Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Surprise Trip to Bike City

Last weekend, I made an unplanned visit to one of the cities that has a reputation of being a bike mecca. I was actually across the river in Vancouver, Washington and unsure if I was going to be able to make it over to the City of Roses, to get a taste of the bike culture. Happily it worked out that I had some time on a mostly sunny, Sunday afternoon to hit the streets of Portland, Oregon and see for myself if it lived up to the hype as a bicycle haven. For the most part, it did or at least it's definitely headed in that direction.

I headed downtown to Waterfront Bicycles and rented a some kind of cross bike. I only had an hour and half, so I rode quickly across the Hawthorne Bridge and headed into a residential neighborhood. I really only have Mpls. to compare it to, but my sense was there are more bikes cycling around Portland. How many more is obviously a tough guess but it could be twice as much. For a variety of reasons, I did feel safer riding the streets of Portland. The most obvious reason is that there are more lanes on streets and bridges than Mpls. They didn't always make sense but that might be because I was new to it. I also felt more at ease because drivers in Portland seem to be lot mellower than in my hometown. Nobody seemed to be in too much of a rush and cars seemed to be aware of bicycles. Another thing I noticed, is that a higher percentage of bicyclists were obeying the traffic laws. Combined, these three conditions gave me the "subjective" sense that I was safer riding in Portland.

City of Green.

Now, I not saying that Portland doesn't have a long way to go. It's still very much a car town. Cars everywhere. And they could definitely use even more lanes and paths that are separated from autos. As it is, there is a lot of mingling with cars, which can be deadly.

Ghost bike signifies that a cyclist was killed near by.

Then, as I was headed back down Hawthorne Blvd, an apparition appeared. It was an angelic sign for me that I must return to this place, as soon as I returned the rental.

Angel on wheels.

I did return and received a special treat...but that's another story.


anna said...

I always have the impression that more cyclists make cycling safer. Therefore I prefer riding in bulks (unfortunately not so often the case).

The Jolly Crank said...

I think there is that fortuitous cycle (pun intended) of infrastructure=more cycling=more infrastructure=more cycling...
And with more cycling comes motorists that are more aware of cyclists. Here's to that happening in our hometown!
Interesting post!

mumbreeze said...

Welcome to Portland! or should I say Thanks for visiting?

It definitely depends where and when you ride if you see tons of cyclists or not. I moved here a few years ago, but I'm still figuring out my way around town. I agree that it definitely could be improved, but there is definitely some great places to ride and there's a more relaxed atmosphere. I hope you'll have another chance to come and spend more time on the bike.

Sigrid said...

Glad you got a chance to get out on two wheels and share your experience! I too had a sign - unfortunately it was relayed to me by my man as I was in the -sigh- car. Anyhow, as he bopped into Whole Foods in the Pearl, what was out front did he say? A decked out Oma in all her finery! My final hours in the fine city, the sighting I had been waiting for, and I missed it! But it was a sign never-the-less and I will be back!

spiderleggreen said...

I definitely see myself coming back to Portland. Lovely city.

sig~ According to the owner of the shop I found, there are a lot of them out on the streets of Portland.