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.
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.”
Ellen has customized her handlebar to minimize stress on her joints and to allow her both a bent-over and more relaxed, upright position…
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.”
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…
… but I did notice that even she hugged the right side of the lane as cars came by.
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…
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…
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…
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.
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.
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.”
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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