SW rider mini-profile: Jim Anderson and the power of shortcuts

SW Portland Week - Day 1-10

Jim Anderson
(Photos J. Maus/BikePortland)

This post is part of our SW Portland Week.

Jim Anderson is like many southwest Portland residents who like to ride bikes: He’s a master at finding alternates routes.

“I know all the ways to avoid the major streets,” he shared with me during a chat at Baker & Spice Bakery in Hillsdale today. The bakery overlooks a sea of auto activity: a strip mall parking lot, then two-way traffic on SW Capitol Highway (a.k.a. State Route 10, which in this location carries the combined traffic of two highways — Capitol and Beaverton-Hillsdale), then more auto parking from a strip mall across the street.

It’s a daunting place to ride a bike.

Anderson — a 37-year-old freelance graphic designer, cycling event organizer, and president of the Team Oregon cycling club — says he never rides on the area’s highway streets unless he’s very late, or very tired. That’s because out here in southwest Portland, the flattest and most direct routes also happen to be the worst to ride on.

But Anderson is one of the lucky people who possesses the two most important assets to thriving as a bike rider in these parts: aerobic fitness and encyclopedic knowledge of backstreets.

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SW Portland Week - Day 1-1

Even very experienced riders like Jim avoid SW Barbur Blvd. Who can blame them?

“A lot of my bike riding friends, when they come out to my house to meet me for a ride, they ask me why I like to live out here. I tell them it’s just a totally different vibe. I like it, but it just takes quite a bit of getting used to.”

Anderson lives in Multnomah Village, a little neighborhood about six miles southwest of downtown. When you look at a map SW Barbur and Terwilliger look like natural choices to get there, but if you’ve got legs like Anderson, he says it might be quicker and lower-stress to head up into the hills and then drop into downtown. To get home from downtown, he’ll head up SW Montgomery (via Vista) and wind his way through the hills on streets like Dosch, Hamilton, Fairmount and Shattuck.

While he acknowledges the challenges of living in southwest, Anderson said he likes this part of town. “Every few blocks there’s a park,” he said, as he rattled off one after another. “And there’s the SW Trails [a network of walking routes that criss-cross southwest Portland]… What would be really cool is if there was a mountain-biking equivalent of those.”

We couldn’t agree more.

We’ll be here in Southwest all week! And join us Friday afternoon for a BikePortland Get Together and social hour at the Lucky Labrador Public House in Multnomah Village (7675 SW Capitol Hwy) from 4:00 – 6:30pm.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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dan
dan
9 years ago

It’s ridiculous that we can’t get a protected lane on Barbur. I ride Hwy 30 all the time, and Barbur is off-putting to me.

rick
rick
9 years ago
Reply to  dan

Does it need cycle tracks that double as multiuse paths?

jeff
jeff
9 years ago

Jimbo knows you don’t take short cuts to become a Cat 2!

wsbob
wsbob
9 years ago

I’m with him on avoiding if possible, big, busy thoroughfares and highways. For me, character of traffic defies good reasons for riding, which is some peace, quiet, relaxation, as well as a good workout.

Cautionary note, I’d say about Dosch, is that it’s not so hot uphill, not because of the climb so much as intensity of the presence of motor vehicle traffic. Downhill is a different story if you’re up for a very fast thrill ride.

Descending downhill into Hillsdale from Fairmount, I never put much effort into finding one, but I didn’t stumble across a good alternative route to Dosch or down through the OHSU complex to Terwilliger and then to Hillsdale. Between the two roads is a vast suburban residential neighborhood with the usual insular road network. Maybe Sunset and Chesapeake would be better.

Years back, I used to live in Multnomah. Nice little main street, shops and restaurants. Not sure what an acceptable alternative is, but street space and the main street’s appealing character seems diminished by excessive car parking. If I recall, it’s ‘nose in’ type parking, which has the vehicles sticking out into the street farther than parallel parking. Gaze down the street from the west end, and it looks like a sea cars.

rick
rick
9 years ago
Reply to  wsbob

Some from Multnomah Village think a new parking lot is needed; however, others are fighting back and advocating for better bike and pedestrian access.

wsbob
wsbob
9 years ago
Reply to  rick

Some parking structures, a block up the hill from the main street, and downhill also, cost aside, may have potential worth considering. Even having to walk that short distance would cause some concern I suppose. For people that love to walk, or bike, and for people that love opportunity for innovative urban design, the village site’s dramatically rising and falling terrain has a lot of potential. There’s very little level ground anywhere in the village.

