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East Portland Reporter’s notebook: Pump track, a shop on the ‘Outer Rim’, Halsey sidewalk, & more

East Portland Reporter’s notebook: Pump track, a shop on the ‘Outer Rim’, Halsey sidewalk, & more

Michael and I had a great time riding and reporting all over east Portland last week. While we’ve posted over 150 images in our photo gallery and nine front page stories, our notebooks still have plenty of items worth sharing with you…

A visit to The Outer Rim, Portland’s easternmost bike shop

The Outer Rim Bike Shop-1

Brandon Fite, manager of the The Outer Rim.
(Photos J. Maus/BikePortland)

Unlike in neighborhoods that ring Portland’s central city, where it sometimes feels like there’s a bike shop around every corner, there are very few bike shops east of I-205. In fact, there are only two.

The Outer Rim Bicycle Shop at NE 106th and Halsey is the easternmost bicycle retail and repair shop in Portland (just over seven miles from downtown as the crow flies). Now in its sixth year of business, this family shop is a welcome oasis for bike riders in this part of town. Founded by Nadine Jones in 2009, the shop has grown every year and is beloved for its treatment of customers and the free, lifetime maintenance it offers with new bike purchases.

The Outer Rim Bike Shop-3

These days, 26-year-old Brandon Fite holds down the fort. Fite, Jones’ son, learned the ropes of the bicycle business from his mom. Sadly, she passed away from cancer in January 2013. “She was the heart of this shop,” Fite shared when I met him on Tuesday. “She treated every customer like family.”

With a good foundation, The Outer Rim seems to be doing very well. The showroom floor was jam-packed with a big selection of all types of bikes — from Breezer city bikes to the latest BMX models. Drawing from such a large area, Fite said the shop serves a very diverse customer base. “We have everybody in here. We get the poorest of the poor to the very well off, and all types of different languages.”

The Outer Rim Bike Shop-4

Is Fite happy there’s not much competition from other bike shops? “Shops aren’t our competition,” he said, “Our competition is 24 Hour Fitness, cable TV, and video games.”

Surrounded by a large parking lot and located smack-dab in the middle of Gateway, this shop is poised for even more growth. Fite said they’ve expanded their inventory by 30% from last year alone and once they catch up with all the business he’s looking to hold more events. “Our dream is to eventually host big events… We want to be a foothold in this community.”

Next time you’re in the neighborhood, swing into 10625 NE Halsey and say hi to Brandon and his crew.

The Ventura Park pump track’s helping hands

It might not look like much from afar, but the newly expanded pump track at Ventura Park is now even better.
(Photos Michael Andersen/BikePortland)

Ventura Park, at SE Stark and 117th, is now home to the only public pump track in the City of Portland, including the city’s only legal dirt jump.

The 4,000-square-foot cloverleaf of packed dirt, symmetrically designed so it can be ridden simultaneously by two riders, is a labor of love for John “Dabby” Campbell, a former bike messenger who taught himself to build pump tracks while house-sitting outside Salem in 2003. He’s now become something of a freelance pump track builder who hires out his services.

John “Dabby” Campbell, pump track builder.

The Ventura Park project, however, is Campbell’s volunteer project for the Northwest Trail Alliance, which partnered with the city to create this gem. This pump track opened in July 2012 and Dabby has just put the finishing touches on a significant expansion.

“Sandy Ridge is great, but we have kids here who are learning to mountain bike,” Campbell said when I met up with on Thursday. He’s looking for volunteers interested in helping him build and maintain more pump tracks. Based on what he’s heard from the city parks office, he thinks there’s great potential for these to be added to larger parks around the city.

Campbell says that thanks to ongoing design tweaks, it’ll take him about two hours a month to maintain the Ventura pump track.

Interested in joining Campbell’s crew for his next project? Want to get information about the race he plans to hold there this summer or fall? Email him at dabby@nw-trail.org.

— by Michael Andersen

Starbucks-branded bike parking

Starbucks bike parking 122nd & Halsey

What the?! (Turns out they’re bike racks.)

While waiting for a red light at NE 122nd and Halsey, I caught some very interesting bike parking out of the corner of my eye. And, lo and behold, it was for a Starbucks drive-through! The racks were four, two-sided steel pillars with a hooks at the top for a bicycle’s front wheel. A steel arm then swiveled out to stabilize the frame and offer something to look up to. It wasn’t a very good design at all; but I was impressed at the prominent placement of the racks themselves and the fact that Starbucks cared enough to emblazon their logo directly onto them. (Note: The racks were built by Urban Racks.)

Starbucks bike parking 122nd & Halsey

And yes, I realize that’s not exactly where the swivel-bar should be placed, but it didn’t balance my bike well the other way so I did this for the photo.

Observations of the NE Halsey Street overpass

NE Halsey 92nd crossing-1

This photo shows how PBOT (via the bike symbol) wants you to ride up onto the sidewalk (against traffic) from the intersection of NE 92nd and Halsey. You’ll notice that more confident riders eschew this advice and ride in the lane.

As most highway overpasses tend to become, the Halsey Street bridge over I-205 is an important link in the bike network. Given its proximity to the Gateway shopping area and other key streets in the bike network (Halsey, 102nd, 92nd, Tillamook, and so on) this overpass sees a relatively high volume of use by bicycle riders.

Unfortunately, those riders are directed up onto the sidewalk on the north side that is forced to handle two directions of bicycle traffic. The bridge itself has a pretty significant incline and this segment of Halsey has two standard lanes in both directions and no bike lane or shoulder room to speak of.

205 84 Halsey

The riding environment on top of Halsey over I-205 is intimidating. It’s noisy and there are fast-moving vehicles in all directions.

I’d never noticed it until Monday (my first day of commuting to East Portland each morning), but if you’re heading eastbound from NE 92nd, instead of heading left in the lane on Halsey, PBOT directs you into the crosswalk and up onto the sidewalk to ride against downhill bicycle traffic on one side and auto traffic on the other. It’s not very pleasant at all.

2-way sidewalk on Halsey

Headed eastbound, up the sidewalk on the north side of Halsey.

Then of course, since you’re on the wrong side of the street once you get to the east side of I-205, you’ve got to re-orient yourself on Halsey by making either a left turn at the busy intersection of the shopping area, or make a two-stage left that crosses the Fred Meyer driveway. Neither of those are ideal options.

