Category Archives: Fake Commuting

Project Fake Commute: Bay Area Multi-Modal Mega-Commute

Last month, I had the pleasure of visiting the San Francisco Bay Area, spending most of my time in the East Bay community of Emeryville. I always love visiting this part of the country, it’s just a beautiful city. Making my visit even better this time – I had a loaner bike!

That’s not a very good picture. How about this?

borrowed bicycle

Ahhh, yes. Giant trash sculpture in the background – that’s the Northern California vibe I was going for. This is a Guerciotti frame that had been completely stripped of its paint. You can see the frame here with its original paint job. The bike was loaned to me by a nice young man named Jonathan who lives near the friend I was staying with. Jonathan had a few parts laying around and put the bike together for me to enjoy during my visit. The bike was a little big for me, but it worked out just fine. It had a couple of features that I had not experienced before. First was a 1 X 8 drivetrain. That is, a single chainring on the crank, and an 8 speed cassette at the wheel. Aside from feeling like I needed a little more low range on the steepest hills, this drivetrain was just plenty for me. As you can see, the bike also had a front basket. I was out riding for most of every day, shedding layers as I went, so it was good to have some place to put everything. Having a front basket did affect the handling a little bit, but I don’t feel like it made the bike unsafe in any way. The hardest part was parking the bike and keeping the front wheel from flopping around all over the place.

Aside from visiting friends and enjoying the fresh California air, I was in the bay area in order to participate in the the All-California Sacred Harp Singing Convention. I won’t bore you with the details of what Sacred Harp Singing is all about. If you are interested to learn, let me direct you to this informative website. Let’s just say that it’s a musical activity I enjoy doing, and it gives me a good excuse to travel to different parts of the country. In this instance, the singing took place in San Carlos, but I was staying in Emeryville. To illustrate:

It’s about 35 miles as the car drives. I had originally planned to take BART into SF and then take CalTrain the rest of the way. Then I took a closer look at the map and noticed that the BART stop was only about 10 miles away from my destination in San Carlos. This seemed like a perfect opportunity for one of my favorite activities: pretending that I am a bike commuter in a different town from where I live. How exciting, right?!

I’ve run a Fake Commute like this a few times before, but in a formal way, only twice. About a year ago in Austin, TX and almost two years ago in my hometown of Overland Park, KS (and its neighbor, Olathe). A Fake Commute is an opportunity to get out of one’s daily life and imagine what one’s life would be like if one lived somewhere else. It’s a chance to indulge in a fantasy life for a day. For example: when I made the Olathe/Overland Park commute, I pretended that I lived in a sprawling Midwestern suburb and worked at the vast corporate headquarters of a telecommunications company. Exciting!

For this commute, I pretended that I worked in San Carlos, but I lived in Emeryville… and I don’t really have any better narrative than that. Maybe I’m a software engineer or something, who knows. I also pretended that I only worked on weekends because that’s when the singing was taking place.

It was about a 2 mile ride from my starting point to the MacArthur BART. Bay Area Rapid Transit only allows bikes on the trains during non-peak times, but fortunately, weekends are non-peak all day long. I parked my bike, and settled in for the 50 minute ride.

guerciotti on BART

Bikes are required to stay in one particular part of the train, where there is not quite enough room for a full-sized bike. No matter how you park it, one of your wheels will stick out in front of the door, or out into the aisle. There just seems to be no way around it. However, I had an aha moment while riding BART:

bicycle parking brake on BART

That’s one of the velcro straps that I usually wrap around my ankles in order to keep my pants from getting chain grease. Instead, I’ve used it to secure the brake lever, thus creating a sort of parking brake. THIS WAS EXTREMELY EFFECTIVE AND I CAN’T BELIEVE I’VE NEVER THOUGHT OF IT BEFORE! I often ride the MBTA commuter rail between Providence and Boston, but this thought never came to me. I used the other velcro strap to secure the wheel to the frame (you can see it in the first BART picture). This was also awesome, but not quite as much as my velcro parking brake.

