Comment of the Week: The role of socializing and culture

Welcome to the Comment of the Week, where we highlight good comments in order to inspire more of them. You can help us choose our next one by replying with “comment of the week” to any comment you think deserves recognition. Please note: These selections are not endorsements.


Maybe it was because the sun was out for a few hours, but we sure got a lot of nice comments on Friday about how wonderful bike riding is. I don’t think it works the other way around though. Selecting an upbeat comment ain’t gonna make the sun shine.

The BikePortland comment section can sometimes be an intimidating place. A lot of knowledgeable people comment, and some of them have sharp elbows. But you don’t need to be an expert to write a comment which will resonate with others.

This comment by Blumdrew stood out for its expression of joy. I can’t promise the sun, but perhaps these cheerful words will brighten your day:

Something I think we underrate in all of this is the role of culture and socializing. The reason I love biking is in no small part the social aspect of it. Riding with a friend, or having little interactions with pedestrians or other cyclists – it makes a commute properly enjoyable instead of a slog. This is something Portland has a history of doing well, and I think still does pretty well (despite the talks of a bike doomsday).

I’m from Madison, WI a great bike city on it’s own merits which honestly has better infrastructure in general than Portland. It helps that the city is smaller, but there are a handful of incredibly useful off-street paths which actually take you to most of the places you want to go. They are safe and convenient, and often the fastest way to get around the city (especially during rush hour).

But I’d still rate Portland as a better place to be a cyclist. I see lots of people out riding, and there are lots of high profile cycling events. People care about cycling a lot here, I mean I spend at least 25% of my workday perusing the comments section (which… I guess isn’t really a big bragging point but whatever). And I think it’s worth remembering that it’s not all about paths, pavement, and infrastructure. It’s about enjoying your time in the world, and riding a bike to get around makes my life a lot better!

Thank you for reminding us about what is important, Blumdrew! You can find Blumdrew’s comment and what many other commenters had to say about Taylor’s European tour, under the original post.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero is on the board of SWTrails PDX, and was the chair of her neighborhood association's transportation committee. A proud graduate of the PBOT/PSU transportation class, she got interested in local transportation issues because of service cuts to her bus, the 51. Lisa has lived in Portland for 23 years and can be reached at lisacaballero853@gmail.com.

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alex
alex
1 year ago

 And I think it’s worth remembering that it’s not all about paths, pavement, and infrastructure. It’s about enjoying your time in the world, and riding a bike to get around makes my life a lot better!

Agreed! And I think that’s why a lot of transportation cyclists need to embrace recreational cyclists a bit more. I hate seeing comments here and other places where the focus is exclusively on either recreational or utility cycling. The relationship between the two should be a positive feedback cycle.

narm
narm
1 year ago
Reply to  alex

I hate seeing comments here and other places where the focus is exclusively on either driving or car racing. The relationship between the two should be a positive feedback cycle.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  narm

And we should thank the urban street racers for bringing driving more into the mainstream.

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
1 year ago
Reply to  alex

As both I have to agree.

Some of my favorite moments are when my commute intersects the ride of another cyclist (rec or utility).

One day, climbing Fairview to Skyline I fell in with another cyclist. He was doing the hill for training – I just enjoy working hard and getting home quicker :).

We pushed each other up the steeper portions and all the way to Skyline.

At the top he grinned and said “That was fantastic – want to bomb to the bottom and do it again? I have one more rep to do.”

(I said no, my GF was, in fact, waiting for me to get home so we could go out with friends)

I have had more of those sorts of interactions with other cyclists than I can count over the years.

blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  alex

Definitely think there should be a positive feedback cycle, but the needs of the utility/transportation cyclist are much more acute I think. When I ride recreationally in Portland, I don’t mind being diverted onto greenways, or taking the scenic routes. But it drives me crazy when I’m riding to get somewhere.

Last Saturday I rode to a bar on SE 12th and decided to go up SE 12th (instead of 7th or 16th) because I know it’s the flattest, and fastest way there but a bit busier. I actually ride on 12th a lot, since I’m a regular at Junior’s Cafe (best cafe in the city fyi), and usually ride next to my girlfriend to take up more space and avoid cars speeding around without fully changing lanes. Anyways, last Saturday we got honked at twice and had a few passes that were a bit nerve wracking. At the light at Hawthorne, the guy who honked at us said “use the bike lane” (which doesn’t exist), and then turned his stereo way up so he couldn’t hear me call me a few choice words.

Anyway, my anecdotal experience is that I have way more negative experiences per mile riding just to get around as opposed to recreationally. On a leisure ride, I’ll take a longer way around and not really think twice – so less time off the beaten cycling trail so to speak. But when it’s cold and you’re just trying to get to a bar, or the place you’re going isn’t well connected to a greenway, you end up in a lot more situations where a driver is hostile (since they aren’t used to seeing bikes on “their” roads).

