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Photo series: People on bikes in Portland

Posted by on January 17th, 2011 at 1:13 pm

(Photos © J. Maus)


I love observing bike traffic and snapping photos of people as they ride.

I think we can learn a lot from photos like these. Images of people using our bikeways help us get beyond the statistics and the online debates. They humanize bicycling. They help dispel stereotypes. They inform us with new ideas about bike styles and clothing that work well in Portland and they inspire us with a sense of community and shared experience.

Below are some photos taken in the past few weeks. The locations are N Flint Avenue near Hancock and N Broadway between Wheeler and Ross…

What else can we learn from these images?

— I plan to continue this series and will set up in locations throughout Portland. See more photos from this series in the Gallery.

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  • lisa January 17, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Proving once again…
    a picture IS worth a thousand words.
    Keep up the good work.

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  • Chrystal January 17, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    I love the pictures, I enjoying watching all types of people riding while at work on Vancouver. Bike traffic makes me happy.

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  • Brent Logan January 17, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    It looks like a lot of bikes used this time of year have fenders.

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    • April January 17, 2011 at 2:16 pm

      A lot of bikes in general in Portland have fenders. I never take mine off. It just rains too often!

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    • rider January 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm

      I was actually thinking too many people in these photos have the jerk fenders. They keep the rider dry but spray road grit into the teeth of all those riding behind them.

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      • are January 17, 2011 at 9:57 pm

        don’t ride that close behind

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        • John Lascurettes January 18, 2011 at 11:08 am

          Are, even at 10 mph, the rooster tail from bike w/o fenders throws water back pretty darned far.

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          • dan January 18, 2011 at 11:39 am

            So? We have no mandate to fill every empty slot in traffic…we’re not motorists on a CA freeway. What’s the problem with leaving a 20 foot gap if that’s what it takes to keep grit out of your face?

            I have no rear fender, and I’m careful about leaving plenty of room when passing people before I move in front of them. Now, if someone wants to catch up to me and ride right behind me in my wheel spray, that’s their own decision.

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          • John Lascurettes January 18, 2011 at 6:03 pm

            Do you cross any bridges at rush hour? There’s no avoiding close quarters on Broadway (and by close I mean closer than 20′). I’m sure Hawthorne is even worse.

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  • April January 17, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Two mixtes! Woo! (ooh, and a Linus one…jealous!)

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  • Paul Tay January 17, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Portland Cycle Chic?

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  • Dan Kaufman January 17, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    As always I love the photography.

    No one is in the drops- everybody hates the drops but it seems like I’ve been in ‘em a lot lately with headwinds both ways.

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  • voline January 17, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Is the 5th photo of Roger Geller?

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    • Thomas Le Ngo January 17, 2011 at 9:37 pm

      That’s him. He’s wearing his signature hat.

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  • RC January 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Most bikers wear helmets.

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  • Nick V January 17, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Only two people are smiling. What’s THAT all about?

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    • Jackattak January 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm

      It’s winter and it’s effing cold and they’re on bikes. ;)

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      • John Lascurettes January 18, 2011 at 11:13 am

        Winter nothing, it was (relatively speaking) hot that day. We went from 29° mornings to a 50° morning in the span of two days.

        I’m the first smiling picture, the guy in the shorts. Much to my wife’s dismay, I took off my Helmuffs just that morning because it was too warm.

        I was smiling because I had spotted Jonathan on the opposite sidewalk snapping pics. I flashed him a peace sign (in the pic, I’m returning my right hand to the handlebars). I will admit to moments before that cursing the 15 MPH headwind I was battling. ;)

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        • Greg February 2, 2011 at 11:27 pm

          I thought that was you, but then I said naw no helmuffs couldn’t be. Guess you had a good reason.

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  • spare_wheel January 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    colville-andersen would get quite upset with the amount of lycra and nylon in the original unedited flicker stream.

    and the he

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  • deborah January 17, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    i love the photos! thanks again Jonathan! Saves me from gawking at people’s setups at stoplights! ;)

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  • wally January 17, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    great pics. Would be interesting to see if the demographics of riders vary depending on part of town/time of day.

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  • q`Tzal January 17, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Generic pictures of anybody on a bicycle: this looks like the start of a good PSA TV advert.

    Something with a tone of “We are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. We engineers, teachers, doctors and police. We are racing, training, commuting, touring, having fun and hunkering down for a long hard slog through traffic. We are you, you are us.”

    Gotta find a way to end it with a “Mira Birk”-esq diplomatic tone rather than the Anonymous “We are legion. Expect us.” confrontational tone that first popped to mind.

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    • Jackattak January 17, 2011 at 4:11 pm

      I dig it.

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    • Pete January 18, 2011 at 9:16 pm

      We aren’t stuck in traffic… get over it.

