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Updated: 4 hours 25 min ago

ODOT’s I-5 expansion would cast even larger shadow over Eastbank Esplanade

Fri, 03/29/2019 - 08:48

With so many inconvenient truths brought to light recently about the Oregon Department of Transportation’s plans to expand the I-5 freeway, one of the most disturbing is the fact that it would cast an even larger shadow over the Eastbank Esplanade.

The Esplanade, opened in 2001 and named for former Mayor Vera Katz in 2004, is a beloved piece of carfree infrastructure that hugs the western edge of the freeway. It runs between the Steel Bridge in the north and OMSI (SE Caruthers Street) to the south and provides a safe option through the Central Eastside Industrial District.

Continue reading ODOT’s I-5 expansion would cast even larger shadow over Eastbank Esplanade at BikePortland.org.

Jobs of the Week: Community Cycling Center, North Portland Bikeworks, Southwest Bicycle

Fri, 03/29/2019 - 07:22

Spring hiring season is upon us! If you’re looking for a new gig, peruse the opportunities below…

— Bike Mechanic – Community Cycling Center

— Customer service / Mechanic – North Portland Bikeworks

— Bicycle Tech, service, sales – Southwest Bicycle, LLC

For a complete list of available jobs, click here.

Be the first to know about new job opportunities by signing up for our daily Job Listings email or by following @BikePortland on Twitter.

Continue reading Jobs of the Week: Community Cycling Center, North Portland Bikeworks, Southwest Bicycle at BikePortland.org.

Weekend Event Guide: Road racing, architecture, doughnuts, and more

Thu, 03/28/2019 - 09:08

The weekend is almost here and it looks like we might stay dry. We could even have some sun and temps into the 60s!

We’ve got a great mix of offerings in the Guide this week — whether you’re an experienced racer or just starting out on two wheels.

By the way, we need to find a sponsor for this and our awesome Calendar. If you want some great exposure for your business or product that also helps support our community and local journalism at the same time, get in touch!

Continue reading Weekend Event Guide: Road racing, architecture, doughnuts, and more at BikePortland.org.

Why does Oregon State Senator Lew Frederick support a freeway expansion in his district?

Wed, 03/27/2019 - 08:54

(Image of Lew Frederick by K. Kendall used under CC by 2.0)

The I-5 Rose Quarter project being planned by the Oregon Department of Transportation lies squarely in the district of Oregon State Senator Lew Frederick. With an official biography that says his legislative focus is on, “justice in public safety, education, and ‘quality of life’ issues,” some readers were surprised to find out he supports a project that will significantly widen Interstate 5 to accommodate more auto traffic in Portland’s central city.

I interviewed Sen. Frederick last week to learn more about his position. Below is a version of our conversation that’s been slightly edited for clarity.

Why do you support this project?

“This particular plan, I don’t think has as much of an impact on climate as some are making it out to be.”

“First of all, I recognize you have a particular point of view on this as well. I’m not expecting to convince you of my view. I support it primarily because it is a promise that was made to other people in the state of Oregon. In 2016 the Transportation Committee [which Frederick is a member of] went around the state and talked with people in 19 different places and heard about what people wanted in transportation. There were several things that came up: One thing they talked about was the bottleneck in the metro area. There were two particular spots: the 205 area between West Linn and Stafford Road, and the other one that everyone talked about was the ability to get people — and especially products, and produce — through the Rose Quarter area because it was a clear bottleneck.

So we said we’ll do something about the Rose Quarter area if you’ll tax yourselves, and we’ll have the ability to get it done. At least have some effect. There was no promise it would eliminate all of the congestion or anything like that. There were also promises to incorporate bicycle approaches, a promise to look at the congestion pricing, and a promise — one that was not part of the [2017] transportation package but that we are in middle of making some changes to — and that’s regarding diesel.

There was an expectation there would be a number of approaches for dealing with the Rose Quarter and one of the things was changing the entrance and exit ramps and the pass-through lanes. That’s one of the things that was asked for and agreed to by legislators around the state, not just the Portland area. It appears as though this is something that will have an impact [on congestion] and that’s the impact we wanted to have when we passed the transportation package.”

What have you heard from your constituents about the project?

“There are several groups of my constituents that have different approaches to dealing with this issue. Some have been given, frankly, misinformation about it. There’s a whole group of folks who were told that we’re somehow increasing the freeway by this incredible amount of new lanes. It’s not a whole group of new lanes, it’s entrance ramps and exit ramps, and a pass-through situation. It’s not putting in five lanes going to Vancouver. And it’s a small section of the freeway. But they were given misinformation about it in my view.

I’ve also had people who say they understand what this is set up to be. It’s not set up to be the end-all thing. They believe it will bring at least some change. So I’ve heard constituents on several different sides of the issue. Some people would like to have the money spent on high-speed rail. I’d like that too. But the money being brought in by gas taxes and other sources cannot be spent on rail.

There are people concerned about how close the freeway is to Tubman Middle School. I’m also concerned about that.

