Category Archives: Portland

Daily biking in Portland

2 hours of scoping an intersection (or, who’s using the streets?)

You know, it may not sound like all that much fun, but sitting at an intersection corner for two hours, counting the people who go by on bicycles, is actually a pretty interesting endeavor.

Earlier this summer, I signed up to help City of Portland with their yearly summer bicycle counts. What that means is that I joined a whole army of volunteers, each of whom agrees to sit at a specific intersection for two hours, either 4-6pm or 7-9am, one Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday during the summer. For those two hours, we count the number of people who cycle through–not only which direction they’re going, but also whether they’re male or female, whether or not they wear a helmet.

Data like this helps City of Portland show cycling trends, but is also useful to inform decisions about infrastructure and help show success (or failure) of infrastructure improvements.

Plus, on a micro-scale, it’s also pretty darn interesting.

bike count form

Those are my counts for the two hours I sat at NW 24th and NW Thurman on last week’s sunny Wednesday evening. Hunkered down with a vegan cookie from Food Front Co-op right down the street, tucked behind the sparse shade of a planting-strip tree, I settled in for the long haul.

Every time someone cycled through, I meticulously marked their direction of travel, gender, and helmet use. For my own entertainment, I also kept a tally of interesting things carried by bike (mostly a guitar and two children), how many people used the sidewalk as part of their travel through the intersection (15) and also how many people skateboarded (1) or scootered (2) through.

In 120 minutes, 112 people biked through, almost one cyclist per minute. What ws surprising, though, was how sparse that actually felt. One cyclist per minute, when I say it that way, sounds like a lot. At least to me. But when in that minute there are also twenty million cars going through (not to mention 10 million pedestrians), it feels like an awful lot happens between seeing one cyclist and then seeing the next.

I feel like I can’t talk about this without also mentioning the gender split: 77 men; 35 women, or 31% women–which, according to the 2012 Bicycle Count Report (find it here), is about average for Portland. (I’m not sure if that went up at all for 2013, since that report isn’t online.) On this Wednesday, though, for these two hours, women were much more likely to wear helmets than men. Not sure what, if anything, that means:)

Anyway. Like I said, I wasn’t necessarily expecting to enjoy my two hours of sedentary counting, but I actually really did. It’s sort of fun to hunker down and take a two-hour cross-section of street use, especially at an intersection like Thurman and 24th, where there’s so much going on. So many people use one little piece of Portland in a day–it really reminded me how important it is that we can all share.

(If you’re interested, I strongly recommend helping with a bike count sometime. Keep your eye on the City of Portland bike count site for details!)

Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People

Since June 2011, I (and probably 600,000 other Portland residents:) have been watching the construction of an awesome new bridge that will carry light rail, streetcar, cyclists, pedestrians, and emergency vehicles (but no private vehicles) across the Willamette River.

incomplete tilikum crossing(November 2013, before it was connected in the middle)

Since April of this year when it was decided, I–and the 600,000 other people–have been able to call that bridge by its real name, Tilikum Crossing. “Tilikum,” according to Wikipedia, being a Chinook work that means people, tribe, or family.

Yesterday, I got a pretty awesome view of that bridge from the new OHSU/PSU building on the South Waterfront:

Tilikum Crossing

Even though it’s still not slated to be open until fall of 2015, they’ve already got some bike lanes painted on and everything. So psyched for this bridge!! :)

The new OHSU/PSU building (the Collaborative Life Sciences Building, or the CLSB, as I’ve fondly come to know it) that opened to the public yesterday is also pretty rad. James has been spending a lot of time there for work lately–so much so that he was the first person to get to use the new bike staples they just put in:

first long haul trucker(the first ever bike to be locked to the first-ever staple racks at the CLSB!)

Just to give you an idea of what’s in that building, check out this chair–the best damn view you will ever get while someone tightens your braces:

CLSB orthodontics(12th-story orthodontia. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see all the mountains!)

Anyway. Sometimes it’s crazy to think of all this change in Portland–new bridges, new building, new houses, giant condos, new businesses, new streetscapes. Even though it’s been gradual since I’ve lived here, when I think back, I know that the Portland that people move to now is way, way different than the Portland I moved to thirteen years ago.

Mostly, I think it’s change for the better. Things like the Tilikum Crossing, which will drastically extend the reach of public transit and offer another option to relieve the crazy masses of cyclists and pedestrians who currently use the Hawthorne Bridge–those things are great. More density is great. My little, somewhat-reclusive self doesn’t necessarily like the huge influx of more people, but I do appreciate the things that come from bigger cities–things like better transit, more diversity, great public libraries, all the services that are harder to provide when there are fewer people more spread out.

On the other hand, I sometimes wonder when Portland will get too big for its britches, if there’s a tipping point after which it will be too crowded and too expensive and too gosh-darn trendy for me to want to be here anymore. Or perhaps I’ll just grows along with it, change my person along with the changes of my chosen city.