      Oops, not Portland-esque, sorry! :)

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  • anthony January 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    Ah, so that was you! I was commuting to work on Flint one morning when I saw someone taking my picture (not one of the ones here). Initially, I was a little weirded out, so it probably showed on my face. Cool to finally know what that was all about!

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  • anon January 17, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    1. Handlebars are set up at an un-ergonomic level (ends should tilt down, not up). She looks awkward on the bike, possibly due to this and the fact her helmet is seated too far back on her head.

    2. Rider is a total gearhead, preferring disc brakes over easier to maintain rim brakes. Has obviously figured out a good rotor/pad combo to prevent brakes from squealing uncontrollably in wet weather. Uses a computer to tell him how many miles he rides each week and will definitely own a recumbent one day.

    3. Dude’s got it down, but may be upset due to thinking about the amount of rear-wheel spokes he’s broken in recent years.

    4. Seat’s actually too high in this case and helmet is not seated right on her head. Spent more money coat and shoes than bike.

    5. Top tube length is way too long and as a result his hand position of choice is far away from brake levers. Surprisingly he has not died yet despite this. Seat is too far low and is just months away from developing leg pain from improper muscle development.

    6. Sean Connery in Finding Forester enjoys riding a bike.

    7. Has a bike that fits pretty decently despite having long legs / short arms collabo. She deals with the milk crate rubbing against her butt because frame’s trail and chainstays are too short to get proper pannier heel clearance.

    8. Might actually have Shimano M324 pedals and SPD sandals for drier days, or is about to purchase some.

    9. His dad was an early 90′s road TT weekend rider for a summer, and is much bigger than him. He enjoys clashing bartape color and overpriced sneakers, cheaply made bags, and not wearing a helmet properly. Might be considering “converting” his bike to fixed gear drive because he can’t reach down comfortably to shifters or brake levers.

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    • Brad January 17, 2011 at 8:31 pm

      Nicely done and spot on!

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    • q`Tzal January 17, 2011 at 9:21 pm

      Perhaps I’ve missed the joke and you are being sarcastic.

      Of course if elitism and exclusionary superiority are what you are going for you got it in one post.

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      • are January 17, 2011 at 9:57 pm

        jonathan asked what can we learn, and while much of this is snark, the comments about sizing and reach are mostly accurate.

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      • Nick V January 18, 2011 at 7:58 am

        I have to agree with q’Tzal. It seems that as Portland’s place on the cycling/cultural map has grown, so has its arrogance.

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    • Thomas Le Ngo January 17, 2011 at 9:42 pm

      Quite entertaining!

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    • Jackattak January 18, 2011 at 6:51 am

      Hilarious! Thanks for the morning laughs!

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    • resopmok January 18, 2011 at 11:15 am

      let bikesnob do his job, he’s better at it.

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      • q`Tzal January 18, 2011 at 11:49 am

        This was posted by “anon”, how do we know it isn’t BikeSnob? ;)
        Any chance to poke fun at our hipsterism but he wouldn’t leave his own to name indicating he had stooped to mere commenting when he has his own blog.

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    • John Lascurettes January 18, 2011 at 11:21 am

      2. Those are actually roller/drum brakes, not disc. They dead silent. My last bike had a computer, but this one doesn’t – haven’t needed it (I know how much distance I cover). I do love my equipment, including dyno, lighting and IGH. So the “gearhead” is accurate. ;) I’m curious about recumbants, particularly tadpoles, but my next bike (yes, I’m thinking of the next bike) will be a steel frame, belt drive. I’m working on eliminating as much winter maintenance as I can on an every-day commute.

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      • rider January 18, 2011 at 4:35 pm

        What do you think about the performance on those hub brakes? Do you have the Nexus or the Sturmey Archers?

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        • John Lascurettes January 18, 2011 at 6:09 pm

          They’re the Nexus. I love them. They stop on a dime in any weather and are nearly maintenance free. I have no grit on my rims and the rims look as new as they did three years ago and about 6,000 miles because I’m not sanding down the rims with every stop. About once a year on the front brake (less on the back) I put a pea-sized bead of grease into the brake hub through an opening to kill metal squeak. The tech at REI’s bike shop said the brakes would outlast the rest of the bike. The biggest downside to them is they are very awkward to disengage for wheel removal (which is why I spring for very good puncture-resistant tires).

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          • toby January 18, 2011 at 9:33 pm

            Thank you Rider for asking, you beat me to it ;-) I’m intrigued by these.
            John, since you mentioned it, what tires do you use? I currently run Schwalbe Marathons and am not too thrilled with them. S’posed to be the dog’s bollocks but I still get plenty of flats. Thinking about getting Secialized Armadillo’s, have had good luck with them before.