J_R
J_R
9 years ago

I’ve ridden some of those roads including Dosch. No shoulder some curves that limit visibility on some roads. Drivers that don’t expect or respect cyclists. That’s why moved to SE Portland.

rick
rick
9 years ago
Reply to  J_R

The tree canopy in parts of SW helps to calm speeding traffic.

J_R
J_R
9 years ago
Reply to  rick

Do you know of any studies that provide any evidence that tree canopies serve to calm traffic? Seriously, I’m interested in this. I find that trees that cause alternating shadows and bright spots make it much harder for motorists to spot cyclists when the motorists are in the sun and the cyclists are in deep shade.

davemess
davemess
9 years ago
Reply to  J_R

Yes, I rode both a lot when I lived in SW, but I wouldn’t say Dosch is any safer than BHH or Barbur. Especially if you’re riding on it uphill.

Paul Souders
9 years ago

It doesn’t require THAT much fitness. When we moved to SW 12 years ago my legs were sad little noodles, I did OK.

I used to stop at Baker and Spice all the time between daycare dropoff and work. From there I’d ride Westwood > Northwood > (unpaved trail) > Hessler Drive > Fairmount. Zero traffic and less steep than Dosch. (I still use that route frequently but from Terwilliger.) Many times pulled my kids up that route.

rick
rick
9 years ago
Reply to  Paul Souders

Have you seen the new gravel trail on SW Dolph Court by SW 56th Ave?

Paul Souders
9 years ago
Reply to  rick

I have not. I’ll have to check it out. That whole area south of Garden Home and west of 45th is kind of blind spot for me. There’s no good through routes.

Curtis Roth
Curtis Roth
9 years ago

I ride Barbur to close-in north Portland every day, year-round, from Hillsdale. So do many other cyclists. I feel it’s safer than Terwilliger because the visibility is better. It’s also much faster, of course. I’ve been riding Barbur since before the bike lanes were striped in the early 90’s.
Maybe I’m just lucky, but I’ve never had an injury accident on my bike commute.

rick
rick
9 years ago
Reply to  Curtis Roth

The debris and speeding are the disappointing things about Barbur.

rick
rick
9 years ago

SW BH Highway is not daunting in the Hillsdale town center like SW Garden Home west of SW Oleson Road. That part of SW Garden Home Road has bad ditches and no bike lanes.

SW Barbur at least has decent visibility in many spots; the darting and speeding is bad though. So many cars cut over the bike lane and double yellow lines on Terwilliger Blvd.

SW Dosch Road, Patton Road, and Shattuck need overhauls.

davemess
davemess
9 years ago
Reply to  rick

The three you list though are going to require massive funding due to the topography.
Barbur is a much easier fix in comparison.

Rick
Rick
9 years ago
Reply to  davemess

ODOT moves slowly in comparison to PBOT and others.

Katie
Katie
9 years ago

I used to bike down Barbur on my way to N Portland from PCC everyday after classes. It was exhilarating; I loved it! When I lived in SW, I used to brake and white-knuckle down Corbett to get to work at Zupan’s, which was frankly terrifying. And then, when I moved to N Portland, I used to go down Macadam to get to the South Waterfront and beyond, until I was convinced by others that I was crazy for doing so. Ahh, the memories.

wsbob
wsbob
9 years ago
Reply to  Katie

“I used to bike down Barbur on my way to N Portland from PCC everyday after classes. It was exhilarating; I loved it! …” Katie

With a bike on Barbur’s downhill stretch from Terwilliger north, 30-35 mph is doable, but of course, many people likely are interested in a more leisurely pace, half that speed.