So I have a range of folks… There are some very vocal people who, frankly, believe this is the way to suddenly turn around everything that’s taking place regarding global warming, so you have that kind of constituency as well.”

Do you think that concern around climate change is valid?

“Yes it’s a valid concern. I think that this particular project will have a minimal impact on climate. I think it will have a greater impact, quite frankly, on the way we deal with the economy of Oregon. This project was not set up to try to deal with a major climate change issue. It was set up as a promise with the rest of the state that we’d do something about the bottleneck at the Rose Quarter, and that’s what it’s designed to do.”

Given the seriousness of the climate issue, don’t you think it’s better to err on that side than the economic one?

“[Chuckles] I think we have to figure out how we balance a lot of things. One of the things we need to understand as we look at the climate issues is that there is not, in my view, a valid way to say, ‘We decided we are going to ask you for growth; but we’re not going to do what you asked us to do regarding this particular place.’ I think this project is important. I think there are other approaches that we can take to deal with the climate issue that I think this project has a minimal impact on and we have much larger possible impacts by dealing with the diesel issues and some of the other plans that are around right now… This particular plan, I don’t think has as much of an impact on climate as some are making it out to be.”

Why not? Can you expand on that?

“Well, I have yet to hear from folks who are talking about the climate what their alternative is for dealing with the bottleneck at the Rose Quarter. I have not heard a valid answer for that. I’ve yet to see an alternative at this point that gets commerce and other traffic through I-5 and that we could work on right now… And I realize congestion pricing is one of those things that’s part of this whole package.”

Yes, congestion could have an impact, yet ODOT is very dismissive of it at this point. They say it’s a separate project that’s “years away”. Do you think congestion pricing should play a larger role?

“I think you’re mistaken on that. In every conversation I’ve had with anybody regarding congestion pricing — and congestion pricing has its own issues as well — but it’s clearly part of these discussions. The timing is a question I think; but congestion pricing is clearly part of the discussion. I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea that it’s not.”

[Note: Congestion pricing is not part of the I-5 Rose Quarter project. ODOT’s own materials make it clear tolls are years away. A recent ODOT video on tolling said it’s “years away at best.”]

What if we spend all this money to expand the freeway, then toll it, only to find we don’t need the extra capacity? Are you concerned it would be a waste of money?

“No I’m not. I think we need to do something as quickly as we can, physically, on the ground. I think we’ve got to do both at the same time. We can be looking at congestion pricing and getting a project done that we know will have at least a minimal impact on congestion.

I want to make it clear: I don’t think this one thing [freeway widening] is going to be the fix. There are other parts of it we need to look at. The congestion pricing in my view has its own problems. What’s the impact on the neighborhoods and surface streets? And the other thing is, quite frankly, who has the money to pay for that congestion pricing? If you are a low-income person and you’re driving an old car, what happens to you in terms of congestion pricing? Those are issues we also need to be dealing with.”

If your congestion pricing concerns could be allayed, would you support doing it sooner? Would you support a measure to not move forward with the Rose Quarter project until we have a congestion pricing pilot in place?

“I’m not interested right now on doing a delay on this project. I think that would be an issue we’d be dealing with later on when we start to ask the rest of the state to do other things with us or for us — things like schools and health care and housing. If we decide we’re not going to pay attention to the promise we made regarding this, I think that would come back to haunt us. I think congestion pricing is something I would support looking at and perhaps try to find a way to allay the fear and concerns about it; but we should continue the I-5 project.”

But wasn’t the promise to relieve the bottleneck, not specifically to widen the freeway? If congestion pricing could relieve the congestion, wouldn’t that fulfill the promise?

“I think what could come out of that is misunderstanding just how many different approaches are needed to deal with that bottleneck. The bottleneck is clearly a physical bottleneck. We need to find some way to deal what the physical bottleneck.”

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What do you think about the fact that the project is strongly opposed by the Portland Public Schools Board, PBOT’s bicycle and pedestrian advisory committees, and several other groups?

“I haven’t talked with the school board folks. The city folks you talk about, I’m not surprised. I appreciate the bicycle folks, I appreciate the pedestrian folks as well; but I think this has an impact, and a much larger one than that particular area of the city. Again, I think this is part of a promise we have to deal with and a bottleneck that affects the whole state.”

(Graphic of proposed widening. Source: ODOT)

One thing these groups are concerned about is ODOT’s obfuscation. They’ve been unwilling to say it’s a widening project or that it’s adding capacity; but the fact is, the freeway is getting substantially wider and according to ODOT’s own analysis, people will be able to travel through this area faster. So wouldn’t those two things increase capacity on the freeway?

“That certainly is the hope that it will increase some capacity. But it’s not like adding a full lane. Again, it disturbs me that you’re presenting it this way. We’re talking about entrance ramps and exit ramps. We’re not talking about an additional third or fourth lane that’s going to continue all the way up to Columbia Blvd or the river. This is a small section right there at the Rose Quarter. Characterizing it as somehow adding lanes, is not just a mistake, but a mischaracterization of what it’s about. The whole idea is to allow people to move through quicker. It’s not going to solve the whole problem but will certainly help make things smoother going through that area.”