Well, I think that’s enough revelations for one blog post, I’ll save the rest of my fake commute report for another post.

Project: Fake Commute. Locale: Austin

Whoa, that was quite the hiatus! My apologies. This is how I was spending my time instead of writing in the old blog.

That's a full 1 cup of air next to the book for scale.

That’s The Instructions by Adam Levin. That’s 1030 pages of instructions, kinda reminds me of my last trip to IKEA, amirite?

While I haven’t been writing much lately, I have been fairly active and have much to write about. It’s just I haven’t taken the time to sit down and write it all out in a way that will meet with my dozen readers’ high expectations.

What better way to get back in the blogging swing than to write about cycling in some other city. Because nothing says “low carbon footprint” like hopping on a plane in order to visit friends for the weekend. This post is the next in my serious of Fake Commutes in which I travel to another city and try to annoy the motorists there by riding around in circles. The most epic in this series was Project: Fake Commute. Codename: commuterDude. Locale: Olathe. My Austin ride was significantly less epic and thus does not warrant a code name.

Austin is sort of a Portland Oregon of the South, at least as far as my favorite smug-type activities are concerned. There’s great food everywhere you turn, although much of it is meat-focused (which is fun for a weekend, but I don’t think I’d want to eat it all the time). There’s cohesive network of bicycle lanes and bike routes in a mostly flat city (relative to Providence). And there’s a climate that could be daunting to the outsider (i.e. oppressive heat & humidity in Austin, constant rain in Portland). All Austin needs is some public transit, and the next thing you know, there will be an IFC series dedicated to them.

Spouse and I stayed at a small condo in the Hyde Park section of Austin which we found via AirBnB.com. It was cheaper than a hotel room, and much nicer. Plus, it came with two bikes! What could be better? Well, it rained almost constantly for the first two days we were there, so that could have been better. The bikes were simple cruisers, nothing to write home about, but they worked well enough to get us from Hyde Park to the State Capitol area. Fenders would have been nice, but these bikes are designed for fair-weather cyclists, not hearty all-weather cyclists like Spouse and me.

Also, they featured a sloppy spray-paint job in lime green with stickers from Izze – brand carbonated beverages stuck on various places in order to look “whimsical” or something.

The lime green Izze bikes may be worth your mockery, but these simple, single-speed “beach cruisers” with coaster brakes worked just fine for us to get around town on a lazy holiday morning. The underinflated tires added a certain feeling of danger to the ride as well.

Spouse "gets aero" for the descent.

I don’t think I’d been on a single-speed bike since I was wearing short pants, but luckily we didn’t come across too many hills.  After about a block of wobbling, Spouse and I came to enjoy the unique handling properties of the Izze – it was almost like riding bikes when you were a kid. You certainly couldn’t go too fast on these bikes, but they somehow made us feel care free. Or maybe it was just because we weren’t wearing helmets.

Spouse and I took our fake commute on MLK jr. Day, and we were a little earlier than the usual rush hour so I’m sure that our experience was not typical of a January bike commute in Austin. None the less, there were some features in the Austin topography that helped make it more bike friendly than Providence. First of all, there’s the grid layout for the streets. Instead of riding on a wide, major thoroughfare with cars going 45 MPH and faster, a full grid allows cyclists to ride on a parallel street, one or two blocks over. It’s going to get me to the same place, but I don’t have to worry about the cars. Austin also has numbered bike routes. The routes may move from one street to another, but the number stays the same. This allows a cyclist to pick out which route they want to take, and they don’t have to worry about memorizing street names, they just stay on bike route 32. Along with the numbered routes, there’s an extensive network of bike lanes. It’s not Portland-extensive, but there are quite a few. Honestly though, Spouse and I stayed off of the bike lanes and kept to the back streets. Maybe if I was commuting every day on a faster bike, I would want to ride in the bike lanes, but for our short 5 mile roundtrip “commute” it didn’t make sense to use the lanes. Plus, we were able to ride next to each other on the back streets, something we don’t get to do too often. Part of our route was on the oddly named “Speedway” which seemed to be just another street, one that happened to go through the middle of the ginormous University of Texas.