You didn’t say why you found Corbett to be terrifying to ride. Worst part of this street for riding, I think, is the cobblestones downhill on the southern end. Got to go slow. Generally better street than Barbur to ride. Neither street though, is configured well for people interested in a relaxing ride.

Paul Souders
9 years ago
Reply to  wsbob

I generally bypass Corbett in favor of La View to Virginia, which Google Maps now considers a “bike route.” This is longer but less steep — adds a switchback. That’s a good alternative for the reverse if you don’t feel like schlepping straight up Corbett.

Rick
Rick
9 years ago
Reply to  Paul Souders

La View is nice.

wsbob
wsbob
9 years ago
Reply to  Paul Souders

I haven’t tried the LaView Virginia alternative to Corbett, though on the map, it looks good. Corbett’s really steep section with the cobbles and messy pavement is kind of intimidating. If this route avoids that, that alone would be a plus.

dan
dan
9 years ago

Riding past those SW trails mentioned in this article always gets me fired up. I know this has been discussed ad nauseam on this site, but I’m so tired of trails being open to ‘walkers only’. I can’t think of a single trail in the metro area open to ‘cyclists only.’ Our community never demands that – we are the best at sharing trails – and end up with the least amount of access. How do we change or re-frame this conversation to open up more walker-only trails? I don’t think it is worth giving up on that.

As a side note, I mentioned to a few non-cycling friends about how few trails are actually open to cyclists in Portland, and they were totally unaware. I think we have to realize that the perception is that cyclists are everywhere – on every trail -and figure out how to educate folks that this is not the case. We don’t have to give up on the SW trails, wildwood, etc. Let’s keep pushing on those issues – in the MTB master plan, and with letters, emails, etc.

Rick
Rick
9 years ago
Reply to  dan

Some of the unbuilt, public right-of-ways that SW Trails members have built into gravel paths are open to bikes like SW Dolph Court by SW 56th Ave. It is has an easy grade with no wooden steps. It just takes exploring and joining the discussion at SW Trails meetings and also city hall. Other trails like SW 45th from SW Cameron Road to SW BH Highway has many wooden steps. SW Trails is working with the city on the best bike routes for the future Red Electric Trail.

Chris
Chris
9 years ago

Does that include six pack shortcuts?

UncleMuscles
UncleMuscles
9 years ago

I used to race with Jim. Great dude!

El Biciclero
El Biciclero
9 years ago

“Shortcuts”?

Shouldn’t that be “…the Power of Detours“? Or maybe, “…the Power of Intimidation”? When the level of intimidation on a route makes “aerobic fitness and encyclopedic knowledge of backstreets” requirements for riding there (because otherwise, it would be too “daunting”), it is a sad statement about the quality of our drivers and our infrastructure.

Now sure, if I’m training (heh!) or have lots of extra time (heh, heh!), I might choose the road less traveled as well, but when I have to get somewhere I want to get there; why do I have to choose between complicated and slow, or direct, but dangerous and intimidating? On one hand, I have a family I want to get home to, so I don’t want to get run over, but on the other hand, I have a family to get home to, so I don’t want to get lost or go miles out of my way taking “shortcuts”.

I’ve ridden the Farmington-5th-Jamieson-Scholls Ferry-BH-Capitol-Barbur route from Beaverton into downtown many times and the worst I’ve suffered for it is an extra flat tire or two (compared to my more northern passage of Cornell-Barnes-26-Jefferson), but even transitioning to some of the “shortcuts”, e.g., turning left from WB BH onto SB Scholls Ferry, is intimidating enough (I’ve been honked at several times and buzzed once while attempting to move to the left turn lane) to not want to try it. And the “shortcut” itself (Jamieson) can be intimidating when drivers pass me while I myself am speeding (28 in a 25) and taking the entire lane. Seems I can’t escape the intimidation attempts no matter what routes I take. Maybe my knowledge of backstreets isn’t encyclopedic enough.

wsbob
wsbob
9 years ago
Reply to  El Biciclero

“…the Farmington-5th-Jamieson-Scholls Ferry-BH-Capitol-Barbur route from Beaverton into downtown …” bic

Boring route. Far too many motor vehicles in use on it. Air smells bad. The paths less traveled in SW, are far more interesting and generally enjoyable to ride. Most people won’t really get lost, even if they aren’t using a map, and are just finding their way by meandering in generally desired direction.

