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From mortality to mortification, 25 years of bruises on PDX streets

Posted by Cathy Hastie (Lifestyle Columnist) on January 17th, 2014 at 12:42 pm

lifestyle columnist Catherine Hastie
Lifestyle columnist Cathy Hastie.

Cathy Hastie is BikePortland's lifestyle columnist.

What daily activity involves quick-twitch muscle action, practiced hand-eye coordination, thinking on your toes, hearty cardiovascular fitness and the ability to outwit competitors? It’s not kick-boxing at the gym.

If bike commuting were a sport, I would compete in the “masters” category. I have been biking to work for more than 25 years: approximately 7 miles per day, 240 days a year. With 42,000 miles on Portland’s city streets, you’d think I would have been injured by now. But I remain unscathed.

Well, almost.

There was that one time I stupidly rode parallel to the train tracks that cross SE 12th at Clinton Street. My mind wandered and my tire inserted itself in the rail without my permission, sending me careening to the ground. But a skinned knee hardly qualifies as an injury.

I suffered another self-inflicted wound back in the days when I used to ride the number 96 bus to my job in Lake Oswego. This was in 1998: TriMet had not yet installed bike racks on their fleet. We cyclists loaded our bikes inside the bus, usually in the handicapped seating section or by the back door, and hoped the bus didn’t fill up. I was 9 months pregnant, hefting my 2-wheeled urban beast up the stairs of the double-long express back home to Portland. Needless to say, I was a bit awkward. As I swung my recently expanded belly for momentum and lifted, my pedal banged me in the thigh full-force and ripped a hole in my pants. It left a small scrape and a bruise.

Small potatoes compared to the pain and suffering I endured the following day, when my first daughter was born.

My husband looked back at me wondering why I was biking like an old lady with hemorrhoids. His analogy was apt.

By far the most embarrassing biking injury I have incurred has to be the one most recently acquired. My husband and I were celebrating our 18th anniversary in a downtown hotel, just 4 miles from home. It made no sense to drive and pay for parking, and riding the bus seemed decidedly unromantic, so we biked.

I had chosen a green velvet dress for the evening ahead. With the elegant dress, my cleanly shaven legs and my easily-stained suede pumps, I rode more demurely than usual, but I still wore the requisite windbreaker and backpack. It worked.

But there was one fatal flaw to my outfit.

For obvious reasons, I had chosen sexy lingerie, of the lace variety – apparently very sharp lace. Mild discomfort on the saddle gradually turned to abrasive pain. I sat on one thigh to persuade the underwear not to rub, weakly pedaling mostly with just one leg. My husband looked back at me wondering why I was biking like an old lady with hemorrhoids. His analogy was apt. The lace edging had sliced a small gash on the inside of my thigh, leaving an unbecoming welt at crotch level. Just my luck!

With my ride.

These injuries are petty complaints, I know. I consider myself lucky. I have never pitched myself into a ditch, left shreds of flesh on the asphalt, picked gravel out of my face or slipped headlong into dangerous traffic on black ice. That is saying something, because, on top of these minor incidents, I have actually been hit by a moving vehicle – twice! It may come as no surprise that both accidents occurred on Southeast Powell Blvd.

The first car that slammed into me lifted me and my $119 Huffy clear up onto its windshield. I was 15 years old. We didn’t wear helmets back then. The driver, a young man without insurance, had turned quickly from Powell, heading north on 36th Avenue as I was crossing 36th from the sidewalk. Thankfully, his low-rider scooped me up instead of throwing me under the chassis. He was scared to death at what he had done. He literally folded my mangled bike into the trunk of his car and drove me home. The impact had cracked his windshield, but the only thing I suffered was an intense freak-out.

With no more than three steps on the asphalt, I heard a long, piercing screech, and instinctively knew trouble was imminent.

It is eerie how similar my second accident was to the first. Jump ahead to 2005. I was a full-grown, responsible mother of 2, and knew better than to ride my bike on the sidewalk. This time I was running to work, west on Powell at 8th Avenue. I approached 8th Avenue and checked both of the lanes where cars entered the intersection. The coast was clear, so I stepped out into the street.

