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Riding along with Ellen Price: Montavilla to Lloyd Center

Posted by on March 15th, 2012 at 11:20 am

Riding along with Ellen Price-1
Ellen Price grabs a parking spot in front of Bipartisan Cafe on SE Stark and 79th.

Welcome to our second installment of the Ride Along series. Last month I joined Paul Jeffery on his daily ride up Mt. Tabor (he’s still going strong by the way!) and earlier this week I rode along with Ellen Price, a 39-year-old state employee whose daily commute takes her about four miles from the Montavilla Neighborhood to the State of Oregon office building in the Lloyd District.

I met Ellen at one of Portland’s most beloved neighborhood coffee shops, Bipartisan Cafe on SE Stark at 79th. As Ellen grabbed her morning cup of coffee, we chatted a bit before setting off into the cold rainy morning.

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Today, Ellen is a confident rider who will be out there in almost any type of weather; but it wasn’t always like that. 16 years ago she was diagnosed with Adult-onset Still’s disease, a rare and debilitating form of arthritis. Clasping her hands and fingers as she spoke, Ellen explained that, “My arthritis was very severe, there were a couple years when stairs were a problem.” Ellen said she had a bike back then, “But it was very painful to ride.”

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Ellen has customized her handlebar to minimize stress on her joints and to allow her both a bent-over and more relaxed, upright position…

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These days, Ellen’s time on the bike is an important part of keeping her arthritis “in check.” Beyond how it helps her health, Ellen cherishes time on the bike because it helps her deal with a stressful job (she writes state contracts for big projects like IT systems) and being on a bike offers her a window into her community. “Biking helps me think about my day. It gets me out of my hyper-focused mode at work. It also keeps me in touch with my world.”

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Ellen’s bag from the People’s
Coast Classic ride.

Ellen explained how she loves the little vignettes of life she comes across while biking into work. “Sometimes I’ll see chickens… And there’s this old guy who I’ll see taking photos of flowers in his yard.” (We didn’t end up seeing any chickens, but we did see a couple of ducks!).

Last year, Ellen saw an ad here on BikePortland for the Amgen People’s Coast Classic bike ride (a week-long tour down Oregon Coast that benefits the Arthritis Foundation). She signed up. “After day two I had a meltdown and wondered, ‘what am I doing here?’; but by the end of the week I was so happy and having a blast… I wanted to keep going!”

Once the coffee was done, it was time to head out to work. I followed Ellen as she made her way from Stark to Burnside. Burnside around the 70s is a busy street with old-school (narrow by today’s standards) bike lanes. For a confident rider like Ellen, the conditions were fine…

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… but I did notice that even she hugged the right side of the lane as cars came by.

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From Burnside, we turned onto 71st and then onto Davis. We rolled on Davis, which was quite pleasant with bike route signs and sharrows. It was so calm and quiet in fact, that a couple of ducks waddled past…

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And then we got to the crossing of Calle Cesar Chavez. With two lanes in each direction and no crosswalk or signal, it was a bit tricky…

Riding along with Ellen Price-10

Once across Cesar Chavez, our relaxing ride continued as we rolled through Laurelhurst and some of Portland’s most beautiful (and expensive!) neighborhoods. “Yeah, I have a really tough commute,” Ellen said sarcastically at one point.

At NE 28th, we scuttled one block over to Everett. A few blocks later, at NE 24th, we were treated to one of Portland’s many intersection paintings…

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We then continued onto NE 20th. 20th is a key north-south connection in the bike network. Unfortunately, like many of Portland’s commercial main streets, there isn’t any dedicated space for bicycling.

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Ellen’s route takes her north on 20th, across Sandy Blvd to Irving (just south of I-84). She displayed some confident and skillful riding in taking the lane on 20th prior to making the left turn onto Irving.

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Once we got near the NE 12th overpass to head into the Lloyd District, Ellen commented how much nicer 12th is now that PBOT reconfigured the lanes to make more dedicated space for bikes.

Ellen’s route is nearly entirely on bike-specific streets and uses a combination of bike lanes and Portland’s residential street bike network. Despite a few tricky crossings and the mixing with cars on 28th and 20th, it’s a very easy and comfortable route. (And, in case you’re wondering, once the Sullivan’s Gulch Corridor is built, Ellen says she’d definitely hop on it.)

When the weather’s nicer, Ellen says she likes to, “take the long way home.” In her case, that means heading south on the Eastbank Esplanade to the Springwater Corridor and then east to the I-205 multi-use path which takes her right back into Montavilla. She’ll do that 15 mile jaunt about once a week when it’s not raining and cold.

Ellen does own a car, and she uses it when work requires her to commute to Salem; “But I get cranky,” she says, “about sitting in a car that long.”

Riding along with Ellen Price-19

Thanks for letting me tag along on your morning ride Ellen. It was fun!

