Portland Oregon, the Rose City, Stumptown, or The Big Smugness (as BSNYC would call it). I visited recently and I’d have to say that it left quite an impression. Portland was recently shamed when Bicycling Magazine put Minneapolis ahead of it in their annual ranking of most bike-friendly cities (the haters say Minneapolis only won because they were “most improved”). But Portland’s reputation for bike-friendliness is still strong.
I was looking over my pictures this evening, and I noticed that there were a few things that I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of. It was almost like I missed taking a picture of things that I saw again and again. For one thing, there were bike racks everywhere. Anyplace where you could imagine needing a little bit of bike parking, there was at least a simple upside-down U rack that could accommodate two bikes. In many of the more popular shopping and dining districts, there was a whole row of U racks that took up 2 car parking spaces. These racks were often filled with 15-20 bikes, in a space normally taken up by 2 cars. It got to be a little overwhelming and I forgot to take a good picture of one of the racks. The best I have is this:
That’s it off to the right hand side in blue. I’m really not sure why I took this picture. I was waiting for a bus and watching the cars negotiate the 4-way stop (95% of them actually stopped, it was very disorienting). There were many buildings that featured tin siding – I may have taken the above picture in an attempt to show this, but I don’t think it worked out so well. Other things I never got a good picture of: Bungalows! The east side of the city was filled with adorable bungalows, so cute I wanted to eat every one of them. But I never got a good picture of one. The best I have is this, from the backyard of Tedra & Todd (friends of a friend) who cooked a delightful meal for us:
This green and orange colorway is very popular for Portland bungalows. Oh yeah, they had a huge tree fall into their backyard about 6 months ago, but it didn’t hit the house so they decided to leave it there. Their kids and dogs enjoy playing on it, so why bother cutting it up right away, right? Of course, Tedra & Todd have just built a chicken coop and will move their 7 recently purchased chicks out there as soon as they are big enough. Urban chicken raising has become very popular in Portland in the last couple of years – I heard or saw several other chickens as I walked around the city. Here’s T&T’s Rhode Island Red, Scarlett:
There were cool looking bikes everywhere, most of which I managed to miss with my camera. There were a fair number of fixies, but not as many as I had been led to believe. They seemed decidedly “functional” and not mere fashion objects as many critics seem them. I don’t remember seeing many fixies without at least a front brake – evidently it’s required by law. There was this fixie that took it a step further with the “no headset, no seat” look.
I’m sure we’ll see this look hit the streets of Williamsburg within the month. Note that this fixie has both front and rear fenders – something I saw quite a bit of. Even the fixie riders like a little bit of practicality with their hipness. I guess this also qualifies as a decent picture of a couple of upside-down U bike racks. They were all over the place downtown, and many more in other parts of the cities. This may be my new favorite rack design. It’s not particularly pretty, but it’s more functional than the hitching post design. It looked much easier to lock two bikes to the same rack, something that can be challenging on a hitching post design. I’m sure they are cheap to produce, and easy to install. The only advantage that the hitching post has is that it only needs to be secured to the ground at one point. Speaking of hitching posts, I almost dropped my stumptown coffee when I came across this:
Hmm, what’s that crest? ENHANCE!
Oh, I guess it’s an actual functional hitching post for police horses, as opposed to the purely decorative hitching posts found in my neighborhood. Although it also seems to be providing a decorative surface for people to express their views of the local police.
In the distance of the wide shot above, you can see an orange pole cat-a-corner from my vantage point. These poles were all over the city marking the location of car sharing vehicles (zipcar and u-share). ENHANCE!
The pole features a picture of a shoe, a bike, a bus and a car, living together in perfect orange harmony. A Portlander has even affixed a public service announcement sticker telling everyone that dog poop + water = e. coli. Thanks for the tip, citizen!
Other things I forgot to take pictures of: The “share the road” license plate.
I saw these on the expected cars: Priuses, Volvos, Subarus with dogs in the back, etc. But on my way out of town, I saw one on a Nissan 350Z. In case you need a visual aid, here’s one in its natural habitat, a Miami Beach boulevard:
I mean, that’s one of the douchiest cars around! And “look-at-me-orange” is the douchiest color. I’ll admit, I wouldn’t mind driving one, they are supposed to be a great performance bargain, but the people I see driving them just look like assholes – almost worse than Porsche drivers. They are like assholes who aspire to be Porsche-driving assholes, but don’t have the money yet. Okay, enough with the haterade. My point, Portland is so bike-friendly that even assholes who drive 350Zs pay extra money to proclaim that they “share the road” with cyclists.
One common Portland sight I happened to catch on film (or iPhone bits or whatever) was a Surly Long Haul Trucker. Surly is a fairly minor brand name in the overall cycling world, but pretty well respected. Surly LHT owners are very loyal to their bikes and love them for their comfort on long rides. Here’s one parked outside of the Farm Cafe on Burnside:
Farm Cafe was totally delicious, by the way. The setup looks different from the complete bike that Surly features on their website. For one thing, it has a single crankset up front – I suppose for simplicity and to save weight? (doubt the weight angle, since it’s a steel frame). Then there is that black bag over the saddle, I wonder what that could be?
Ah yes, if you spend that much money on your saddle, then you’re not just going to put a safeway bag on it to protect it in the rain. I saw many other Brooks Saddles around town, but I am disappointed to say that I did not see one perineum-friendly saddle in the entire town.
Portland, you may have the best cycling infrastructure I’ve ever seen, but I fear for your taints.
…to be continued.