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Year in Review: We asked 33 questions in January, here are the answers

Posted by on December 30th, 2015 at 5:09 pm

reviewlead
Let’s take a look back shall we?
(Photos by J. Maus unless otherwise noted)

Following the news in your city is like braiding hair: you won’t be able to weave it all together unless you can keep track of each separate strand.

What’s more, the whole thing only makes sense after it’s finished.

With the 1,060 front-page stories BikePortland has published so far this year — that’s 20 per week, four per weekday — we’ve tried to help you follow the braid of what matters to Portland biking in all its richness, from off-road recreation to new businesses to wonktastic policy detail to weather reports. Back when the year started, we took a crack at “33 questions that’ll shape Portland bike news in 2015.”

It’s time to step back and look at the year we’ve had. Below are answers to the 33 questions we asked nearly 12 months ago. We’ve broken them down into handy topics for your reading pleasure…

City politics and funding
PBOT Transportation Needs Tour-1
Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick changed tacks
yet again and is now shooting for a local gas tax.

Will any of the holdouts on Portland’s city council — Dan Saltzman, Nick Fish or Amanda Fritz — join Mayor Hales and Commissioner Novick to approve a relatively flat transportation income tax in the early weeks of 2015? If so, how well-funded will the opponents be — and will they get the 20,897 signatures required to send the issue to voters?

Hales and Novick couldn’t find their third vote. Instead, the council kicked the issue to the state level and sat on it until Sept. 9, when two things happened on the same day: a City Club report concluded that a gas tax was the best solution for Portland, and mayoral candidate Ted Wheeler endorsed a local gas tax. Novick immediately said he liked that plan, and two weeks later so did Hales. It’s supposed to appear on the May 17 ballot.

Will the City of Portland’s neighborhood parking stakeholder committee settle on a plan this spring to redesign the city’s paid parking permit system? Will it recommend that the proceeds go to PBOT’s general fund, or be set aside for neighborhood-specific improvements?

Yes, parking reform is happening. The committee unanimously recommended the only such system in the country that would collect more than its administrative costs. The city hasn’t yet said where the extra money would go, though.

Will Mayor Charlie Hales have a credible challenger for the 2016 election by the end of this year? If so, what issues will he or she choose to run against? What about Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick?

Wheeler’s challenge was apparently so credible that Hales dropped out and then tried unsuccessfully to recruit various other people to run instead. Novick has yet to draw a high-profile opponent despite a cover story from Willamette Week essentially urging people to run against him.

Fun on bikes
Green Way
Tilikum Crossing opened in August, with Providence
Bridge Pedal participants getting the first ride.
(Photo: Will Vanlue)

Will 2015 be the year that Portland finally gets some local single track for mountain biking? Two major possibilities are the Forest Park area and Riverview property — both of which are stalled due to politics and other complications.

This wasn’t the year. Riverview remains in limbo, but things are looking good for a Metro parcel north of Forest Park.

Will someone figure out how to create a BB-8 costume for this June’s Star Wars vs. Star Trek ride?

Pretty sure they didn’t, but despite the Scrappy Doo comparisons I thought BB-8 was pretty cool so maybe I’ll do this myself next year.

Will the new Tilikum Crossing Bridge live up to the hype after its big debut in the Bridge Pedal ride in August?

The bridge basically has. The eastside approach to it definitely has not.

Will unsanctioned gravel and adventure riding continue its huge growth and lure riders away from competitive racing events?

In an interesting twist, gravel and adventure riding have become so popular that they’ve become competitive themselves. While unsanctioned events and rides like the Oregon Outback drew lots of attention and interest away from racing in circles, events like the fully sanctioned Coast Gravel Epic and the Ochoco Gravel Roubaix in Prineville found solid places on the annual calendar.

Will the Grand Prix of Portland find the sponsors it needs to bring a high-profile professional bike race to our streets in August?

Nope. The would-be organizer said it could “possibly make budget in 2016.”

