Hi! I’m Erin and I’m excited to move to Portland

My necessities for a recent housing search in Portland… and the front rack bag I crammed it all into. (Photos: Erin Bailie)

Hi! I’m Erin Bailie, and I’ll be moving from Seattle to Portland (Sullivan’s Gulch neighborhood) in February. By day I work a tech job in product/research, and I love using bicycles as my primary means of transportation. In my 30-something years I’ve lived a lot of bike lives: I’ve been bike commuting since second grade, sometimes I do track racing or go bikepacking, and I love Pedalpalooza. Reading BikePortland has been part of my morning routine for years, and I can’t wait to chronicle some of my thoughts as a newcomer to town. 

Though my husband Jonathan and I will be new to Portland, Portland won’t be new to us. Over the past few years, we’ve found any excuse we can to visit for the weekend. We’ve driven, taken Amtrak, and once we even rode the whole way to Portland (thanks, STP!). When the opportunity knocked for Jonathan to take a job in Portland, we couldn’t say “yes!” fast enough. 

The month before our move, we spent a week in Portland with the sole purpose of finding housing. Each day played out in a chaotic frenzy: I crammed my necessities and laptop into a front rack bag and rode from our lodging in Richmond, to rental showings across northeast and southeast, to co-working spaces to dial into meetings — and tried to find a gluten-free lunch somewhere along the way.

While I didn’t record my GPS during this ride, I tried to recreate my confused meandering between Sandy Blvd and the Blumenauer Bridge. Still getting my bearings, clearly. 
I thought I was clear to ride in my “girl clothes” at one point. Mother Nature proved me wrong. I get the hype around cycling capes now.

And here’s the thing: I had the time of my life. Before rolling off, I’d memorize key details for my route: the cross streets of my destination, or which bridge I wanted to use to cross I-84. From there, I could zig-zag as I pleased on neighborhood greenways to get from A to B. That’s not to say there weren’t hiccups. While riding from Tabor to Lloyd, I knew I needed to find my way to northbound 7th Ave to cross I-84 on the Blumenauer Bridge. Except… all the bikeways kept turning south, away from the highway. A quick stop to check Google Maps got me on Ankeny and back on my way. 

As I crossed the bridge and found my co-working space just in time for my meeting, I reflected on how infrequently a piece of infrastructure is named for a person who’s still living. (I look forward to learning more about Earl Blumenauer’s legacy on Portland, seems like a required part of becoming a True Portlander.)

A recurring theme of that week was clothing. January weather did what January weather does: it rained, it was windy, it was cold. I have plenty of clothes from REI to keep me warm and dry in those conditions, but I don’t love showing up to house showings or work calls in a dripping-wet jacket. I met with a friend for dinner and she rolled up in a waxed canvas cycling cape, and I silently wondered how long I would hold out before buying one for myself. We giggled about how nice it was to wear “girl clothes” under a rain layer, something I only wish for with my cycling jacket.

We’ve signed a lease and are back in Seattle to pack our things before fully moving in to Portland in early February. I can’t wait to ride more streets, meet more people, and learn how to call Portland home. Hope you’ll follow along as I share my perspective as a new Portland biker.

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9watts
9watts
3 months ago

Welcome to Portland!

Erin Bailie (Columnist)
Reply to  9watts

Thanks!

GF
GF
3 months ago

.inner Portland is a hole..be prepared to have bikes stolen, tires slashed, cars broken into. Oh and don’t forget high utility rates (PGE just went up by 20%+) and bad, glass covered road/bike lanes.
My Condolences.

David Hampsten
3 months ago
Reply to  GF

Since gosh knows that Seattle doesn’t suffer from these self-same crime, inflation, and weather issues…

Karl Dickman
Karl Dickman
3 months ago
Reply to  GF

Nah, it’s nice. I’m on weekly group runs every Friday so I get to see a lot of Portland on foot, especially SE and NE.

Fred
Fred
3 months ago
Reply to  GF

You’ll hear a lot of this kind of moaning, esp from people who don’t live in Portland, and many who do. It’s not nirvana but it’s still a good place on the whole.