But don’t you think it’s problematic that our state transportation agency denies it will add capacity when it clearly will?

“Let me ask you this question: What is the problem in terms of it adding some capacity at that spot? What is so upsetting about the idea that somehow, at that spot, we will be able to have an easier flow of traffic for a very short length of freeway. I’m not sure I understand why that’s a bad thing.”

Well there are two reasons it’s a problem: First, there’s a concern that ODOT isn’t being honest with the public and that they’re willfully hiding the impacts of their plans. The other thing is, it’s upsetting because making it easier for people to drive is a very problematic thing in light of the crisis of a changing climate, in light of concerns about emissions, in light of the fact that driving is the least efficient and most expensive way to get around…

“Yes they’re going to change the lanes to allow folks to move through that area… But the alternatives that we have right now — and it’s not congestion pricing by the way — in my view, this is one piece of the alternatives is to try to make it so things are moving through. One of the problems we have at that spot, because it’s a bottleneck, is you have cars stopped and you have people on idle and we don’t have an electric vehicle… I’m driving a Prius. I’d love to be able to afford an electric vehicle and the charging station in my house. But the fact is that we have a system right now that if we can start to adjust the kind of vehicles we’re traveling with, the kinds of power that’s used… We’re trying to do the cleanup of the diesel. I don’t see this small section of the freeway — and I’m going to stress that — making it a little less obstructed as somehow violating my basic concerns about what’s going on terms of climate change.

The money we have is devoted to the roads. It’s devoted to the roads by way of a statewide taxing system that we agreed to and that’s what I think we should follow up on.”

If we could spend the money on something else, would you support that?

“If we could, Yes. But we can’t. If I could take money from the prisons and put it into the schools. I’d do that. I’ve been suggesting high-speed rail for some time and trying to find some way to pay for it and encourage it. I think we need a high-speed rail system from Eugene to Vancouver BC. That’s what I’d like to see. If nothing else, a system from Vancouver, Washington to downtown Portland, that’s what I’d like to see.”

Do you worry that investing in the freeway system will erode support and demand for high-speed rail?

“No. I do not think that erodes it at all. I think in fact it may actually help it. I think if we get something done on the freeway, it adds to the idea that we are in fact serious about changing the transportation system.

I think by supporting this project, I’ll have the ability to go in and say, ‘OK, we now need to do something with high-speed rail,’ because I’ll be able to say, ‘Look, we’ve done this [freeway project] and now we need to do this next piece and we will have a great impact on the climate change.'”

Would you support a request for another 45-day comment period?

“Yes. I can’t see a big problem with being able to have more comment time.”

What about joining several groups, including the PPS School Board, to request completion of an Environmental Impact Statement?

“I would support an EIS, especially as it relates to Tubman. I don’t think that’s been done as well as it should be… But if the EIS is basically an attempt to try and stop the project — then let’s be honest about that. If you’re not trying to find a way to create a solid change in terms of the environment around there, and are just using the kids as a prop. That’s not OK.

I want to make it very clear we need to look at the environmental impact. We need to be looking at what we can do regarding diesel. I think diesel in that area along the entire I-5 corridor, not just for that particular spot. If we’re going to have an EIS just for Rose Quarter project, I think that’s a narrow approach. If the EIS is only defined as a strategy to try to stop the project, then just say so. Don’t say you’re so concerned about the kids. If the EIS is being set up just as a proxy, I’m not interested in that. I am interested in impacts of diesel fumes in that whole area, which has the highest asthma rates; but don’t use this as a proxy to delay the project. I won’t buy that line.”

Do you share concerns of the Albina Vision plan about the freeway lid designs?

“I have some concerns about the lids as well. How strong they are, where they’re placed. But let’s also be very clear about something here: the Albina Vision does not “recreate” the community that was once there. It will bring people back into that area; but there’s no way it can recreate what was once there. I don’t like folks using things as a proxy for other issues.”

Do you think the I-5 project will hurt or help make the Albina Vision a reality?

“In my view it will help Albina Vision becoming a reality because it creates an opportunity for making some physical changes in real time within a larger project. I think that gives us the opportunity to actually make some changes we would not otherwise be able to make. It’s going to be disruptive for sure; but if it’s disruptive and it opens up the possibility of connecting the Albina Vision — which is something that people have been talking about for a long time — and giving us a a reconnection with the river… I think the project on I-5 will provide an opportunity to get those kind of infrastructure things done as well.”

Thank you Senator Frederick for taking time to share your thoughts.

Have you shared your thoughts about this project with ODOT yet? The comment period ends at 5:00 pm on Monday, April 1st. You can submit an official comment by emailing info@i5RoseQuarter.org.

In related news, don’t miss Joe Cortright’s latest analysis where he reveals how the Columbia River Crossing is influencing this project. Also read OPB’s story: ODOT Used Long Dead I-5 Bridge Replacement To Plan Rose Quarter Upgrade.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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PBOT’s biking and walking committees oppose I-5 Rose Quarter project

Tue, 03/26/2019 - 10:02

One of the main points the Oregon Department of Transportation is using to sell their I-5 Rose Quarter project is that it will vastly improve cycling and walking conditions on the surface streets above the freeway.

