Archive | September, 2005

Unravelling Transit in Clark County?

I got a TriMet alert last week reminding me that TriMet Passport (employer-based passes) would no longer be accepted on C-TRAN premimum express routes as of September 1.

This sent me to the C-TRAN site to see what how else the TriMet/C-TRAN integration might be affected, and I found this page about C-TRAN’s “Service Preservation Plan”, which requires a ballot measure to pass in September.

Do we have any cross-Columbia transit riders reading out there? How has the decrease in resources to C-TRAN since the 2000 ballot measure affected your lives? How do you make your connections across the river?

How is the differing resource level for transit on each side of the Columbia affecting our regional efforts?

The President Bicycles: what does it mean?

The novelist H.G. Wells said that he felt hope for the human race whenever he saw an adult on a bicycle. Our current president is now notorious in his love of bicycling, even if he falls off once in awhile. What does this mean for national transportation policy? If he rides enough (or some wags might say, if he falls enough), will his administration see the bicycle as the machine of liberation, energy independence and obesity slayer that it can be?

Not being privy either to the mind of George Bush nor to the inside workings of the ruling party I can only guess. I would like to be like Mr. Wells, optimistically hoping that by hopping on a bike and discovering the world under his own power, Mr. Bush will experience the epiphany that I did when I realized that I didn’t need a car and all its burdens in order to live a full and fun life. I could actually do what I had to do, and have fun and save money while I was doing it.

The other, more cynical side of me tells my joyous, bicycle zealot self that I am fooling myself. After all, Bush rides on trails on his own (or other’s) private ranches. No traffic tussling for him. He just has to look out for all those Secret Service guys and the odd root and rock. So, he won’t have any opportunity to see the bicycle as a transportation tool, one that we need to use more in crafting sustainable cities. He also cycles solely for the exercise. Sorry, guys and gals in Spandex™, but the bicycle’s real value is in the day to day, mundane tasks of getting to the store, school and the job. Until he rides into Crawford for a latté or a replacement chain for his chain saw I doubt he will think of his expensive steed as anything but a toy.

Of course, it may just be a class thing. Remember when John Kerry rode through town on his $5000 bike clad in racing colors and Spandex? He probably hasn’t hopped on his bike to ride to work since he was in college either.

Ride Like a Mensch

Yesterday, I was riding along a local street, cruising a downhill section and approaching an intersection with all-way stop signs. Already at the intersection was a car stopped at the cross street. There seemed to be a family inside-two kids, mom and dad, with grandma in the back seat. Arriving at the intersection I came to a complete and legal stop, even putting my foot down to indicate that this family clearly had the right of way and could proceed, which is what the Dad, sitting in the driver’s seat, did. As they passed slowly through the intersection, the grandmother gave me a warm, beaming smile, full of appreciation. I swear, it looked like the woman was actually proud of me, and clearly very pleased, that I came to a complete stop. Her look was pure grandmother; you know, the way your grandmother looks at you after you’ve done something particularly clever, or behaved like a mensch (in Yiddish, a person who is good to other people, a nice person). From her and her family’s reactions it was obvious that nobody in the car expected me to stop.

Contrast that to a more typical scenario that is all too talked about and common. Perhaps this will sound familiar:

Cyclist approaching a 4-way stop where a motorist is also stopped. Cyclist completely blows stop sign, somewhat shocking and slightly angering motorist who was just about to pull into the intersection. In pique, motorist taps horn as if to say “What’s up with that!”, which is essentially the equivalent of a cyclist yelling “Yo!” when faced with similarly obtuse behavior by motorist. Cyclist turns and stereotypically responds in expected fashion, angering motorist more. And so it goes.

I’d like to suggest that we individual cyclists consider trying more to elicit the grandmotherly smiles than the reproachful honks. And I even have one suggestion about how to do that:

Ride with utmost courtesy at all times.

Here’s a few simple ways to do that:

  • always yield to pedestrians
  • come to a complete and legal stop at all stop signs whenever anybody else is at, or approaching the intersection.
  • Do not run red lights, ever.
  • Be pleasant at all times.

I challenge all who are reading this to ride for one day as above. It would helpful to be able to talk to Portland citizens without first addressing our reputation as law-breaking, righteous, anti-social, and scary. It’s time to turn the conversation to something else. What do you think? Can you do it? Just try it for a day and see how it feels.

Crosswalks: A Matter of Culture?

Or, what I did on my vacation.

As a neighborhood activist, I have frequently heard the question, “why don’t we stripe more crosswalks?”

The stock-in-trade answer of the traffic engineers in Portland is that drivers are not sufficiently aware of crosswalks and they give pedestrians a false sense of security. This has always struck me as something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we act like they don’t mean anything, they won’t!

So while vacationing on Cape Cod last week, I couldn’t help but notice that they appear to take their crosswalks a lot more seriously. They are often distinctively marked (or even use different materials) and are accompanied by very visible signage reminding drivers of the state law requiring cars to yield at crosswalks.

Does it work? I saw lots of instances where cars stopped as soon as someone put a foot in the crosswalk, something I don’t see that often here in Portland.

So I had my family scratching their heads and humoring me while I took the photos below.

Maybe we can discuss this approach at the upcoming Pedestrian Summit II!

My Trip: Proof Positive that Bridgeport Village is a Hermetically Sealed Environment

Last week my usual commute to Wilsonville took a detour. Since I had a mid-morning meeting in downtown Portland, I couldn’t catch the 96 as I usually do.

Since I also wanted to visit the Container Store (I’m an organization freak), I put my bike on the #12 and got off at Highway 99 and Hall Blvd. and pedaled down Hall and 72nd to Bridgeport Village (planning to catch the SMART bus from the Tualatin Transit Center to Wilsonville).

Riding through the mall, I got a strange look from one of the security folks directing traffic. When I reached the store, I was surprised to find no bike racks. I eventually found them inside the parking structure (apparently they’re too messy to put on the faux ‘streets’).

I’m sure they met code requirements, as there were no less than 45 hoops for bike parking. And at noon on a weekday, my bike was the ONLY one parked there. Now I understand the look from the security guy – he must not see a lot of bikes…

[Apologies for the washed out cell phone photo.]