Street projects
In the spring, the city started saying that
big changes weren’t in the cards for 28th.
(Rendering: Kirk Paulsen, Nick Falbo, Brian Davis)

Will Union Pacific Railroad and the City of Portland finally strike a firm deal on a legal railyard bike route between Swan Island and the Rose Quarter area, in time for Daimler Trucks North America to expand its workforce in 2016?

Not quite. But the city has signed a contract with a local engineering contractor to design three possible routes through the railyard. Expect the options to go public in the next two months.

Will Old Town create a local business district that could pay for a permanent redesign of 3rd Avenue? Will the result include a protected bike lane, or just a pedestrian plaza?

An Old Town business district still seems to be developing but doesn’t exist yet. A small plaza in front of Voodoo is coming soon, but much of the street will still be devoted to parking. Old Town stakeholders arrived at a consensus plan to put a new buffered bike lane on 3rd, but somehow failed to even discuss the possibility of a protected one. The city installed the buffered lane almost immediately.

Will property and business owners on 28th Avenue find common ground with bike advocates over a proposed “commercial greenway” on 28th Avenue?

They never got a chance to try. Some advocates and business owners seemed to like the concept but city staff were mixed on it, and with the 20s Bikeway project budget running low, the concept seems to be dead for the moment.

Will the city keep making changes to the troubled redesign of North Williams? Will it also avoid an organized backlash from bike lane opponents?

Time and a series of concrete islands seem to have calmed many of the complaints about Williams, though it remains confusing to new users. No organized backlash seems to have materialized, presumably in part because people stuck in rush-hour backup can clearly see that people on bikes are using the new lane heavily.

Now that ODOT’s own study has shown big advantages of adding continuous bike lanes to Barbur Boulevard, will the agency prioritize improvements? Will state legislators or other officials apply pressure from Salem?

It’s looking like the answer to all these could be yes. After state Rep. Ann Lininger contacted regional ODOT manager Rian Windsheimer to discuss Barbur, they settled on a plan to do a road safety audit that turned up a seemingly reasonable solution that could add continuous lanes. Within a month, Novick had endorsed that new possibility and even U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer was publicly backing it as well. We’ve heard nothing from ODOT about this since October, however.

Will Washington County agree to build its first modern protected bike lane on Merlo Road near Nike? Will it be contagious?

Yes, Merlo Road and 170th have been slated to get curb-protected bike lanes. The southern segment of 170th will be up for future funding (by 2019) in a few months. Unfortunately, the county decided not to install protected bike lanes on nearby Walker Road, just north of Nike’s campus, or 158th Avenue, just southwest, so any contagion seems to be contained.

Will a firm plan for a top-notch bikeway on Southwest, Northwest, North and Northeast Broadway finally get the city’s first world-class on-street bike route (not a project, but a complete a-to-b route) underway?

No. The city has hired a consultant for a downtown protected bike lane project but hasn’t selected the streets and won’t begin public outreach until mid-2016. However, the section of Broadway immediately west of its bridge was lined up for a protected bike lane if the city buys and redevelops its downtown post office.

State politics and funding
east 82nd
82nd Avenue, still waiting for upgrades.
(Photo: Elly Blue)

Will a grand alliance of transportation interests (including gas stations) convince Oregon’s legislature to hike its gas tax?

No. Apparently even gas stations couldn’t persuade politicians to endorse a gas tax hike. A closed-door attempt at a bipartisan deal fell apart almost as soon as it was exposed to public scrutiny.

If so, will the projections for future gas consumption be revised downward, the way that Washington state’s newly cautious projections were?

No, and it’s not clear whether downward revisions would be accurate. The gas price collapse of 2014 has led to a rebound in miles driven per capita, though they’re still well below the 2005 peak.

Will the package include a surcharge that would pay for state-owned city streets like 82nd Avenue or North Lombard to finally be transferred to local control?

Sort of. The legislature’s unsuccessful proposal lacked a dedicated surcharge but did include a line item that would have upgraded outer Powell Boulevard and transferred it to the City of Portland east of Interstate 205.

Public strategies and priorities
People walking - SE Powell at 93rd-1
SE Powell: no room to spare.

