This post is part of our SW Portland Week.
Yesterday was an epic day to kick off our SW Portland Week coverage. Riding in the area is challenging enough in nice weather, throw in strong winds and sheets of rain and things get very interesting. Despite the storm, it didn’t keep us from exploring the area’s bikeways.
We’ll try to do a photo diary every day this week to share where we rode and what we saw. This is the first of the series.
I started off the day by riding to Baker & Spice Bakery at 6330 SW Capitol Hwy in Hillsdale. From downtown, I went south on SW Broadway then found my way onto SW Barbur. Given what a major connection Broadway/Barbur is, I was surprised the transition between the two (on SW Sheridan) isn’t more clear. Seems like we could use directional signage or markings.
(And yes, I realize that SW Terwilliger is a lower stress option in this case, but it also has more climbing and I’ve ridden it many times in the past. The whole point of this week is for us to learn the streets like locals.)
I took Barbur south all the way to Capitol Highway. In some ways, Barbur is a good example of the potential — and reality — that exists in southwest. Closer to downtown Portland (where the City Bureau of Transportation has jurisdiction), there are buffered bike lanes that were installed just over two years ago. Unfortunately, they don’t last long. As you head south, there are still bike lanes, but they’re just 5-feet of gravel-filled shoulder space next to other traffic that zooms by at 50 mph.
I saw a “45 MPH” speed limit sign next to a standard bike lane and five, high-speed standard lanes and thought to myself: That should never happen.
At the intersection of Barbur and Capitol Highway (which feels more like a freeway off-ramp than an intersection) the state’s first-ever green bike lane feels and looks a bit wimpy.
Just beyond that intersection lies one of the few places where the bike lane on Barbur completely disappears. I didn’t venture there yesterday (we’ll cover Barbur in a separate post later this week), but the photo below of the Newbury Bridge gets my heart racing just to look at it (note that half the shoulder in that photo is a narrow raised sidewalk)…
When I headed west on Capitol Hwy, I encountered another one of SW Portland’s challenges: trees, dirt, and other debris in bike lanes. Because this area is so hilly and there are so many trees and greenery, during winter the bike lanes seem to be constantly full of streaming water, sticks, branches, leaves, and so on. Given how fast people drive on these roads, bicycle riders need every inch of the bike lane for their safety (both perceived and real). A winter bike lane maintenance schedule would be a good idea.
As I approached the intersection with Terwilliger, I crossed over and headed south. I glanced over and saw a yellow caution sign: “Bike [symbol] In Lane.” It was directed at eastbound Capitol Hwy users. In the photo below, note the condition of the shoulder and the speed of the roadway… yikes!
One thing I felt immediately while riding in SW Portland is that shared environments are the norm whenever you leave the main arterials. And dropped bike lanes happen frequently — whenever the road narrows and it becomes “too hard to fit” the bike lane. See the example below on SW Terwilliger just south of Chestnut…
After a stop at the Burlingame Fred Meyer (a car-choked place that isn’t very inviting on a bicycle), I rolled up SW Bertha to the Hillsdale shopping center where I was greeted with the fine site of nice bike parking…
After locking up I went to work at Baker & Spice, a great bakery with a strong local vibe that was bustling with business. I don’t think I’ll work there any more this week however because I don’t want to detract from the great face-to-face social/family/friend ambience the place has. (I always find working on laptops kills what bakeries and cafes should be all about — meeting people and having screen-free conversations.)
Speaking of meeting people, an acquaintance of mine, Jim Anderson, walked in while I was working and we chatted for several minutes. In case you missed it, check out the brief profile of him I shared yesterday.
For my route back to downtown Portland, I took Jim’s advice and headed up and over the hills instead of using the busier main streets. And I’m glad I did. I headed north on Sunset, then connected to Westwood and wound my way up (and I mean up!) to Fairmount. Then I descended on SW Vista which dropped me right off at W Burnside. It was a beautiful, peaceful, and relatively quick way to get back into town.
Stay tuned for more coverage from SW Portland. Coming up: A look at the area’s transportation habits by the numbers, an interview with local resident and Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick, profiles of local bike shops, and more.
Join us Friday afternoon (2/13) 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.