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          • John Lascurettes January 19, 2011 at 10:33 am

            Toby, I’m running the Schwalbe Marathon Supremes (the “supreme” being the key thing). They’re kind of hard to find, had to order them direct from Schwalbe. But in 2.5 years I’ve had one flat (and I’m probably between 4 and 5K miles on them) – and that flat was cause on the inside of the tube (a broken spoke punctured the tube).

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      • spare_wheel January 20, 2011 at 8:55 am

        i like my screechy discs. when people hear me coming they get out of my way!

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    • Crash N. Burns January 18, 2011 at 1:27 pm

      Too bad they can’t all have you ride along with them. Being a total TOOL you could quickly fix whatever it is you don’t like about their bikes, position, clothing, etc.

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    • spare_wheel January 18, 2011 at 2:56 pm

      thanks for helping make my winter commute faster, jackattack.

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    • picture #1 January 18, 2011 at 5:20 pm

      It was about 20 degrees that morning and in a rush I pulled on my huge, knit, ill-fitting hat; which in turn made my helmet ill-fitting. The cold (for Portland) temp probably added to the awkward look.
      Thanks for the handle bar tip. I very recently converted from a single speed with drop style bars and haven’t changed anything on my new bike from the way the shop set it up for me.

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    • Spiffy January 20, 2011 at 7:30 am

      hehe! awesome!

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    • beth h January 20, 2011 at 4:17 pm

      Bike # 3 is a regular sight in inner SE and should have its own fan club for being able to carry such large, oddly-shaped objects.

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  • DenverCX January 17, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    Anon – love the critiques. Perfect!

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  • dmc January 17, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    Love the pictures!

    Fun read Anon.

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  • mh January 17, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    I honestly want to appear in one of these shots and have my setup’s practicality critiqued by someone who gets it. “Dorky” doesn’t count – obvious and acknowledged.

    Oh, and I stopped the other night downtown and stared for a good long time at the bike shown bearing the ukelele (not on the bike at the time) and the piled orange storage bins. It’s quite a construction.

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  • Ben Foote January 18, 2011 at 1:55 am

    Hmmm, what to learn…

    perhaps flesh out a regular piece and show cycle chic how it’s done here.

    Those folks are very fetching.

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  • Lenny Anderson January 18, 2011 at 8:47 am

    Most mornings I put my bike in a locker at the Rose Quarter TC and hop the 85 to Swan Island. A photo essay or video of that transportation nexus would tell us a lot about how all the modes can get along…buses, MAX trains, bicyclists, pedestrians and plenty of cars. The peaks are the busy times.

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  • Ed January 18, 2011 at 9:19 am

    I learned that a lot of people are biking even in the winter. That will be encouraging to force my coworkers to bike to work with me.

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    • Jackattak January 18, 2011 at 9:32 am

      The pictures have done the opposite for me. Taking a look at all but two of their faces and adding those faces to the many grimaces I see Downtown of others on bikes this Winter only helps me to further know that I don’t belong on an open-air vehicle capable of 20mph speeds this time of year.

      I’ll walk, thanks. :)

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  • janis January 18, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Yes beautiful to see people riding but the series does beg the question of who is riding – where are the communities of color?

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  • Tall Mike January 18, 2011 at 10:55 am

    Where’s Roger Geller’s helmut?

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  • Carl January 18, 2011 at 11:16 am

    Great pictures, Jonathan! Would love to see more.

    My observation: I know 4 out of 9 of these people. On one level, that’s pretty cool. On another, that’s kinda lame. Ideally, I’d only recognize maybe 1 in 9…or nobody because there’d be so many people on bikes.

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  • kww January 18, 2011 at 11:30 am

    My observation, are people really that comfortable with backpacks, instead of racks/panniers?

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    • spare_wheel January 18, 2011 at 2:42 pm

      i prefer my ortlieb pack to panniers:

      1) more aerodynamic
      2) better center of gravity
      3) much lighter

      i get panniers for touring but have never understood the attraction for commuting.

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      • toby January 18, 2011 at 9:16 pm

        I’m the opposite, I can’t understand why someone wouldn’t get panniers (cost notwithstanding). Once I got the weight off my shoulders and let the bike carry it, I would never go back. Not to mention the lovely back sweat, so attractive to show up at school with my back and shoulders drenched. Love my Ortliebs on my Surly rack. Plus I have a giant ass front basket should I decide to bring the backpack. My back up bike has a crate which is still better at carrying the backpack.

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  • DenverCX January 18, 2011 at 11:34 am

    To kww: no, but racks and panniers are heavier and can be very costly. But, for touring, they’re definitely the way to go!