[Stay tuned for more Ride Alongs. I've got several people on the list; but feel free to drop me a line if you'd like me to join you.]

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Comments
  • Dave March 15, 2012 at 11:34 am

    If you go North on 24th across Glisan and Sandy (hardly any traffic on Glisan and a light at Sandy), you can then turn West on Irving one block past Sandy, and then you have a light to cross 20th, as well, and don’t have to ride on it. If you want, anyway :)

    I agree, the crossing over I-84 on 12th is much nicer since they re-did it. People go very fast across there coming to and from the freeway exits, and it’s nice to not have the pressure of keeping up. The bike box on Lloyd going East is awesome too.

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    • Mindful Cyclist March 15, 2012 at 1:40 pm

      I concur. Taking 24th is a much better option and one I don’t think a lot of people know about. That light on 20th and Irving is notoriously short and it is either ride in the curb lane and have the right hook danger, or wait for several light cycles.

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      • craig harlow March 15, 2012 at 2:59 pm

        We always mount the side walk approaching Sandy from the south on 20th, to jump the car backups on that short light, *and* to avoid the risk of being right-hooked.

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  • Andrew K March 15, 2012 at 11:46 am

    great story. Thank you for sharing it!

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  • Kirsty March 15, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Lovely article! I too switched out my drop bars for swept-back ones just like Ellen’s in order to gain a more upright pedaling position. I always think my new, Dutch-style handlebars look a little goofy here in Portland – land of the chronically hip “drop bars lower than the seat” brigade – but whilst I know many people adore that riding style, my own drop bars were wreaking absolute and utter havoc with my back.

    I was also curious to know what kind of raincoat Ellen is wearing? It is so cute! Most bikey raingear for women is hopelessly & utterly shapeless, & leaves us all looking little more than giant, day-glo, oversized prophylactics. So appealing.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 15, 2012 at 11:50 am

      Her jacket is from Nau Clothing.

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    • Mork March 15, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      I had the exact same question about Ellen’s coat, she looks great! If only Nau would “go out of business” again, I’ might be able to afford their stuff : )

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      • Drew March 15, 2012 at 4:38 pm

        They have warehouse sales twice a year, up to 80% off.

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        • dwainedibbly March 15, 2012 at 6:03 pm

          They just had one last weekend. Seems like my arms & legs are too short for their stuff. :(

          Bonus points to Ms Price for matching jacket to bike!

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  • peejay March 15, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    Good job, Ellen! At least your commute ends in a job, unlike mine, which just puts me back at my house.

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  • Champs March 15, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    PROTIP: the intersection painting on SE 33rd, at Yamhill I think, is a hazard. Going southbound, you’re headed toward a downhill stop. The paint extends beyond the intersection itself, and is slick stuff when wet.

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    • Scott March 15, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      There are many things added to the streets here to make them more slippery. Those just pass themselves off as “Art”. The glazed concrete downtown is my favorite. Mind your body position on that stuff.

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  • Scott Cohen March 15, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    16th Ave is a good n-s alternative to 20th and Ellen can access Irving bike lane to 12th.
    Couch has a median island and stripped crosswalk which should help crossing Cesar Chavez

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    • Stripes March 15, 2012 at 1:18 pm

      16th is a great route, except –

      ** It is increasingly choked up with car traffic trying to access the freeway onramp

      ** There is no facilitated crossing for bikes & peds at Burnside & 16th. It feels like a really dangerous intersection to navigate by bike. It also takes a really, really long time to get across at during rush hour. It once took me eight minutes. I know, because I got so fed up, I started timing it.

      On a bike, I would rather cross safely at 20th. At least the traffic flow is predictable there, and you only have to wait 40 seconds or so to get across Burnside.

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      • Tim W March 15, 2012 at 9:52 pm

        When I lived in Buckman, I would take this route often to get to the Lloyd District. My little trick was, when going Northbound on 16th and approaching Irving, I would hop over to 15th at Glisan and then continue west on Irving. Much safer from my experience, as there are cars turning onto the 84 ramp at 16th and it can be tough to safely make a left. When turning at 15th it is more clear what drivers are doing and there is a bit less traffic to deal with.

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  • daisy March 15, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    Hurray for Ellen!

    Though as some who is 38, I was slightly horrified by you describing her as a “39-year-young” person. That makes it sound like she’s actually… old. Noooooo!!!!!!!

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  • Indy March 15, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Probably one of the most absurd BP articles I’ve yet seen. More please. :)

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  • Patrick March 15, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Funny, I was initially cranky about this article as being inconsequential, but reading it I got engaged and quite enjoyed it.

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  • Rebecca March 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Props on the nice tape job on those handlebars and the dedication to daily riding through the PDX liquid sunshine.

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  • Lyle March 15, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Great story! It’s nice to read about real people in a positive manner.