With no more than three steps on the asphalt, I heard a long, piercing screech, and instinctively knew trouble was imminent. Blindly, I sprang up and backwards, never seeing what made the sound. Instead, my elbow connected solidly with something hard and metallic and my thigh reverberated from a hard blow, and I knew I had just been hit by a car.

I landed on my feet. Staggering backwards, I watched as shards of a passenger-side mirror clattered around my feet. I looked up to see a brown passenger van, driven by a woman who obviously valued time more than safety. She had turned, illegally, from eastbound Powell, across three lanes of traffic, to avoid the wait at the legitimate left turn one block away.

I screamed profanities at her and checked my body for holes and blood. Again, I realized, I had escaped harm.
Because I wasn’t lying dead in the road or bleeding profusely, the woman insisted she continue on her way. She was peeved about her side mirror. I didn’t argue. I was still in shock.

But as she drove away, my blood started to boil. She had made an illegal turn, actually hit a human being, could have killed me, but was free to go? I was outraged. I chased her down. Luckily, a train-crossing three blocks ahead had backed up traffic. Her time-saving maneuver hadn’t saved her anything. I easily caught up to her and knocked on her window.

“I changed my mind,” I panted. “I want to report this accident and I need your license and insurance information.”

She protested, but eventually she did the right thing and gave me her information. (I reported the incident to ODOT, and miraculously, 3 years later, a traffic barrier was placed at the median on Powell. Drivers can no longer repeat her stupid mistake.)

In the end, the bruise from the van throwing me backwards was no bigger than the bruise from my bicycle pedal on the bus. But I learned two valuable lessons:

    1. Even with the most careful riding and running, the lives of car-less commuters depend on smart, safe driving by everyone; and
    2. I can smash things to smithereens with my elbows! Good to know.

Correction 1/18: An earlier version of this post contained two incorrect intersections.

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Comments
  • spencer January 17, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Loved the article. As the husband of a cycling wife, I too have experienced (or more accurately, did NOT experience) the effects of the unspoken and dreaded mismatched undies to bicycle seat pairing.
    I would disagree and call that injury severe however.

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    • Nick January 17, 2014 at 1:59 pm

      I had no idea this is such an epidemic. Now I'll never convince my wife to ride a bike.

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    • Cathy Hastie January 20, 2014 at 11:47 am

      I was trying not to over-dramatize the underwear injury, but it was (is) rather traumatic.

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    • racer X January 23, 2014 at 5:16 pm

      Severe...for the likely impact on the post dinner romance...I would assume. 8-)

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  • Bill Walters January 17, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    Well at least it's not overtly arrogant. But it continues the pattern of sole reliance on "I/me/my," which does not represent the scope of a "lifestyle column" and *is* subtly arrogant toward so many others who comprise the lifestyle.

    Rather, this is little more than the Cathy Hastie recurring public rant space. And now to mess with some kind of scripting to manipulate RSS and filter this "feature" out.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 17, 2014 at 1:15 pm

      Thanks for the feedback Bill. I considered calling this the Recurring Public Rant column but it didn't quite roll off the tongue. ;-).

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      • q`Tzal January 17, 2014 at 3:51 pm

        If you're gonna do that you might invite back some of site's most devisive commenters (whose names are auto blocked in comments) to do long form sane versions of their otherwise disjointed short rants.

        Recommended Thumb up 10

        • Matthew January 21, 2014 at 9:02 am

          would love to hear what vance has to say, he's a human flamethrower.

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    • dan January 17, 2014 at 2:16 pm

      I admit I've done it myself in the past, but really, complaining about free content on the intertubes is kind of silly, don't you think? "I didn't like the article that you let me read for nothing."

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      • Bill Walters January 17, 2014 at 2:31 pm

        Nah, not at all. I'm a free-content provider myself (albeit behind a corporate firewall) and the feedback I get is key in measuring whether I'm really serving the audience.

