Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

People on Bikes: East Portland edition

Posted by on June 12th, 2014 at 12:26 pm

People on bikes east Portland-7

This is Haider, a 32-year-old Iraqi man I met on his daily commute
from SE 82nd & Division to downtown Portland.
(Photos J Maus/BikePortland)

This post is part of our special, week-long focus on east Portland.

I have to admit, doing a People on Bikes post in my usual format proved impossible in east Portland. Typically, when I do a post in this series, I find a very busy bike corridor and set up in one place. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel and I can’t keep up with all the bikers that stream by. I usually post 40-50 images and those are edited down from hundreds that I actually shoot.

But out here in east Portland I never did find that one, super-busy bicycle thoroughfare. Instead, I tried to photograph any person on a bike that I happened to come across while out and about. Another wrinkle in doing this in east Portland is that I had to be careful swinging around my expensive camera and long, 200mm lens because I was usually riding on big arterial streets where folks aren’t used to seeing someone on a bike at all — much less someone taking photos of something as ordinary as traffic.

The images I did get are different than what you’re used to — not only for the People on Bikes series, but also because of the riding conditions they depict. I didn’t seek out a particular type of scene, but you’ll note that many of the images depict people riding on sidewalks and/or in environments with a high volume of automobiles.

I’ve also thrown a few people into this gallery who I actually stopped and chatted with.

Scroll down for the images and my notes…

East Portland bike rider

Haider rides SE Division every day to his job downtown. He’s got an aggressive riding style that caught my eye. When I asked him how he felt about the biking conditions on Division, he said he didn’t mind them at all. “It’s good here. I like the trees and the green. It’s not so bad. The cars give me no problem,” he said (maybe it’s the uniform). Then he raced off.
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Advertise with BikePortland.
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Spend time in east Portland and you’ll understand why many people ride on the wrong side of the street and ride against traffic. Would you want to cross that street just to get to the store a few blocks away?
East Portland rider - Neri-4

This is Neri. She caught my eye because I saw her first riding on the shoulder with traffic on SE Stark. Then, as she approached the signal at 122nd she pulled onto the sidewalk, dismounted, and used the crosswalk to get across. I asked why she did that. “I don’t trust any of these cars,” she said. “People don’t watch. They turn without looking.” (And lest you think Neri is simply a timid rider who’s easily scared, I noticed many big and tough-looking men doing the same thing.)
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NE Halsey biker

Toni from east Portland

Toni from Gateway

This is Toni whom I met in the parking lot of Fred Meyer at the Gateway Town Center. She’s 68 and doesn’t own a car because biking and using transit is affordable, “And owning a car is not.” She rides all over east Portland, usually facing oncoming traffic on the larger streets because “I’d rather see what’s coming at me.”

What do these images tell us about what it will take to make east Portland a more pleasant place for everyday bicycle riders? What do they tell us about the differences in riding styles, gear, and demographics of riders more commonly seen in east Portland versus closer-in neighborhoods?

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  • spare_wheel June 12, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    “I’d rather see what’s coming at me.”

    except that a head on collision with a cage is far more likely to be fatal than a same direction collision.

    that comment was a good example of how subjective safety can be very unsafe indeed.

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    • davemess June 13, 2014 at 7:13 am

      Yes, I see a lot of wrong way bike lane riding on my street (SE Duke). It’s frustrating. We’re only a two lane road, so I’m not buying the “my destination is close and it’s are to cross” argument. Only going off my observations it seems like more people with helmets tend to use the bike lanes in the right direction. There does seem to be a divide between people using bikes who think of them as legitimate vehicles vs. others who don’t think they have any specific rules and it’s a free for all.

      Also still have a a number of people who won’t use the bike lane, but ride in the parking lane or sidewalk (at least the parts of sidewalk that we actually have that are paved).

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    • Todd Hudson June 13, 2014 at 8:31 am

      The Safe Zone Helmet Mirror gives you an incredible vantage of what’s behind you. Conceived in Portland by Bike Gallery folks.


      Unfortunately it looks like helmet use in east Portland is <10%, so there's no place to put the mirror.

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  • F.W. de Klerk June 12, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    Jonathan Maus: good work covering the deplorable cycling conditions in the eastern half of “America’s Bike Capital”.

    Clearly the message is east Portland needs help. Will city hall continue to pay those citizens lip service?

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  • Glenn June 12, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    Good lord, what an inhuman, out of scale desert it is. Makes my shoulderless rural highway look positively cozy and benign.