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  • Nick V January 18, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Matter of preference, I guess. I’m a bit paranoid but I figure that my backpack falling or getting knocked off of me is less likely than panniers falling or somehow getting disconnected from the bike. My two cents.

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    • Ryan Good January 20, 2011 at 1:05 pm

      I agree that it’s a matter of preference. Like other things too, it depends what I’m doing. If I’m riding right to work and then right home, panniers, absolutely- no sweaty back, weight is on the bike not on me, etc. But if I’m running errands, messenger bag, for the same reason that messengers wear them-they’re easy to get in and out of, and you don’t have to disconnent them from the rack/carry them in/ reconnect them to the rack when you come back out to ride off to your next destination, etc.

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  • Seth January 18, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    love the post, please make it a regular feature. To Anon re: commentary on riders – well done.

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  • Sean G January 18, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    I think the real lesson here is that it’s very easy to sneak headphone/earplugs in during the winter.

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  • t.a. barnhart January 18, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    racks & panniers worth every penny, especially as you get older! i got my panniers at REI – on sale & the expensiver one with my annual rebate!

    guy on bottom might as well have left his helmet at home. worn like that, it’s useless. if you put hat, hoodie, etc, under helmet – adjust the damn helmet. it takes 10 seconds.

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  • Michael M. January 18, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    What else can we learn from these images?

    They are all white?

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    • DenverCX January 18, 2011 at 2:58 pm

      Do you mean the people on the bikes or the people in Portland, in general?

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  • Rob January 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    I think it’s pretty cool that the woman at the top is riding with her eyes closed. I’m gonna try that on the way home tonight….

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    • picture #1 January 18, 2011 at 5:24 pm

      yeah. That’s how I ride.
      When the sun is in my eyes, I blink. Pretty cool, I know. You should definitely try it. :)

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  • dan January 19, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    John Lascurettes
    Do you cross any bridges at rush hour? There’s no avoiding close quarters on Broadway (and by close I mean closer than 20′). I’m sure Hawthorne is even worse.

    Yes, I commute across the Hawthorne during rush hour. I have always had the ability to leave as much space as necessary between me and the cyclist in front of me. I do this by coasting or braking appropriately, to keep whatever following distance I have in mind. Or, if it makes sense, I pass.

    Frankly, I don’t see the difficulty. When I come up behind another cyclist with no rear fender, I just hang back as much as needed to not get a face full of mud. It’s not that different from driving to Mt. Hood in the winter and leaving enough following distance so that your windshield doesn’t get pitted by gravel thrown up by the car in front. I don’t blame the other motorist for not having heavy-duty mudflaps, I just increase my following distance.

    Am I missing something?

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    • rider January 19, 2011 at 2:48 pm

      Just last night I rode up on a bike with the beaver tail fender, it was dark and so I could not see this was the case until it was too late. I got muck in my eyes and had to pull over until my tears flushed out the grit.

      It would be nice if people would just equip their bikes appropriately for the conditions. City riding + wet road = need full fenders.

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  • dan January 19, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    rider
    It would be nice if people would just equip their bikes appropriately for the conditions. City riding + wet road = need full fenders.

    You could also say “City riding+wet road=need eye protection” — I don’t leave home in the winter without my clear-lensed glasses for just that reason.

    Isn’t it really our responsibility as cyclists to equip ourselves adequately, rather than rely on other road users to take our wants/needs into consideration when they’re speccing out their vehicles?

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  • kj January 19, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Love the pics!

    random semi serious mini-rant:
    What is with the smile comments?Not just on this thread… I have heard this before, “why is no one smiling? biking must suck.” (or in this case the weather must suck to bike in.) Did I miss a memo?

    Does everyone smile all the time while they bike? Walk? Drive? I’m grimacing >:{ at the computer now! Because I am, concentrating, doing something, not engaged in visual cues with another human…outside of some annoying punctuating emoticons perhaps O.o

    I am also concentrating while biking, even if I am having an enjoyable commute {8D
    But I will probably not be beaming randomly while doing it. The ice pellets the other week, ice rain? rode though it all (with my goggles) loved it, was I smiling? probably not. @_@

    It’s bad enough women get told to smile all the time, I didn’t realize I was supposed to smile for other people’s benefit while biking too.

    mini rant over. =) <see, smiling.

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    • Michael M. January 19, 2011 at 4:03 pm

      Usually I only smile at people. But if the headphone ban bill passes in Oregon, I plan on singing full voice while riding. That will teach everyone!

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  • 007 January 19, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    I love seeing pics of my fellow cyclists. Thanks!

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  • Duncan January 20, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    smiling on bicycle=bugs in teeth.

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  • Erinne January 23, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    Aww, I know the man in the 2nd photo! But this makes me realize I haven’t seen him in awhile.

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