There was a tiny bit of sidewalk riding on the campus. And eventually, we go to the State Capitol.

From there, we headed downtown and enjoyed some coffee. On our way home, I found an IKEA futon frame repurposed as a bike rack:

And I this lovely historic castle building:

I think it was the Alamo.

 

Project: Fake Commute. Codename: commuterDude. Locale: Olathe

That title looked so cool as I was typing it out. It was like the beginning of a spy thriller or something. I’ve been obsessing over the title of this post for a while, because so many have been running through my head. “CarfreePVD vs. Johnson County”, “Overland Park: The Return” “CarfreePVD X commuterDude Limited-Edition Collabo” “Bike-to-fake-work day.” I like Project: Fake Commute. Maybe someday I’ll travel from town to town, visiting other bike bloggers and commuting with them. Wow, I really know how to dream big, don’t I?

The title refers to the fact that I have now completed a “Fake Commute” in my old home town of Overland Park, KS. Well, I started in Olathe, and ended in Overland Park but whatever. Basically, it was Johnson County Kansas, the land of my birth. The place where I learned how to ride a bike, and learned to drive and learned identify the make and model of a car from 1/4 mile away just by its headlights.

In my various wanderings of bike blog-land (I refuse to add the suffix “-osphere” to “blog.” The word “blog” is bad enough on its own), I happened upon the blog of a bike commuter in Olathe, Noah (you can find his blog at KC Bike Commuting) . I’d followed his blog for a few months and when I planned a visit to my family in Olathe, I asked him if I could tag along on his morning trip.  Well, it turned out that the starting point of his trip was a little further away than I’d expected, but he suggested I talk to another local bike blogger, Keith AKA commuterDude. Keith was happy to help me in my quest to commute in my hometown. It was fortuitous, because I’d planned my trip to Kansas before I realized I would be out of town for Bike-to-work Day, and thus not able to take part in the festivities. My normal everyday bike-to-work commute is pathetic by most standards, so this would give me the chance to try a real commute on the most holiest of bike holidays.

This is the third in a series of what I’m calling “Fake Commutes” although I didn’t give the other posts that title. In January, I biked around San Francisco for a day, and although I didn’t frame the post as a fake commute, my ride was certainly an appropriate length for a commute. When I visited Portland, I specifically set out to ride like a bicycle commuter in one of America’s most bike-friendly cities. And, now the third in the Project: Fake Commute series (this post also functions as the second in my “Commuter Profile” series.)

For this ride, I borrowed my brother-in-law’s bike. It is very different from the bike I’m used to riding. It’s a full-suspension, extremely heavy mountain bike, with a rather slack geometry. The left-hand chain stay jauntily boasted that it was “shimano equipped” so at least it had that going for it. I knew that it did not have lights, so I brought mine along, but I wasn’t expecting my brother-in-law’s lack of a helmet. I have to say I felt naked without it. Here’s the view from the cockpit.

My headlight is mounted to the fork because it wouldn't fit on the handlbar

Keith likes to get to work early, and since I had plans for later in the morning, I was happy to meet him at 6:15 on a residential corner not far from my sister and brother-in-law’s house. It was a misty morning, the grass was fresh with dew, and almost no one came by as I waited for Keith.

uh oh, am I in the right place?

Keith soon rolled up on a very smart-looking, green steel road bike. It sported fenders, rear rack, waterproof panniers, and bar-end shifters on the drop handlebars. Definitely a nice set-up for commuting, or Keith’s favorite weekend activity: randonneuring. After brief introductions, we headed out. As we biked along the 11-mile route, I interviewed Keith about his experiences as a bike commuter. We were headed to the gigantic campus of Sprint World Headquarters where Keith works.

