Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bike Portland

A month abroad and bike stories to share. From Portland, Wellington, Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney. I'll start in chronological order.

New Years in Portland, Oregon.

Rumor has it that it's a biking haven. Rumor has it the food is delicious. Rumor has it they drink a lot of coffee. I'm naturally suspicious of any place people loooove so much. For the record, Santa Cruz gives me the creeps and I'm pretty dismissive of the whole states in the U.S.

But I liked Portland. It's true about the food and coffee. And beer flows freely. The utter whiteness of the place is a bit creepy, especially because, like white places everywhere, they seem so utterly unaware that it's not really normal. Especially when they keep calling each other "bro." I'm not your "bro," bro.

But let's talk bikes. At first glance, I was very disappointed. It does not jump out as biking heaven. There aren't bike lanes everywhere, much less bike paths anywhere. It's a car city. People drive. Public transportation is better than most US cities of its size, but simply not adequate.

But when you talk to people who bike, they all say great things about Portland. Because Portland cares about bikes. The city works to make things more bike friendly. This is what New York could learn. It's not just about lines of paint of roads (though that helps). It's about the little things:
On the new and nice if it's going your way streetcar (called "the Maxx"), there are hooks to hang your bike.

You plop your bike up and hang it from the front wheel. Suddenly your large two-wheeled obstruction takes up almost no space and is hassle free for the rider! Simple. Brilliant! Costs almost nothing. Everybody wins!

Bike racks are apleanty. Including ones for which they have (gasp) actually removed parking. How can anyone argue that parking for one car is better than parking for 14 bikes? Why isn't this done more?

(and notice the fancy extended rear carrying rack on the closest bike. Very nice!)

Again, it's the little things. On bridges going over the river, the bike lane is doubled into two bikes lanes going uphill. Because going uphill, it's very likely that you will pass or be passed by another bike. Then at the top of the hill, the lane narrows to its standard width. How considerate.

Portland isn't without faults. But it charmed me. Now if anybody could just explain to me why there are so few fenders in a city with so much rain...

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