Archive | My Trip/My Commute

My Trip: Cycling in the Burbs

It seems like a lot of the long trips I make these days have to do with medical care (happily not too often). Either I’m seeing a specialist who is located somewhere in the burbs, or in the case of my annual physical, I’m trekking out to Washington County. Few of my Portland friends know that when I first moved to the region, I settled in Beaverton (in my defense, I was working at the Tektronix plant at Walker Rd. and 185th when I arrived – a few years later and after a transfer to the Wilsonville plant, I made the decision to live in NW Portland). But as a result, my primary care physician is still out near Tanasbourne.

Anyway, to make the trip, I threw my bike onto MAX, since the medical office is only about two miles from the Quatama station. It was a nice, sunny day and I enjoyed the round trip.

What’s notable is that during the 4-mile loop, going past both OGI and the Amberglen business park, two large employment sites, I saw not one other cyclist. And the facilities were not the issue. While the first road I tried was not very bike friendly and I opted for the sidewalk, the parallel route I found on the way back had bike lanes.

While the area certainly is not as dense as Portland, there are relatively dense clusters of housing, employment and retail, all within a few miles of light rail. What else do we have to add to make cycling a regular transportation mode in this kind of area?

My Commute: A New Year’s Resolution

Hi, I’m Willow, and I write a blog for Urban Honking called perfect heart. Jessica asked if I would do an entry here about one of my New Years resolutions.

This is actually a resolution I set for 2005, and didn’t even come close to accomplishing, so I put it at the top of my 2006 list and went real public with it, in hopes that I’ll do a better job this year.

My goal is to have one drive-free day a week. I know that seems really little and manageable, but it’s actually a lot tougher than I anticipated. I live in North Portland, and I work as a teacher in Beaverton and go to graduate school at Lewis & Clark in SW. I’m not a strong biker, especially when it’s raining, and I always have lots and lots of stuff to cart between work, home and school. I do carpool every day, but the people I carpool with live in NW, so I have to drive over there every morning no matter which one of us does the main drive.

I could take the Max or the bus, but the stops are a little too far to walk with all of my supplies, and then we’re back to the me-not-being-a-strong-biker issue. So basically weekdays are out, for now. Once grad school is over I’ll look for a new job, and hopefully I can find one that is more convenient for alternative transportation.
I’m willing to change neighborhoods too, next year, if it means I can drive less.

So, yeah. All of that stuff means that if I want to do a drive free day, it has to be on a weekend. I know I can do it if I get more organized. If I plan to do my grocery shopping and banking and other errands on Saturday, for instance, I can keep my motor off on Sunday.

I tried this last year, as I mentioned, and I completely failed. In the winter the weather made me lazy, so I put off my goal until the summer. And I definitely drove a lot less in the summer, but there were very few days when I didn’t drive at all, and those days were incidental, not intentional. Then Fall came, and Winter, and I put my bike in the basement, and now I’m driving more again. But I want to be better!

I’m hoping that going public with this goal will help me be more motivated. Last year I didn’t really tell anyone that I had made this plan, because I didn’t want to seem wimpy. This year all of my friends know that I’ve set this goal, and they are being very supportive and helpful. Jessica and I were talking the other night about asking people to hold you accountable for things, and how awesome that can be. I’ve been driving a lot less since I told my friends about my goal. But today marks the end of the first week of 2006, and I am sad to report that I have driven at least once every day.

Today it was suggested to me that I change the wording of my goal. I could say that I want to drive 20% less in 2006 than I did in 2005. I could keep a log of where I drove and why, and also record the times I chose not to drive, and what I did instead. Even though that’s a lot of work, I think it might be more attainable. There are definitely ways I could trim off a little bit of driving each day, and making charts is fun.

Ultimately, I just want to feel like I’m moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, even if I’m moving awfully slow. For the environment, for foreign relations, and for my pocketbook I want to lessen my reliance on the ol’ Volvo wagon. I like the idea of one drive free day, because then next year my goal could be 2 drive free days, and then 3 and 4 and 5 and 6, and who knows? maybe one of these days I’ll get rid of Volvo the Volcano altogether. That would make me pretty happy.

In the meantime, if you see me at the Fresh Pot on a Sunday morning, ask me how I got there. And feel free to scold me if I tell you I drove. Because really, I know better.

My Trip: Holiday Transportation Options

What place, if any, does the concept of “alternative transportation” have in celebrating the holidays?