Erin Bailie (Columnist)
Reply to  Fred

Thanks, Fred.

I’m well aware that every rose (and Rose City) has its thorn. At the same time, my lived experience in Seattle has been a lot nicer than the media portrayal of the city, and I hope the same is true in Portland.

I appreciate the words of reassurance that you and others have provided here.

rick
rick
3 months ago

Check out the paper street trails. Some are from SWTrails PDX

Chasing Backon
Chasing Backon
3 months ago

Welcome to Portland. Capes are cool and all, but 3-4 season riding in PDX requires full wrap fenders. Be sure to get the city map at a bike shop with all the paths and greenways. It’s a huge help learning to get around.

Erin Bailie (Columnist)
Reply to  Chasing Backon

I couldn’t agree more on fenders. They’ve been such a help here in Seattle as well.

Thanks for the suggestion for a city map! I’ll keep an eye out at shops.

Robert Rothery
Robert Rothery
2 months ago

Welcome to PDX! I moved here from San Diego 4 years ago and guess what … despite the complainers … life here is great! I find this map to be a great resource when planning a trip: PBOT Portland by Bicycle

Aaron
3 months ago
Reply to  Chasing Backon

Fenders are a requirement for rain capes regardless because the bottom is completely open so you’re definitely right on that one, you gotta get both!

BB
BB
3 months ago

I live in the neighborhood, excellent place to be carless if you like.
Flat, backstreets to everywhere on both sides of 84, 4 bridges in a half mile.
Wide main streets with little traffic. Everything you need in a city in a small bike accessible area.
Probably not a better area to live with a bicycle in Portland.

David Hampsten
3 months ago

I lived in Sullivan’s Gulch in two different apartment complexes and even served on the neighborhood board, 2002-6. I don’t know if they still have it, but in the spring the neighborhood would have a Mulch in the Gulch spring event and the Gulch-o-Rama in the fall a week after public schools started, in lieu of neighborhood night out.

Erin Bailie (Columnist)
Reply to  David Hampsten

Thanks, David. Maybe I can write a bit about the goings-on in the neighborhood and we can compare to how it was 20 years ago.

Oliver
Oliver
3 months ago

Welcome to Portland! Excited to hear your fresh perspective and maybe how bike infrastructure, culture, etc compare to Seattle.
I’ll put a small plug in for a co-working space called Vida on Sandy if you’re in the market!
Good luck with your move and can’t wait for the next post!

Erin Bailie (Columnist)
Reply to  Oliver

Thanks, Oliver! I’ll check it out!

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
3 months ago

Governor Inslee, sighs …’Sad to loose a pair of Washingtonians.’
Governor Brown, Oh Welcome to your new Home [and gaining the bonus of paying Oregon income tax.] 😉

maxD
maxD
3 months ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

*Kotek

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
3 months ago
Reply to  maxD

maxD : Thanks for the correction! (Both Kopek and Brown share the same sentiment.)

Matt
Matt
3 months ago
Reply to  maxD

Same thing.

Michael Mann
Michael Mann
3 months ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

…and not paying Washington sales tax.

Welcome, Erin!

blumdrew
3 months ago

Welcome to Portland! Despite what you may have heard, it’s still the best city in the country to ride a bike in and Sullivan’s Gulch is a good neighborhood to be in.

Surly Ogre
Joe Bicycles
3 months ago

Welcome to Portland, it is a beautiful city full of fun, amazing bicycle riding people! Make sure to ride to Bicycle Happy Hour every wednesday from 3-6pm and shift2bikes.org for a calendar of bike rides and bike adjacent events!

Fred
Fred
3 months ago

“My husband Jonathan.” I thought, Does Maus have a new wife??

Too bad you didn’t consider SW Portland, which even has a bike shop next to a vegan food cart. But I can see why you didn’t b/c there’s hardly any cycling infrastructure out here. It makes sense you’d move to a part that has it, since you like to bike.

Good luck with your move and we’ll see you in the bike lanes.