Does Halsey really need four full-sized lanes? Could we narrow them to create a buffered bike lane on the north side? Are their other solutions to make this crossing more pleasant for bicycling?

— Read more of our East Portland Week coverage here.

The post East Portland Reporter’s notebook: Pump track, a shop on the ‘Outer Rim’, Halsey sidewalk, & more appeared first on BikePortland.org.

East Portland reporter’s notebook: Pump track, a shop on the ‘Outer Rim’, Halsey sidewalk, & more

East Portland reporter’s notebook: Pump track, a shop on the ‘Outer Rim’, Halsey sidewalk, & more

Michael and I had a great time riding and reporting all over east Portland last week. While we’ve posted over 150 images in our photo gallery and nine front page stories, our notebooks still have plenty of items worth sharing with you…

A visit to The Outer Rim, Portland’s easternmost bike shop

The Outer Rim Bike Shop-1

Brandon Fite, manager of the The Outer Rim.
(Photos J. Maus/BikePortland)

Unlike in neighborhoods that ring Portland’s central city, where it sometimes feels like there’s a bike shop around every corner, there are very few bike shops east of I-205. In fact, there are only two.

The Outer Rim Bicycle Shop at NE 106th and Halsey is the easternmost bicycle retail and repair shop in Portland (just over seven miles from downtown as the crow flies). Now in its sixth year of business, this family shop is a welcome oasis for bike riders in this part of town. Founded by Nadine Jones in 2009, the shop has grown every year and is beloved for its treatment of customers and the free, lifetime maintenance it offers with new bike purchases.

The Outer Rim Bike Shop-3

These days, 26-year-old Brandon Fite holds down the fort. Fite, Jones’ son, learned the ropes of the bicycle business from his mom. Sadly, she passed away from cancer in January 2013. “She was the heart of this shop,” Fite shared when I met him on Tuesday. “She treated every customer like family.”

With a good foundation, The Outer Rim seems to be doing very well. The showroom floor was jam-packed with a big selection of all types of bikes — from Breezer city bikes to the latest BMX models. Drawing from such a large area, Fite said the shop serves a very diverse customer base. “We have everybody in here. We get the poorest of the poor to the very well off, and all types of different languages.”

The Outer Rim Bike Shop-4

Is Fite happy there’s not much competition from other bike shops? “Shops aren’t our competition,” he said, “Our competition is 24 Hour Fitness, cable TV, and video games.”

Surrounded by a large parking lot and located smack-dab in the middle of Gateway, this shop is poised for even more growth. Fite said they’ve expanded their inventory by 30% from last year alone and once they catch up with all the business he’s looking to hold more events. “Our dream is to eventually host big events… We want to be a foothold in this community.”

Next time you’re in the neighborhood, swing into 10625 NE Halsey and say hi to Brandon and his crew.

The Ventura Park pump track’s helping hands

It might not look like much from afar, but the newly expanded pump track at Ventura Park is now even better.
(Photos Michael Andersen/BikePortland)

Ventura Park, at SE Stark and 117th, is now home to the only public pump track in the City of Portland, including the city’s only legal dirt jump.

The 4,000-square-foot cloverleaf of packed dirt, symmetrically designed so it can be ridden simultaneously by two riders, is a labor of love for John “Dabby” Campbell, a former bike messenger who taught himself to build pump tracks while house-sitting outside Salem in 2003. He’s now become something of a freelance pump track builder who hires out his services.

John “Dabby” Campbell, pump track builder.

The Ventura Park project, however, is Campbell’s volunteer project for the Northwest Trail Alliance, which partnered with the city to create this gem. This pump track opened in July 2012 and Dabby has just put the finishing touches on a significant expansion.

“Sandy Ridge is great, but we have kids here who are learning to mountain bike,” Campbell said when I met up with on Thursday. He’s looking for volunteers interested in helping him build and maintain more pump tracks. Based on what he’s heard from the city parks office, he thinks there’s great potential for these to be added to larger parks around the city.

Campbell says that thanks to ongoing design tweaks, it’ll take him about two hours a month to maintain the Ventura pump track.

Interested in joining Campbell’s crew for his next project? Want to get information about the race he plans to hold there this summer or fall? Email him at dabby@nw-trail.org.

— by Michael Andersen

Starbucks-branded bike parking

Starbucks bike parking 122nd & Halsey

What the?! (Turns out they’re bike racks.)

While waiting for a red light at NE 122nd and Halsey, I caught some very interesting bike parking out of the corner of my eye. And, lo and behold, it was for a Starbucks drive-through! The racks were four, two-sided steel pillars with a hooks at the top for a bicycle’s front wheel. A steel arm then swiveled out to stabilize the frame and offer something to look up to. It wasn’t a very good design at all; but I was impressed at the prominent placement of the racks themselves and the fact that Starbucks cared enough to emblazon their logo directly onto them. (Note: The racks were built by Urban Racks.)

Starbucks bike parking 122nd & Halsey

And yes, I realize that’s not exactly where the swivel-bar should be placed, but it didn’t balance my bike well the other way so I did this for the photo.

Observations of the NE Halsey Street overpass

NE Halsey 92nd crossing-1

This photo shows how PBOT (via the bike symbol) wants you to ride up onto the sidewalk (against traffic) from the intersection of NE 92nd and Halsey. You’ll notice that more confident riders eschew this advice and ride in the lane.

As most highway overpasses tend to become, the Halsey Street bridge over I-205 is an important link in the bike network. Given its proximity to the Gateway shopping area and other key streets in the bike network (Halsey, 102nd, 92nd, Tillamook, and so on) this overpass sees a relatively high volume of use by bicycle riders.

Unfortunately, those riders are directed up onto the sidewalk on the north side that is forced to handle two directions of bicycle traffic. The bridge itself has a pretty significant incline and this segment of Halsey has two standard lanes in both directions and no bike lane or shoulder room to speak of.

205 84 Halsey

The riding environment on top of Halsey over I-205 is intimidating. It’s noisy and there are fast-moving vehicles in all directions.

I’d never noticed it until Monday (my first day of commuting to East Portland each morning), but if you’re heading eastbound from NE 92nd, instead of heading left in the lane on Halsey, PBOT directs you into the crosswalk and up onto the sidewalk to ride against downhill bicycle traffic on one side and auto traffic on the other. It’s not very pleasant at all.