Turns out that’s not exactly the case. The two official committees that advise the City of Portland on cycling and walking strongly oppose the project and recommend a “No Build”. That’s awkward because the Portland Bureau of Transportation is a key ODOT partner and has staked their support on the quality of surface street upgrades.

The position of the PBOT’s Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) and the PBOT Pedestrian Advisory Committee (PAC) should raise major red flags about the credibility of ODOT’s claims about this project.

In their March 22nd letter (PDF) to PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly and ODOT Project Manager Megan Channell, BAC Chair Rithy Khut and Vice-Chair Elliot Akwai-Scott outline many major concerns about the proposed cycling infrastructure design and about ODOT’s handling of the project in general.

The BAC says they haven’t had enough time to provide meaningful feedback because of ODOT’s, “obfuscation and delay in providing information” and they have requested that a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be prepared. Even with what they feel is limited information, the BAC has decided that, “the Build Alternative would fail to achieve the stated project goals and objectives, especially in critical areas related to bicycling, but also including the resulting conditions for walking and transit, local connectivity, safety, equity, and climate outcomes. This is in direct conflict with city and state planning goals.”

To put a finer point on it, the letter states: “The proposed bicycle facilities in the I-5 Rose Quarter project fail to provide meaningful safety improvements, improve travel times for bicyclists, or encourage the desired city-wide bicycle mode splits.”

Specifically, the BAC calls out the fact that ODOT’s proposal would mostly rebuild bikeways where they already exist — and it would remove the Flint Bridge which currently provides a direct connection that’s used by about 3,000 bicycle riders a day. The BAC says the negative impacts of losing Flint won’t be replaced by any of the proposed facilities. Another big concern is the fact that construction-related delays would have a significant negative impact on the approximately 8,000 bicycle users who travel through the project area every day. “After five years of construction,” the letter states, “the Build Alternative would not offer compelling or substantial improvements for bicycling.”

ODOT’s cycling pitch focuses on two new crossings: One at Hancock/Dixon and the other at Clackamas. The BAC pans the Hancock/Dixon crossing because it won’t include physically separated cycling facilities and it would include, “a permanently inaccessible 10% grade.” For perspective, that’s about the same as the steepest sections of Mt. Tabor. North Williams Avenue currently has about a 1.5 percent grade from the Rose Quarter heading north. The steepest part of the N Mississippi Avenue Hill is 6.5 percent. As for the Clackamas bridge, it would be carfree, but it doesn’t support any existing travel demands, the BAC says.

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The Hancock-Dixon overcrossing comes with a very steep 9-10 percent grade.

In general, the BAC says ODOT’s surface street proposals clearly put the needs of auto users above the needs of people bicycling and walking. Increased travel times for cycling (and transit too) and unsafe infrastructure with wide corner radii and unsafe transitions between two-way and one-way facilities.

That increased travel time flies directly in the face of Portland’s adopted Transportation System Plan (TSP), which states that major bikeways, “should be designed to… minimize delays by emphasizing the movement of bicycles.”

The BAC’s letter is based on an eight-page analysis of the project’s bicycling facilities that was created by PBOT staff for the committee. The analysis was based on information provided by ODOT in their Environmental Assessment (EA).

PBOT’s walking advisory committee plans to release a similar letter in the coming days. That letter will also request completion of a full EIS before the project moves forward. Portland-based nonprofit Oregon Walks has also come out against the project. In a statement posted to their website yesterday, the group says ODOT should “slow down the process” and that, “We cannot support a design for surface streets through the Rose Quarter that accommodates large vehicles at the expense of pedestrian safety.”

In related news, this strong opposition and demands for an EIS are shared by the Portland Public School Board. At their March 19th meeting, members of the board grilled ODOT and PBOT staff about how the project would impact Harriet Tubman Middle School. The sharply critical (borderline angry) questioning was the most detailed takedown of the project I’ve seen from elected officials thus far. You can watch the meeting via YouTube here.

The comment period for this project’s environmental assessment ends at 5:00 pm on April 1st. You can learn more and file a comment on ODOT’s website and/or at NoMoreFreewaysPDX.com.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Review: Surly’s ‘Big Easy’ smooths out family biking and cargo-hauling

Tue, 03/26/2019 - 07:32

I usually dread posing for professional photos, but Jonathan insisted… and it was actually fun!
(Photos: Peter Newlands/PHN Photography)

After sharing my initial impressions two weeks ago, I’m ready to share a full review of Surly’s new Big Easy electric cargo bike (retail price $5,000).

I rode the bike for two and a half weeks and found myself enamored with it. Read on as I delve into the wonders of the e-assist, the useful accessories, what I’d add to make it perfect, and what I like to change.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

First of all, a quick word on e-bikes: I don’t expect to change any firm opinions that differ from mine, but e-bikes aren’t “cheating” and with a “class 1” e-bike like the Big Easy, you still get plenty of exercise. It’s common for new e-bikers to use the assist sparingly; but the system is design so you always have some level of assist engaged at all times. In other words; you can turn it off, but there’s no reason to.