Erin Bailie (Columnist)
Reply to  Fred

Hah – the name is a funny coincidence!

While I wish SW Portland was an option, it would mean a gnarly commute. I do look forward to riding there when I get a chance.

rick
rick
3 months ago

Check out the routes in the West Hills in the early morning.

Jack s
Jack s
3 months ago

welcome to portland!!!!! My favorite spots in your neighborhood are the realm refillery, the sports bra, steeplejack brewing company and hale pele! And don’t miss providore if you love great food!

Peter
Peter
3 months ago
Reply to  Jack s

I’ll also throw in a recommendation to come play pinball at Wedgehead on Sandy and 37th. And they hold a weekly co-op tournament every Thursday at 7pm – the teams are skill balanced, so it’s a good time no matter your experience level.
The Hollywood Theater is also a good time – lots of fun old movies, and B Movie Bingo is a hoot. It’s literally playing bingo while watching terrible action films; everything on your bingo card is related to action movie cliches.
I hope you enjoy your time here! As others said, it’s a great neighborhood with plenty to do, and it’s easy to get to a lot of other interesting places from there.

Erin Bailie (Columnist)
Reply to  Peter

Thanks for the invite, and the recommendations!

Aaron
3 months ago

Welcome to Portland! I moved here with my partner 10 months ago and it’s been a great place to live without a car. Pedalpalooza is easily my favorite part of Portland, take in as much of it as you can this summer and maybe I’ll see you out there!

MarkM
MarkM
3 months ago

Welcome to Portland, Erin! It’s encouraging to learn that people are still moving here. Don’t let the negative comments dissuade you from continuing to look for the positive in Portland.

When I first moved here from Alaska in 1980, I explored much of the metro region on my bicycle. It was a nice way to see the city up close. I never stopped exploring, but my adventures over the past many years have been on foot.

I think you and Jonathan picked a nice neighborhood with a lot of potential for future growth. When I worked in the Lloyd District (BPA, Kaiser Permanente), I was able to commute on foot for a few years. My route took me through Sullivan’s Gulch. I still regularly ramble through the neighborhood on my photowalks, so you might see me wandering by one of these days.

Scott L
3 months ago

Hello former Seattlite!

I, too, moved from Seattle to Portland back in 2016. So much has changed since then (for the better to be honest). As a person who used to commute from Brier (Lynnwood/Mount Lake Terrace) to UW via Burke Gilman, Portland is much more bike friendly. It’s funny, actually. My friend who was born and grow up in Albany, OR and later lived in PDX proper would debate which city was more “bike-friendly” as if it was an episode of Portlandia. I’d argue my points and he would argue his.

Sure, I’ve biked the STP (4 times now I think?thank you cascade bicycle club) and thought I had an idea of what riding in Portland would be like but boy was I wrong. From 2016-2020 my partner and I didn’t have a vehicle and exclusively rode our bikes e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. Not so much as an anti-car movement or anything but we both had just gotten back from the Peace Corps and had little to no money to our name. And no, we didn’t have parents that we could fall back upon were both first generation and roughed it through all of the seasons. Tri-met helped and if you combine the two? Unstoppable.

Now that we have a child and doggo things have changed (burleys (yay from bend, or!) attached to each of our bikes) and sadly we have a vehicle now. And yes, things have changed for the better. We love Sunday Parkways and highly suggest you go to all of them to explore the different quadrants of Portland! It’s so much fun and family friendly. All this to say, my friend was right. Portland IS better than Seattle in terms of biking because of its flatness AND public transit infrastructure.

Sure, do you have to have your head on a swivel as if you got your bike stolen in front of the ShowBox (at the market)? Yeah, definitely do that. But we’re sister cities in a sense that what you’ve experienced in Pioneer Square is not so much different in Portland’s Pioneer Square lol

Enjoy, welcome, and ride safe!

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Scott L

Flat? I’ve got an 80 ft fallen cedar resting on my deck that says it ain’t so.

