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Portland Recognized in National Geographic

I just saw a great little article applauding Portland’s bicycle friendliness in an issue of National Geographic.

It’s a short article in the “Technology” section but it highly praises Portland’s bicycle infrastructure and how tolerant people are towards bicyclists here. The article cites our 171 miles of bike lanes, bike boxes (which allows bikes to be visible to cars at stop lights) and bike-only traffic signals.

A bar graph on the side shows the increase in bikes being put on bus racks in various US cities, with Houston increasing 235%!

The article concludes other cities could become as bike friendly as Portland simply by repainting street to include bike lanes. As interior decorators say, paint is cheap! It’s a little more complicated than that, many bicyclists in Portland prefer to ride on low traffic streets. This is an even cheaper solution, since it costs nothing to simply choose to ride on quiet streets with few cars. However, it’s Portland’s conscious effort to promote bicycling as an alternative to cars and commitment to improving bikes’ access to streets that has given so many people the confidence to ride around the city.

And every little bit of biking counts! Maybe you can’t ride the whole way to work, or want to get out on a bike while you’re traveling. When people see others riding and smiling it’s likely to spread, and that can also translate into more infrastructure, both for the benefit of tourists and locals. If you’re thinking of taking your bike along for your next adventure, or partial commute to work, check out this article about the 9 Best Car Bike Racks.

Now, let’s get riding!

Cargo Bikes

Holly is unimpressed with being treated as cargo

Holly is unimpressed with being treated as cargo

So I’m walking down the sidewalk when I sense a presence behind me. I turn around and there, like the mythic Yeti, is an apparition much heard of but seldom seen, it’s Phil from Metrofiets riding one of his handbuilt in Portland cargo bikes.

Phil is actually coming to the shop to show us what is only the third of their new creations. You can certainly understand why there’s only three, the thing is almost 10 feet long and features a wooden box mounted in the middle, big enough to hold almost 2 adults, or 2 kegs. Phil says it will hold 200 pounds while still being easy to maneuver and up to 600 pounds maximum. He let me take it for a spin and it did take a moment to get the balance down (the key is to look where you’re going, not at the box!)

Ever since Clever Cycles brought the dutch cargo bike Bakfiets to Portland a couple of years ago, interest in these utilitarian bicycles has been growing. Over the last six months news of new companies and products has been springing up. The Xtracycle is a bolt on rear wheel which creates basically a long bicycle with a long rear rack. It’s been around for a while, but now there’s the Yuba Mundo, based on the same concept. Surly has also come out with their own version called the Big Dummy.

Cargo bikes have a bin mounted somewhere allowing you to put things in without securing them down like on a rack. In addition to Bakfiets and Metrofiets, which have the box mounted in front of the rider, a company called Madsen just began building their own version. Madsen’s bike has the box mounted behind the rider with a well in the middle for the rear wheel.

In Eugene, Oregon, the Center for Appropriate Transport has been making their own cargo bike for years. More recently, another Eugene company, CETMA is about to launch their own version. And last but not least out of Europe is the Long John, possibly the oldest of the cargo bikes.

The point is, while not new, cargo bikes are becoming hot in the US and it will be interesting to see where the interest goes. With a 200 pound cargo capacity they are excellent for much more than just a quick trip to the grocery store. People here in Portland are even using them to move with. Their growing popularity will allow more people to get out of their cars more often and further reduce our dependence on cars, which as you know, I think is great!

Toughest of the Tough

Hats off to my lady, the lovely Lota the commuter.

Yesterday morning the wind was howling, the rain driving and yet despite my repeated offers to drive her to work, she persevered and rode her bike to work. I sent her an encouraging note to find once she had gotten to the office, changed into dry clothes and finally logged into the computer. Here’s what she wrote back:

“I was definitely the toughest of the tough today!
It was one of the stormiest rides I’ve ever done – wind gusts that almost pushed me over, car spray, leaves flying, rain coming in sideways and head-on. It was intense. So much so, that I was laughing out loud at one point when I almost had to walk the bike up and over the broadway bridge because the wind against me was so strong.
It was kind of fun…. kind of.”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is bike commuting at its most challenging, and I salute all the hardy souls who pull it off even on days like that.

It makes me realize that no matter how much we love our bicycles and are committed to riding as much as possible, there is still a place for public transportation and the shelter they provide!

I noticed in the paper yesterday Trimet bus ridership is up 8.8% this September over last. It warms my heart to see people moving to public transportation. There are so many advantages to getting people on the bus. First, full buses help offset the cost of running buses. The more people that ride, the less money Trimet loses, which takes away the argument anti-public transport people make that it just eats up ridiculous sums to haul the homeless around. And Trimet might take a break from the constant fare increases.

Also, the more people that ride the more people will be willing to ride. Have you ever been on a bus with nothing but scary teens and scary crazy people? (I have nothing against the mentally ill, it’s just solving that problem lies outside the scope of my comments). Does that make you want to ride the bus? Probably not. However, as more “normal” people (at least not possibly carrying a weapon or all their belongings in a trashbag) ride, the bus will begin to police itself, the scary teens will be less likely to act scary and you’ll be less likely to be assaulted by someone who hasn’t bathed in weeks arguing with their dead uncle.

My theory is that public transport actually helps the biking movement. Once people make the decision to get out of their cars and ride the bus they realize two things; 1 The bus is not that fast. It stops every couple blocks, takes time to load and unload people and it doesn’t go directly where you’re going. 2 If you’re willing to take the bus instead of the car, why not ride a bike? It’s a lot faster than the bus, makes no stops for passengers, doesn’t cost almost $2, goes when you want and goes straight to where you want. Once you overcome the obstacles of equipment, fear of getting run over, and not knowing how to get where you’re going, it’s the obvious alternative to driving.

Unless it’s raining, in which case it’s just the toughest of the tough out there.

Oregon Tours

1 (503) 243-2453
133 sw 2nd avenue portland, or, 97204