In my friend group, a couple of people are staying in Portland, but for the most part we’re traveling far and wide. Here’s just a sample of where we’re all heading from Portland (map here):

  • Alamo, CA
  • Astoria, OR
  • Auburndale, MA
  • Driggs, ID
  • East Lansing, MI
  • Everett, WA
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Longview, WA
  • Monterey, CA
  • Nampa, ID
  • Portola Valley, CA
  • Silver Plume, CO
  • Soldotna, AK
  • Toledo, OH
  • Winthrop, ME

Sure, a few of those places are in driving distance (Astoria and Longview), but what do you do if, like me, you don’t have a car?

Flexcar sometimes has holiday specials, and car rental is an option (but remember, if you don’t have your own insurance, it costs a lot).

Still, you can feel isolated by a lack of transportation choices the way you never do during daily life in Portland when it’s the holidays and you can’t get where your family is.

In any case, most of us are going far enough away that it’s a plane or nothing. I believe that my individual transportation choices affect the environment and reflect my values, so what does it mean that I just get on a plane – the least environmentally-friendly form of transportation around – every time it’s a major holiday and I want to see my family?

It’s easy to think that I get a pass on those because I have an emissions-free vehicle 99% of the time, but hey, that sure sounds like justification to me.

Just as transportation can’t be separated from land use, it also can’t be separated from the fact that Americans move around, and we especially move away from our families. My friends in Europe are roughly the same demographic as my friends here, but most of them live within shouting distance of their extended families. That means that you can take a train or even bike to visit family…in America, that’s simply not an option. And as the cost of fuel continues to rise, what will that mean for families and the holidays? Will people move to be nearer to family if they no longer have the option of hopping on a plane 5 times a year? Or will we just miss each other more?

My Commute: Natalie Ramsland

Portland Transport is constantly looking out for first person accounts of commutes or trips that shed light on our transportation system, or our attitudes about it. We invite readers to e-mail their stories to

I work as a bike messenger, a job which is an easy spin downtown, downhill from my apartment. I live within biking and walking distance of just about everywhere I need to be, or want to go on a daily basis. I have never owned a car, and I haven’t even driven a car in over a year. Yup, I am the veritable poster child of bike-friendly, alternative-transporting, givin’-a-hootin’-not-pollutin’ Portland.

But a daily cup of piping hot smugness is no kind of reason to get out of bed in the morning. A cup of coffee at Stumptown with my husband Austin is.

Unfortunately, the love of my life works in the belly of the Beaverton beast. It’s a miserable commute any way you do it and he’s found that biking only prolongs and accentuates the gnarliness. Where he goes, bikes fear to tread. So, while we do our best to minimize driving, his car is still a necessary part of our life.

So this is our commute: Each morning we load my bike into the back of his car, drive downtown to Stumptown Coffee, park, and unload my bike. We have coffee, chat, smooch, and reluctantly head our separate ways. Austin on four wheels, me on two.

The joy I get from this situation is threefold. First, we enjoy a morning coffee date. But we also get to turn my husband’s otherwise typical car commute into a carpool! Why should I have all the glory, when we can both exercise commute alternatives?

And last, I derive a dark secret pleasure out of unloading my bike from his car in front of all of the super macho “hardcore” bikers who roll up on their matte black, brakeless fixed gears. Pulling my bike out of his car is SO uncool. But I know in my heart that I am a tough, committed biker and that I have biked in conditions that are not only adverse but completely insane. I have biked sometimes out of necessity, sometimes by choice, sometimes with passion, and most of the time without applause.

I know this, and yet I know exactly how wussy my commute looks. That’s okay. My bike is neither a phase nor a lifestyle accessory, and I won’t take no flack from any little hipster rolling up on his über-cool fixie. (If they have a problem with that? They can meet me at the bike racks. After school.)

My commute allows me to reconcile the smugness and idealism associated with bike culture, with the beautiful, imperfect reality of our almost-car-free life.

My Trip: Michelle Looks for a Guiding Light on the Waterfront

I’ve begun riding my new bicycle most places in lieu of taking the bus. It’s at least fifteen minutes quicker than on my way to work compared to the bus (7.71 miles one way!). I choose a bike lane, bike/pedestrian only path which leads me down the Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Generally, this proves to be quite pleasant – during the day. However, at night, it becomes borderline treacherous between the Hawthorne and Burnside bridges as there is no lighting to guide the way. This could be quite dangerous for someone who isn’t familiar with the path, especially near the Portland Spirit loading zone with the stairs leading down to the dock.

I’m wondering if this topic has come up before, if there is any other concern for having this section moderately lit, and what else it would take to get this section moderately lit. The sections north and south of this bit have lighting, so why not this section?

Although, I was happy to be the ‘guiding light’ for a gentleman last night with my rear light blinking ferociously, it seems we could have a better way of getting folks to talk to one another!