What will Portland’s survey of neighborhood greenway data reveal about their usage? Will the results be seen as a sign that it’s more important to rapidly expand the network, or to improve the existing routes?

They revealed that speeding is fairly widespread and high traffic counts are problems on some of the most important biking connections. The city’s active transportation team responded by focusing more time and money on improving existing routes, but won’t be able to continue without new money from the city.

Will the Portland Police Bureau finally get serious about bike theft by developing an internal program to address the issue?

To some extent, yes. The Portland Bike Theft Task Force launched in March and the two PPB officers who specialize in bike theft have been delivering a string of newsworthy attempts to face the bike theft problem directly.

How much staff time will the City of Portland allocate in fiscal year 2016 to its half-funded but seemingly back-burnered bike share project?

Quite a bit, it turns out — thanks to staff time in fiscal year 2015 that rejiggered the proposal to have much lower costs and much less risk for the city. That revised deal resurrected the project and it’s finally set to launch by July.

What will the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s two-year work plan — the one that’s supposed to have a road map to a Vision Zero policy — look like?

It looks pretty great, up to and including the Vision Zero policy approved by City Council in June.

Will early plans for TriMet’s Powell-Division bus rapid transit project preserve any space for bike lanes? How much?

Only where bike lanes already exist. Though nothing has been decided, it’s all but certain that Powell won’t get bike lanes east of 82nd and there’s only an outside chance of bike lanes on 82nd between Powell and Division. East of 82nd, Division (which already has bike lanes, and which unlike the other two is a city road rather than a state one) seems likely to get good ones.

Private services and economics
North Portland Bikeworks new location-11-10
An essential part of urban
bike infrastructure.

Lents finally got a new bike shop in 2014. Will any follow its lead where local shops are needed even more: east of Interstate 205?

Sadly, no.

What regulations will Portland manage to put on Uber-style companies before the ride-hailing service launches permanently in April?

Quite a few, among them a one-time safety course for new drivers and a fee to support taxi service for people with disabilities. Still missing, to the outrage of Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Nick Fish: a requirement for more than $50,000 of insurance coverage for Lyft or Uber drivers between fares.

Will Uber’s Portland fleet include the bike racks being piloted in Seattle?

UberPEDAL is an option in its Portland app, but on Tuesday it was grayed out, presumably because almost no Uber drivers seem to be offering it.

With a new corporate team in charge of Alta Bicycle Share, will the mystery sponsor that got cold feet last spring and killed Portland’s impending bike share launch return to the table in order to get its name on the system?

The mystery sponsor seems to be either gone or biding its time, maybe until after launch.

Will gas prices keep falling? If they do, will the number of miles driven by the average Oregonian climb for the first time since 1999?

Prices stopped falling but seem to be staying low. The number of miles driven in Oregon is almost certainly rising along with the national trend, though it’s got a long way to climb to its past peak.

Land use and development
The Lloyd District could become a heart of
Portland biking culture if a few things go right.
(Rendering: GBD Architects)

When the 657-apartment Hassalo on Eighth project in the Lloyd District opens for leases, will it fill up as quickly as the rest of the city’s low-car apartment projects have? Will it land the grocery store that would truly transform the Lloyd?

Yes, the three-building complex has been filling up fast and is now 45 percent leased. The first building that opened (in June) was full by August and the other two are on track to fill up by next September, three months ahead of schedule, Hassalo’s Stephanie Shaffer said Tuesday. The development hasn’t scored the full-size grocery store anchor it’s been hoping for, but high-end mini-grocer Green Zebra did jump at the chance to set up one of its somewhat smaller shops.

Once the new bridge links the South Waterfront and inner Division, will SoWa’s Zidell family find a development project that looks lucrative enough to sell off their barge business? Will Fred Meyer pull the trigger on a long-planned small grocery store in the South Waterfront?

SoWa is still waiting for that mini-Fred-Meyer, but the Zidells are moving to develop their land piece by piece. In July they signed the city’s biggest public-private development deal in a decade, including $23.8 million in public money for the new district’s streets and parks. Whether enough road space is being preserved for great bikeways, meanwhile, has been in flux.