2-way sidewalk on Halsey

Headed eastbound, up the sidewalk on the north side of Halsey.

Then of course, since you’re on the wrong side of the street once you get to the east side of I-205, you’ve got to re-orient yourself on Halsey by making either a left turn at the busy intersection of the shopping area, or make a two-stage left that crosses the Fred Meyer driveway. Neither of those are ideal options.

Does Halsey really need four full-sized lanes? Could we narrow them to create a buffered bike lane on the north side? Are their other solutions to make this crossing more pleasant for bicycling?

— Read more of our East Portland Week coverage here.

The post East Portland reporter’s notebook: Pump track, a shop on the ‘Outer Rim’, Halsey sidewalk, & more appeared first on BikePortland.org.

The Friday Profile: Jim Chasse, East Portland’s quiet, conquering bike warrior

The Friday Profile: Jim Chasse, East Portland’s quiet, conquering bike warrior

jim chasse

Jim Chasse became excited about bike transportation while working on the 2010 city bike plan and is part of the very successful East Portland Action Plan bicycle subcommittee.
(Photo M.Andersen/BikePortland)

When East Portland biking advocate Jim Chasse met the young state legislator who had just ousted incumbent Patrick Sheehan, he got right to the point.

“I told Shemia Fagan, ‘This is what we need: We need Powell Boulevard,’” Chasse recalled Thursday. “‘We need $80 million, $60 million. And if you can’t get it for us, we’re just going to fire you.’”

“I could see with the expanse of east Portland being built as a driving community, that bike transportation would really, really work well out here.”
— Jim Chasse, EPAPbike member

You don’t become one of the most effective transportation advocates in Portland by mincing words.

A soft-spoken, good-natured member of the East Portland Action Plan’s bicycle subcommittee and an East Portland homeowner (at 116th and Powell) since 1986, Chasse is part of a team of neighborhood activists who have, with the help of professional East Portland advocate Lore Wintergreen, finally unlocked a steady stream of money for biking and walking improvements east of Interstate 205.

Chasse’s personal secret might be that his enthusiasm for what better biking could bring to East Portland is so guilelessly earnest and so deeply felt.

“It just makes too much sense,” Chasse, 58, said in an interview at McMenamins Mall 205. “Yeah, light rail is great. And bus service is absolutely critical. But I mean, I quit driving.”

For Chasse, it wasn’t an option: he has a mild epilepsy. After a change in medications sent him into a seizure, he was forbidden to drive for six months. A bike became his main way of commuting to work at an auto shop in inner Southeast Portland.

But Chasse had come around to the benefits of biking earlier, while representing East Portland on the Bicycle Master Plan approved by Portland City Council in 2010.

In part of the city that lacks the density to support great transit, he sees bikes as a ticket to freedom.

“It was like, wow,” he said. “I could see with the expanse of east Portland being built as a driving community, that bike transportation would really, really work well out here. It’s a long ways to get anywhere out here. What’s the quickest way? A car. And what’s the next quickest way? A bike.”

Today, Chasse keeps a map of East Portland’s zoning plan on a wall in his home and volunteers with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, EPAP and other groups to keep the spigot of federal, state and city dollars flowing into the East Portland in Motion plan, a document East Portlanders demanded in exchange for endorsement of the citywide bike plan.

“[City transportation planner] Mark Lear was saying ‘We’re going to get all these things for East Portland,’” Chasse recalled. “And we were like, ‘We’ve heard that before. We’re going to get the EPIM plan, or we’re not going to support this plan, period.’ And we got it. [Retired city project manager] Ellen Vanderslice got it together for us. It’s still not going to happen in five years, but we’re a lot farther than we’ve ever been. … The city’s finally stepped up and committed some money for East Portland. And you can’t be unhappy about that.”

Though EPAPbike hasn’t taken a public position on the city’s proposed $12-a-month street fee, Chasse says he’s personally in favor.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “If we’re going to do a $613 million bike plan by 2030, you’ve got to find the funding somewhere.”

Chasse’s No. 1 priority, as he told Rep. Fagan in his ultimatum, is getting walking and biking improvements on Powell Boulevard east of I-205.

It’d cost tens of millions, he says. But it’ll create new business, too, if it becomes easier to navigate the area without a car.

“Powell can stay relatively small, especially if we have high-capacity transit coming out on Division,” he said. “There’s enough room in and around the whole facility to do a really good buildup. Cycle tracks in some areas and bike lanes in the constrained areas. And definitely sidewalks. … There’s already an established business district at 122nd, 112th, and going down to the 205 interchange. And further out, at 136th, even if they’re just topless bars, it’s a business district.”

Bringing safe, comfortable biking and walking to his house, where he can still watch the birds fly among the 12 towering fir trees in his yard, would be a dream come true and a life’s work for Chasse.

“East Portland’s a great place,” he said. “It really is.”

As for Fagan, he said she’s done a fine job so far.

“She’s running for reelection,” he said, smiling. “I’ve yet to talk to her. But we’ll talk for sure.”

Want to get involved with EPAPbike? They meet fourth Tuesdays at Muchas Gracias, 1307 NE 102nd Ave, Suite K.

The post The Friday Profile: Jim Chasse, East Portland’s quiet, conquering bike warrior appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Five years later, buffered bike lanes are a fact of life on outer Holgate

Five years later, buffered bike lanes are a fact of life on outer Holgate

lentz automotive with biker

A person bikes past Lentz Automotive, an auto shop whose owner objected to bike lanes added to outer SE Holgate in 2009.(Photos M.Andersen/BikePortland)

This post is part of our special, week-long focus on east Portland.

It was one of the boulders that broke Portland’s bike wave: a redesign of SE Holgate Street that converted one mixed traffic lane in each direction to a huge buffered bike lane between I-205 and 122nd Avenue.

“Get rid of ‘em. We need the traffic… it sure makes it a pain in the butt to get in and out of businesses.”
— Doug Lentz, Lentz Auto Repair

KATU-TV branded it a “bike lane to nowhere,” quoting the area’s postal delivery worker. “I bought my property on a four-lane highway,” David Lentz of Lentz Automotive told the station. “I rely on traffic flow.” Down the street at Pro Hair and Nails, owner Kim Lynn told KATU that she’d lost a third of her business after the road diet.