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  • Fred March 15, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    I really enjoy this article. I have severe tendonitis and really like to ride, but find it hurts a lot. I love seeing other peoples bikes and especially handlebars as this they are make or break for me being able to ride a bike.

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  • Andyc March 15, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Man. Love this series. Keep it going. I also sometimes find crossing 60th on this route can be a little hairy depending on time of day.

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  • A.K. March 15, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    This is a great series, keep it up! It’s nice to have something fun to read that doesn’t devolve into the normal debates around policy or whatever.

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    • Tim W March 15, 2012 at 9:54 pm

      Agreed! It’s also nice to be able to relate to others by hearing about their experiences on familar routes and to learn ideas about possible routes.

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  • Matt March 15, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    Love the Ride Along. More please.

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  • Burk March 15, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    I love this series.

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  • jolly dodger March 15, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    Sport cam record and upload to vimeo or youtube so we can watch! Great series…maybe imbedded hyperlinks in written article to specific time stamp locations on video for quick reference…? Then a website devoted to particularly sketchy intersections (map type) with buttons on those specific danger spots…{click} to view a real time rider event (pre-recorded) to show the intesity of that location. Maybe a ‘BikeThere’ map online tie-in?

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  • rider March 15, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    I also love this series. Thanks for doing it.

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  • Thurston Beauregarde March 15, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    My what an attractive and brainy looking woman. Another Portland Biker babe! :) Ride on Ellen!

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  • Chris I March 15, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    I would recommend detouring one block south to Couch to cross NE 39th. They have a striped pedestrian crossing, and cars seem more likely to stop for you.

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    • velokitten March 16, 2012 at 12:30 pm

      Or better yet, take Glisan all the way down to 22nd.

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  • Ellen March 15, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    So humble–You should have mentioned this article at Sunday’s pi(e) ride which was AT Bipartisan, Ellen! You have a really nice commute and great biker style.
    Cheers, The Other Ellen

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  • Tom March 15, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    Ellen’s handlebars look like they are Mustache Bars sold by Rivendell (http://www.rivbike.com/). And the tape looks like it is cloth and is shellac coated.

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  • dmc_ March 15, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    Awesome series. Very fun to read!

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  • Ellen Price March 15, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    First, I’d like to commend Jonathan on his excellent use of the word “Calle,” and Peejay’s excellent chicken drafting skills.

    This route is my current favorite route to work. I take a different one on the way home, and it usually features the 24th/Sandy intersection, and the crosswalk on CCC and Couch- but I don’t go that way on the way to work. I vary my route on how quickly I’ll get to where I’m going, what looks interesting along the way, how light it is, traffic, or how I’m feeling about a particular street’s slope. Some hills are more fun to go down, not so much up on the way home. I love that I could get to work on bike streets alone, but I don’t feel compelled to stick to them. Perhaps it is a throwback to the Old Testament days, before these newfangled bike lane and route things.

    The bars are the result of much obsessing and tweaking. They’re Oxford Somas, flipped upside down. I built up some of the key grip locations with layers of bar gel. The tape is basic flexible foam stuff. No coating. Wrapping in a harlequin pattern is a good way to burn off any extra sanity you may have, but I love the texture and the way it looks. I also can’t say too many times how much I love bar end shifters– it keeps the pressure off my fingers and wrists, as I can use the motion from my shoulder and/or elbow to change gears.

    I picked up the Nau jacket at their warehouse sale, after coveting one for years. I have a sub-clinical aversion to both bright yellow and velcro myself.

    Fun way to spend a morning. I look forward to more of this series!

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  • Paul Tay March 15, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Why cyclists hug the curb? No rear-view mirror to dance dirty with cagjaaas.

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  • Steve Cardin March 15, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    Be sure to donate for Ellen’s bike ride down the Oregon Coast, too. I am am sure it can be difficult having arthritis. Great job Ellen! http://tapcc.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=999549&lis=1&kntae999549=B7E1903310224AB3BF719DE7C2469788&supId=349639535

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  • Mike March 15, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    I hate to be “that guy” but is there nothing more attractive than a bad ass woman giving the middle finger to mother nature and riding like a mo fo?

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  • cycler March 16, 2012 at 6:16 am

    I’ll add my voice to those loving the coat. Just got my first Nau jacket this winter and love it. It’s awesome to have really waterproof clothing that works well on the bike, but looks not only not dorky, but pretty fashionable.

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  • Spencer Boomhower March 16, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Really enjoyed the article! And I enjoyed Ellen’s comment above, “Wrapping in a harlequin pattern is a good way to burn off any extra sanity you may have.” I’m totally using that.

    And when you got to the crossing at 12th, it made me wonder if she expected to use the Sullivan’s Gulch trail, so I decided to ask. And then you wrote, “And, in case you’re wondering, once the Sullivan’s Gulch Corridor is built, Ellen says she’d definitely hop on it.” Spooky.

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