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    • CaptainKarma June 12, 2014 at 2:14 pm

      Yup…and then there’s Gresham…

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      • Mike June 12, 2014 at 4:42 pm

        If you ever ride either Stark St. or Glisan St. eastbound, it’s only when you see the “Welcome to Gresham” signs at 162nd that the bike lanes suddenly appear. Even the crosswalk markings, signage, lane markings, etc. are maintained so much better just when you get outside the City of Portland’s jurisdiction. Same thing with crosswalk markings on Burnside St. at the MAX stations — stations west of the boundary (in Portland) they’re mostly worn off, east of the boundary (in Gresham) they’re noticeably more visible & very well maintained.

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        • Mossby Pomegranate June 12, 2014 at 6:15 pm

          Wait! isn’t Portland like the cycling capital of the world or some crap like that? Isn’t that what the sign said?!

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        • Brian June 13, 2014 at 7:19 am

          Gresham is where the Springwater Corridor becomes much more pleasant, too.

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          • davemess June 13, 2014 at 9:18 am

            ? What issues are you having on the sections from 205 to Gresham? The pavement is good. The crossings are decent (also crosses more major roads than in Gresham).
            I’ve only ever had people lung at me on my bike while riding the section in Gresham (granted only once or twice).

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            • Brian June 13, 2014 at 10:43 am

              No issues. It’s a smoother ride starting in Gresham, that’s all.

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  • rachel b June 12, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    A wonderful photo story! Reminded me of old Portland, the mix of people especially. I grew up in Gresham/Boring and used to ride the pre-Springwater (unpaved). Jouncy! More recently I’ve ridden to Edgefield via the Springwater taking Eastman to Halsey east. I’m comfortable riding in traffic but I hop on the sidewalk for a few stretches. We’re very very spoiled in the inner neighborhoods now. Thanks for doing this series.

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  • Spiffy June 12, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    it’ embarrassing that a road like Stark out at 122nd where the on-street parking is less than 5% utilized that they don’t have bike lanes… and since they installed curb extensions it looks like there’s no plans for any unless they get rid of a traffic lane, and that won’t happen…

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  • pixie June 12, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Jonathan, can you elaborate on “an aggressive riding style that caught my eye” in your reference to the first person? I’m curious as to what that might be.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 12, 2014 at 3:56 pm

      He was riding fast and confident, leaving the bike lane without care and swerving around cars that got in his way. Nothing illegal, but he was clearly not timid or afraid of the conditions.Perhaps confident would have been a better word than aggressive.

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  • GlowBoy June 12, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Great photo series. Conveys a good feel for biking in east Portland.

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  • Mossby Pomegranate June 12, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    Hey Maus, I know you’ll probably censor me as usual, but I’m worried your “glowing” reporting from east Portland will indicate we’re doing just great out here and don’t need any improvements. Obviously that’s far from the truth.

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    • davemess June 13, 2014 at 7:14 am

      Have you read any of the other articles????

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  • daisy June 12, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    “What do they tell us about the differences in riding styles, gear, and demographics of riders more commonly seen in east Portland versus closer-in neighborhoods?”

    Most of these folks are not wearing helmets. My recollection is that most of the people in central Portland People on Bikes pieces are.

    Now I’m going to speculate and say that, in east Portland, it seems that some folks are cycling because of economic reasons (they’re broke) rather than by choice.

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    • gutterbunnybikes June 12, 2014 at 6:59 pm

      Boy, feeling superior are we?

      It’s that kind of selfish and nearsighted assumption by some cyclists that make it hard for people to take bike advocates seriously.

      And there is a HUGE difference between being broke and making a smart economic decision. Just because you can afford a car, doesn’t make it sound personal financial decision.

      The more I ponder your post (as one who can afford a helmet, but doesn’t wear one in 40+ years of bike riding) the angrier I get. Hell, you might as well have said “let them eat cake”…..

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      • daisy June 12, 2014 at 8:34 pm

        Wow, you have projected an awful lot onto my comment.

        My comment about helmets was an observation, not a judgment. The photos above show 27 different people on bicycles, only five or six of whom are wearing helmets (I can’t tell about photo 2). Compare that the People on Bikes from May on North Vancouver (http://bikeportland.org/2013/05/02/people-on-bikes-north-vancouver-avenue-86270), where about 50 people are photographed, all but six or seven of whom are wearing helmets. It’s a big difference. Folks here have observed that, typically, most folks in People on Bikes are wearing helmets. Seeing the opposite in today’s post was interesting.

        I am not presuming that folks aren’t wearing helmets because they can’t afford to buy them. Actually, in my earlier comment, I almost said that folks in East Portland look more like Copenhagen cyclists, in that they are wearing normal street clothes far more than many folks cycling in central Portland (at least if you glance through People on Bikes).