Almost 200 people, most angry at the city for not consulting locals before doing the project, packed Holgate Baptist Church for a meeting with city staff.

The lanes survived. But in the office of Mayor Sam Adams, “Holgate” became, for years, a one-word shorthand for what happens when you push bike amenities down the throat of a neighborhood that “isn’t ready” for them.

Meanwhile, Holgate was also becoming a dramatically safer street, mostly because going down to a single auto lane in each direction had dramatically reduced the number of people driving more than 10 mph over the 35 mph speed limit. Extreme speeding fell by 79 percent eastbound and 30 percent westbound. Moderate and severe crashes plummeted 86 percent more or less immediately.

PBOT data on SE Holgate Blvd. The street was re-striped for buffered bike lanes in 2009.

From November 2008 to November 2010, meanwhile, city traffic counts show that auto traffic on Holgate fell 11 percent in one direction, 16 percent in the other. (It’s not clear how much this was related to the recession; U.S. job losses peaked in January 2009.) Typical traffic speeds didn’t change; TriMet buses reported 15 seconds of delay and the usual 85th percentile speed on the street stayed at 40 mph.

Bike traffic has probably risen slightly. In about half an hour walking around Holgate and 104th between 4:30 and 6 pm, I noticed about 10 bikes using the lanes.

auto traffic on holgate

Typical eastbound auto traffic on Holgate at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

On our 122nd Avenue ride last Sunday, Planning Commissioner (and bike infrastructure fan) Chris Smith said that in his view, the bigger problem had been that the Holgate project was so cheap — just $30,000 — that the city hadn’t bothered to give it a significant budget for community outreach, the series of meetings that can address concerns, defuse anger and build consensus.

Five years later, we wanted to know what Holgate Street’s users think, too. Here’s what they told us.

doug lentz

Doug Lentz said his family’s shop is “pretty busy” five years after the road diet, but that a newer auto shop might have struggled.

Doug Lentz still hates the bike lanes.

“Get rid of ‘em,” he said. “We need the traffic.”

Lentz, the brother of Lentz Automotive owner David Lentz and an employee at the auto body shop, said the traffic had been cut in half and that there had been “several more accidents out here since the bike lanes came in.”

I asked if he was sure traffic on the street had really halved.

“It might not be half, but it sure makes it a pain in the butt to get in and out of businesses,” he said.

During rush hour, I noticed, traffic is indeed thick enough that it’d take a while to turn left onto Holgate from a side street or driveway.

Lentz is also troubled by the number of people he sees biking in the wrong direction in the new lanes. In my short time there, I saw four people doing this — one of them only briefly because he’d taken advantage of a gap in traffic to turn left, the others simply not bothering to cross the street.

Lentz feels people are “not held accountable for anything” when they’re riding bicycles.

“They could total the side of a car out here and go right away,” he said, referring to the cars parked in front of the auto body shop.

I asked if he was aware of a time when this had happened.

“They ride on the sidewalk, getting too close to really nice cars out here,” he said. “I’m sure they have damaged them.”

Finally, I asked Lentz about the shop’s business.

“We’re pretty busy,” he said. “We’ve always been busy. Lentz has been here 20 years. Longtime customers and word of mouth counts for something. If we relied on solely off-street business, we probably wouldn’t have made it. I don’t know that a new business would have survived if they’d started five years ago here.”

bike lane fans

Jasz Morgan and Steve Williams, who live nearby, said the lanes have improved riding on Holgate but that many drivers, especially young ones, don’t respect bikes on the road.

I walked down the street from Lentz to Pro Hair and Nails, still open but with no customers at the moment I walked in, midafternoon Thursday. A woman there politely said she didn’t want to talk to reporters.

“They’re like, ‘Stop spending your money on bike paths. Well, I’m like, ‘Stop polluting your frickin’ city.’”
— Steve Williams, local resident

Next door to the hair salon was Time Out Deli and Pub, which seems to be the only business on Holgate with a bike parking rack: one staple installed right against the wall. When I arrived Tuesday at 5 pm, two bikes were locked to it. Inside, I heard a very different story about Holgate’s buffered bike lane.

“I use it all the time,” said Jasz Morgen, drinking beer at the bar.

Morgen, who lives in the Lents neighborhood, said he owns a car but gets around mostly by bike because, as he said, “I drink.” He said he likes riding the Springwater Corridor and would prefer to see money on crossing improvements there, but that Holgate is at least a better place to ride than 122nd.

Sitting beside Morgen, Steve Williams of Powellhurst also said the bike lane was a major improvement to Holgate.

“They’re doing their best to make improvements, you know,” said Williams, 52, who used to commute by bike and still rides. “It’s getting better out here.”

Williams said he’d happily vote for a $12-a-month street fee to improve transportation maintenance and safety — “that’s three drinks,” he said, gesturing to his beer — and doesn’t agree with critics of bike projects “They’re like, ‘Stop spending your money on bike paths,’” he said. “Well, I’m like, ‘Stop polluting your frickin’ city.’”

holgate bar

Matthew, left, said bike lanes like the one on Holgate were  “the only thing Sam Adams did that makes sense down the line” but that Holgate’s was irrelevant because it doesn’t connect to enough destinations.

When I stopped by Time Out again on Thursday afternoon, two different people at the bar had similar things to say.

“The concept is excellent,” said a man named Matthew who wouldn’t give his last name. “Five stars. It’s the only thing Sam Adams did that makes sense down the line.”

“Five stars. It’s the only thing Sam Adams did that makes sense down the line.”

But Matthew, who said he’d bike commuted through north Portland for seven years in the 1980s, said the Holgate bike lane isn’t very well-ridden because it’s not connected to a network or to destinations.

“The bike lane doesn’t really matter here,” he said. “There’s no commerce here. All you have is people who live in the area. That’s it. … The best way would have been Powell.”

Carman Bosin, also at the bar, said the Holgate bike lanes had mostly made it harder to turn onto the street.

“Even just taking a right, it takes forever,” said Bosin, who lives near 111th and Holgate.

Barbara Hazar, who was tending the bar, said she wasn’t aware that Holgate has bike lanes.