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        • Michael Andersen (News Editor) January 18, 2014 at 9:10 pm

          Yep, feedback's always welcome. And reading is always optional. :)

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          • Bill Walters January 19, 2014 at 8:57 pm

            Ah, Michael: If only it were as simple as opting not to read.

            While there is no single, monolithic bike community, this blog has succeeded in drawing together threads from each to form a kind of wireframe *resembling* a monolithic bike community.

            It's something like the “paper of record” for biking in Portland and beyond, as seen in how frequently it’s cited in local, regional and even national media and in the seemingly increasing number of bike-hostile trolls it seems to attract. It’s come to represent me — and you and you and you, dear readers — whether we like it or not.

            It’s a bit like why, in a more general context, I can’t help peeking at O-Live once in a while — even after pulling my O subscription.

            I wish for myself and the bike-riding people I care about to be represented by a “lifestyle columnist” who’s motivated by curiosity to seek and understand the many facets of the lifestyle (not superficially judge them), and thus to help spread understanding to all the places BikePortland has influence. And I suspect I'm far from alone in that wish.

            There’s nothing wrong *per se* with Ms. Hastie's I/me/my-driven vanity writing — as long it remains on blogspot.com or thereabouts, where we all could opt to ignore it without consequence. Or maybe it could at least be more appropriately categorized here as opinion --- or even memoir, for this latest post.

            Remember the words of gentle Uncle Ben: With great power [or at least influence] comes great responsibility.

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            • Caleb January 21, 2014 at 6:15 pm

              Anyone who thinks Bike Portland and/or its articles (sans the comments we make) represent you (or me or any other reader not explicitly written about) simply misinterprets Bike Portland and/or its articles. Saying they represent us does nothing to break that illusion, and instead might promote it.

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    • Caleb January 18, 2014 at 2:03 pm

      I think that even "subtly arrogant" is an unfounded conclusion. Like those of everyone else, her words are neither her self perception nor motives.

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      • spare_wheel January 23, 2014 at 11:23 am

        "If bike commuting were a sport, I would compete in the “masters” category. I have been biking to work for more than 25 years: approximately 7 miles per day, 240 days a year. With 42,000 miles on Portland’s city streets"

        QED

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        • Caleb January 24, 2014 at 5:47 pm

          Telling people you compete/would compete in a "masters" category doesn't inherently involve arrogance, and neither does stating your experienced mileage, so QED doesn't necessarily apply to what you quoted.

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    • sue January 18, 2014 at 2:21 pm

      Ranting? Nah... this is storytelling.

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  • Paul WIlkins January 17, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Parry and riposte! Touche.

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  • K'Tesh January 17, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    A really hard slap on a passenger window has a fair chance of cracking it.

    I was running from my job at the Rouge Valley Mall (Medford) to the Rouge Valley Transit Center (about 1.5 miles)(Summer in Medford is a B*****!), to catch the last bus of the week to Ashland (about 20 miles), just to watch it pull out and turn onto the street without me.

    I ran another three blocks when it stopped to drop a passenger, and pick up another. Just as I'm about to catch it yelling to the passengers to hold the bus, it starts to pull away. I caught up to it and tried to get the attention of the driver, but he was in too much of a hurry to notice me... The slap wasn't meant for the window, but that's where it landed.
    There was a beautiful web-like pattern of cracks around that window. The driver stopped, and I was allowed to board. I was very apologetic when I finally stopped wheezing, and the driver realized it wasn't intentional.

    Now I wouldn't try the same thing, as I've since heard of people falling while trying that kind of thing, then going under the rear wheels. A water bottle thrown onto the roof however...

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  • John Liu January 17, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    42K miles, that's impressive! And looking good for every mile!

    There are, I am told, activities in which one's first year is the most dangerous. If you get through that, your chances of mishap diminish greatly. I wonder if cycle commuting is one of those?

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    • El Biciclero January 23, 2014 at 1:26 pm

      As new parents, we were told "living" is one of those activities. Nothing like a little paranoia to motivate obsessive second-guessing...

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  • GlowBoy January 17, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    "This was in 1998: TriMet had not yet installed bike racks on their fleet."