Will anti-demolition advocates find a way to reduce demolish-and-rebuild projects in central Portland without also blocking density increases?

The city came close to a sweet spot with Mayor Hales’ proposed $25,000 demolition tax, which would have gone toward affordable-housing programs and applied only to 1:1 demolitions in single-family zones. But neighborhood associations also wanted to prevent 1:2 demolitions, and that insistence killed the proposal.

Will the City of Portland’s building boom keep outpacing Washington County’s, or will the suburbs catch up?

No, but unlike in the last few years, the burbs have been keeping pace. Multnomah County has 33 percent of the metro area’s population; as of November, its residents got 33 percent of the region’s net new jobs and it saw 35 percent of the region’s building permits.

And finally:

Is somebody going to call in a code violation on the “Keep Portland Weird” mural, or what?

Nope. Wealth may be softening Portland’s weirdness but its official self-image remains in place.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

22 Comments
  • maccoinnich December 30, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    It’s incredibly frustrating how slowly the Central City Multimodal Safety Improvement project is moving along. The first stories about it were published in BikePortland in January 2013. If public outreach (never the quickest process in Portland) isn’t scheduled to start until mid-2016, construction has got to be at least a year or two out.

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  • wsbob December 30, 2015 at 7:50 pm

    “… Will Washington County agree to build its first modern protected bike lane on Merlo Road near Nike? Will it be contagious?

    Yes, Merlo Road and 170th have been slated to get curb-protected bike lanes. The southern segment of 170th will be up for future funding (by 2019) in a few months. Unfortunately, the county decided not to install protected bike lanes on nearby Walker Road, just north of Nike’s campus, or 158th Avenue, just southwest, so any contagion seems to be contained. …” bikeportland

    2019? Seriously? Developers are building apartments like crazy, just west of Costco on 158th and Baseline. Already up, is a lot of fairly recent built multifamily dwellings adjacent to 170th and Baseline. And of course, a big single family dwelling neighborhood within Baseline, Walker, 170th, and 158th roads.

    From the get-go, a protected bike lane system serving residents, employment and retail in this area should have been top of the road infrastructure list for county and city planners. Presently included active transportation infrastructure for this densely populated area, limited to road adjacent sidewalks and bike lanes, is completely inadequate for travel needs of people living in the area. It virtually obliges people there to use a motor vehicle for all their practical travel needs.

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    • El Biciclero December 31, 2015 at 9:32 am

      “From the get-go, a protected bike lane system serving residents, employment and retail…”

      …and schools. Protected/safe bike/ped infrastructure would be super for Beaver Acres elementary students. I just hope the two-lane roundabout plan I saw a year or two ago has been improved to allow safer bicycle access for elementary-age riders…

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  • eli bishop December 30, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    “Only where bike lanes already exist. Though nothing has been decided, it’s all but certain that Powell won’t get bike lanes east of 82nd and there’s only an outside chance of bike lanes on 82nd between Powell and Division. East of 82nd, Division (which already has bike lanes, and which unlike the other two is a city road rather than a state one) seems likely to get good ones.”
    DANG IT! If not now, then never.

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  • 9watts December 30, 2015 at 9:16 pm

    I can’t believe how much you two get done. My membership just became a lifetime membership (not sure if you offer those, but you deserve it). Thanks, Michael and Jonathan, for all the hard work, great stories, and reviews! This thing keeps getting better and better. I hope you sign up another fifty folks before the end of the year!

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    • Tim Davis January 4, 2016 at 1:17 pm

      Totally agreed, 9watts! Jonathan and Michael are by far the best and most comprehensive bicycle news reporters on the planet! It’s why I’m a member, as well. I hope that BikePortland membership grows exponentially to help Jonathan and Michael (and others who help this site in so many ways, including providing many helpful comments!) continue to do (and even expand) what they do for many years to come!!