“I don’t even pay attention,” she said. “I just wonder who’s going to be paying for it. They should make the bicyclists pay.”

But Robert Taylor, sitting at the bar, broke in to disagree.

“Oh, you need bicyclists,” he said. “Bicycling should be free, because people with cars are destroying the world.”

Then, after arguing briefly but politely with Hazar, Taylor paid his tab and headed to his car.

— Read more stories from our East Portland Week.

The post Five years later, buffered bike lanes are a fact of life on outer Holgate appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Five years later, buffered bike lanes are a fact of life on outer Holgate

Five years later, buffered bike lanes are a fact of life on outer Holgate

lentz automotive with biker

A person bikes past Lentz Automotive, an auto shop whose owner objected to bike lanes added to outer SE Holgate in 2009.(Photos M.Andersen/BikePortland)

This post is part of our special, week-long focus on east Portland.

It was one of the boulders that broke Portland’s bike wave: a redesign of SE Holgate Street that converted one mixed traffic lane in each direction to a huge buffered bike lane between I-205 and 122nd Avenue.

“Get rid of ‘em. We need the traffic… it sure makes it a pain in the butt to get in and out of businesses.”
— Doug Lentz, Lentz Automotive

KATU-TV branded it a “bike lane to nowhere,” quoting the area’s postal delivery worker. “I bought my property on a four-lane highway,” David Lentz of Lentz Automotive told the station. “I rely on traffic flow.” Down the street at Pro Hair and Nails, owner Kim Lynn told KATU that she’d lost a third of her business after the road diet.

Almost 200 people, most angry at the city for not consulting locals before doing the project, packed Holgate Baptist Church for a meeting with city staff.

The lanes survived. But in the office of Mayor Sam Adams, “Holgate” became, for years, a one-word shorthand for what happens when you push bike amenities down the throat of a neighborhood that “isn’t ready” for them.

Meanwhile, Holgate was also becoming a dramatically safer street, mostly because going down to a single auto lane in each direction had dramatically reduced the number of people driving more than 10 mph over the 35 mph speed limit. Extreme speeding fell by 79 percent eastbound and 30 percent westbound. Moderate and severe crashes plummeted 86 percent more or less immediately.

PBOT data on SE Holgate Blvd. The street was re-striped for buffered bike lanes in 2009.

From November 2008 to November 2010, meanwhile, city traffic counts show that auto traffic on Holgate fell 11 percent in one direction, 16 percent in the other. (It’s not clear how much this was related to the recession; U.S. job losses peaked in January 2009.) Typical traffic speeds didn’t change; TriMet buses reported 15 seconds of delay and the usual 85th percentile speed on the street stayed at 40 mph.

Bike traffic has probably risen slightly. In about half an hour walking around Holgate and 104th between 4:30 and 6 pm, I noticed about 10 bikes using the lanes.

auto traffic on holgate

Typical eastbound auto traffic on Holgate at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

On our 122nd Avenue ride last Sunday, Planning Commissioner (and bike infrastructure fan) Chris Smith said that in his view, the bigger problem had been that the Holgate project was so cheap — just $30,000 — that the city hadn’t bothered to give it a significant budget for community outreach, the series of meetings that can address concerns, defuse anger and build consensus.

Five years later, we wanted to know what Holgate Street’s users think, too. Here’s what they told us.

doug lentz

Doug Lentz said his family’s shop is “pretty busy” five years after the road diet, but that a newer auto shop might have struggled.

Doug Lentz still hates the bike lanes.

“Get rid of ‘em,” he said. “We need the traffic.”

Lentz, the brother of Lentz Automotive owner David Lentz and an employee at the auto body shop, said the traffic had been cut in half and that there had been “several more accidents out here since the bike lanes came in.”

I asked if he was sure traffic on the street had really halved.

“It might not be half, but it sure makes it a pain in the butt to get in and out of businesses,” he said.

During rush hour, I noticed, traffic is indeed thick enough that it’d take a while to turn left onto Holgate from a side street or driveway.

Lentz is also troubled by the number of people he sees biking in the wrong direction in the new lanes. In my short time there, I saw four people doing this — one of them only briefly because he’d taken advantage of a gap in traffic to turn left, the others simply not bothering to cross the street.

Lentz feels people are “not held accountable for anything” when they’re riding bicycles.

“They could total the side of a car out here and go right away,” he said, referring to the cars parked in front of the auto body shop.

I asked if he was aware of a time when this had happened.

“They ride on the sidewalk, getting too close to really nice cars out here,” he said. “I’m sure they have damaged them.”

Finally, I asked Lentz about the shop’s business.

“We’re pretty busy,” he said. “We’ve always been busy. Lentz has been here 20 years. Longtime customers and word of mouth counts for something. If we relied on solely off-street business, we probably wouldn’t have made it. I don’t know that a new business would have survived if they’d started five years ago here.”

bike lane fans

Jasz Morgan and Steve Williams, who live nearby, said the lanes have improved riding on Holgate but that many drivers, especially young ones, don’t respect bikes on the road.

I walked down the street from Lentz to Pro Hair and Nails, still open but with no customers at the moment I walked in, midafternoon Thursday. A woman there politely said she didn’t want to talk to reporters.

“They’re like, ‘Stop spending your money on bike paths. Well, I’m like, ‘Stop polluting your frickin’ city.’”
— Steve Williams, local resident

Next door to the hair salon was Time Out Deli and Pub, which seems to be the only business on Holgate with a bike parking rack: one staple installed right against the wall. When I arrived Tuesday at 5 pm, two bikes were locked to it. Inside, I heard a very different story about Holgate’s buffered bike lane.

“I use it all the time,” said Jasz Morgen, drinking beer at the bar.

Morgen, who lives in the Lents neighborhood, said he owns a car but gets around mostly by bike because, as he said, “I drink.” He said he likes riding the Springwater Corridor and would prefer to see money on crossing improvements there, but that Holgate is at least a better place to ride than 122nd.

Sitting beside Morgen, Steve Williams of Powellhurst also said the bike lane was a major improvement to Holgate.

“They’re doing their best to make improvements, you know,” said Williams, 52, who used to commute by bike and still rides. “It’s getting better out here.”