I’m not one for super-early commutes, so my first question for the Commuterdude was, why do you commute so early?

commuterDude: At first it was because I had a shift that started early in the morning. Eventually, I wasn’t required to be in by 7:30 AM, but I noticed that there was much less traffic if I came in earlier in the morning. For the most part, I take the early commute, but occasionally I log-in from home and telecommute for a couple of hours to miss the heaviest part of rush hour, and then bike in later in the day.

CFPVD: When did you start commuting by bike and why?

cD: I started commuting by bike about 10 years ago, but it’s hard to put an exact date on it since it didn’t happen all at once. The first time I biked to work was when my car broke down so I grabbed an old Jazz mountain bike I happened to have. At the time, I had a 76 Buick Regal which got about 6 MPG in town. After high school, I’d gained a few pounds, but by 2000 or so, I’d gotten back in shape. I soon saw biking to work as a good way to train for longer rides on the weekends. For those, I started out with 40-50 mile rides and after 2002 the miles started increasing as I discovered randonneuring.

commuterDude likes to be visible. I may have to get one of those triangles before my next ride across the state.

CFPVD: Is the bike your main mode of transportation?

cD: Up until about a year ago, my wife and I had two cars between us. Then my mother-in-law had mechanical problems with her car (which ended up being terminal) so she needed a car.  I initially let her borrow my car, which was in the driveway most days anyways, and eventually she took over the payments.  While at first it was hard to adjust to only having one car, now we don’t really miss it.

CFPVD: Really, never? Even with having kids?

cD: The only time it would be nice would be to get to the starts of long group rides, but I’m examining things like renting a car for the weekend, or borrowing from someone, or car-pooling.
As we biked along, I let commuterDude take the lead. With his well-tuned road bike (and his experience riding it), he was able to keep a steady pace, in fact it seemed like he hardly ever shifted gears! Meanwhile, I was trying to keep up with him and working through everything the genuine “shimano equipped” drivetrain had to offer. Another great thing about the lack of traffic is that many times we could ride next to each other. I always kept an eye out for approaching cars, and I’d slip behind Keith when one came up behind us. This meant that I was often drafting behind him, but I never got to return the favor by taking the lead. This would generally be considered rude of me to do on a multi-person ride, but I figured it was better to let him set the steady pace and I’d catch up as needed. Plus, the roads were a little damp, and it would not be pleasant for anyone to ride behind me when I didn’t have any fenders. Eventually, we came to a stretch of 143rd street that is just two lanes, and the farms on either side have yet to be swallowed up by development.

Quasi-country road, take me home, to the place I belong. Johnson County, suburban homeland. Take me home, quasi-country road.

cD: This is one of my favorite parts of the ride. For a couple of blocks, it’s almost like you are riding out in the country. They are planning on building it out to 4 lanes soon. Right now, a lot of people take it as an alternate to 135th or 151st, even more will come through once they widen it to 4 lanes.
CFPVD: Are they planning to include bike lanes when they build it out? (a few streets in the area have bike lanes).
cD: No, I don’t think so.
Somewhere around the “country road” section we crossed the border between Olathe and Overland Park. I mentioned that I grew up in Overland Park and Keith said that he had as well. It turns out we grew up about 1/2 mile from each other, but went to different schools because of where the dividing lines were. While I attended the more honorable Shawnee Mission West, Keith went to the more decadent Shawnee Mission South. Somehow, he seems to have turned out all right, so I won’t hold it against him.
The roads in Johnson County are laid out in a pattern I call “grid with squiggles.” That is, there’s a grid system for the major streets: basically a major 4 lane road every mile. Between these 1-mile roads, the subdivision developers laid out streets that loop around, have cul-de-sacs, and generally just feed residents onto the 1-mile roads. There are a few more-or-less straight roads at the 1/2 mile level, but not in every square on the grid. For my Fake Commute, we traveled on a variety of roads. A few of the 1-mile roads, but mostly the 1/2 mile roads that wind through subdivisions. We also went through a few commercial/retail areas. Every car that we encountered gave us plenty of room, and no one gave off a particularly aggressive vibe. Keith picked a great route – another reason that I’m glad he was leading the way.