        Also, in regards to my comment that folks in central Portland are more likely to ‘choose’ cycling: central Portland generally has pretty good mass transit options, so, when folks don’t own a car, they might bike, walk, or take the bus. But if east Portland has fewer mass transit options, that removes one option that’s less expensive than car ownership.

        I ‘choose’ to bike commute every day. My family has one car; I don’t have a car available to me. My other option (the more expensive one at this point) would be the bus. I have a certain privilege in having the choice to bike.

        I was also thinking about Michael’s post on central Portland privileges for cycling (http://bikeportland.org/2014/06/10/central-city-biking-privilege-107082) and another recently-linked article about the many privileges in choosing bike commuting: (http://wabikes.org/2014/06/02/personal-privilege-biking-it-takes-more-than-a-bike-lane-to-start-riding/).

        So, I didn’t do a good job communicating all of this, or perhaps you were looking for insult?

        Observing differences is not supporting them or creating them. In fact, recognizing difference can help bring about change.

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        • 9watts June 12, 2014 at 9:41 pm

          It warms the cockles of my heart to see folks riding for transportation. No show; just getting where they want to go. Just my style.
          My conclusion about the scenery isn’t that there is too little bike infrastructure but that there are too many cars and trucks & waaaay too much asphalt.
          What a dreadful shame, paving over that much land.

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        • spare_wheel June 12, 2014 at 9:58 pm

          i had the same reaction as gutterbunny bikes. and your comments on the williams threads struck me as very similar.

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          • daisy June 12, 2014 at 10:27 pm

            So your point is that you don’t like me? Okay then.

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            • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 13, 2014 at 9:04 am

              Hey daisy, spare_wheel, and others…

              This is the internet, where tone and nuance are difficult to convey. Please continue to debate the merits of each others’ positions and comments, but also please remember to be nice and supportive of one another. Thanks.

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            • spare_wheel June 13, 2014 at 11:03 am

              daisy, i apologize for using “you”. i have these same kind of arguments with friends and family so please don’t take this personally.

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        • gutterbunnybikes June 12, 2014 at 10:07 pm

          How could anyone think anything else about your first post? And I apologize if I came off too harsh. But even after re reading it, there was very little in your post to give any other impression.

          But also realize that there has, and often is – a reaction by some cyclists to disclaim other bike riders because they don’t live up to a specific image of what a “cyclist” is. It comes up every time someone that is homeless is injured or killed on a bike.

          And personally when it comes to safer streets I don’t think the issue of personal finances should be any part of the equation – shouldn’t even be mentioned, there is no reason for it. Safer streets are for everyone. Regardless if they are riding used Magna bike or a custom $10k carbon fiber track bike.

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          • daisy June 12, 2014 at 10:42 pm

            Well of course good infrastructure is important for everyone. Actually, I’d rather see the city focus on under served communities. Folks with $10,000 bikes are really not the people high on my list of people to be worried about.

            I was responding to Jon’s closing question about demographics. I guess you could have responded differently by giving me the benefit of the doubt or, at the very least, asking a clarifying question. You jumped super fast to judging me, which, ironically, is what you accused me of doing to others.

            Anyway, with spare wheel’s comment in the mix, which seemed to be there mostly to take a cheap shot, I’m feeling a bit like there’s a pile-on. I”m engaging in good faith here. Do you all really want folks not to participate?

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            • F.W. de Klerk June 13, 2014 at 12:10 pm

              Wait…so a person with a $10,000 bike doesn’t deserve be be safe on the street? Doesn’t matter if were riding a $100, $1000, or $10,000 bike…we all die the same.

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          • davemess June 13, 2014 at 7:26 am

            Gutter you seem to be completely denying the differences in median income levels between many in East Portland and the inner east side. That combined with the obvious lack of helmets in this article, seems like it lead daisy to make a simple social science hypothesis (which she stated was a hypothesis by saying “Now I’m going to speculate and say”). It does not seem to be far fetched to postulate that more people in a lower income area might be riding bikes for the cost savings (some without a lot of other options). For sure she could have worded it differently (and I think maybe that’s the thing you have biggest problem with?).

            It kind of appears like you’re just looking to pick a PC fight.

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            • GlowBoy June 13, 2014 at 11:52 am

              I think daisy’s point of many East Portlanders riding out of economic necessity is a valid one – and echoes Jon’s own point above. I would agree there’s been a bit much piling on, presumably due to the “they’re broke” wording, but c’mon …

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        • was carless June 13, 2014 at 11:42 am

          The real interesting thing is that people in the central city, where it is arguably much safer to cycle, are the ones wearing helmets, while people in East Portland aren’t, yet it is arguably much more dangerous.