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  • paul g. December 30, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    “The city came close to a sweet spot with Mayor Hales’ proposed $25,000 demolition tax, which would have gone toward affordable-housing programs and applied only to 1:1 demolitions in single-family zones. But neighborhood associations also wanted to prevent 1:2 demolitions, and that insistence killed the proposal.”

    Can’t agree with your interpretation on that one, Michael. When a proposal is not supported publicly by a single other voting member it’s far from “the sweet spot.”

    It wasn’t the 2:1 issue that killed the proposal. The Merc story lays out the real problem: the mayor never vetted it by his colleagues. City hall insiders tell me that’s an unfortunate pattern, members and their staffs seldom talk to one another. It doesn’t bode well for much progress on difficult issues in the next 12 months.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) December 31, 2015 at 9:28 am

      I totally believe the staff vetting problem, Paul – that’s useful.

      Still, you’re saying that if it had been vetted, and if The Oregonian had still described the density exception in its news headline as “watering down the demolition tax”, and if various neighborhood associations had still objected to exempting 1:2 demolitions, then it would have passed?

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  • Adam H. December 30, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    Washington County is widening every road around Nike. Have they never heard of induced demand? At least we’re getting wider sidewalks, however the wider painted lanes are still substandard next to travel lanes engineered for 45 mph. On the plus side, I talked to a project manager at Washington County and he informed me that a portion of the Westside Trail will be constructed from the Merlo MAX to Walker Road.

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    • fourknees December 31, 2015 at 9:49 am

      That section of the westide trail has been complete for at least 6 months. Very nice with a mid block crossing (stop) light at SW Jenkins and a rapid reflecting beacon light at SW Baseline..

      https://goo.gl/maps/5MHGRzGNTRJ2

      What would be great is if they could put a new trail along the rail line to meet up with the trail again going south so you didn’t have to go through the trails at the north end of the Tualatin Hills Nature Park.

      The new sections of the westside trails are nice. There are several more sections futher south too. I just wish they would repave and widen the older sections to match. OR in the older sections put in a new straight path along the side of the corridor intended for bikes only in the many sections look like continuous S curves.

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      • Adam H. December 31, 2015 at 11:37 am

        Yes, that is a very nice trail, but it’s the Waterhouse Trail, not the Westside. The contact from Washington County that I had the email exchange with told me that the new trail will be along the east side of 158th.

        As for the 158th project, it should be noted that a portion of the Westside Trail (from Walker Rd to Merlo Rod/158th Light Rail Station) will be constructed along the east side as part of the road improvement. Those who would feel less safe riding in the buffered bike lane will have this 10-12 ft trail to ride on.

        It will come out next to the Merlo Rd/158th Light Rail Station and runs along the east side of SW 158th where it will cross Jenkins, Jay, then Walker dropping into the Tualatin Hill’s Rec Center property.

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    • wsbob December 31, 2015 at 11:03 am

      fourknees, thank you for mentioning that the Westside Trail connection between Walker…actually, Baseline…the trail south from Walker has existed already for quite a few years….and Merlo has been completed, and works quite well…as a recreational trail.

      As infrastructure for practical biking, capable of handling large numbers of people on foot and bike needing efficient travel to and from home, shops and all the other types of places within their neighborhood people need to travel to, this recreational trail can not be sufficient to serve the travel needs of the great number of people coming to live in this area.

      If a first class main lane separated protected bike lane were built in this area, how many people (what percent of road users in the area population.) beyond those that already are biking on existing infrastructure, would decide to bike rather than drive? I figure that must be one of the key questions that local leaders and planners ask themselves when deciding how to prioritize budgets for road expansion and improvements. Logic suggests they’re convinced the increase would be small.

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  • Brian December 31, 2015 at 8:24 am

    New singletrack? A single, legal dirtjump? *sigh* We lost even more places to ride in 2015. While hiking on Tabor yesterday my six year old saw a “No bikes” sign on a small section of trail (a wide trail with a great sightline by the tennis courts) and asked, “Why can’t we have fun on our bikes in the park?” 2016 will, unfortunately, be another year of driving to ride bikes with my son.