    That doesn't jibe with my memory. I moved to Portland in early 1997, and I seem to recall being pleased to know that all of TriMet's buses had bike racks at the time. I also recall going down to Pioneer Courthouse Square, demoing the model bike rack TriMet had installed, and paying $5 (!) for my Bike Permit, without which I was not allowed to use the bus racks.

    What didn't please me at the time was the reason you needed a permit: TriMet's buses still didn't have the modern and easy SportWorks racks (which Seattle's Metro bus system already had, and which I'd gotten used to). TriMet still had klutzy older-style Yakima racks that (I think) required you to spin a lever of some sort to clamp onto the bike's downtube. Fortunately they upgraded to the better racks not too long afterwards, and did away with the permit system.

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    • Cathy Hastie January 17, 2014 at 4:44 pm

      You are probably right. I had my $5 pass too, but for some reason, the 96 either didn't have a rack, or they were always full and we were allowed to use the interior because the bus came only every 30 to 60 minutes.

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  • Stephanie B January 17, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    I think it is interesting to hear about one person's perspective of getting around on a bike in Portland. Seems relevant to me. Sure, I can see why it's not some people's cup of tea, but I don't understand all the fervent hatred this column generates. The reaction Cathy always gets doesn't make this blog seem very welcoming to women.

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    • Bill Walters January 17, 2014 at 4:19 pm

      Eh? As a "for instance," Elly Blue seems well received. Couldn't it be that an author receives a reaction to authorship rather than notions of gender ambassadorship?

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      • Elly January 20, 2014 at 10:16 am

        Hey Bill, when I wrote regularly on BikePortland there was never a shortage of men (yep, always men) sharing their opinions about my tone and the value or lack thereof of what I had to say. And I seem to recall the snark was always directed at Jonathan or at other readers, never directly at me. This sort of editorial backseat pedaling is absolutely gendered and it only reflects poorly on the commenter.

        Hey Cathie, keep writing and don't let these guys get to you.

        Recommended Thumb up 11

        • Elly January 20, 2014 at 10:20 am

          (Sorry... Cathy, not Cathie! You must get that a lot.)

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        • Bill Walters January 20, 2014 at 11:40 am

          Elly, look back at the record of how often I snarked at you. The answer is zero, or very nearly. But if I'm to be lumped in by class with those who did, then I'm beginning to wish I had.

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        • Cathy Hastie January 20, 2014 at 11:43 am

          To Elly and all my other supporters - thanks!!

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        • spare_wheel January 21, 2014 at 8:30 am

          i remember those trolls and they were not complaining about sexism, divisive stereotyping, and classism. just sayin'

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  • spare_wheel January 17, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    cycling is nothing like kickboxing. it's not a martial art. cycling is safe convenient and easy way to get from point A to B.

    cycling is not a "masters sport". it's a safe, convenient and easy way to get from point A to B.

    whether you have cycled for transportation 25 years (and 42,000 miles) or 1 day cycling is a safe, convenient, and easy way to get from point A to B.

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    • Bill Walters January 17, 2014 at 4:57 pm

      Nah, it can be a lot like a martial art. Point is, though, "lifestyle column" implies rounding up the perspectives of at least a few others, and maybe backing it up with some (links to) supporting data or info --- on this topic, maybe helmet-cam footage of actual stuff going down.

      Otherwise, it's really just a "mystyle" column. And blogspot.com works great for that.

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      • spare_wheel January 17, 2014 at 5:07 pm

        i meant "cycling for transportation". as a cycling advocate few things annoy me more than to see more others promote cycling for transportation as something hard core, difficult, or elite.

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        • Bill Walters January 17, 2014 at 6:12 pm

          Ah, gotcha --- and agreed, at least in "ought to be" if not yet "is." Sorry; mistook your comment for deadpan irony.

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  • John Liu January 17, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    I think urban cycling can be as "hard core" as you want it to be. One person rides at 10 mph on the MUP, on sunny days only. Another is sprinting between lanes of cars on a 30 mph street, in streaming rain and darkness. Those are all transportation cycling.