That said, I didn’t have the key to the battery (to remove it from the bike and charge it) for the first two days. I left the e-assist turned off to stretch out what juice I had. I learned the 1×11 gearing is great and the e-assist is so strong and light that even the lowest “Eco” mode more than compensates for the weight of the motor and battery. People sometimes complain about the noise generated by e-assists, but after riding without the hum of the motor I found it to be music to my ears! Also, it’s a very soft hum to begin with so even if you’re not forced to ride it like an analog bike initially, you won’t find the hum noticeable.

Parts and accessories

E-assist, tires, cargo bags, Kid Corral — there’s a lot of awesome that comes standard from Surly and Bosch (maker of the electric motor) and that can be added to the bike.

Frame
I borrowed a medium Big Easy. I’m 5’5″ and my Surly Big Dummy (the non-electric version of this bike) is a small, but the redesigned Big Easy frame fits all riders using just three sizes (S, M, L) to the Big Dummy’s four (S, M, L, XL). If I were to buy a Big Easy, I’d get a small, but the medium worked just fine.

Longtail cargo bikes tend to feel like regular bikes, and this one especially so. On my Big Dummy, I feel a bit of flex if I max out the load weight. The Big Easy however, is solid. I felt no flex, even carrying kids and their bikes. I hear this is partially due to the fact that the mid-drive motor situated in bottom bracket takes up a lot of space so the down tube, seat tube, and boom tube (the one parallel to the ground behind the pedals) are shorter than on my Big Dummy.

Bosch Performance CX drive unit

Have you ever heard the term “It flattens out the hills?” It does, and then some! I can finally talk while riding uphill, I can even answer math questions on hills, breaking my old “No asking mommy to solve math equations on hills!” rule.

The Performance Line CX assist has five modes: Eco, Tour, eMTB, Turbo, and Walk. Since I’m used to being a slow-poke, I spent a lot of my time in Eco mode, especially at the beginning. In Eco mode I found myself traveling 10 mph without even trying. In Tour mode I easily traveled 15 mph, and when I was carrying zero or one kid it felt like the bike was pulling me along. I’m not much of a mountain biker so I didn’t test eMTB mode which sounds fascinating (it automatically switches between Tour and Turbo modes depending on the terrain). And Turbo mode is incredibly fun! Especially when carrying a kid or two up a big hill. It’s easy to go 20 mph (the max) in Turbo mode. All modes require pushing the pedals and don’t do all the work for the rider, but they certainly make it easier and more fun.

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Speaking of pushing pedals, I often forgot to downshift when approaching a red light or stop sign. That can make getting started — especially with a load — tricky. With the Big Easy, I could feel the power right away (even if I was in a hard gear). I never felt in danger of tipping over or being unable to propel the bike forward.

The walk-assistance mode is very cool! Traveling at very low speeds and walking with a loaded cargo bike can be tough. It’s the most common time for many of us family bikers to tip over or drop our bikes. E-assist in general takes care of the former and walk assistance mode takes care of the latter. Walk assistance takes a couple seconds to kick in which makes it really hard not to giggle with glee when the bike rolls forward of its own volition. Walking the bike with small loads is easy unassisted, but I like to carry heavy loads — like bookshelves and camping gear — and the walk mode makes it a breeze.

Bosch PowerPack 500 battery
The bike comes with one battery that carried plenty of charge for me to use throughout the day. My regular day is about 20-30 miles. With 10 of those miles carrying a 90-pound kid in Tour mode, I could do two days in a row on one charge.

The Bosch eBike range assistant is a wonderful tool, though it only goes up to 331 pounds for rider weight + bike weight + cargo weight. Bike weights are kept shrouded in mystery, but I’m going to guess the Big Easy with Dummy bags, Kid Corral, and my basket weights 65 pounds since it felt a bit lighter than my Big Dummy which is a beefy 75 pounds. I also don’t know how much I weigh, but I’m going to guess 150. My kids weigh 90 and 65, and our little dog is 9 pounds. That makes us 379 pounds, not too much over to the 331 pound max of the range assistant tool. The tool says I can go 37.8 miles carrying the whole family in Tour mode and 28.7 in Turbo. That’s some range!

I’d budget for a second battery because the bike comes ready to hold two batteries and it’d be lovely to never have range anxiety. I’d also buy a second charger to keep at work or keep with me as suggested by one of the commenters on my previous post.

Kid Corral

Surly Kid Corral configurations. Screen shot from Kid Corral & Deck Bar Instructions PDF, Surly.

I installed a Deck Bar, Kid Corral (with one side open and one side closed), and two deck pads on the Big Easy.

It’s incredibly sturdy, attaching to the sides of the deck, and it looks slick in matte black with rubber grips. My kids are 11 and 9 years old so the Kid Corral was a little small when they both rode on board. I needed to keep one side in the open orientation so they could both climb on, but that positioned the side bar where it bumped my rear kid’s leg. Once we added a cushion at the back of the bike he was able to slide all the way back and felt much more comfortable.

