BikePortland.org

At night by bike, Portland’s streets are a surreal dream amid the nightmare

Broadway Bridge deck.

Southwest 4th Avenue last night.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

It’s often said in activism circles that we have perfect streets for biking on, there are just too many people driving on them. It’s true. When you remove drivers and their cars from the equation, cycling is suddenly sublime no matter what street you’re on. It’s not just the addition of space and absence of fear, it’s the quiet zen and feeling of power — things we take for granted when we drive, but prize when we pedal.

With virus fears keeping so many people at home, our carfree dream has become a reality. I know this because I lived the dream last night.

I left my house near Peninsula Park in north Portland around 9:00 pm. I rode down to Sellwood, over the Sellwood Bridge, up into hills of Southwest, then home through downtown. I didn’t feel like taking my typical route on bike paths like the Esplanade, Springwater, and Willamette Greenway because they’re too dark and narrow. Given the virus, I wanted to see who was around me and be able to keep my distance. And with so few people driving, I could take major roads were bike riders are usually prohibited by design.

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Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, the 99E/SE McLaughlin Viaduct, SE Milwaukie, SW Barbur, and the main decks of the Sellwood and Broadway Bridges. They were all free and clear and comfortable. Mine for the taking, just as I’ve dreamt all these years.

For all 20 miles or so of the loop, I only saw about a dozen or so people out on the street and about as many people in cars. Imagine Bridge Pedal by yourself.

The video below has major Escape from New York vibes — especially the motorcycle gang blasting AC/DC’s Thunderstruck outside a bar on 4th and the bonfire under the Morrison Bridge viaduct…

There’s an incredible surplus of space on our roads right now. If you’re lucky enough to have a bicycle and the ability to ride it, I highly recommend getting out there. Just please do it safely (remember, drivers might be excited about this too), and as far from others as possible.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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