Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on June 28th, 2011 at 10:55 am
In a column published Monday, Steve Duin, a veteran columnist for The Oregonian, says that after decades of watching Portland traffic he has finally come to a realization: "cyclists are part of the solution to the city's traffic woes, not part of the problem."
Duin's piece came after he spent time counting vehicles crossing the Hawthorne Bridge as a follow-up to counts he did a few years ago. Not only did he observe a 20% increase in bikes, but he also noticed a few other key things: 85% of the cars had only single occupancy and motor vehicle traffic came to a complete stop due to gridlock (not bridge lifts) on two separate occasions.
While cars idled in bumper-to-bumper traffic (spewing exhaust into the air, preventing people from getting to their destinations, and putting stress on the bridge structure) Duin noted that bike traffic rolled along unfettered:
"The cyclists? They came roaring off that hill like Hiccup taking Toothless airborne in "How to Train Your Dragon." They sailed across the bridge at their own pace, looking as if there was something waiting for them that mattered -- in office, coffee shop or summer-school classroom -- on the other side."
Duin, who says he's "married to his car" and doesn't use his bike to get to his office downtown says he's still "unnerved" by the riding behavior he sees, but that he has "finally made peace" with Portland's bike traffic. The two final paragraphs are definitely worth reading (emphasis mine):
"I have finally made my peace with the understanding that cyclists are part of the solution to the city's traffic woes, not part of the problem. As the cycling community noted long ago, every Portlander who crosses the Hawthorne on two wheels removes one more SUV or sputtering sedan that stands between the car nuts and where we want to go, while taking nothing away from the air we breathe.
They have not seen the future, just a future in which we are not whining about predatory gas prices or mumbling incoherently about drilling for oil off the Oregon coast. If I stare wistfully after them, it is only because I envy the speed with which they leave me and my calculator behind."
A journalist who doesn't ride a bike, and who is a somewhat objective observer of our city, came to this conclusion. On the heels of over 5% of Portland's population turning out for Sunday Parkways just a few days ago, it makes us think that the vast ship of public opinion about bicycling might finally be set for a new course.
— For another interesting traffic on the Hawthorne Bridge read a story we published in April 2010, How bike traffic has saved our city time and money.