreasing traffic before we finally arrived at Marble Mtn Snow Park. We took a long rest and ventured on to the welcome quiet of a completely care-free road. We passed bicyclists and hikers casually meandering down the middle of the street. Obviously nobody was concerned for their safety as there was nothing to be afraid of. The closure not only brought peace to the area, but it also forced the outdoorspeople to travel by their own power down the road.
Our camping area was the middle of a hiking trail which we expected to be unused. We met up with Sugata and we enjoyed the stunning environment of a land minimally touched by humanity. The quilt of a trillion pinpoints of light brought such joy to us that we actually walked back to the road and lay there drinking in the rare experience for dozens of minutes.

The next day we packed up for the far end of the road at Lava Canyon. The road was beyond description in it's splendor. A corridor through thick evergreens surrendured grudgingly to steep sloped canyons formed by the eruption.
The trees reappeared just before we finally reaching Lava Canyon. After a peaceful lunch we explored the gorgeous lookout points to the crystal clear aqua river. The thunderous roar of the river was a marvelous counterpoint to the city's more common roar of traffic.
For someone like myself who doesn't have the ability to just drive out 200 miles from a city, it was a deeply moving experience to be far enough out that the only sounds dancing on my eardrums was the rush of the far away rivers and the swaying of the tree branches.
Then we jumped on the idea of riding down the road back to Marble Mountain. This venture was overwhelmingly worth it as three of us sped down the pitch black road with no fear of automobiles or traffic of any sort. It filled me with longing that more people could experience the public spaces of our world without fear as we did this weekend.
The next morning I woke up before dawn to enjoy the last experience of watching the sun rise on the volcano's slope (it would be saddening and depressing to come back here when the noise and fear of autos pervade the environment).
I was thrilled to see the sky as boundless as the landscape as I stood in the shadow of the mountain peak. The deep crimson sky gradually succumbed to a rich copper as the distant sun's rays leaped over the atmosphere and danced on the peak.
Our morning was peaceful and we shared company with the birds and chipmunks in the area.
Finally we went to June Lake on the way back. Our ride was just as thrilling as it had been every other time. My joy in this quiet environment will forever be a happy memory of peace.
All in all the trip was an unforgetable experience and I will cherish it forever. Though I had always thought that St Helens was a destination which would be unreachable for me unless I could convince someone to drive me out there, it's now clear that with proper planning this area is reachable by bike in less than 2 days.
(read the full photo journal)

Sunday, April 13

While visiting Todd Litman, creator of the Vancouver Transportation Policy Institute, I learned that the BC Ministry of Transportation, Saanich, and the city of Victoria are developing a plan to install a bus rapid transit (BRT) system through downtown and along the Saanich Peninsula(1). A BRT system is a transportation option which is an intermediary step between the traditional bus system currently in place throughout North America and a full scale light rail system. Essentially the system consists of an exclusive median in which the buses run with stations located at specific intervals, and passengers buy their tickets ahead of time at the station(2). BRT systems offer the same freedom from traffic and congestion at a lower cost. The advantages of the system is that it creates the same degree of permanence that light rail has which stimulates economic development, enhances street life, and adds destinction to an otherwise mundane bus system. The disadvantages are the potential pollution depending on the propulsion system, and the poor public image that continues to haunt buses. Systems have been built in about 18 cities throughout the United States as well as many countries in South America. For most cities, the BRT systems have reduced congestion and improved the perception of public transportation.
Tonight's public hearing was the most contentious public forum that I've attended (3). According to some people at the meeting, this was the first time that the Transit Authority had offered the opportunity for any kind public testimony. This alone set off a wave of distrust among most business owners and a few residents. The first speakers including one from the downtown Residents Association were generally in favor of the project as a way to 'get people out of their cars' one disabled resident expressed concerns about the pollution that buses have thus-far produced. [CNG, electric, or hybrid powered bus would be necessary to resolve this]
Darren Marr of GVCC expressed the cycling community's views as mostly favorable. He spoke highly of the decision to keep bike lanes from being sandwiched between buses and auto traffic, the increased distance that bike lanes would travel, and increased space for bikes. However he expressed concern about the outlying areas where buses would travel on the curbs and possibly cause danger to cyclists.
The Association of Douglas Street businesses expressed their opposition along a very different tangent. Their main opposition stemmed from the elimination of left-turn lanes, the addition of
four traffic signals, and reduced parking (4). The association expressed frustration that BC Transit had "ignored" options such as running buses along the curbway or simply installing high
occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. The association stated that the reduced [automobile] access would kill business because customers would find it difficult to get to their doors [by car].
The association's concerns are real and their opinions are legitimate. However they make one very massive assumption, which is that people who drive will actually follow the rules. If this
assumption were true, than the suggested alternatives would be just as logical. Unfortunately from drivers putting toys in the passenger seat (to ride in HOV lanes), to parked cars
interfering with transit lanes
there has been a long tradition in North America of nonchalance to traffic laws.

