Urban trails

Before I moved to Portland, I was fairly meh on bike paths/trails. I have no trouble cycling with car traffic, although on steep or windy roads, it makes me nervous if there is no shoulder or bike lane. Urban bike paths/trails are often poorly designed, especially when they are intended to be replacements for onroad facilities, or crowded with pedestrians when they are shared multi-use paths.

However, after two months here I am beginning to understand the purpose of such trails. It’s not that they don’t have the downsides that I listed above, it’s that they have a previously unforeseen advantage: fewer $#@%*#* stop signs.

If I want to go on a recreational ride out here, my options are different from Menlo Park. Back then, I could climb on my bike, ride less than a mile (encountering only three stop signs), and be on Sand Hill Road, a veritable freeway for bikes, and out into the hills (on shoulder-ful roads!) in less than three miles. What a paradise. And I recognized and fully enjoyed that paradise, knowing this was not the case for others, but not fully appreciating how annoying stop signs every other block (or more) are.

I am still exploring my options here and no doubt will eventually find some that work better for me, but at the moment I have to navigate a maze of stop signs, and then either 1) go straight up (okay, it’s only 6-8% grades, but that’s steep!); 2) (and) share the roads with heavier traffic than I’m used to, or 3) find a trail, which may be crowded, but, as previously noted, has no cars and many fewer $#@%*#* stop signs. And often is pretty as well.

Urban trails, how I have maligned thee, and how I repent, and thank the good works of previous Portland cyclists for the Waterfront, Springwater, Esplanade, and other trails that thread through Portland.

It had yet to teach her to distinguish between the two types of occasions

I’ve used my Zipcar membership twice now to drive east on I-84 and pick up heavy objects, then return to NW to transport them up to my apartment. One was on a weekend afternoon, the other was tonight. The first time, I looked for a parking spot near my apartment, but couldn’t find one, so I extended my reservation, parked the Zipcar back in its designated spot (NW 21st and Irving), and took two trips to carry my stuff back.

This time, I could see that parking was more available, but when I found an empty space at the corner of Lovejoy and 23rd (less than two blocks away), I figured that was as good as it was going to get, not expecting it to be possible to park on 23rd. When I turned the corner on foot, with two chairs already under my arms, I found that there was an empty space on the corner of 23rd and Kearney, across the street and a block closer to my apartment. I decided to repark the car there, to save myself carrying the remaining two chairs the extra block and a half, but I’m not even sure it was worth it.

Clearly, it would have been better not to bother looking for parking the first time, and to look longer the second time. But I haven’t yet figured out how to distinguish between the two types of occasions.

Massive update on the gallery

On uploading my photos from SE Sunday Parkways and a recent trip back to Albuquerque, I found that there were ten albums in my photos that I hadn’t yet uploaded to the Gallery.

This has been rectified and the gallery lightly reorganized to highlight the additions.

Special notice:
Otter whaa?, Iconic San Francisco Bay, Ascending the Mosaic Stairway, Perfect poppy, In the box, It’s raining in the sky.

Ride report: Providence Bridge Pedal 2009

Today was the Providence Bridge Pedal.

I signed up not too long after I arrived in Portland, excited about the opportunity to ride so many of the bridges over the Willamette, especially those not ordinarily open or friendly to bike traffic, including the Fremont and Marquam bridges, which are freeways (I-405 and I-5 respectively).

I didn’t realize until much more recently that this is a huge, huge event. There is no cap on registration, and based on the numbers I heard this morning, more than 15,000 people were riding today. With that many people riding, it isn’t just the car-oriented bridges that are barricaded; virtually the entire route features blocked cross streets and at least one lane of traffic, sometimes more, reserved for ride participants.

You can find the route maps at the Bridge Pedal website, although perhaps not permanently. I signed up for the 11-bridge ride, 38 miles long and crossing eight bridges eleven times (crossing the Fremont, Marquam, and Broadway twice, and the St. Johns, Burnside, Ross Island, Hawthorne, and Sellwood bridges once each).

In addition to the 38 miles of the route I biked to the start via the Broadway bridge (so I crossed it three times today), about 3 miles, and home via SW Oak, SW Park, NW Couch, NW 14th, and NW Johnson (1.8 miles from the finish area at SW Ash and Naito Parkway), for a total mileage of 42.8.

Even with a lane or more of traffic blocked off and a staggered start, the ride was extremely crowded and speed was largely determined by the flow of traffic (and one’s skill at passing in crowds). I waited in a big pack to start (around 7:05 or 7:10), and it remained congested for most of the way, except a few times on long flats or downhills where I was able to go my desired pace. Because of the congestion, downhill speeds were generally limited, although I did get to 30 a few times when we had a whole road or freeway available.

The weather was cool and cloudy, which is fine for riding but less exciting for taking pictures. I mostly just rode but did snap a few pictures from the bridges — it was just too trippy to be riding my bike and seeing freeway exit signs, plus there were some nice views and interesting bikes (my favorite a tri-tandem with a child trailer). Even though I’m a little out of shape, the ride was well within my capacity, with only a few substantial climbs on the bridge approaches. I’m a little tired now and my legs and body feel well-used rather than exhausted. I could feel my W2W-acquired endurance kicking in after the first ten miles or so, as usual. I’m pleased my body has learned to respond that way, even though it makes me a little slow to start sometimes.

My favorite bridge was the Sellwood, where the approach went through a long stretch of neighborhood streets that were quiet and pleasant, and the view from the bridge was of the river, with downtown Portland rather far off. After crossing, the road wound through a more wooded area before returning to downtown. I also liked the St. Johns bridge for its attractive architecture, and a section of N Willamette Blvd for the best pavement of the entire ride.

In spite of the crowds, most everyone was careful and courteous, and I didn’t see any actual mishaps, though there were a few careless roadies and clueless slow people. I wish the organizers had done more to emphasize how to ride in large groups (slow to the right, shoulder checks before lateral movement, signaling stops), but aside from the lack of variety in the food and drink, that was really my only complaint.

I’m really glad I took the opportunity to do this even though biking in crowds is really not my thing. It was wonderful to have the chance to explore so much of Portland (even all the way down to Sellwood) without having to worry about car traffic, and fun to ride my bike on the freeway, thinking about how usually it’s so busy with cars. You can fit a lot of bikes on a freeway, is all I’m saying.