          Not that a helmet will be helping you much if you get hit by a car.

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          • GlowBoy June 13, 2014 at 11:52 am

            “Not that a helmet will be helping you much if you get hit by a car.”

            Unless the impact slams your head onto the pavement. Then a helmet might be useful.

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            • davemess June 13, 2014 at 3:33 pm

              Or your head impacts the car. My life is a lot better today because I was wearing a helmet when I broke a car’s windshield with my head!

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          • Psyfalcon June 13, 2014 at 12:25 pm

            Remember the crash on Killingsworth though. “He’s not a cyclist either just a young guy riding up from Killingworth to the store do his girlfriend and got hit.”

            I think a lot of people think this way, so they have no need for a helmet or to ride in the right direction. Closer in, especially if you’re doing it for the planet, or to go car free, you’re much more likely to identify as a cyclist, and follow the “rules.”

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            • 9watts June 13, 2014 at 12:38 pm

              “Closer in, especially if you’re doing it for the planet, or to go car free, you’re much more likely to identify as a cyclist, and follow the ‘rules.'”

              Too many rule followers on two wheels are getting creamed by distracted or angry or careless people on four wheels. Not sure how far we’ll get focusing on helmetlessness and riding the wrong way (East Portland), or treating stop signs as yields and taking the lane (closer in Portland).

              Yes, everyone should be responsible for themselves, make wise decisions in traffic, but at the end of the day the dangers (to everyone) emanate not so much from imperfect rule following by folks on two wheels and rather more from imperfect rule following by folks on four.

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              • davemess June 13, 2014 at 3:36 pm

                Yes, except at the end of the day (in reality) only so much is going to happen to limit cars and their driving. And what are the quick fixes that would help right now, that “cyclists” can do? Wearing helmets, riding the right direction, etc.

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    • Spiffy June 13, 2014 at 8:09 am

      I came to pretty much the same conclusion…

      many of the people in east portland bicycle because they have to…

      although I almost have to as well… I usually take the bus…

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  • Anne Hawley June 13, 2014 at 1:26 am

    Fantastic selection of shots, Jonathan. Looking at the conditions in East Portland (and having ridden in them a few times myself) I’m actually surprised that you could find so many people on bikes to photograph. I find it scary and frustrating to ride anywhere past about 92nd, and I only do it when I’m feeling REALLY intrepid. I hope you’ll keep covering the area, because the discussion and images are eye-opening. Lots of impact, seeing them all together like this.

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    • Rob Chapman June 13, 2014 at 8:08 am

      From the pictures it definitely looks like people are riding for survival over there Anne. It doesn’t appear possible to bike by the “rules” in East Portland without getting squashed, what an eye opener. My own riding out that way has been limited to passing through Halsey, the Springwater or Marine Drive on the way in and out of town so it is informative to see what people riding for transportation have to go through on a daily basis.

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      • davemess June 13, 2014 at 9:20 am

        “It doesn’t appear possible to bike by the “rules” in East Portland without getting squashed”

        I don’t find this too be true.

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  • TOM June 13, 2014 at 7:49 am

    Going thru the pix, the vast majority of bikes are Mountain or upright style. Very few drop bars.

    My own personal interpretation of this is:
    a: cheaper , sturdier , more appropriate for rough riding , less prone to flats.
    b: a better riding position to be aware of cars/threats.
    c: riding for transportation , not recreation.
    d: thrift stores are loaded with them , road bikes sell quickly and thus are priced higher.

    and yes, I encounter many wrong way riders coming down the bike lanes directly at me. Some are kids who just like to play “chicken” and bail out at the last possible moment.

    Nobody said that riding far E. PDX was a picnic.

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    • Rob Chapman June 13, 2014 at 8:19 am

      I have a friend and neighbor who’s bike Bertha is the spitting image of the bike in photo 7 and she is very self-conscious about it. She thinks that she is too slow since she constantly gets passed by cat-6ers.

      I think that sort of bike is damn near perfect for transportation personally for all of the reasons TOM listed. Put a Wald basket or a rear rack on there and rock out.

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  • TOM June 13, 2014 at 9:52 am

    a little OT.

    earlier posts mentioned helmets. I’m a believer in them and many times I see a nice used ones, they seem to come home with me a lot. have surplus.
    I also sell extra bike gear on CL. Twice this last month I’ve had buyers come out for an item and explain that their next purchase will be a helmet.
    In both instances , my extra helmets have been retrieved and the people given their choice, gratis.

    I’m happy to contribute a little to fellow cyclists safety.