Williams said he’d happily vote for a $12-a-month street fee to improve transportation maintenance and safety — “that’s three drinks,” he said, gesturing to his beer — and doesn’t agree with critics of bike projects. “They’re like, ‘Stop spending your money on bike paths,’” he said. “Well, I’m like, ‘Stop polluting your frickin’ city.’”

holgate bar

Matthew, left, said bike lanes like the one on Holgate were  “the only thing Sam Adams did that makes sense down the line” but that Holgate’s was irrelevant because it doesn’t connect to enough destinations.

When I stopped by Time Out again on Thursday afternoon, two different people at the bar had similar things to say.

“The concept is excellent,” said a man named Matthew who wouldn’t give his last name. “Five stars. It’s the only thing Sam Adams did that makes sense down the line.”

“Five stars. It’s the only thing Sam Adams did that makes sense down the line.”

But Matthew, who said he’d bike commuted through north Portland for seven years in the 1980s, said the Holgate bike lane isn’t very well-ridden because it’s not connected to a network or to destinations.

“The bike lane doesn’t really matter here,” he said. “There’s no commerce here. All you have is people who live in the area. That’s it. … The best way would have been Powell.”

Carman Bosin, also at the bar, said the Holgate bike lanes had mostly made it harder to turn onto the street.

“Even just taking a right, it takes forever,” said Bosin, who lives near 111th and Holgate.

Barbara Hazar, who was tending the bar, said she wasn’t aware that Holgate has bike lanes.

“I don’t even pay attention,” she said. “I just wonder who’s going to be paying for it. They should make the bicyclists pay.”

But Robert Taylor, sitting at the bar, broke in to disagree.

“Oh, you need bicyclists,” he said. “Bicycling should be free, because people with cars are destroying the world.”

Then, after arguing briefly but politely with Hazar, Taylor paid his tab and headed to his car.

— For all these interviews, I introduced myself as a “reporter,” but didn’t mention where from in order to avoid biasing people’s responses. Read more stories from our East Portland Week.

The post Five years later, buffered bike lanes are a fact of life on outer Holgate appeared first on BikePortland.org.

People on Bikes: East Portland edition

People on Bikes: East Portland edition

People on bikes east Portland-7

This is Haider, a 32-year-old Iraqi man I met on his daily commute
from SE 82nd & Division to downtown Portland.
(Photos J Maus/BikePortland)

This post is part of our special, week-long focus on east Portland.

I have to admit, doing a People on Bikes post in my usual format proved impossible in east Portland. Typically, when I do a post in this series, I find a very busy bike corridor and set up in one place. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel and I can’t keep up with all the bikers that stream by. I usually post 40-50 images and those are edited down from hundreds that I actually shoot.

But out here in east Portland I never did find that one, super-busy bicycle thoroughfare. Instead, I tried to photograph any person on a bike that I happened to come across while out and about. Another wrinkle in doing this in east Portland is that I had to be careful swinging around my expensive camera and long, 200mm lens because I was usually riding on big arterial streets where folks aren’t used to seeing someone on a bike at all — much less someone taking photos of something as ordinary as traffic.

The images I did get are different than what you’re used to — not only for the People on Bikes series, but also because of the riding conditions they depict. I didn’t seek out a particular type of scene, but you’ll note that many of the images depict people riding on sidewalks and/or in environments with a high volume of automobiles.

I’ve also thrown a few people into this gallery who I actually stopped and chatted with.

Scroll down for the images and my notes…

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East Portland bike rider

Haider rides SE Division every day to his job downtown. He’s got an aggressive riding style that caught my eye. When I asked him how he felt about the biking conditions on Division, he said he didn’t mind them at all. “It’s good here. I like the trees and the green. It’s not so bad. The cars give me no problem,” he said (maybe it’s the uniform). Then he raced off.
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People on bikes east Portland-10

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People on bikes east Portland-9

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People on bikes east Portland-5

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People on Bikes - East Portland-8-2

Spend time in east Portland and you’ll understand why many people ride on the wrong side of the street and ride against traffic. Would you want to cross that street just to get to the store a few blocks away?
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East Portland rider - Neri-4

This is Neri. She caught my eye because I saw her first riding on the shoulder with traffic on SE Stark. Then, as she approached the signal at 122nd she pulled onto the sidewalk, dismounted, and used the crosswalk to get across. I asked why she did that. “I don’t trust any of these cars,” she said. “People don’t watch. They turn without looking.” (And lest you think Neri is simply a timid rider who’s easily scared, I noticed many big and tough-looking men doing the same thing.)
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People on Bikes - East Portland-11

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People on Bikes - East Portland-9

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East Portland street scenes-3

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People on Bikes - East Portland-7

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Ride Along Kathleen McDade-18

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People on Bikes - East Portland-6

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People on Bikes - East Portland-5

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People on Bikes - East Portland-4

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People on Bikes - East Portland-3

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People on Bikes - East Portland-2

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People on Bikes east Portland

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People on Bikes - East Portland-1

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NE Halsey biker

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Toni from east Portland

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Toni from Gateway

This is Toni whom I met in the parking lot of Fred Meyer at the Gateway Town Center. She’s 68 and doesn’t own a car because biking and using transit is affordable, “And owning a car is not.” She rides all over east Portland, usually facing oncoming traffic on the larger streets because “I’d rather see what’s coming at me.”

What do these images tell us about what it will take to make east Portland a more pleasant place for everyday bicycle riders? What do they tell us about the differences in riding styles, gear, and demographics of riders more commonly seen in east Portland versus closer-in neighborhoods?

The post People on Bikes: East Portland edition appeared first on BikePortland.org.

What we could learn from the Walmart parking lot at 82nd and Holgate

What we could learn from the Walmart parking lot at 82nd and Holgate

walmart yield

Maybe we should hire Walmart parking lot engineers to design our streets.
(Photos M.Andersen/BikePortland)

This post is part of our special focus on east Portland this week.

When people talk about using “traffic calming” to design a “commercial greenway” — like the one proposed for NE 28th Avenue — it sometimes comes off as a strange, experimental sort of magic that we’d probably have to visit Europe to understand.

But we don’t. Most Portlanders — most Americans — walk or drive through areas that are models of safely shared space almost every day of our lives. But we don’t call them greenways or woonerfs or home zones.

We call them parking lots.

