The Sunshine of Rain City
0 comment Sunday, August 24, 2014 |

Whoever said Portland was rainy was full of it
One of the cool aspects of my job is traveling around and organizing work in the transportation world. This week, I'm in the Pacific Northwest (in this order: Eugene, Portland, Seattle), and lucked out with the best weather I could have imagined. It's been in the high nineties, and dry, which is a real treat compared to the high humidity heat of DC and all of the East Coast.
I got to Eugene via AmTrak at about 6:00 on Tuesday, and the folks I was meeting were kind enough to plan out a tour with the best Eugene had to offer. We started out from the train station by bike, I had a loaner Bike Friday Tikit (Made in Eugene!) in the hot pink colorway (I've always said it takes a real man to rock a pink bike). We first rode over to the new Eugene Bus Rapid Transit (the EmX) station, and met up with Mark, the general manager of the Lane Transit District for a tour. We got a special dispensation from Mark to bring onboard more than 3 bikes (normally the limit), and we were able to fold up the Bike Fridays and put them under the seats. The EmX is awesome, and the system really feels more like a light rail train than a bus (it has its own signals and some dedicated right-of-way), and connects downtown Eugene to nearby Springfield.

Our Guide Mark and the view from the pilot's seat

The hot pink one is mine, I regret not doing a proper portrait with it


Lane Transit District loves bikes
Our return trip was via the bike path network adjacent to the Willamette river, which is as wide as a two lane road in many parts, and was just super under blue skies. The Friday rode well, especially for a bike that was just under a bus seat. We crossed back into Eugene at the Peter DeFazio bicycle and pedestrian bridge, which was pretty cool to see (he's the subcommittee chairman with the most responsibility for producing the upcoming transportation bill).
We had dinner at the Steelhead Brewpub, and a couple of people asked about the Bike Fridays leaned against the wall next to us. The ladies really liked the pink model I was borrowing, so if you need a good present idea for a wife, girlfriend or other special lady in your life, a pink Tikit has good WOW potential.
The next morning I was off to Portland via the 5:30 AM train (remarkably, it was on time the whole way). This was my first time to Portland, and I anxiously awaited arrival in bike city, USA.
Very quickly it was obvious, these people love the hell out of bicycling. At each traffic light, the bike lane (yes, they had them everywhere) backed up with about 10 cyclists every time. I also admired the general law abiding tendencies of Portland cyclists, there wasn't nearly the amount of red light running I've become accustomed to in DC. I was able to rent a bike for the day at the Safe Routes to School conference, and I got to all my meetings with no trouble. One myth that I can dispel about at least the downtown, it's not that hilly, and I also didn't see any rain whatsoever.

Portland's light rail has a special space for bikes
What I did see plenty of were groups of the young, disaffected street kids that are known throughout the Pacific Northwest. Dirty, hairy, and often traveling with one or more dogs, they seem to be an able bodied bunch that chooses street life for something like the adventure of it. If you've seen "My Own Private Idaho", imagine that in the summer. The region's congressman, Earl Blumenauer mentions the number of unemployed people who move to Portland for the quality of life, I think this too extends to the homeless who can ride transit in the downtown loop for free, and get by through begging and the other downtown social services available.
After finishing my meetings for the day, I thought I would ride over to the Columbia river. This was not a realistic idea, I discovered, after I went about 8 miles into the Port of Portland on the frontage road with only more working port infrastructure as far as I could see. The Willamette and the Columbia meet somewhere around there, but I definitely didn't go the right direction to see it (and I later realized that I had been given an area bicycling map at an earlier meeting that I just threw in my bag with all the other handouts I had).

My rental

I was tempted to keep going on a Goonies rally
There was one last landmark I had to see before I left, Burnside Skate park. It was smaller than I imagined, but the concrete glowed in the streetlights with a burnish earned by a million skate wheels. I rode back over the bridge, and had a rad view of the "Made in Oregon" neon sign.
I came away from both Eugene and Portland with a strong sense of envy for what they've accomplished in a short time, and for the political and community will that made it happen.

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