I’ve never consciously chosen to live somewhere other than Portland, so I don’t know how that all plays out. For now, I’m pretty psyched.

World Naked Bike Ride, version 2014

Okay, fine. Enough of y’all have asked that I’ll post about it. :)

Stasia, did you ride in the 2014 World Naked Bike Ride?

Why yes, yes I did.

Stasia, did you take pictures of the 2014 World Naked Bike Ride?

Nope. Not one. Even though tons of people did, it felt a little weird to me. I know that I wouldn’t want to find myself plastered naked on someone else’s blog, so I’m not going to do that to anyone else either. That being said, there are tons and tons and tons of pictures that you can ogle over at BikePortland. Like this one:

World Naked Bike Ride III(From BikePortland.org)

 I wouldn’t recommend looking at it at work, though, unless you’re prepared to answer some uncomfortable questions about how you’re spending your time.

Wait a minute. Isn’t it cheating to not take pictures but then post someone else’s pictures on your blog?

Heh. Maybe. Though 1) at least I didn’t feel like a creeper at the event, and 2) you’ll notice that the two pictured I borrowed are neither full-on nudity nor do they show the people as they would look in real life except for more naked. I feel okay about that.

So if you wouldn’t want to be on the internet naked, why would you ride naked on your bike through the streets of Portland?

Good question. I see those as two different things. A body in motion surrounded by other naked bodies in motion is awesome. A naked body–especially one not decorated as a piece of art–frozen in a picture and placed on the internet for anyone to find, divorced from its context and probably without consent, is not as awesome.

How was the naked bike ride, anyway?

Amazing. Though I got a little grumpy at all the wait time—that many thousands of people on bikes take a looooong time to roll out, plus there were a few bottlenecks in the route—overall it was rad. Plus, it was James’ first naked ride. I think he got a kick out of seeing that many people sans clothes all in one place.

World Naked Bike Ride 2014(sans clothes doesn’t mean sans style! Another picture from BikePortland.org)

 Any other thoughts?

Glad you asked! I’ve gotta say, following a bunch of naked butts on bikes is maybe one of my favorite things. Not because I inherently like butts, but because there are so few times in life that you actually see what other people’s bodies look like—and even fewer times that you can see other bodies in a totally non-sexual way. It’s so refreshing to remember that everyone looks different, and everyone is lovely in their own fashion. That’s definitely my favorite thing about this ride, how normal it is for everyone is to be naked, how decent.

So I totally recommend it—if nothing else, the World Naked Bike Ride is a Portland institution that is worth doing at least once in your tenure of living here.

Of course, if it’s totally not your thing, no worries. There are still two and a half whole weeks of Pedalpalooza bike fun happening, and most of it happens fully clothed! Get after it!

A Bike Map is a Wonderful Thing to Have

When you’re trying to get somewhere by bicycle, a bike-specific map is a pretty amazing resource. Granted, in a pinch any map will do, but a map that specifically delineates the lower-traffic routes, the multi-use paths, and the streets that are to be avoided at all costs (or at least that are likely to be supremely unpleasant) is a great thing to have.

In Portland, we have this map put out by Metro:

bike there

Like any map, it won’t ever be every single thing that every single person on a bike wants it to be, but it does a pretty darn good job of laying out the bike-friendly streets in the Portland Metro area, with detailed city views on the back side. Plus, it’s on rain- and rip-resistant paper, perfect for Portland:)

I love this map. When I’m looking for adventure but don’t have anything specific in mind, I just look for somewhere that sounds interesting or a place I’ve never been, then plot out a route, looking mostly for the green (neighborhood greenway), blue (bike lane), or purple (multi-use path) lines to get there. Sometimes, I just try to weave together as many multi-use paths as I can. Sometimes, I try to take as zigzaggy a route as I can. Whatever sounds fun. To me, this is what maps are good for and why I love them so much: they represent infinite potential, a million places just waiting to be discovered, and the means by which to get to them.

bike there back

For how much I love this map, it is a point of infinite humor to James that I often don’t have one lying around. Why? Because any time I talk to anyone about bike routes and they don’t already have a bike map, I give them mine. I have bought and given away this map at least 10 times. In fact, when I buy a new one, I’ve recently taken to buying two, figuring that that way I can give one away and still have one left at home when I want to adventure.

But now here I am, having–again–just given away my last map to a coworker who I learned is interested in biking to work but hasn’t the faintest idea how to get from Rock Creek to the Oregon Zoo. I brought in my map, we looked at options, and he’s ready to roll.

To me, this is worth the cost of buying a map over and over and over. No, not everyone who I give one to will necessarily use it, but the potential that someone out there might pick it back up one day and decide that today is the day to bike to work or school or the store for the first time? That’s why I keep giving it away. Even though I know James is going to laugh at me. heh.

I’m infinitely grateful to have this resource available, and thankful that I can do my part to get it in people’s hands. Removing the barriers to biking, one step or map at a time:)