Portland’s unwillingness to do anything to address this problem makes it much less enjoyable (and a harder sell) to get people to use their bikes for their primary transportation mode – but I think it has a relatively minor impact on recreational riding for the most part.

Pockets the Coyote
Pockets the Coyote
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I share your anecdotal experience, rides going places encounter drivers less willing to share, rides without a schedule to adhere to are much less eventful. I’ve noticed the same trend when I drive or walk so I’m unsure how much negativity bias plays into this, but probably more than I’d suspect as first consideration.

I agree that the utility cyclist needs are more acute, but I think that the Venn diagram of needs would most likely be a circle inside of a circle. While certain development of infrastructure etc. can benefit only those out for something scenic, I do think that any and everything done to improve utility cycling benefits both riders very strongly.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

you end up in a lot more situations where a driver is hostile… Portland’s unwillingness to do anything to address this problem 

What could they do? Haters gonna hate, as the kids like to say.

By the way, some drivers are jerks to other drivers as well, so it may not even be a bike thing.

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

I actually get way more instances of drivers being courteous than hostile.

I ride almost every day of the year (commute, rec, groceries etc.).

Even today when I had 1 guy be a complete asshat, there were 3 other interactions with drivers that were courteous and uneventful.

While I keep my radar running for the former, I make sure to go over the latter when I end my ride to avoid falling into the trap of treating all drivers like they’re jerks – most aren’t in my 75,000 miles of riding.

blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

They could build an actual bike network on main streets with businesses and places of work, rather than routing every single bike ride down a greenway. Greenways are great, but we need a lot more than just them to have a truly good cycling network.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

but we need a lot more than just them to have a truly good cycling network.

I don’t know where you ride, but Portland has a truly good cycling network! There are some places it could be better, but overall it’s pretty darned good, and with a few examples of backsliding (e.g. NE 7th) the overall trend is positive, despite the lack of cyclists on that network.

blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

I strongly disagree – I think Portland has basically done all the “easy stuff”, and very few actual good network projects. Greenways are easy, low-cost, lower reward bike network bits that largely (should) serve the purpose of a local street in a transportation network. The disconnected nature of Portland’s grid (owing to slapdash development history) means there aren’t a ton of truly good parallel streets to choose from on any given route with exceptions – Clinton is a great parallel for Division between 12th and 50th. But Salmon/Taylor is a terrible parallel route for Belmont (longer and hillier, no places to really go other than the library).

Basically none of the popular streets in town have anything other than a cursory “nearby greenway”. NW 23rd, NW 21st, Hawthorne, SE 28th, SE Belmont, N Mississippi, NE Alberta, N Lombard (St. Johns), SE Woodstock, SE Milwaukie, SE 13th (Sellwood) – all have nothing to speak of in their core commercial districts.

There are so many gaps, so many half baked plastic wand “protected” lanes. There are tons of good things, but it’s not a good network, it’s a bunch of pretty good disconnected pieces. The trend is positive, but the progress is unacceptably slow. Entire cities have built actual bike networks in the time it takes us to open one tiny stretch of good stuff. Better Naito took what like 7 years to actually complete? That’s pretty bleak, if every mile of great* bikeway in the city takes that long, I’ll be long dead before Portland reaches 25% mode share by bike

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I’ve had no problems riding to any of the destinations you listed (though only minimal experience riding to St John’s). I really don’t understand your complaint.

In fact, I’m really having a hard time thinking of a destination that is difficult or dangerous to reach, with the possible exception of some of the industrial areas further afield (that I don’t have a lot of experience with).

Maybe the difference is I don’t feel the need to ride a great distance along Hawthorne to get to a destination on Hawthorne (though I will do so when needed).

Is there a particular origin/destination pair you think is a good example of your critique? (I’d ask you to omit St John’s and hilly SW since I really don’t know those well enough to comment.)

blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

I guess my issues are more about visibility and philosophy than safety. I don’t have a safety issue getting to where I need to go, but it’s annoying that basically every route is longer (and usually hillier) than it needs to be.

For example, I used to live at the corner of 20th and Morrison, and would go down to the Horse Brass (45th and Belmont). Going the “official greenway route” would have involved heading down 20th to Salmon, going up a hill, and weaving to Taylor (to cross Cesar Chavez at the light by the library) before cutting back up to Belmont. 1.8 miles

I would typically elect to take the bike lane on Belmont, then cut to Yamhill when it ends (at 25th) and take that to 38th, then just on Belmont to Horse Brass. 1.6 miles.

On the way back, I would usually just take Belmont straight back (since it’s downhill) which is 1.5 miles.

