Ride Me is dedicated to the lifestyle and culture of living Car Free in Portland, Or. Traveling only by bike and public transit is a great way to get around the Rose City.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

NASCAR Nation and the Bicycle

Let’s face it as a national group we’re in a hurry. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ranks speeding as the single largest contributing factor to auto-related fatalities in the US today. Everyone is a race-car driver; it’s a NASCAR Nation!
The mentality that we all must go faster is quickly creeping in to the social fabric of transportation. You can easily see it on the arterial streets of Portland. I even see it on the so- called residential neighborhood streets where the speed limit (at least in Portland) rarely, exceeds 25 mph. It’s not uncommon to witness folks driving through these areas at speeds of 40mph or faster.
It’s not just the cars that are going faster either. Bicyclists are getting in on the fun too. No doubt when you combine the bicycle with this NASCAR mentality it is inevitable there will be problems. Stop at any major bike route intersection around the city and take a look for yourself. Track bikes, Race frames, drop bars, Aero Rims, Titanium this and that, LYCRA, muscles twitching. Suddenly, the light turns green, and they’re off…like a shot, everyone going as fast as possible as if we’re all in some race and I forgot to get my bib number. Darn, I knew there was something I needed to do.
It’s understandable that we want to distance ourselves from those cars sitting at the same stoplight. After all we have to compete with them for the same space. But in reality we will never be able to out run them. No matter how much Lycra and Titanium you have they’re going to catch you, and then pass you at most likely an increasingly higher rate of speed.
So how should we behave in the poorly integrated bike/car traffic patterns of the Good ol’ US of A? Yes even in the ‘bikers paradise’ of Portland it still could be better, a lot better in my opinion. The fact is the pace of traffic need to be changed along with the mentality of those on the road. I’ve made more of an effort to remedy this in the past year. Slow down. That’s my mantra. It’s as simple as that. Slower is safer. Slower is more relaxing, less sweaty ( ewww!) and slower is nicer to those around you. Where do I see myself going with this attitude? I’m not entirely sure, but at least it will be at a leisurely pace.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Continuous and Integral

An interesting article on Groningen, Netherlands and how they have woven their bicycle infrastructure into the fabric of the city. Over 57% of all trips are made by bicycle in this student town in the North of the Netherlands. Even in the Netherlands, Groningen is a shining example of bike-ablity.
Josh Hart has posted a first person observation of the city on his Car Free Blog "On the Level". In his post Josh says "By prioritizing cycle traffic over cars, the Dutch engineers have managed to balance the roadway’s playing field and allow a blossoming of bicycle transport as a practical network useable by just about everyone. " The city planners in Groningen have been able to achieve this through what they call a system that is "continuous and integral". Josh reports that many of the problems we have come to expect are being addressed. He says the city treats cyclists with respect– they create a network of cycling lanes and paths that never just end suddenly, as is common in the US. There are entire housing developments that are built along major bicycle and scooter “roadways,” massive bike parks everywhere, many roads that are one way for cars but two way for bikes, and special signal phases for bikes.
We all know that the Dutch are light years ahead of the US when it comes to bike planning, but this article is inspiring. Imagine living in a community based around bike transit...sounds like heaven

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Omafiets, not just for Granny anymore.

I think the term Omafiets, Dutch for “Granny bike”, tends to make most men cringe a bit. The thought of riding a woman’s bike, let alone an upright bike, seems to be far from the mindset of most men pedaling around PDX, or the US in general.
But why?
Are we really so insecure in our manhood that a woman’s bike somehow challenges our masculine cycling ego?
Is it simply the “Granny” designation? Perhaps it’s the mental image of an old, wrinkly Granny riding along at a slower than usual pace seems less than hard-core.

Let’s look at the facts:
Step through frame =Easier to mount and dismount; casually stylish as well. Also, you don’t need special clothes or shoes. Just step on and ride away.
Upright riding position = Better view of your surroundings and more visible to auto traffic.
Easier pace than a Roadie = Take some time to enjoy where you are and where your going. It’s not a race. What’s the hurry anyway?
Nerd Factor = Isn’t it hip to be Nerdy these days? Most of the hipster crowd (myself included) seems to gravitate toward the ‘faux nerd’ look anyway. This bike fits perfectly.

I love pedaling my Omafiets around town. I ride it almost exclusively.
As more of these bikes hit the street, I am surprised that more men aren't riding them. The Electra Amsterdam on sale everywhere, and the Azor at Clevercycles are two great examples of the Omafiets. The Dutch, current purveyors of this style of bike, see most all teen boys and young men choosing the Omafiets for their preferred city ride. Mainly for the reasons listed above. Some even ride a pretty mean wheelie on them.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I spend a lot of time in alleys...