Our route. 1-mile roads in yellow.

There were a couple of serious looking roadies who gave us a wave as they passed in the other direction (they seemed a little perplexed by our totally mis-matched bikes). Aside from that, on our way in, the only other cyclists we saw were a few people riding on the sidewalks. This ride was one of the longest I’ve taken without breaking any laws. Generally, I’m a law-abiding cyclist, but I do run the occasional stop light when there are no cars present and the light is not going to change because it doesn’t know I’m there.  During our ride, we had to go through a few controlled intersections, but it seemed like the traffic light gods were on our side, and we hardly waited at all.

Sprint World Headquarters

Finally, the mammoth construction that is Sprint World Headquarters loomed in the distance. Sprint takes up the area of several city blocks, and has many 8-12 story buildings plus several parking structures. Keith and I pulled into one of the many parking garages and he locked up to a bike rack right next to the entrance.

commuterDude enjoying some bike parking dignity

cD: They put the racks in about 3 years ago. Before that, people were locking up to railings, pipes and conduit.
CFPVD: Do they have a shower facility for bike commuters?
cD: There’s a fitness center here that has a shower, but you have to pay for a membership. Since I’m a contractor and not a Sprint employee, I think it’s even more expensive for me than for regular Sprint employees. I don’t need a fitness center membership, and Sprint won’t allow access to just the showers. Instead, I keep a relatively slow pace on the way in (so I don’t get too sweaty) and I clean up a little in a private bathroom and bring a change of clothes. It’s a business-casual environment, so I don’t have to worry about a suit or pressed shirt. I haven’t had any co-workers complain over the years.

undignified old parking place

CFPVD: How do you handle the winters?
cD: If the roads are passable, I’ll ride no matter what the temperature is. There are some times when we get snow and ice that makes the roads dangerous. In that case I walk or ride to a bus stop and take that in.
CFPVD: Do you see many other bike commuters at Sprint?
cD: No, just a few. In fact, there’s a beige Honda that I’ve seen a few times, that I’m pretty sure is driving from an apartment complex across the street. It couldn’t be more than a half mile away. It’s possible that he’s picking someone up from there or something, I don’t know.
CFPVD: I was looking at a map of Springfield MO recently and discovered that I used to drive 0.8 miles to work every day. It’s hard to get out of that driving mindset. And by the way, a beige Honda? That’s got to be one of the most common cars in Johnson County. How do you know it’s the same one?
cD: Well, when you ride the same way every day, you get to recognize certain cars.
—-
We chatted a bit more, then I had to hit the road so Spouse and I could check out a local yoga studio. A 20 mile bike ride in the morning, plus 1.5 hours of yoga with some new-agey looking teacher I’ve never met? Hey why not?
I took the Tomahawk trail for part of way home. I thought it might be a quicker route seeing as how it goes on more of a diagonal than the route that Keith and I took.  However, it dips, swerves and weaves all over the place, following the Tomahawk creek. There had been a thunderstorm the night before, and the trail was still wet. Not only that, it was completely covered in mud at points (maybe it was good to have those knobby MTB tires after all?)  There were times where the trail was quite nice. It can be a very pretty ride through the woods and along the stream.

so serene, and so muddy

Earlier, Keith had mentioned one downside to the trail. Because it’s there, some people expect you to ride on it all the time (and not on the streets). They don’t realize that it’s not always the best route due to rain, mud, distance, etc. I saw 2-3 more bike commuters on my way home, but it was a disappointing number for the official “bike-to-work” day. Eventually, I got tired of the constant up and down of the bike trail. There was an iron fence along the trail, but a gate led to a subdivision and checking my map, I could see that it led back to a major street.  But first, I had to brave: McMansionLand!