Dummy bags

The big cargo bags, called Dummy bags are versatile with two sets of buckles to keep small or big loads snug, plus extender straps to carry even bulkier loads. The rain flaps are terrific, though I had trouble anchoring the little hooks with cold fingers. I’d probably just keep the rain covers down at all times, both to not need to deal with the anchors and because my kids complained of the exposed Velcro catching on their wool socks — though it’s the loop of the hook-and-loop on the exterior of the bags so it probably doesn’t catch most clothing.

Tires
The 26″ x 2.5″ ExtraTerrestrial tires are the widest tires I’ve ever biked with. And I liked them! Wide tires are happy at low tire pressures and hold that air for a long time, which makes them very low-maintenance. And no, I don’t know what psi I was running — the bike seemed at a fine pressure on delivery and I didn’t think to check or add air during our time together.

While I didn’t test the tires on any bumpy trails, we did a lot of gravel riding on the “unimproved roadways” in our neighborhood and they were great for that.

Dropper post
The Big Easy can accommodate a dropper post — a system to lower your saddle (and then raise back to the original height) with the push of button. This is cool for two reasons: you can easily share your bike with someone a different height, and you can lower your seat at stop lights to get your feet all the way to the ground easily for less worry at keeping a heavy bike steady.

Note: this means the seat post isn’t the typical size that works well for adding a stem and handlebars to create stoker bars for a deck passenger. That’s why you’ll want the Deck Bar part of the Kid Corral.

Kickstand
For a one-legged kickstand, I found it to be very sturdy. It held the bike and non-human cargo upright just fine. However, for carrying human cargo and heavy loads, I just love having a centerstand (a.k.a. “dualie”). I had to straddle the bike while my kids climbed aboard, and for smaller kids I would have to very carefully lean the bike against a wall to insert the kids.

On this front there’s very good news from Seattle: Haulin’ Colin, current maker of the Rolling Jackass centerstand (as well as maker of my two-bike fork-mount tow hitch that generated some interest in my previous post) is working on a new RJ to fit the Big Easy. The current RJ will fit if you leave the second battery mount off. I’ve seen a lot of Big Dummies and some Big Easies with the stock kickstand, but as a person without a lot of upper body strength who likes to carry heavy things I need to load slowly and messily, a centerstand is a necessity.

Trailer hitch and trailer
This is not only a car or minivan replacement, it’s also a truck replacement! Get a Dummy Hitch and you can haul 300 more pounds with a 5 foot x 2 foot Bill Trailer or shorter Ted Trailer. I’ve always thought my Big Dummy was plenty long and dislike pulling a trailer with it, but having an e-assist makes me rethink that.

Add these things

This ain’t Amsterdam. American bikes usually don’t come stock with lights, locks, drink cages, and fenders. You should immediately add all that stuff.

Lights: You can do way better than cheapie blinkies with this bike: the Bosch unit has the capability to wire in always-on front and rear lights. Get those! I love having dynamo (pedal-powered) lights on my Big Dummy because they’re easy, theft-resistant, and bright.

Locks: The battery key can be matched to an Abus bike lock key. One key to rule them all!

Drink cages:The Big Easy has two spots for water bottle cages on the frame, but they’re not easy to reach while riding. As a comparison, my Big Dummy doesn’t need to accommodate a battery and holds four. This is your minivan, so attach water bottle cages in those two spots and also get an easy-to-reach cage — either on your handlebars or hanging down beneath the top tube, or both! There are cages that screw or bolt around handlebars as well as cages that Velcro anywhere (like hanging beneath top tubes).

Fenders: Fenders protect your clothing and your bike’s drive train. Get front and rear fenders for your bike and extend the life of your chain and rear cassette. The deck will keep you from getting dirty so your legs will only appreciate that front fender, but your bike wants you to get both.

Who’s this bike for?

This bike is really for everyone. Moms like me will like it for carrying kids of all ages up to the 400-pound total bike/rider/cargo weight limit. I mostly carried my 90-pound middle schooler around and I figure he’s the equivalent of one four-year old and one six-year old — a very common age for replacing car trips with cargo bike trips. It was incredibly easy to carry him around, even in Eco mode. Non-human cargo enthusiasts will love the bike alone or with a trailer. I like to say there are a lot of right answers in family biking and not a lot of wrong answers, and this bike will really make a lot of riders happy.

What would I change?

I’m a bit spoiled because I’ve spent 50 dog years with the accessories on my Big Dummy and I’d want to have those on a Big Easy:

– Rolling Jackass centerstand is the most important part of the bike in my book.
– Xtracycle Hooptie (I have the LT1) accommodates my big kids better than the Kid Corral. This would probably mean I’d need to build my bike with an Xtracycle deck.
– Surly Open Bars because while the stock bars make the bike feel like a fun mountain bike, I’m more of a laid-back errand runner and I like my swept-back handlebars.
– Basket for my dog and other stuff was easy to add because the fork has all those unsightly barnacles or warts (aka brazons) for attaching lots of stuff.
– Foot rails are helpful for loading kids, providing a foot resting spot while playing passenger, and for perching heavy cargo atop. The LT1 U-tubes from my older model Xtracycle Hooptie worked great on the Big Easy, but if I couldn’t find new old stock tubes, I’d look into having some fabricated.