So far this week, we’ve talked a lot about things east Portland could learn from central Portland. Now let’s put the shoe on the other foot.

Because the Walmart at SE 82nd and Holgate lot sits entirely on private property, and therefore isn’t subject to the same design rules created for public roads in the mid-20th century, the people who designed its parking lot (whoever they were) were free to do everything they could think of to help people share space with cars without thinking twice about it.

It works perfectly.

It’s not that Walmart’s parking lot is as comfortable for walking or biking as a sidewalk or a park. Nowhere with rolling motor vehicles could be. But it’s as safe and comfortable as you’ll ever feel while sharing a street with cars. Because when you’re walking through a parking lot, that’s exactly what you’re doing.

Here are a few of the ingredients that designers of future human-friendly commercial streets might keep in mind — or head over to 82nd and Holgate to check out for themselves.

1) People are constantly walking in every direction.

yielding truck

This man walked directly in front of this massive truck without breaking stride. It yielded to him immediately, because the truck was moving at less than 5 mph.

The huge striped area in front of Walmart’s front door isn’t textured (though that’s a cool trick used by some other parking lots). It’s not signed. It’s not elevated. It’s just striped. And everyone who uses it seems to understand it perfectly — mostly because people are using it nonstop. I never saw a motor vehicle move more than 10 mph through this area, because its drivers were always on the lookout for something unexpected. When cars are moving at the speed of bikes, it’s no problem for them to negotiate naturally with everyone else on the road.

Peter Norton’s book Fighting Traffic tells the story of how automotive interest groups led a national campaign in the 1910s and 1920s to create the idea of “jaywalking.” Instead, city dwellers were ordered in the name of safety to remain in carefully engineered paths. The effect: urban car speeds rose dramatically.

Spend five minutes in Walmart’s parking lot and you might get a sense of how much was at stake when our great-grandparents fought that battle, which mostly ended the days when people just walked in whatever direction they were headed. Speaking of which…

2) There are no curbs.

bollards nocurb

Curbless sidewalks aren’t just convenient for people in wheelchairs (like the man behind one of these posts). They’re a sign that you’ve been liberated from traffic control devices.

OK, this is probably in part to facilitate the great American tradition of wheeling your shopping cart directly to the trunk of your car. But curblessness (aided here by a brick stripe that could be felt by a white-tipped cane) is part of the magic that transforms this pavement from an ordered street into a freewheeling shared space.

You know where else you’ve seen this design, using curbless streets and posts to give people permission to scatter in every direction, blurring the line between sidewalk and street? Downtown Portland’s nationally celebrated architectural jewelDirector Park:

director park sunny

(Photo by Dave Fuecht)

It works there. And it works here, too.

3) The walls have nooks, and the nooks have benches.

benches

Times-Square-style folding chairs might be easier to adjust to different conversational situations, but the pavement in front of the benches works in a pinch.

Again, these were probably included for a totally commercial purpose: they’re a good place to wait for a ride. But they have a social purpose, too, creating a public space where you can sit and talk in a part of town that isn’t set up for such things.

In architect-speak, these pillars and benches “activate the space” between Walmart’s entrances, further increasing the ratio of humans to cars in front of the store and giving people a place to enjoy things they just bought.

4) The crosswalks are elevated.

raised crosswalks

Further from Walmart’s front door, where walking is rarer and cars are more dominant, the parking lot reverses its no-curbs trick: it raises the crosswalks to sidewalk level.

This is an idea that’s been much discussed on 28th Avenue but generally understood to be impossible, even if the crossings are raised by a single inch, because 28th Avenue is designated as an emergency response corridor. (I was once told, within the span of a minute, that one-inch-high crosswalks are pointless because drivers don’t notice them, and also that they’re dangerous because they jostle the IV needles of people in ambulances.)

These concerns are probably valid on some streets. I don’t know how much damage a raging fire can do in the seconds it’d take for a fire truck to slow down to cross one of these crosswalks, or the cost of those seconds when an ambulance is racing toward a stroke victim. But I do know that raising a crosswalk by six inches has a radical effect on the behavior of people driving — and on people’s sense that this is a safe place to not be inside a car.

bike traffic walmart

Obviously Walmart is a ruthlessly profit-driven company, and it certainly didn’t order its parking lot to be designed so carefully in order to reduce auto traffic — it probably did it to reduce injury lawsuits and to prevent people from having unpleasant experiences while attempting to give Walmart their money.

But that’s exactly the point. Traffic calming isn’t about reducing auto traffic or driving cars off the street. It’s about reducing injuries. And it’s about making places more pleasant to live, work and (yes) spend money in. In a city that says its top priority for 28th Avenue is to help local businesses continue to make money, there might be a lot we could all learn from Walmart.

The idea for this post came from local writer Jeff Mapes’ 2009 book Pedaling Revolution, in which he compared Dutch woonerfs to spaces outside “apartment complexes, where playing children, chatting neighbors, and carefully moving cars shared the parking lot.”

The post What we could learn from the Walmart parking lot at 82nd and Holgate appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Join us tomorrow for an east Portland meet-up atop Rocky Butte

Join us tomorrow for an east Portland meet-up atop Rocky Butte

Rocky Butte Sunset Ride-7

Sunset atop Rocky Butte during 2010 Pedalpalooza. Join us
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

We hope you’re enjoying our special coverage from east Portland. I think I can speak for Michael (he’s nodding next to me here at our remote office in the Starbucks at Gateway Town Center) and say we love being out here. New streets, new people, and new perspectives.

In order to bring it all together we’d love to hear from some of you in person tomorrow night at the Rocky Butte Sunset Picnic Pedalpalooza ride. Rocky Butte is a quintessential east Portland biking destination and tomorrow night’s ride will be a perfect opportunity to highlight it.

Here are the details:

    The main ride meets at 7:00 pm (leaves at 7:30) at Irving Park (at the NE 11th & Klickitat side). Remember to bring food and drinks for a picnic. Ride happens rain or shine.

    I’ll be at The Outer Rim Bicycle Shop parking lot (10625 NE Halsey) tomorrow at 7:30. If you’d like to meet up there and head to Rocky Butte, it’s just a short ride away. We’ll leave the parking lot at 7:45 or so.

