Category Archives: Portland

Daily biking in Portland

Portland, we’re really lucky

Today, I feel blessed.

We live in a pretty dense part of Portland–okay, not New York dense and not even downtown-Portland dense, but dense enough to support a great bus system, dense enough to be able to walk to many different grocery stores, restaurants, even my doctor, dense enough to feel like a city.

And despite that, on any given day, without setting foot in a car, I can run in the woods.

Mt Tabor is a great stop-gap woods run: it doesn’t feel particularly remote, but there are still excellent trails and it’s a migratory bird hotspot, plus it’s about a 7-minute bike ride (or 12-minute run) from my house.

With a little more time investment, I can bike to Tryon Creek State Park or so many different access points to Forest Park, or I can run from my work right into Hoyt Arboretum and Washington Park. Any of those actually feel like woods: no roads to be heard or seen, just the doug-fir, cedar, ferns, and, right now, more new springtime birds every day.

Today, I found my early way to Lower Macleay Park, along swollen Balch Creek, around and around in the misty woods–past the Audubon Society of Portland, up to Pittock Mansion, around and around and up and down, nothing but the squelch of mud under my feet, the songs from pacific wren and spotted towhee and even a barred owl that hadn’t yet tucked itself in. The Indian plum is starting to flower, as is the red-flowering currant. The rain, when it started in earnest, was almost warm on my face. I ran and ran and ran, so in love with the world and its springtime waking.

Portland, it is amazing that this happens right in our backyard. It is amazing that I can be out for hours in what feels like the deep, dark woods, and yet be only a 35-minute bike ride from my front door. We are so lucky to have what we do.

I fricken love this city.

Valentine Bike Picture of the Day:)

Awwwww shucks. After I finally bought a saddle for my new bikey from Gladys Bikes (home of the saddle library), I was scheming an awesome post about them.

But they beat me to the love! My new saddle and I stopped at a store by Gladys before I went home, and when I came out, this was on my bike:

soma bike love

The other side, which I didn’t take a picture of, says “love [actually, it's a picture of a heart, just like above], Gladys Bikes.” So fricken cute!

Best bike valentine ever! :) Thanks, Gladys Bikes! :)

Snow: the accidental incentive to carfree living:)

Don’t laugh. I know the snow that we’re getting here in Portland is not, in the scheme of things, very much snow at all. But for a city where it rarely snows and sticks, it’s pretty darn exciting.

Portland snow(getting buried!)

snow--really(Incredulous. But psyched)

Snow that sticks around for a bit is pretty awesome, for many reasons. My favorite, though, is the way it transforms public space. Snow is the great democratizer: all of a sudden, the definitions between road, sidewalk, lawn, path, public, private are erased, all blanketed by the same beautiful white.

Division Street snow(without the stop sign, hard to tell where the street starts)

And I think it’s that magical transformation of the world that encourages everyone to get outside.

It’s possible that Portland has more people than average who like to take advantage of unusual circumstances to go out and play (this may, in fact, be one reason I love Portland so much). And something abnormal like this not only brings out all those people, but also fundamentally alters the landscape.

The pictures of cars up there? All parked. As I’ve walked around the world for the last two days–and let me tell you, I’ve done a lot of walking:)–it has been so quiet. The very few cars that drive past make a muffled whoosh over the snow instead of the normal roar. But really, it seems like no one is driving.

Instead, there are people skiing, walking, jogging, biking, walking their dogs, sledding even down the middle of the streets. (Not that the streets look that different from the sidewalks, of course, or the yards, with all that snow.) Parks like Mt Tabor and Laurelhust turn into giant snow playgrounds. Neighbors you would never expect it from dig up their cross-country skis and slide right off their porches, out to explore.

Mt Tabor in the snow(with all its hills, Mt Tabor has been a super popular sled-ski-snowboard spot:)

I don’t know that this would keep up if the snow lasted more than a few days. As people got used to it, they’d probably start to venture forth in their cars again, start being more annoyed than enchanted with the wintery wonderland that makes things so much slower, softer, peaceful. But for now, I love that the world and the streets are full of people, people who you can smile at and at make eye contact with, people who move at the same speed as you, people hidden behind layers of fleece and wool rather than metal and motors.

People may not be giving up their cars for any reason than that they want to go play in the snow–like I said, the accidental incentive to being carfree–but it sure is nice when everyone wants to be outside:)

(more snow pictures here)

Pay to Play (are fees really the answer?)

Earlier this month–January 10th, to be exact–Washington Park officially became a pay-to-park destination. The Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, Children’s Museum, Oregon Zoo, the huge playground and the archery range: all of those have parking spaces that fall under Portland Parks and Rec jurisdiction, and now they all cost money.

Washington Park pay to park meters(a new addition to Washington Park parking)

At first, I thought it was a good idea. If you drive to the Washington Park, why not pay for it? It seems like a good way to incentivize transit use or alternative transportation, and the money collected gets reinvested into improvements for the park. It’s not that different from parking meters downtown: if you bring a car, expect to pay for the space it takes up.

The more I think about it, though, the more I think it’s setting a bad precedent.

First of all, this seems somewhat akin to saying “hey, if you have disposable income you’re welcome to use Washington Park; if not, go play somewhere else.” There are some transit options, of course. The MAX has one stop that serves the Oregon Zoo and Children’s Museum, though from there it’s quite a hike to other Washington Park attractions. And the 63 bus runs through the park, but only every hour, and only on weekdays between 7am and 5pm (i.e. not when many people are likely to have free time to go to the park). Until transit throughout the park is a viable option, I’m not convinced that this isn’t a somewhat classist (even if inadvertently so) policy.

But other than that, it just seems like the wrong message to send: Washington Park improvements and upkeep will be paid for by the people who drive there and use it. That is, the responsibility of the upkeep falls to the users–sort of like saying that if you have a kid in school, you should pay for school, but if you don’t there’s no reason to put your money toward something you don’t use, right? It seems like more and more things in Portland are funded this way, where one specific fee goes toward one specific thing, and we’ve lost track of the idea that some things might be public services that everyone has a part to uphold. Maybe parks aren’t one of those things, but I wish that would be the conversation.

I’m all for paying for parking. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that there are meters in Portland and I think it’s reasonable to expect that you might pay to use space. But I guess I’m a little worried that it seems there’s no coherent whole about how money gets apportioned, and I don’t like the super-individualistic idea that you only pay for what you use, everyone else be damned. Certainly there are things that we, as a civilized society, have decided are for the common good, and those things should be paid for by everyone via taxes, not user fees. Again, maybe parks and greenspaces aren’t one of those things–and maybe I just don’t understand how this works (the city’s finances are definitely not my forte)–but this strikes me as a step in the wrong direction.

Push me on this. Any thoughts?