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    • 9watts December 31, 2015 at 9:02 am

      “2016 will, unfortunately, be another year of driving to ride bikes with my son.”
      If you didn’t have a car you’d probably approach this situation differently.

      “Why can’t we have fun on our bikes in the park?”
      My daughter and I have fun on our bikes on Mt. Tabor. We just stay on the roads. A (slightly) different kind of fun, to be sure, but so what? Do you really believe that every demographic is entitled to public accommodations for their particular sport. What if the luge folks demanded they be accommodated? Or the curlers? Or the bungee jumpers?
      I happen to agree that we should work toward establishing single track trails and other MTB riding opportunities in the Metro area: I just can’t relate to the blackmail attitude that some here exhibit: If you refuse to provide it here in town, I’ll be forced to drive!

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      • Brian December 31, 2015 at 10:10 am

        What about Quidditch players? Monster truck drivers? Alligator wrestlers? Blackmail? That’s a good one.

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      • GlowBoy December 31, 2015 at 10:34 pm

        What’s wrong with that, 9watts? It’s precisely the truth! When I lived in Portland, I drove to go mountain biking because I wanted to mountain bike even if I couldn’t do it without driving. Now that I’m in Minneapolis I ride to the trails. Because I can.

        I biked less when I lived in Portland than I do now, but I was not going to sacrifice it on the altar of freedom from cars.

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      • GlowBoy December 31, 2015 at 10:37 pm

        Outside the bubble of Portland, mountain biking is a lot more mainstream than bungee jumping or curling. But go ahead, keep marginalizing it and preserve that status quo.

        Bold prediction: 2016 won’t be the year, either.

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  • El Biciclero December 31, 2015 at 9:59 am

    “Unfortunately, [Washington] county decided not to install protected bike lanes on nearby Walker Road, just north of Nike’s campus, or 158th Avenue, just southwest, so any contagion seems to be contained.”

    My guess would be that the expectation for those who want “protection” along the general 158th route is that they will use the Waterhouse Trail, which connects the north end of 158th to the Merlo Road MAX stop. This trail, though much less fast than using the existing gutter-pan bike lanes on 158th, is much more usable since they added the full-stop (red-yellow-green) crossing signals at Walker and Jenkins roads, and the flashing beacon at Baseline.

    What might be neat is if Nike could see fit to open up some trails or even allow public access to its parking lot drive that rings the campus like a giant roundabout that opens onto Walker, Murray, or Jenkins. I know that’s a huge “ask” of Nike, given how The Public tends to take advantage of things (e.g., Riverview Cemetery), but it would offer some “protection” for a short way between a few widely-separated streets (158th/Walker/Murray/Jenkins).

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    • Adam H. December 31, 2015 at 1:41 pm

      The Waterhouse trail is great, but unfortunately does not connect to the main or west Nike campus.

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      • El Biciclero January 2, 2016 at 4:21 pm

        That’s my main problem with many trails; they don’t really connect to anything except maybe at the ends. Along the way, you have to find a way out into a neighborhood and figure out where you need to go. From Waterhouse to Nike, (southbound) you’d have to jump onto Baseline to 162nd, then down to Jay Street by Costco, then take Jay across 158th and find the first Nike entrance, e.g., Burlington.

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        • Adam H. January 4, 2016 at 4:22 pm

          It’s almost as if they were designed for recreation rather than transportation. 😉

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  • MonicaInPDX January 1, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    Regarding UberPedal: On December 30, I rode to work for for the first time in four months, due to having a baby. Sadly, I did not anticipate the black ice, crashed, and thus ended my day with a chiropractic appointment. I was nervous about riding home in the dark, given that I wasn’t sure if there was more ice and I was pretty sore. I remembered reading about UberPedal on BikePortland and decided to give it a try. It worked great! The driver arrived within 8 minutes. My step-through frame didn’t fit on his rack, so he used bungee cords to tie my bike to kayak racks he had on his roof. It was an expensive commute home, but a great option for my particular need that day.

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