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  • TOM June 13, 2014 at 10:56 am

    No issues. It’s a smoother ride starting in Gresham, that’s all.
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    I ride out to MHCC once a week. Gresham is no Utopia. Lots of broken glass in the lanes . Going over Burnside hill , dead critters and branches , not to mention all the storm drains in the lanes. Nearly right hooked a couple of times on 224th. Lots of large pickups on the road.

    Not all that much better than far SE. I’m usually the only cyclist in sight. Gresham can be a cycling desert, tho there are dedicated paths most everywhere I want to go … try to find a bike shop there sometime. 🙁

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    • yun June 13, 2014 at 11:10 am

      Division is pretty much always covered in broken glass, that’s true.

      One day I opened up several browser windows with maps of local community centers, bike shops and Sunday Parkways locations and guess what – from 205 east is basically completely ignored by all three.

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    • davemess June 13, 2014 at 3:38 pm

      I think he was referring exclusively to the Springwater.

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  • yun June 13, 2014 at 11:06 am

    I just came here to check out your articles on east PDX. I know your intentions are good, but in the first two paragraphs I got the usual PDX attitude: “OMG outer SE is soooooo different from the rest of the city and hardly anyone rides a bike! What can we do to help them be just like us without, you know, ever having to go past 39th?”

    I see cyclists around here all day, every day. It’s probably true that there are no spots like Ladd’s Addition where it’s crammed with cyclists coming home from work, but still there are many cyclists of all types.

    Also, 82nd is hardly outer SE. The city goes to about 181st. I’m going to check your other articles now to see how far out you got.

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    • GlowBoy June 13, 2014 at 11:56 am

      “”What can we do to help them be just like us without, you know, ever having to go past 39th?””

      Yun, I think you’re inferring WAYYY too much there. Or would you prefer East Portland continue to be ignored by the rest of the city as usual?

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      • yun June 13, 2014 at 12:03 pm

        I may be. But I hear this all the time. People complaining about tonight’s MMR that starts on 106th (bike fun may only start at Colonel Summers!), complaining about infill and rent prices but refusing to live past 39th, etc. Yes, it’s a sore spot for me because I do live out here, and like I said I do believe Jonathan has good intentions, and at least he is actually coming over to take a look.

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        • 9watts June 13, 2014 at 12:13 pm

          “…refusing to live past 39th”
          I like it at SE 33rd, in no small part because I found a 600 sq ft. house there that I could afford. Houses here were also dirt cheap not so many years ago.

          Let’s also not forget that lots of poor people live West of 39th, and I’d venture quite a number of rich people live East of 39th. I don’t know much about what goes on at 139th or 239th.

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        • davemess June 13, 2014 at 3:42 pm

          I’m confused as to what you are arguing here? So you don’t want them to do a focus on East Portland? They’re not saying “no one rides bikes out there”. In fact they have had multiple articles the last few days about people who DO ride bikes in East Portland.
          And up to 82nd/92nd is still outer NE and SE Portland, after that it is considered East Portland.

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  • TOM June 13, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Division is pretty much always covered in broken glass, that’s true.
    One day I opened up several browser windows with maps of local community centers, bike shops and Sunday Parkways locations and guess what – from 205 east is basically completely ignored by all three.
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    yes, for bike shops there is Outer Rim on 108th (?) and Halsey, Performance at Mall 205 , Bike Gallery bailed out from Division and went for greener pastures on 82nd. REI and Clackamas Cycle Center at the CTC area.

    The old ones went OOB. Really liked Bob’s.

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  • was carless June 13, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Maybe we should be building more buffered bike lanes and cycle tracks out there. There certainly seems to be enough roadway space to fit it in there – and on-street parking is rarely, if ever used!

    Maybe Portland could build our version of the Copenhagen Cycle Superhighways?

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  • Neri June 14, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    Hi Jonathan,
    It was a pleasant surprise to find myself photographed in this series. My manager is an avid follower of your blog and she alerted me to this post.
    Thank you for showcasing East Portland. As evidenced by many of the comments above, there are many misconceptions about the types of people that live and cycle in this region. I have worked in East County library locations for the past 5 years, and I have cycled to and fro East County from inner Portland for that length of time. As duly noted, conditions are not ideal, but as an intrepid cyclist, that doesn’t stop me. Whether we ride for fun, for financial reasons, for health, we all have the same thing in common: we are on two wheels and want to stay alive.
    With some basic cycling education, road improvements and awareness we can truly be the “cycling capital” we are striving to be.

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    • davemess June 16, 2014 at 8:21 am

      Can you expand on the “misconceptions”?

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  • 007 June 15, 2014 at 8:53 pm


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