“I bet you kept the bike!”

Thanks for the numerous messages predicting I’d keep the bike! I had a terrific two and a half weeks with the Big Easy and I know if I had one of my own, I’d love it to pieces. Except I already have a pretty similar bike I love (side note: this is a common affliction, if you love a Surly Big Dummy or Surly Big Fat Dummy and are on Facebook, there’s an unofficial group called “I love my Surly Big (&Fat) Dummy” whose name will surely change soon to accommodate our new cousin). I’d like to reiterate that I love e-bikes even though I don’t have one and I think everyone who wants an e-bike should get one. E-bikes will surely change the world. I’ve gone through no small effort to create a car-free life for myself and my kids that works very well with my slow analog bike. But if I were replacing a car, I would indeed have moved house, changed my identity, and kept the bike.

Thanks for reading!

— Madi Carlson, @familyride on Instagram and Twitter

Browse past Family Biking posts here.

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PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly’s statement on I-205 path conditions

Mon, 03/25/2019 - 15:56

(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Last week I highlighted conditions on the I-205 path at NE Sandy Boulevard. The response to the coverage here and on Facebook was overwhelming.

My intention was to make people aware that this path and others have become dramatically impacted by our homelessness crisis. Not only was the path full of personal belongings and discarded items, many of our fellow Portlanders have become so desperate for a place to live that they built shelters directly on the path — nearly blocking it in some sections.

The comments here on BikePortland were mostly productive and I think overall we’ve all learned a lot about the various issues at play. Facebook was a different story. Too many of the 1,300 or so comments were useless and mean. So, after over 220,000 views and 2,500 shares in just four days, I took the video down and posted a note to explain why.

On Saturday, City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who oversees the Portland Bureau of Transportation, left a comment on that post that I think merits more attention. I’ve pasted it below:

You probably know this but the I-205 path is ODOT property and up until very recently ODOT’s sole responsibility — the city did not have jurisdiction for clean ups. An agreement between ODOT and the City was recently made and passed by Council granting the city the ability to conduct the clean ups. Why is this a good thing? Because the city has adopted more humane policies for camp clean-ups than ODOT and because ODOT has been hard to reach and slow to act in many areas letting hazardous situations grow and fester. The situation on this path is unacceptable and unsafe for everyone involved. It’s on the list for clean up, which I’ve been told is coming soon.

Also unacceptable is to sweep people when we don’t have viable alternatives to offer them. We only have a few sanctioned villages and people can’t just show up and pitch their tents. We don’t have and can’t manage enough alternative shelter sites for everyone who’s living outside. We don’t have adequate emergency shelter (outside of severe winter weather events) both in number of beds and types of demographics served and not every homeless person is willing or able to endure a shelter setting. And most importantly we don’t have adequate affordable housing, let alone the supportive housing needed by individuals who face challenges that prevent them from being succesful in housing on their own. There is literally nowhere for them to go — this is a local, regional, state, and national crisis.

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Very few people are homeless by choice. Poverty is not a choice. Mental illness is not a choice. Addiction is not a choice. And our housing crisis has pushed thousands of people into homelessness. That was a choice — a choice made by corporate interests and policy makers to not treat housing like the basic need and human right that it is— but the people who have suffered the consequences had no choice.

Once an individual becomes homeless it is exponentially harder to get back into housing and employment. It’s a dangerous, humiliating, and traumatic experience that can exacerbate existing conditions and cause new ones.

I know many Portlanders are frustrated by our homeless crisis. I also understand the frustration of cyclists who experience frequent and often dangerous infringement on our designated bike lanes and paths. And on the I-205 path those two frustrations converge with some of the most marginalized and vulnerable people in our city. I was disappointed to see some of the comments—both the misinformation and lack of compassion—but heartened by others. People experiencing homelessness are our neighbors and community members. They are suffering. And our entire society is failing them. I hope more people can keep these harsh realities in mind when they encounter scenes like the one you shared.

I hope we’ve all learned something here; or at least gained a broader perspective on how these complex issues intersect.

In hindsight, I would have handled this story differently. Even though we’ve covered homelessness from a non-cycling perspective on several occasions in the past, this time I left out important context.

I’m sorry my coverage gave a platform for hate and divisiveness. I’ll be more careful in the future.

If you’re curious about the status of the I-205 path at Sandy, the City of Portland addressed it on Thursday and posted this update to Twitter:

Crews finished cleaning the I-205/NE Sandy multi-use path yesterday. We cleaned the ODOT-owned site just 3.5 weeks ago, and we’re hoping it stays clear so everyone can enjoy it. pic.twitter.com/usGZkBhiWJ

— Portland Office of Management & Finance (@PDX_OMF) March 21, 2019

Thanks for all your feedback and comments.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Pedaling through timber reserves and history in Columbia County

Mon, 03/25/2019 - 14:41

A second-growth timber reserve on Camp 9 Road in Columbia County.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where we ride. Whether I’m in on the streets of inner northeast Portland, or way out in the middle of the woods, I want to go below the surface and beyond the pretty views. I want to know about the people who lived on the land long before we pedaled through. I want to know what they did, what they cared about, and why they’re no longer there.