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    • spare_wheel January 18, 2014 at 9:14 am

      i love skitching, bombing, and splitting as much as any lycra-clad, track-standing, crotch-rocket-riding, arrogant cyclist but i do these things for amusement and thrills (not transport).

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      • Caleb January 18, 2014 at 2:08 pm

        Might it be that those supposedly arrogant cyclists actually do those things for the same reasons you do?

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        • spare_wheel January 19, 2014 at 1:40 pm

          ummmm...that was entirely my point.

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  • Charley January 17, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    I loved reading this article. I thought it was funny and personal. If any of you have ever read anything by Joe Kurmaskie (well loved by everyone, right?), you'd find that it's very similar. . . and maybe you'd wonder why you're all giving Ms. Hastie a hard time. KEEP THESE COMING!

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    • Bill Walters January 18, 2014 at 12:09 pm

      Acknowledged, but please point to an example of Kurmaskie billed as a "lifestyle columnist" rather than a singular voice.

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      • Caleb January 18, 2014 at 2:12 pm

        An article is the words it contains, not the words others use to describe it. If the "lifestyle" designation bothers you, I suggest you optimize your ability to enjoy the article by ignoring the designation. At the least I hope you'll keep your dislike of the designation separate from your opinion of the article and its author.

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        • Bill Walters January 18, 2014 at 3:57 pm

          Well... in billiards, if I designate a corner pocket for the eight-ball but sink it in a side pocket, I hope you'll keep your dislike for that designation separate from your opinion of my ill-claimed win --- and your lost bet.

          But I'm not at all sure it's fair to ask that of you.

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  • Jennifer January 17, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    Dear Ms. Hastie, Have you found a good pair of gloves? The warm ones i've found don't come in smaller sizes, and women's gloves don't keep my hands from getting so incredibly painfully cold.
    Thanks!

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    • cathyhastie January 18, 2014 at 8:29 am

      I wear ski gloves in the winter. I have a issue with my hands and feet, and so require extra warmth, so the bulk is worth it for me. In the summer, I just wear the usual bike gloves. Luckily, my hands are about average size. Sorry - not very helpful...

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  • Opus the Poet January 17, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    I can also vouch that elbows can destroy door mirrors. A F-150 passing on my right in my lane went missing its driver's side mirror after connecting with my elbow. Fortunately the hand associated with that elbow was not on the handlebars when I got hit.

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  • TOM January 18, 2014 at 7:57 am

    well , of all things, I think she's improving.

    (couldn't be any worse than the ones about naming the bridge for herself, or looking at asses or her arrogance or ?? )

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  • OnTheRoad January 18, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    I don't think there are train tracks at 13th and Clinton.

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  • Alan 1.0 January 18, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    "quick-twitch muscle"..? Must mean fast twitch muscle. Does Cathy really commute in an anaerobic sprint?

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  • Caleb January 19, 2014 at 4:52 am

    I don't gamble, so I wouldn't bet on billiards. Also, I'd say your response is irrelevant, unless Cathy was the one who initially designated herself as a "lifestyle columnist" on the basis of writing these "lifestyle columns". In your hypothetical situation, your designation is an integral part of the ill-claimed win, whereas my understanding of Cathy's situation is that somebody else designated her a "lifestyle columnist", and she didn't even claim anything contingent upon that designation. Maybe I missed something somewhere, though?

    Furthermore, I wonder if you perhaps misunderstood me, as I was not asking anything of you in my last comment. I ask rhetorical questions at times, but I do not disguise requests as suggestions and hopes. Please don't think I was expecting anything of you, nor that those suggestions and hopes were even close to intended purely for my own benefit.

    For the record, anyone can ask anything of me, and I'll feel free to oblige or decline without any consideration of the idea of fairness.

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    • Caleb January 19, 2014 at 4:53 am

      Sorry, that was in response to Bill Walters' comment from January 18, 2014 at 3:57 pm.

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  • Dave Thomson January 20, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    I don't know which is funnier, Cathy's stories or the outrage they generate among the BP thought police. I look forward to her next column.

