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Photos/recap of BTA New Year’s Day ride

Posted by on January 4th, 2010 at 10:42 am

BTA New Year's Day Ride-13

Riders aglow on the Springwater.
Gallery/Slideshow below –
(Photos © J. Maus)

On New Year’s Day, about 60 people assembled under the west side of the Morrison Bridge to start 2010 off with a bike ride. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance has led this traditional ride for as long as anyone can remember, and this year, the leader was one of their Walk and Bike Ambassadors, Carl Larson.

Mr. Larson led the brightly-clad group (for some reason this ride leads all others in neon-colored rain jackets) over the Hawthorne Bridge and then south on the Eastbank Esplanade. The ride’s first stop was the former location of the infamous Caruthers Street stop sign (it has since been removed). Carl, in his typically funny deadpan delivery, addressed the crowd: “This is likely the last time any of you will ever stop at this spot… and it might be the first time you’ve ever stopped here as well.”

BTA New Year's Day Ride-25 BTA New Year's Day Ride-24 BTA New Year's Day Ride-23 BTA New Year's Day Ride-9

We then rolled south on the Springwater down to the sample the bike boulevard/traffic calming improvements on SE Spokane St. in Sellwood and then headed west across the river via SE Tacoma and the Sellwood Bridge (yes, we took the lane).

BTA New Year's Day Ride-19

The Willamette Greenway Trail fail.

After crossing the bridge we wound our way onto the Willamette Greenway Trail. Wow. What a horrible excuse for a multi-use path! It’s narrow, has very sharp turns, and winds awkwardly through various bits of private property with menacing signs that make you feel as though you’ll be shot on sight for leaving the path. Compared to its sister trails on the other side of the river (the Esplanade and Springwater), it really is a joke.

Eventually we left the riverfront and headed downtown for a stop at the Zoobomb Pyle, where Carl gave an informative overview of the art of Zoobomb and how their artistic rack sculpture came to be. I peeled off from the ride at this point, but rumor has it there were stops at the new Bike Shrine at St. Stephens church and a roll along the PSU cycletrack and a stop at the remodeled PSU Bike Co-op.

Thanks Carl and the BTA! This ride was a perfect way to bring in the New Year. I met some new friends, caught up with old ones and even had a nice conversation with City Council hopeful Jesse Cornett (who I hope to sit down with for a more formal interview soon).

Check the slideshow below for more faces and places from the ride:

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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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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    Michael M. January 4, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Hmm … I really enjoy the Willamette Greenway Trail, except for the short bit you pictured above. But, compare that to no trail at all through Sellwood — which is worse?

    The thing that’s nice about most of WGT is better scenery & views and more variety. You bike right through a park, instead of above/alongside one. Most of the way, you get really glorious river views. And the fact that it is narrow & winding means the vast majority of cyclists aren’t speeding down it like they were on some sort of time trial. Unlike on Springwater, people actually say “Hi!” more often than yelling “On your left” accompanied by incessant bell-dinging. All in all, it’s a much more pleasant experience.

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    craig January 4, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Is that Springwater photo misplaced WRT the article? It’s not in the album for the event, and your account of the ride’s course doesn’t include the Springwater.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) January 4, 2010 at 11:58 am

    thanks for that perspective Michael. I was probably a bit too harsh on that trail… but it smacks so much of disrespect that human power has such a low priority through that corridor… especially given all the right-of-way available. I hear you about more people saying “hi”, but the fact that it’s narrow and winding (and not very inviting in my opinion) also means that not nearly as many people will choose to enjoy it — especially families and less skilled riders.

    I look forward to the new Sellwood Bridge. Once that is built, with its much-improved bikeways, it will force the issue to make the WGT better… so folks can do a great loop from the Springwater, across the bridge, and back into downtown Portland.

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    craig January 4, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    my bad, I see it there in the album

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    ScottG January 4, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    The Willamette Greenway Trail is also incredibly bumpy and rough due to tree roots creating pavement heaves. You really have to pay attention there, especially when riding through it at night.

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    Val January 4, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Excellent! Good to see that we were not alone in observing the Opening Day of Biking Season. We were far fewer, but we had fun, just the same:

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    Michael M. January 4, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    J.M. (#3) – I think one problem with the WGT is that the extent of it isn’t well marked. Once I was stopped by a father/daughter (probably 10yo-ish) pair of cyclists at the southern entrance to Willamette Park, who wanted to know if it was possible to continue on down SW Miles (which I had just ridden north on, after riding westbound across the Sellwood Bridge). I showed them on a map I had with me how to get as far as the bridge. It isn’t at all obvious that you can continue south of Willamette Park, and there are other places along the trail that will leave you wondering where or if you can keep going. That has to be discouraging to parents accompanying younger kids, who especially don’t want to take the chance of being dumped unceremoniously into a bike-unfriendly area. There are definitely a few spots that could use some significant improvements to ease the transitions between neighborhoods.