Here’s an off the beaten SW path, pit stop the bikeportland duo hasn’t yet covered in their SW week coverage: Off Multnomah Blvd, turn on Maplewood and go to about 52nd. Wander along to a fine, country style coffee shop in an old refurbished farmhouse with a back deck looking over a ravine. A gradeschool is nearby. Traffic on the road can be rather intense, but the neighborhood has made efforts to manage it. Nice alternative to rolling straight down Multnomah or Vermont to Oleson.

rick
rick
9 years ago
Reply to  wsbob

The outer parts of Vermont need bike / ped improvements.

El Biciclero
El Biciclero
9 years ago
Reply to  El Biciclero

…I know that sounded cynical (which it was); I just want to clarify that I in no way intend to disparage anyone for their route choices or level of comfort or perceived safety on any given route. Taking back roads can be fun and interesting—when one chooses to do so. I (in case you can’t tell) have an issue with reserving the flattest, most direct routes for cars, and telling those on bikes that they are supposed to use “quiet streets” (or allowing a level of hostility to exist on the main route—even if, like BHH, there are “bike lanes”—that makes all but the most daring want to use quiet streets). Which quiet streets? Well, that’s for you to figure out through your own research, study, and trial-‘n’-error. Figuring out how to get from Tigard to Portland on a bike shouldn’t have to be like planning a driving trip to South Dakota.

wsbob
wsbob
9 years ago
Reply to  El Biciclero

“…Figuring out how to get from Tigard to Portland on a bike shouldn’t have to be like planning a driving trip to South Dakota.” bic

I suppose someone on a close schedule wouldn’t want to risk being late by going off main route exploring. Other than this, meandering is great. To ride mostly the roads used intensively with motor vehicles, wouldn’t suit me, whether they were level or not, but to each their own preference.

rick
rick
8 years ago
Reply to  El Biciclero

the new boardwalks on SW Johnson Street are one piece of making it a more pleasant bicycle experience in Tigard.

El Biciclero
El Biciclero
9 years ago
Reply to  El Biciclero

Ah, “Boring”. Check. Thanks for the info.

I don’t do it much anymore, but when I had 45 minutes to get from 185th and Rigert to downtown Portland, “boring” worked pretty well, thanks (and the initial 45 mph descent down 185th to Farmington is anything but “boring”—you should try it sometime).

My return route on those days was maybe more “interesting” as after I went over Terwilliger and took Capitol/BH back to Jamieson and through to 5th, I took 5th past the library and park to Main, then left on Main to 10th, across Erickson, through Schiffler Park, out of the park onto Bonnie Brae to Menlo, across Allen and through the Fir Grove School parking lot to Wilson, then to 27th to 142nd and down to Hart. Then across Murray, down to Hargis, left on Hargis and around to Sarala, across 170th and around the bend on Sarala to Loxley, Loxley up and around to Hart Dr.-Daisy-184th, and up 184th to Rigert. Meanwhile, if driving my car, I would take….Farmington to 185th.

Many of us on bikes, like drivers, have someplace to be. A lot of times taking a bike in the first place is already adding a LOT of time to a trip. Making the trip even longer by trying to find “interesting” routes makes it that much less practical. “Interesting” is great when you’ve got the time.

Lenny Anderson
Lenny Anderson
9 years ago

My bike life started on SW Hume Street just west of 35th about 1952 just south of what’s now called Multnomah Village! I rode more and more into my middle teens until “sweet 16″ happened. We had 24” “girls” and 26″ “boys” Schwinns; I used the latter to do a paper route, then bought a drop bar 3 speed “English” in 1960. Like Jim Anderson (no relation) I knew all the less busy back routes between Multnomah, Hillsdale (Wilson HS and the Library) and Lewis & Clark College where I enjoyed faculty brat status.
Maybe the coolest ride was down I-5 during the summer of ’61 to visit a friend in Corbett area. It was all done, but not yet opened to traffic. Had it all to myself.