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  • Joe January 21, 2014 at 11:18 am

    awesome reported a bad section of road and they fix it. cool :)

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  • Alex Phillips January 21, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    Loved this article. It could become a Sex and the City episode.. if the city is Portland.
    Also good to read what other experienced bike commuters think and how they deal with issues. I love that the author was able to find the driver and change her mind about reporting the accident. So many of us are in shock after something like that it is hard to know what to do.

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    • Bill Walters January 21, 2014 at 1:25 pm

      See, now *that* --- a roundup of experienced bike commuters on a given topic --- might be a lifestyle column.

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      • Caleb January 21, 2014 at 6:10 pm

        My understanding of the word "lifestyle" is that it applies to individual behavior as well as group behavior. Given that, perhaps you can understand my confusion with your insistence that a "lifestyle column" must include things pertaining to a group of people, such as when you said the phrase implies "rounding up the perspectives of at least a few others". Can you explain to me how that is so, or is that only your interpretation of the phrase?

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        • Bill Walters January 21, 2014 at 11:31 pm

          See for yourself, please. Google "lifestyle column.”

          First up will be the Washington Post's assortment of lifestyle columns and blogs: Dear Abby-style advice (inherently second-person rather than I/me/my) is a staple. There’s also art, fashion, food, music, etc., all comprised largely of verifiable, factual statements *about* specific, identifiable people and/or *from* specific, verifiable people — or organizations. Although the resident humor columnist seems to rely heavily on I/me/my, watch for the context and you’ll see he’s impersonating the voice of god to refute recent statements by a specific, identifiable TV personality.

          It’s much the same in Chicago, New York, St. Louis (except the food writer), Minneapolis….and no doubt further west if you stick with it. You *will* find the occasional I/me/my column — like the one in The Messenger of Ft. Dodge Iowa, and of course BP’s own “Those Arrogant Bikers,” high up in results no doubt courtesy of Bike Snob’s scathing link. Note carefully whether an article merely has “lifestyle” and “column" in the text, or is actually billed as a lifestyle column.

          Also see this Writer’s Digest article on how to write even a “personal” column, especially rules 2 and 3: http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-genre/articles-freelance/ever_so_humble

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          • Caleb January 22, 2014 at 4:48 pm

            Please don't take this as antagonism: did you dodge or misunderstand my question?

            Examples of a "lifestyle column" are not the definition of "lifestyle column", which is why I asked my question even after I had already Googled "lifestyle column". The definition of "lifestyle column" is independent of how many people write "lifestyle columns" any particular way(s), so if Cathy's articles do indeed constitute a "lifestyle column", they do so regardless of how any other(s) write their "lifestyle columns".

            Also, your comment about an article containing the words "lifestyle" and "column" or actually being billed as a "lifestyle column" is irrelevant or supportive of Cathy being a "lifestyle columnist", because none of her articles on Bike Portland contain the words "lifestyle" or "column". Regardless, neither aspect of your proposed dichotomy have been part of my consideration in whether or not her articles constitute a "lifestyle column".

            As for the rules outlined by Linda Weltner, they are not the definition of "personal column", but instead are her methods/suggestions, so that information is also irrelevant to my question.

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  • John Liu January 21, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    Cathy is a more experienced bike commuter than the great majority of this blog's readers . . . so I for one am interested in what she has to say, even if it doesn't fit Bill's sel-declared definition of a "lifestyle column". I am not impressed with Bill's attempt to dictate what I may read or what BP/Cathy may post.

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  • Craig Harlow January 21, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Cathy, I'm not sure what to make of this remark...


    ...I was a full-grown, responsible mother of 2, and knew better than to ride my bike on the sidewalk...

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  • TOM January 21, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    Craig Harlow
    Cathy, I'm not sure what to make of this remark...


    ...I was a full-grown, responsible mother of 2, and knew better than to ride my bike on the sidewalk...

    Recommended 0

    sometimes you have NO other choice ... ie: se 82nd between Springwater & Johnson Creek blvd.

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  • Jrdpdx January 21, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    Now I remember why I quit reading the comments
    Nice article flaws and all

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