A typical example of the Johnson County McMansion. Note the little sign "discreetly" informing you of the security system.

I made it back to my sister & brother-in-law’s place a little sweaty, a little muddy, and with a new respect for the people who commute by bike in Johnson County. In a way, I’m a little jealous. Keith gets in a real ride before and after work every day, and I only get to ride for a mile and a half. I wonder if I would have ever made the transition to car-free (or even car-light) if I’d stayed in Johnson County.

After returning to Providence, I emailed Keith to confirm a few details and ask my standard question: What are the 3-5 reasons you commute by bike?

He responded:

1 – Physical:  I love what the bike has done for me, and it’s created a level of enjoyment that I never tire of
2 – Mental:  I’m a better person upon arriving home by bike – as opposed to the kind of person driving in suburban traffic creates – I’m less stressed, more relaxed, easier-going
3 – Financial:  While I’ve never done the math beyond conjecture, the financial savings are pretty significant.  I don’t buy gas – since my wife drives our only car primarily – so I go months without operating a gas pump.  I have no idea how much gas costs these days, and I kinda like that.  Further, I get a workout every day, and aside from the cost of bike parts, it costs me very little.  People usually join and drive to a gym – and I don’t need to
4 – Nature:  riding a bike puts me closer to what many people in the area have learned to ignore:  the subtleties of changing seasons, birds, squirrels, beaver, rabbits, snakes, deer – even a bobcat once – things the average motorist wouldn’t even imagine they’d see on a commute home

Thanks again Keith!

Welcome to Portland, here’s your bike

In my previous post on Portland, I discussed its many redeeming qualities as far as bike-friendliness. Number 1, of course was bike parking. I’ve got a thing or two to say about bike parking, and if you run into me at a cocktail party, I’ll be sure to bore you about it for at least an hour. I used to believe that bike parking wasn’t that big of a deal – as long as there was a decent street sign for me to lock up to I was happy. I am no longer so easily pleased. Maybe I’m just tired of being treated like a second-class citizen when I’m trying to park my bike. Maybe I’ve seen the promised land of Portland and I want better. Later in this post, I’ll share a photo with you showing quite possibly the best bike parking ever. But don’t skip ahead to the end.

During my visit, I stayed at the Ace Hotel in downtown Portland. It was a great place. It looks like a super-hip boutique hotel, and I suppose it is. However, if you get one of the rooms that does not include a bathroom, it’s really pretty economical. There’s a bathroom down the hall that was quite nice – probably bigger than the hotel room. The Ace is next door to a Stumptown Coffee location, and the Ace’s lobby doubles as Stumptown’s dining room.

Comfy couches, copies of the NY Times, delicious coffee. Heaven, right? Now what’s that in the other corner of the lobby?

3 bikes for loaning to Ace guests for free (on a first-come-first-served basis). After 3 days of eating and walking my way across Portland, I figured it was time to try my hand at biking. I picked up my bike shortly after 5 PM on a Monday. What better way to experience the wonders of biking in Portland than by joining the Peloton at rush hour. My Ace Bike came with this:

It really only covered the downtown area, and I didn’t stay there for long. I headed down Stark, then over the Willamette River (on the Steel Bridge, I believe). I then took the bike path along the eastern bank of the Willamette, up past the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. I’m not sure of the brand of bike, but it had a disc brake up front, coaster brake in the back and a Shimano 3-speed internal gear hub. It was nice to try out the hub shifter. I’ve read about them, but hadn’t had a chance to ride one yet. If you think about it, for a basic city bike, 3 speeds is all you need. 1 for going up hill, one for flats, and one for going downhill or going fast. The 3 speeds covered these basics pretty well, but I was spinning in the top gear at times when I wanted to go fast on the bike trail.