It is this fear of imperfect drivers as well as the potential to reduce pollution which
most impassions the pedestrian community to support the BRT system. Of those people I spoke to while riding the bus later that week, people were in favor of the proposal primarily for it's
potential to make walking in Victoria a safer experience.

Monday, January 21

Bike Friendly Los Angeles

The city of Angels has always been considered the iconic automotive city. Not only have they built an entire statue dedicated to traffic, but Jane H. Kay commented on a person who was stopped by the police simply for walking down the sidewalk next to Disneyland.

However despite the negative stereotype that Los Angeles has, there are many bike and transit friendly aspects to the city. The most dramatic example of bike friendly LA is a 21 mile bike path stretching from the edge of Malibu to Redondo Beach. This is where I first got into long distance cycling as a teenager. Although many roads in LA are wide multi-lane arterials, most of the major roads have bike lanes, which makes for a much simpler ride in places like Orange County. I had very little trouble getting through the sprawling suburbs east of Los Angeles because I always had a bike lane. The other positive aspect to cycling in LA is that most of the roads actually connect. So unlike the outer suburbs of many cities (including Portland), I was able to ride from Redondo Beach all the way to Wilmington on low-traffic roads. This is very helpful for people who don't feel comfortable using bike lanes with fast traffic. The only difficulty I had as a teenager was trying to get far enough out of the city that you could experience nature. If you do want to experience a natural setting in LA, the most bike-friendly places are:
Palos Verdes- while very built-up, many areas on the coastline are still beautiful. Ride Palos Verdes Blvd from Torrance up into the hills and ride counter-clockwise around the penninsula. The south side of the peninsula is the most scenic with amazing coastline vistas.
Malibu- the east side of Malibu is very hollywoodish, but if you remain patient and continue along Pacific Coast Hwy towards Point Magu you will see incredible views of the shoreline and watch the power of the ocean as it plays back and forth against the rocks.
West Whittier- if you're up for a longer trip you can take a ride up the San Gabriel bike path.which stretches all the way from Long Beach to West Covina. This path is basically a bicycle freeway in that it's fast and direct with very little scenery since the rivers have been transformed into concrete culverts. However there is one very enjoyable section between West Whittier and El Monte at the Whittier Narrows dam. This park has some wonderful trails through it and offers a break from the endless concrete throughout the rest of the city. If you take this trial, you can also stop at the Whittier Narrows Recreational area just west of the dam.
If you don't have a bike while your down there, simply take the light rail system to Long Beach and visit the BikeStation. Modeled after the Seattle BikeStation, this collective offers storage, rental, tool use, and advice for safe cycling around the Los Angeles area.
LA has been spending the past decade building and improving it's mass-transit system. There is now a multi-tiered light rail system connecting Long Beach, Oxnard, and Covina with downtown LA as well as a high-speed bus line running along the Harbor Freeway. I even got to see articulated buses running through Santa Monica. Unlike the situation when I was a teenager, the buses all have bike racks to allow you to use multiple options to get around the city. How successful this system becomes depends on how open-minded the population is. However there are many signs of intelligent lifestyle ideas throughout the urban metropolis that is Los Angeles.