David Hampsten
3 months ago

Outside of the West Hills, most of Portland and its suburbs are pretty flat, a series of alluvial plains and terraces. And even the West Hills ain’t much compared to them thar hills in Seattle, SF, Pittsburgh, and numerous other cities. That said, Portland is hilly compared to say Houston, Minneapolis, Amsterdam, or Chicago.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  David Hampsten

Yeah, David. I always argue that the city makes too big a deal about how difficult/expensive it is to get anything done (like sidewalks and bike lanes) in the hilly west side. Every city on the west coast has bigger hills than Portland!

But I don’t agree that “most of Portland and its suburbs” are pretty flat. By Gresham, things start to get pretty hilly on the east. The flat part of Portland (the east side and downtown) is surrounded by hills. I mean, Hillsboro is called HILLSboro for crying out loud. Tigard and Lake Oswego are hilly.

David Hampsten
3 months ago

Perhaps Portland ought to rename itself Hillsdale?

They even have hills in Houston & North Dakota – they call them highway overpasses. I’ve been amazed how hilly North Carolina cities turned out to be – Durham and Winston-Salem are really rugged, but even Charlotte puts Portland to shame – its downtown is on a significant hill – even though none of these cities have rivers even remotely as big as the Willamette. My friends drive out to the mountains all the time, to Asheville, Boone, and nearby communities, all near mighty Mt. Mitchell, the tallest peak on the East Coast – it even has tundra on top of it! – and at 6,800 feet, it’s a bit of a running joke with those of us from the West Coast.

What has surprised me though, is how hilly a lot of cities actually are. DC is really flat near the Mall, but it gets pretty rugged around Georgetown and where the embassies are – the National Cathedral and the Zoo are in very hilly areas indeed. And Atlanta was really hilly – the downtown is on a ridge. When visiting foreign cities, I was continuously amazed by how mountainous some of them could be – Rome with its famous seven hills of course – Genoa is built on a steep hillside, Siena is at the top of a hill, steep-sided river cities like Lyon, Mainz, and Newcastle – the list goes on and on.

Stephen Keller
Stephen Keller
3 months ago

Go easteardly enough, and eventually you have to climb My. Hood.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Stephen Keller

That’s what I mean! A few flat blocks surrounded by mountains.

donel a courtney
donel a courtney
3 months ago

San Francisco–twin peaks–928ft
Seattle–High point–520ft
Sacramento–high point–830ft
So Cal–really really high, but only mansions built up there

Portland west hills–skyline–1200ft

FYI

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor

I’m from southern California, so I guess that colored my perception.

Charley
Charley
2 months ago

Yeah! By elevation Portland certainly qualifies as very hilly, and way hillier than Seattle. The difference is that we don’t have *famous downtown streets* that go straight uphill, like Columbia St in Seattle. We even have some steep volcanoes!

It’s also true that we do have flat alluvial plains with well-known bikey neighborhoods.

Lenny Anderson
Lenny Anderson
3 months ago

I grew up here and, of course, left as soon as I could for bigger, more exciting places. But as things turned out after more than 20 years in Chicago and the Bay Area with lots of travel in between, I returned to Portland! It was a toss-up for my wife and I between PDX and Seattle, but in the end Portland’s older intact architecture and slower pace appealed to my German immigrant wife.
So welcome to P-Town, ignore all the hand wringing and enjoy those winter bike rides that remind any old time downhill skier of glory days on “The Mountain.” Spring will come! (But damn, I am tired of those nasty East winds out of the Gorge!)
Portland is a better and more interesting place thanks to all the people who have come here from somewhere else. Enjoy!

Ted Buehler
Ted Buehler
3 months ago

Welcome to Portland!

“A quick stop to check Google Maps got me on Ankeny and back on my way.”

Strava “heat map” is a more reliable way of finding the best bike routes. Much easier and faster than Google maps, too….

Ted Buehler

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
3 months ago
Reply to  Ted Buehler

Aloha Ted Buehler!

Matt
Matt
3 months ago

“We’re gonna need a bigger lock.”