Granted, the differences here aren’t much, but they do matter. If we want cycling to be a mainstream option, having the “official bike route” be 16% longer than the “straight shot route” is really bad actually. Sure, the intrepid cyclists who spend the time to really know and care about the network will figure it out fine, but that isn’t exactly good for a useful network.

I want to point out that these aren’t things that I need to feel like I can bike to a place, but they are things I think a place with a good bike network would have. Portland will not be able to reach it’s goals if it doesn’t actually provide a fast and convenient option to get places.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

A few months ago I rode from Col Sanders Park* to the Triple Nickle, and just rode on Belmont. Admittedly that’s not a great route for a lot of folks, but it worked for me. The route you described would be an obvious alternative.

If your criteria of a “good network” is that the best bike route between every pair of points will be shorter and flatter than the primary auto routes, you’ll always be disappointed.

My criteria for a good network is can I get where I want to go reasonably directly without a lot of headache and danger. The answer is almost always yes. And while there are plenty of things that could be improved, the situation seems pretty good, and generally seems to be improving even as the transportation gods no longer favor cycling. Sometimes I even like the throwback feeling that I’m the only one cool enough to ride!

*How cool is it that Portland has an entire park dedicated to socialist from Vermont (NYC, actually) who I didn’t even realize was in the army?

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I replied to this but it disappeared into the ether… probably just as well.

X
X
11 months ago

Really? What other perfectly useful English words are excluded in this way?

Dwk
Dwk
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

How would you put a cycling only path on S.E. 12th?
How much tax money should be spent for 2% of the population?
I am avid as it gets, 5000 miles a year, I rode from NE to downtown this morning. I saw like 3 people on bikes.
This city has so many issues, I don’t want to spend another penny of my tax dollars for completely unused infrastructure.
I have never seen another cyclist on the $25 mill bridge on 7th and I ride across almost daily.
Get real….

narm
narm
1 year ago
Reply to  Dwk

I saw like 3 people on bikes.

You clearly don’t ride on neighborhood greenways to relax after your stressful work from home job. I see lots of people riding on a few small stretches of close-in neighborhood greenway in the early evening. Cycling is booming!!1!

Dwk
Dwk
1 year ago
Reply to  narm

I live right by NE Tillamook, maybe the most used Greenway in the city. That’s where I saw 3 cyclists in a 27 block stretch this morning.
‘You can be delusional if you want to,
these things are actually surveyed and measured and studied. Cycling is way way down in the last 5 years, I don’t make it up.
I don’t see why it’s so important to people that others participate in their hobby anyway because that’s what it is…
I think all the green paint and separate paths and wands and crap have just made cycling look more dangerous to the public.
It appears that riding a simple bicycle on city streets is so dangerous that cyclists can’t be part of traffic.
Riding up 7th the morning and looking at that stupid intersection with all the ridiculous side paths they built is just assinine.

narm
narm
1 year ago
Reply to  Dwk

That was sarcasm, dwk.

 
 
1 year ago
Reply to  narm

Sarcasm never translates well on the internet.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  narm

I saw the telltale signs, considered the possibility, but ultimately fell into your trap. Forewarned is forearmed!

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  narm

Cycling is booming!!1!

I rode from 26th to OMSI along Clinton a week ago (Tuesday) at 5:30PM. I might have passed 15 riders, probably closer to 10, coming the other way.

I rode to Powell Books from 26th & Clinton along Ladd Avenue and Better Naito this past Saturday at 11:30AM, then later back past OMSI and along Clinton. I don’t think I saw a single other cyclist, but there might have been one or two.

Clinton is one of the most used bike facilities in the city, and the weather was good both days.

Discuss among yourselves whether that constitutes a boom.

blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  Dwk

Undo the 11th/12th couplet, make 11th a general traffic/freight district street, and 12th a greenway street. Easy

dwk
dwk
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Thats funny….

Bike Portland crowd:
If you just give us streets to ride on with a lot of green paint and markings we will ride bikes on them…

(bike percentage drops in half in 5 years).

Bike Portland crowd:
If you will just give us bikes with motors on we ride a lot, we promise….

blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  dwk

I ride my bike every single day. 12th is an important street to me and there is no need for a one way couplet with 11th/12th to be honest. I ride on it now, and would prefer it to be a regular street to reduce the stress of riding on a two lane one way. Two lane one ways suck to ride on!

And you asked me for a suggestion man! I literally already ride on 12th!

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

One of the neighborhood associations in that area, HAND, asked PBOT years ago to convert one lane of 11th & 12th into a cycling lane. I know we’re all supposed to hate NAs here, but this is probably the most progressive, pro-bike solution for 11th & 12th.

Unfortunately, 11th/12th is one of the key ways folks in Brooklyn connect to the city core, so the idea is not without controversy.