If you’d like to share your east Portland biking experiences, routes, tips, concerns, or whatever, find me on the ride tomorrow night and let me hear it. I’ll be taking notes (and maybe your photo) for one of our East Portland Week wrap-up posts on Friday.

As always, thanks for reading and now I return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

The post Join us tomorrow for an east Portland meet-up atop Rocky Butte appeared first on BikePortland.org.

A north-south lifeline: The 130s Greenway is coming soon

A north-south lifeline: The 130s Greenway is coming soon

From barflies to neighborhood officials, most east Portlanders seem to agree on the highest-priority biking improvement for east Portland: a few really good neighborhood greenways.

Consensus has benefits. The 130s Greenway is scheduled to be built next fall, and the 100s and 150s greenways are in the works.

130s bikeway annotated

The East Portland Access to Transit project, including the 130s Greenway and sidewalk improvements along Division Street.
(Image courtesy City of Portland. Annotated by BikePortland.)

The 4.8-mile 130s route would connect the area’s best east-west paths by providing safe crossings at six major streets (SE Holgate, SE Powell, SE Division, SE Stark, E Burnside, and NE Glisan), city spokeswoman Diane Dulken wrote in an email Tuesday. It’ll zigzag along (from south to north) 128th Avenue; 130th Avenue; 131st, 132nd or 133rd Avenue; 130th Avenue; 129th Avenue; 128th Avenue; Pacific Street; 131st Place and 132nd Avenue.

Because almost all the side streets in this part of the city are offset from one another, it’ll require significant investment in short stretches that zag alongside major streets.

The project is funded by $1.3 million in mostly federal grants that were won after a political fight for cash led by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and approved by Portland City Council in one of Sam Adams’ final acts as mayor.

Like other neighborhood greenways, the 130s would add speed bumps, directional signage and a 20 mph speed limit to the streets it designates. The city says traffic diverters won’t be needed because the offset streets already deter people from using the route as a cut-through while driving.

The 130s Greenway will be one block from David Douglas High School and directly connect Gilbert Heights Elementary, Menlo Park Elementary, the University of Western States and various parks, churches and commercial nodes.

As for the 100s and 150s greenways, those projects “are still lines on the Bike Plan map” and therefore less specific about their routes, Dulken wrote. “We will start design on those projects when the funds become available in 2016.”

Those projects are funded by $1.5 million from the Regional Economic Opportunity Fund, which also comes from a federal grant, and $100,000 in local matching funds.

This post is part of our special focus on east Portland this week.

The post A north-south lifeline: The 130s Greenway is coming soon appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Four things east Portland teaches us about central city biking privilege

Four things east Portland teaches us about central city biking privilege

East Portland street scenes-5

Employee parking at Texaco, SE 122nd and Stark.
(Photos J.Maus and M.Andersen/BikePortland)

This post is part of our special focus on east Portland this week.

In yesterday’s Monday Roundup, we linked to the most comprehensive listing I’ve seen of privileges that many people who start biking enjoy. But one item on its list is more complicated and interesting than it might seem: geographic privilege.

The point of that post, by Barb Chamberlain of Washington Bikes, wasn’t that biking is something that only privileged people do. (It’s actually the most income-diverse transportation mode in the country.) But you don’t have to spend much time on the street in east Portland to understand two things: first, that people who bike mostly in the central city enjoy lots of advantages that people around here don’t; and second, that thousands of east Portlanders are riding bikes anyway.

Let’s look at four of the forms geographic privilege takes in Portland.

1) Proximity is destiny.

michael fortune

This is the most obvious privilege of the central city. Portland’s central business district isn’t as important to the region as it used to be, but it still hosts about 85,000 jobs and adjoins two huge schools. As we wrote in April, Portland has made a deliberate choice to limit the number of people who can live within easy biking distance of the central city by forbidding multi-family development on almost all neighborhood streets and even a few major ones.

2) Bike shop access matters more than you think.

Above is a Google map, updated last summer, of every Portland-area bike shop location. Notice any gaps?

East Portland’s yawning bike shop desert isn’t just about a flat tire becoming an all-afternoon hassle. It’s about living four miles from anybody who can explain to you that you might want to buy a tire lever.

A bike shop desert means that you’re probably going to go bike shopping at Walmart — and you’re probably never going to realize that for an extra $200 you could buy a bike that’s 15 pounds lighter and won’t disintegrate after six months. It means the city’s ubiquitous free bike maps aren’t next to the cash register. It means not being reminded, every time you’re in a commercial district, that Portland is a city where people bike.

3) Portlanders are not unusually safe drivers; central Portland makes people drive safely.

East Portland rider - Neri-3

East Portlander Neri is an experienced rider, but at every intersection, she turns right onto the sidewalk to cross at the crosswalk rather than trust people not to right-hook her.

A one-hour ride down Burnside from 162nd Avenue to Grand Avenue is probably one of the fastest ways on the planet to see safety in numbers in action. The difference in bike-commute rates between east Portland (1 percent) and central Portland (20 percent) is about the same as the difference between central Portland and Amsterdam.

On Monday I was headed east on Burnside at 102nd when I met Rashed King, 27, biking downtown to his job valet parking at The Nines. Though he spends his evenings parking “Porsches and BMWs,” he can’t afford a car for his family. So he, his wife and children all ride bikes right now — but he said he’s “realistic” and plans to buy a car as soon as he can.

“Why’s that?” I asked. He answered in one word.

“Safety,” he said, smiling and shaking his head.

4) The first gift of a street grid is improvisation.

NE 102nd and Burnside

On Tuesday morning, Jonathan was at Northeast Glisan and 102nd and wanted to head south to Ventura Park’s cool new pump track. Because he didn’t know the comfortable bike routes, he did what he would have done in North Portland: headed east to the street he knew it was on, 117th, and turned south.

Bad choice: 117th doesn’t go through. He had to either continue to 122nd or turn around to 113th.

A complete street grid isn’t just a way to diffuse traffic and shorten the distance from A to B. It’s a ticket to improvise, explore, and eventually discover. That’s why east Portland’s connection problems will never be solved by lacing secret footpaths between the subdivisions. If people can’t head in a direction with a reasonable expectation of a direct connection, few of us will bother — we’ll usually just stick with what works, which is getting in a car and taking the long way around.

The post Four things east Portland teaches us about central city biking privilege appeared first on BikePortland.org.