John Gonzales
John Gonzales
3 months ago

Welcome to Portland. I moved here with my wife 1.5 years ago. No car by choice. Never never never want to own a car again. I guess we will stay.
John

Richard
Richard
3 months ago

Welcome to our corner of the world!

Matt S.
Matt S.
3 months ago

If you are kidless and have a hybrid work situation, a car isn’t needed.

Otherwise you will need one to enjoy the true benefits of Portland/Oregon.

I’ve been saying this for years on this forum, you don’t need a car for the city, you need a car to get out of the city.

I love Portland (mostly), but my favorite times are with the family out in the countryside. Someday when the kids are old enough we’ll ride, but for now we pile the bikes in the car and commute out of the city to enjoy nature.

Go to Britenbush some day.

John V
John V
3 months ago
Reply to  Matt S.

I would suggest you don’t need a car for any of that. If you have one (the default case), it’s easy to just use it. But you can do all that without owning a car. How often do you drive to the beach? Every weekend? I have a kid and a car, I don’t drive somewhere far even every other weekend. Everything else can easily be done all bike. The money you save on a car can pay for the occasional rental.

I mean, in a culture built around owning a car and going everywhere in one, it *feels* like it would be this big ordeal and hurdle / sacrifice. But I think that’s mostly an illusion.

That is, if you care enough to do it. I don’t know how to convince someone who doesn’t want to live without a car to live without one. But for someone already in the car free mindset, I don’t think you should be afraid to continue to be car-free just because you have kids or you’re afraid you’ll miss out on something at the coast.

Charley
Charley
2 months ago
Reply to  John V

It all depends on the kinds of outdoor activities one enjoys.

An occasional trip up the mountain can be done on public transit! I’ve done it myself. Oregonhikers has more info about transit accessible trailheads.

On the other hand, a car-free visit to any wild area outside the popular Gorge and Mt Hood trailheads will require a lot more planning and foresight.

(That said, renting a car can totally work for that kind of trip, if you don’t find it advantageous to own a car in the first place.)

Matt S.
Matt S.
2 months ago
Reply to  John V

Grandparents live in SW over off capital hwy, by Silvania PCC, imagine riding there twice a week with two kids? Both wife and I work in Hillsboro and often have to drive straight from work to preschool with limited time.

When you’re on a rigid schedule that is geographically spread out, you have to have a car, two cars at that… I wish it didn’t have to be that way, but if I wanted to take transit, it would take nearly 2 hours. Biking is out of the question.

People that have flexible work from home schedules (along with no kids) don’t seem to understand how difficult everyday life is.

And we can’t just move closer to our work because I’m in construction, I work all over the metro area. My wife is a nurse and recently moved hospitals completely on opposite sides of the metro region. We couldn’t just sell our house and buy in Hillsboro because we wouldn’t be able to afford it. There’s often a one year waiting list to get two children into day/preschool at the same time. So you can’t just move and put your preschoolers in a nearby school—it just doesn’t work that way. We also want to live relatively close to grandparents. It’s takes extreme effort to manage our schedules and there’s just no way car free.

My first 6 years in Portland was car free. I did 25,000 miles. I was in my early twenties and didn’t have any responsibilities. I had a messenger bag, rode in the rain everywhere, and lived and died by the bike. That life seems like a lifetime ago.

John V
John V
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt S.

All those are interesting points, but it seems like people just get really defensive as if I’m saying you personally should change your life around to live without a car.

If you are kidless and have a hybrid work situation, a car isn’t needed.

Otherwise you will need one to enjoy the true benefits of Portland/Oregon.

This is the comment I was responding to, because I disagree. This isn’t the case. Your particulars might in your opinion require a car, but you don’t need a car to have kids. And the couple of years I lived without a car, I also commuted to an office on a “rigid schedule”. Bikes are actually more reliable when it comes to a rigid schedule. I was surprised that my 45 minute commute varied by less than like 2 minutes (as it turns out, basically from the area the Grandparents you mentioned live in to downtown Portland).