    But what I like about it is that most of it is as inviting to walkers as it is to cyclists, and in that sense, I disagree that it smacks of “disrespect” to human power. It isn’t primarily a transit corridor (unlike Springwater), but it is a really pleasant recreational corridor where you can bike, walk, skateboard or what have you. And people do — compare the number of people strolling up and down the WGT to the number of people walking the Springwater. The latter is a great place to bike, but the relative isolation, the fact that there are a lot of fast-moving cyclists to contend with, and the monotony of some of the scenery doesn’t make it terribly attractive for walkers. I would agree that there is too low a priority for non-motorized transit throughout the SW region. I just don’t think the WGT is the place where you want to pave paradise and put up a transit link (to paraphrase the song). Fix Macadam Ave. Fix Taylors Ferry Road. Give those cyclists looking for speedy routes (whether for commutes or fitness riding) what they seek.

    ScottG (#5) — Various parts of the WGT are closed at night — i.e., you aren’t supposed to be riding there at night.

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    matthew v January 4, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    i really liked the social aspect of the ride. many familiar faces and i made a point to chat with lots of folks i didn’t know. michael m-opinions do vary on the wgt. i personally think it blows. i think the jogger that was caught between riders in the herd probably felt the same. she waved my to pass her once but with almost no room to do so i just waited till the stop in front of the benz spring co..

    i definately agree the wgt is disrestectful to human power. mm #7 you even state that the wgt has closed sections at night. ummm… should i consider that to be user friendly? i realize the trail to be benificial to “casual” recreational riders. think~bike stroll. if it’s the cat’s meow for you, great! to each thier own. as a transit corridor (what most daily riders/commuters would need) it is frustrating to the point of avoiding it altogether. sellwood has many bike friendly streets to choose from. i do try to consider all aspects of use and users. that’s what builds our community.

    many thanks to the psu bike shop and trailhead coffee. warming up with cookies, coffee and conversation was just what i needed before riding back home to vancouver.

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    PoPo January 4, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    I do this loop all the time for a nice hour of exercise and agree with Michael’s (7) thoughtful comments.

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    Michael M. January 5, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Matthew V. (#8) — I think where we differ (and where I differ with J.M.) is that I don’t equate “human power” exclusively with “cycling.” Humans, typically, have two feet, with which we have been walking for a very long time, long before the bicycle and the motorized vehicle came along. To me, a place that is respectful of human power allows a relatively comfortable and enjoyable experience for all who want to use it without the benefit of motorization. It isn’t, necessarily, a place that provides the fastest, most efficient route from point A to point B. So I agree that the WGT is “frustrating” as a transit corridor; my point is that it is not primarily a transit corridor, nor would I like to see it become one. We already have transit corridors through that area, ones that could and should be repurposed to meet cyclists’ transportation needs better and more safely than they do now.

    Portland once led the way in giving the city back to its human inhabitants by removing a freeway that once stood where Waterfront Park is now. I would hate to see us regress to the point removing chunks of our green space for “bike freeways.” Isn’t there already enough pavement in the region to satisfy everyone?

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) January 5, 2010 at 11:24 am


    you make some great points, but you are putting words into my mouth and attributing ideas to me that I don’t agree with.

    I never said human power meant just cycling and I never said anything about wanting to create “bike freeways”.

    and yes, there is plenty of pavement in the region to satisfy everyone…. but until we start re-allocating space on our existing roads to create separated bikeways, we need more bike-friendly corridors… if that means adding width to an existing multi-use path than that’s what we should do.

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    Carl (BTA) January 5, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Ride leader chiming in, here:

    Springwater : WGT :: I-5 : Highway 101

    One’s good for getting there quickly. The other’s good for seeing the sights while getting stuck behind log trucks/strollers.

    Sure, the WGT could have fewer blind 90 degree turns on bumpy pavement, but the Springwater could have more exits to the streets. They each have their annoyances but they each fill particular roles.

    Accordingly, I wish that there was a twisty slow-poke alternative to the Springwater and a go-fast superhighway alternative to the WGT. Luckily they’re only one river away from each other. The Sellwood Bridge though…anyone want to defend that?

    Many thanks to all who came along on the ride and helped out. I was worried that some would think the ride was too slow and “interpreted,” but folks seemed as prepared for slowness and chatting as they were for rain. Happy 2010 Portland!

    More pictures on the BTA Blog:

    See you next year!

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    Michael M. January 5, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    J.M. (#11) … I certainly didn’t mean to imply you were arguing for “bike freeways.” And as for what you meant by “human power,” … well, I guess I’m still unclear (but I did say “I think … where [we] differ…”, not “I know”!). Anyway, while I agree we could use more bike corridors, I just don’t think the way to go is widening or straightening or expanding or adding paved paths through green space, especially not green space that is so well used by the citizenry is all sorts of non-motorized, human powered ways. You say “until we start re-allocating space on our existing roads to create separated bikeways” — that’s exactly what we should be doing, forget the “until.” I’m pretty sure, based on all you’ve written on this here blog, that you’d be pretty happy with said re-allocating, so why hedge it with, ‘…but we can also widen multi-use paths’? I think the formidable forces that would resist re-allocating space would be only too happy to shunt cyclist off to multi-use paths: “Why do you need a bike lane on Naito Pkwy when you have Waterfront Park?” “Why do you need to ride on Macadam Ave. when you can ride on the WGT?” “Why should we give up precious traffic lanes / parking when you cyclists can share space with pedestrians?”

    I’m not trying to be contrary, nor do I expect a response, I just think these issues are going to come up more frequently as time goes on, and I hope you think through as many sides of the issue as you can. The space for transit cycling has to come from somewhere — I’d much rather it come from the considerable space already allocated to transportation than the space allocated to recreation.

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