[As it happens, I like the current configuration because cars can easily pass, whereas with a single lane in each direction, they couldn’t, and drivers would get more impatient.]

blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

I mean I’m on the Brooklyn NA Land Use and Transportation committee, I can guarantee you we would support changing 11th/12th in some way. We just talked about decoupling them last week!

I think 11th/12th is relatively less important than you may think though – especially since Grand/MLK is more convienient (especially for anyone who lives south of halfway between Powell and Holgate) and doesn’t have any pesky trains blocking. Plus, the Ross Island Bridge I think is the preferred route to the central city for Brooklynite drivers (probably depends on where in the central city you’re headed I guess though!)

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I don’t know if HAND would still support the idea, but maybe you should contact them.

Jo
Jo
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

um, two lanes in one direction literally makes it easier for cars to pass you. The only problem with 12th is the new layout at Hawthorne. It is horrible for both driving and riding. The bike lane goes nowhere so might as well not be there and because it’s there, it backs up the car lane.

I ride 12th when I feel like going at a quick pace. I ride 16th when I feel tired or day-dreamy.

blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  Jo

Yeah, I love getting passed by cars going 30 who haven’t even bothered to fully change lanes. Really makes for an enjoyable experience on a bike. Two lane one way streets encourage speeding, and are just a bad experience for non-drivers. All of Portland’s one way couplet streets (with an ironic exception for 11th/12th actually) were devised to increase car throughput and are designed almost solely with that in mind. 11th/12th has it’s roots as a one way couplet in a streetcar service I think – but has the same effect.

And the bike lane that starts at Clay really ought to extend to Salmon at least – I think it was mostly built to ease the Ladd – Hawthorne bridge connection (westbound) so the lack of utility on 12th makes sense in that lens.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Yeah, I love getting passed by cars going 30 who haven’t even bothered to fully change lanes.

In practice, that’s no worse than facilities like SE 26th, and often times drivers give you more room. Either way, it wound be worse if the street were two way as drivers accelerated to squeeze around you while wary of a head on crash.

blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

Disagree – the lack of a second lane makes drivers more cautious, and reduces overall speeds.One way streets are widely cited as being higher speed than two ways, and that alone is reason enough to prefer a two way.

Sure, the median driver might have an easier time passing me and give me more room, but I really don’t care about that scenario. The median Portland driver is reasonably respectful of my space and not causing me much stress.

I’m concerned about the aggressive drivers, who would rather pass within a foot of me at 35 mph rather than slowing down for even a second. On a one way, they can and will do this. On a two way (if I take the lane) they will have to slow down/pay closer attention because of the danger to them of oncoming traffic. Without that perceived risk, most drivers will pay less attention and drive faster – which erodes the cycling/walking conditions.

X
X
11 months ago
Reply to  Dwk

Never is a long time. I don’t use the bridge daily but I often see people on it. It’s not used as much as I would wish but that is likely due to the gaps in the SE/NE 7th bike route. I expect that some people who would naturally use 7th Ave. are dropping down to the Esplanade because it’s a little slice of Vacation in their commute.

Fred
Fred
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

No – a car conveys of sense of empowerment to many drivers (and passengers), and they use this power to denigrate cyclists. They yell (or throw things) and flee, just because they can. I’ve seen it my entire cycling life – though less in Portland. I was once hit on the back by a full can of soda, in northern California, of all places – it really hurt and I was so stunned I didn’t get the license plate number of the SUV as it sped away.

Lazy Spinner
Lazy Spinner
1 year ago

After what I just witnessed in the San Diego area over the past few days, Portland is completely and utterly overrated. I was blown away by the sheer abundance of bikeways and bike routes in both urban and suburban areas. Multi-modal? The MTA and North County trains were amazingly clean and efficient. Drivers? Very aware and far more deferential to bikes and pedestrians. I know that weather plays a huge factor, but I saw more people biking in Encinitas along Pacific Coast Highway at Noon yesterday than I would see in all of downtown Portland during commute times. The mix of riders was pretty astounding too. Packs of 70+ year olds in spandex, surfers on beach cruisers, loads of folks on e-bikes (I counted four e-bike dealers and a full-service Trek store with e-bikes within eight blocks!), racers, commuters in work clothing, and people just ambling along on two wheels with nary a care in the world. Oh…and lots of smiles on those riders.

It felt like I was on a different planet. Other cities have now built what Portland has promised for three decades, never delivered, and keeps pushing out another ten years. It made me rather sad that the eighth largest population area in America can do this over a sprawling metropolitan area while compact Portland still wants praise for slow 40-year-old trains that don’t go where the development is and lots of green paint. Imagine living in Salem, riding a short distance to a train station, loading your bike, commuting up to Portland, and then pedaling that final mile or two to work or school on safe paths and bike lanes? They have that ability in San Diego and it is phenomenal.