I’m simply pushing back against the blanket statement that you need a car if you have kids. It isn’t true, and I don’t understand why, in this of all places, you would feel the need to preemptively come in here and tell someone they need to have a car, as if to defend the fact that you decided to organize your life in car-centric way.

9watts
9watts
2 months ago
Reply to  John V

Hear, hear.

Matt S.
Matt S.
2 months ago
Reply to  John V

You must not have kids and if you do I’m surprised that you haven’t talked about riding with them?

Basically I lamented on my previous life and how it progressed toward car ownership. I used personal examples suggesting change is inevitable and unless you make future decisions around a bike-centric life, it’ll most likely evolve toward car ownership.

I’ve see it time and time again.

Love the time on the bike while you have it, sometimes when you lose it you can’t get it back very easily.

9watts
9watts
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt S.

“I used personal examples suggesting change is inevitable and unless you make future decisions around a bike-centric life, it’ll most likely evolve toward car ownership.”

Now you are choosing your words more carefully. and I agree with that just quoted passage.
Before I was having a hard time, like John V.

“It’s takes extreme effort to manage our schedules and there’s just no way car free.”
“Biking is out of the question”

Plenty of folks prioritize biking while they had a kid or multiple kids. Jobs and school and all that are certainly factors, and sometimes/some people are able to make choices that work better with carefree/bike priorities, while it is more difficult/perhaps impossible for others. Your first comment read as “if you have kids, forget it,” and that just didn’t sound right to me.

Part of my objection to this sort of narrative (and read carefully yours is more nuanced than many) is that sooner or later biking is no longer viable. and I think if people of lol walks of life really had to rely on bikes or were determined to make it work, many would find a way even though it might not seem very plausible before they tried. It is just too easy to say, it can’t work. You obviously tried and made it work, spectacularly. But the kids and jobs and grandparents all spread out then made it impossible.

John V
John V
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt S.

That’s all true and it’s the root of many problems, really. The way things automatically tend towards car ownership as the default.

I do have a kid and I ride with him all the time. We take him to daycare (5 miles away) most days. We ride to all the nearby parks in a front box / bakfiets bike. And if I had my way we would only ever take the bike anywhere, but his mom struggles with car-by-defaultism. Even though she rides with him often, and to daycare, if anything outside of the routine happens where it’s not a designated “bike thing”, it falls back to a car thing. Because for her, she isn’t in the mental “bike is the default ” mindset.

brianmcgloin
brianmcgloin
2 months ago

Welcome to Portland!

Portland is a comparatively easy place to get around, but like anywhere else it is not without some quirks.

The Shift calendar has rides all year in addition to Pedalpalooza. They’re a good way to get your bearings and meet other people. Coffee Outside is another good way to learn your way around and meet some people (including expats from Seattle). That’s listed on Instagram. It meets every Saturday morning at about 9 in a different park. People ride up, brew coffee using every way you can think of (I generally roll with instant, sometimes heating my water and sometimes not) and bullshit about everything but bikes — ok, sometimes bikes.

Apple Maps has good bike directions. Google Maps is good also, but Google is a data mining company so I try to avoid it. You may have good luck finding and recording routes with Portland-based Ride with GPS. Strava works well also, I recently found out.

As for navigation, Portland has 6 quadrants (that will never not be charming) N, NE, SE, S, SW, which are part of every street address. Like in a lot of places, streets run east-west and avenues run north-south. Boulevards are often diagonal but not always.

If you’re into non-paved streets and alleys, also known as “unimproved roadway” then you’re in luck because Portland has a weird amount of them. If you come to my technically singletrack Pedalpalooza ride on July 26 you’ll get a taste of them, or maybe the NOISE ride, North Oregon International Singlespeed Exposition or other off-pavement shenaniganerous tomfoolery. As a side note, the person who “won” the recent NOISE had just moved to Portland.

Contrary to what some of the trolls may say, Portland is a good albeit imperfect place. We’re welcoming to new people and generally pleasant.We’re in a rain shadow from the Coast Range, which keeps Portland drier than the marketing suggests. We’re technically in a warm summer Mediterranean climate.