The Cockpit

As you can see, the bike featured a large front rack, which would be useful for a tourist who was doing a little shopping. It served to hold my lock pretty well. After biking for a while on the bike path, I consulted the google map for another fun place to go and spotted this odd bit of urban planning not too far away:

It’s a neighborhood called Ladd’s Addition. A former mayor owned the land and when it came time to develop it, he opted to put all of the streets on a diagonal orientation instead of the grid like most of the rest of the city. He also designed the four little rhomboid parks and the central circular park with a traffic circle around it. It looked like a pleasant place to ride, and indeed it was. The streets are narrow, the traffic moves slowly and there are giant trees every where you look. When I arrived at the center, I also found this little surprise:

Hard to read the sign here, but it’s a small bike shop. My seat was feeling a little low, which was causing a little pain in my thighs. I’d learned my lesson from my ride in San Francisco – don’t be shy about walking into an LBS to get a little adjustment. The mechanic was happy to raise my seat a little. Well, maybe he was a little peeved that I’d brought in one of his competitor’s bikes, but he made the adjustment anyhow. He even told me about how Ace got their bikes – they gave several of the local bike shops a budget of $600 to put together a loaner bike.  He seemed impressed that I had ridden so far from the hotel. I guess most people just stay in the downtown area. Outside the shop, there were several upside-down U bike racks including this one:

What’s that peeking out down on the right hand side?

Why of course! It’s a hand-knit bike rack cozy to protect your frame from getting scratched on the rack. This could be the best example of bike parking I’ve ever seen. What sort of mindset would cause someone to go to the trouble of knitting a bike rack cozy just so fellow citizens won’t risk scratching their bikes? Can we call it civic-mindedness?

There was a great deal of civic-mindedness evident in Portland. The bus drivers greet everyone with a smile and “hello” (in PVD you’re lucky to get a grunt). Everyone says “thank you” when they leave the bus. And I mean everyone: the surly teen, the young mother, even the crazy lady who spent the entire ride muttering to herself (ex: “that g-d ****, who the **** does she think she is”), even she said “thank you” to the bus driver has she left the bus. Another example: a poorly-secured ladder flew off the top of a work truck on a major bridge. It didn’t hit anyone, but it landed in the middle of a lane and it was holding up traffic. A skate punk took the time to walk into the street to move the ladder, and the cars cooperated to let him do it.

Ace Hotel's bike map includes helpful tips for people visiting from less civic-minded lands

I think that the attitude towards bikes in Portland is an extension of this civic-mindedness. At some point, Portlanders realized that bikes are a cheap way to make the city better. There would be less traffic, less polution, and better health if more people were on bikes. So they built the infrastructure to make cycling easier. And the cyclists seem to return the favor. I saw very little illegal or unsafe cycling while I was in Portland. About the only thing I saw was people riding on the sidewalk in the urban center (a bad idea for many reasons). But they were always going slow, and if I kept my eye on them, I’d see that they were just arriving at their destination, so they weren’t on the sidewalk for long. Or they were on one block of a one-way street and quickly went back to riding in the street when it was possible. Then there was the occasional old person, who was going slow enough on the sidewalk that they really weren’t dangerous to anyone aside from themselves.  Aside from the sidewalk riding, I don’t think I saw anything else egregiously dangerous the 4 days I was there. In fact, my first day back in Providence, I saw more people riding illegally during my 15 minute commute home than the entire time I was in Portland. I’ve read many arguments for why people ride in illegal/dangerous ways (I’ll admit to doing it myself), but I think that Portland shows that when a town treats their cyclists with respect, the cyclists return the favor.

I even saw cyclists use turn signals - on an almost regular basis!

Keep rocking, Portland!

Meanwhile… the shit was really starting to hit the fan with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill when I saw this ad on the back of a magazine:

More More More! How do you like it, how do you like it?

Sorry to end on such a bummer.