That is, riding thru alleys. Not sleeping or rooting through trash cans. I think of the alleys as my own quiet thoroughfare that gets me off the beaten path, so to speak. One in particular, the alley behind Ladd's Avenue, is my favorite. I ride this way every day to and from work. It's quiet, it's scenic and its convenient. Today I had company. It's not unusual to see someone else, however; more often than not they are pushing a shopping cart full of their worldly belongings. Today there were other commuters using my alley!
Has my oasis in the city been discovered?
Was it just a coincidence?
It seems those of us who have abandoned the car full-time seem to share a secret. The secret that biking from point A to B is the best way to get around. Maybe it's not the fastest, maybe not always the easiest, but in the long-run it's the best. It's slower than a car. That allows time to take in the little things, like the birds chirping, or the smell of spring flowers. Not as easy as a car. It requires my direct physical participation. Exercise, that's a good thing. These things make it the best way to travel.
Inside these secrets of transportation biking I thought I'd found my own secret: The Alleyways of Portland. I guess there are others who share my secret, and that's a good thing too.
See you off the beaten path...

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Willamette Greenway Trail

Last Saturday after a brief stop by the Rose Festival at the Waterfront, Carolyn and I rode south to check out the Willamette Greenway Trail. I have to admit I have never been on this section of trail and I was impressed. I had a smile on my face the entire ride. This trail is quite a contrast to the Springwater. Low traffic, residential settings, and well integrated with the other non-bike areas that it intersects. The online description of the trail says it starts at the Macadam Bay Club, but with the nice wide bike lane leading from the Hawthorne Bridge through the South Waterfront and beneath the Tram it's a bit like a trip through the future of Portland leading to the "official trailhead." At this point the trail leads 3 miles to the Sellwood bridge. The trail is a nice 8 ft wide cruiser that winds along the river through Willamette Park and along the Willamette Yacht Club. Where we stopped to watch some kids taking a Sailing class. When your passing the Yacht Club be careful as there were quite a few boaters loading and unloading Kayaks, Sunfish and the like. I actually had I guy say "thank you" to me for ringing my bell as he started walking front of me from behind a parked SUV. When we got to the Sellwood Bridge I wanted to follow the 'unofficial' dirt trail that leads on South from there but since we were both riding on Vintage Tires ( read Old, dry-rotted) we decided that we had best point it East across the river.
Portland really is the best biking city in America. Now go out and get some!

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Copenhagen leading the charge!

We all love Amsterdam, sure.

There's Hookers, Hash and Heineken a plenty, and oh yeah, a pretty fabulous cycling culture throughout the entire country as well.

What about their Scandinavian cousins to the north?

You know, the Danish..?

It seems the Danes have taken a pretty big bite out of the cycle culture pie as well. With the goal of becoming "the best cycling city in the world" Copenhagen's Mayor Klaus Bondam just put forth a proposal that would make even the most ardent Dutch cyclist take a second glance.

On May 30th Mayor Bondam presented the Copenhagen Bicycle Proposal which for DKK 75 million ( $13.5 million US) will make it more fun to ride a bicycle and hopefully also tempt more people to use their bicycles.

"The more people bicycling and the more people who will stop using their cars every day, the more we will contribute to lower the CO2 emission. 14 per cent more cyclists will contribute to 80,000 less CO2 emission. The number of accidents in Copenhagen is not high, however, it is still our ambition to half the number of accidents on bicycles, because if you feel safe, you will also feel like riding your bike" , says Mayor Bondam.

It's refreshing to hear a politician talking about ACTUALLY changing our behavior as way to curb emissions. I think that the already cycle-savy Danes will also benefit from increased health and a connection to the community as well.

I'd like to issue a challenge to our State and Local leaders to follow Mayor Bondam's lead. Take a look at our fair Rose City, we're pretty cycle friendly, but I think we could do more by simply driving less.

C'mon Mayor Potter, Commissioner Adams and all the others down there at City Hall. Stop pandering to the car! Forget about " Auto-Couplets", increased Parking and Freeways.

Those things are Dinosaurs, man.

Ride free.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Clever Cycles nears opening day

Today on my ride home I happened to stop by Clever Cycles and talk with Todd. As we talked he showed me around the shop and subterranean vault of Oma and Bakfietsen they have to offer. The shop will have a 'soft opening' on June 1 with a Grand Opening coming later.
I for one cannot wait to see the impact these bikes will have on the cycling landscape of Portland.
Good luck Clever Cycles...!

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What are YOU doing in the middle of the street...?

I have to admit when I first heard those words, I was slightly surprised. This morning as I rode to work, while in the middle of the left-hand lane on SW Oak, I looked over to my right and there was an angry motorist intentionally moving toward me, forcing me into the parked cars, while shrieking for me to "get on the sidewalk..." The ensuing interaction is not worth noting word for word. Suffice it to say she felt that bikes not only have no right to be on the street, but my safety was not worthy of consideration. After she informed me that she would " run me down in a second..." I felt it best to move aside and let her get on her way.
Recently, I read comments on the bikeportland.org forum to a similar effect. It seems the author was confronted by a person who felt cyclists are not allowed on the streets...
How is it possible in a city like Portland that folks truly believe bikes no longer belong on the street?

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