When it comes to unpaved roads in the hills above Scappoose — from camps and mills established in the 19th century, to the active harvesting we see today — much of that history revolves around logging. On Saturday I witnessed some of it first-hand when I joined a group of fellow unpaved road lovers at a gathering hosted by the Coastal Mountain Sport Haus in Vernonia.

Below are a few pics from my early morning ride out to the Sport Haus:

As we shared in our 2014 profile, the Sport Haus is a bike-friendly lodge on Highway 47/Nehalem Highway (about 10 miles north of Vernonia Lake) that’s owned by Glen and Sandy Crinklaw (pictured below).

Glen is a retired Columbia County Parks employee who knows quite a bit about the timber industry and its impacts on the land, people, and politics. Both he and Sandy are students of history; the Sport Haus itself sits on land granted to Sandy’s family during the Homestead Act. Riding with them adds meaning to what can otherwise seem like anonymous (yet beautiful!) dirt roads.

With peak riding season approaching, the Crinklaws and their friend Dan Morgan (a local gravel legend) wanted to show off a new loop they’ve affectionately named, “Bushwacking, Booney Riding to Camp 8 and beyond” (see the route and full description on RideWithGPS.com).

We started by hugging the Nehalem River; first on smoothly paved highway, and then on unpaved logging roads.

We then found ourselves on the Crown Zellerbach (CZ) Trail, which is also known as Columbia Forest Road in its northern section.

The road leading into what was once Camp 8.

There’s a section just a few miles from its northern end (at Pittsburg) that opens up into a vast meadow. On Saturday, Glen shared a bit of history about what used to be there.

Sketch of Camp 8 circa 1917.
(Source: Columbia County)

In the 1920s it was known as Camp 8. Back then it was a home to a bustling encampment and saw mill serviced by a railroad line. Nearby was a separate camp for Chinese people who worked on the railroad. Camp 8 was in operation until the 1970s. There are only a few remnants of heavy machinery once used at the site, so it’s very easy to just pedal by here and never realize what used to be. Now that I’ve gotten a taste of the history, I’m inspired to learn more.

And by the way, if you haven’t ridden “the CZ” yet, I highly recommend checking it out.

South of Camp 8, we veered off the CZ onto an overgrown road that didn’t look like anyone ever used it. It’s a section of Camp 9 Road between Kenusky Creek and Dog Creek that’s largely overgrown. In some sections it was hard to even walk our bikes due to recent landslides. Our reward for the slog was a section of forest reserve that has some of the tallest, second-growth trees I’ve ridden through anywhere in the region.

*Check out our 2019 Gravel Riding Guide*

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Our route eventually took us to Camp Wilkerson where we met up with Apiary Road for a fast, paved descent back to Highway 47, the Nehalem River, and the Sport Haus (where a feast awaited!).

There’s a ton to explore in this area and it’s relatively close to Portland. Due to the patchwork of timber company ownership and active logging areas, I recommend staying on vetted routes like this one (see below) and/or only riding on weekends. There’s an effort from local governments to develop and promote riding in this area; but no one is eager to step on timber company toes.

BikePortland’s 2019 gravel coverage is brought to you by the Oregon Triple Crown Series, Co-Motion Cycles, Rolf Prima Wheels, and Ride With GPS. Check out our Gravel Riding Guide for more rides, routes, recaps, and resources.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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E-scooters to return next month with tougher regulations on riders and operators

Mon, 03/25/2019 - 11:01

PBOT wants to crack down on sidewalk riding this time around.
(Photos: BikePortland)

Portland’s second attempt at integrating electric scooters into the mobility mix could get started as early as April 26th.

And unlike the 2,000 scooters we had on the streets last year, the Portland Bureau of Transportation will start with 2,500 and estimates we could see as many as 9,000 if enough scooter companies play ball with a host of new regulations. PBOT says if all permits are granted and all operators qualify for incentives we could have 15,000 scooters in use by January 2020.

The new pilot is scheduled to last one year, after which PBOT says they’ll work with the public to develop a permanent program.

In their announcement today, PBOT released a mix of incentives and regulations that demonstrate the challenge they face to create a scooter program that leads to high ridership yet also addresses serious concerns raised by some people and organizations during the first pilot. At nearly 6,000 trips per day during the 120-day pilot last year, the scooters proved to be a valuable mobility option. However, due to a lack of safe space to ride them and a lack of consideration for others, too many people rode them on sidewalks and parked them in places that obstructed public right-of-way.

Earlier this month PBOT was sent a letter and threatened with legal action by Disability Rights Oregon over concerns about scooters being parked on sidewalks. In response, PBOT has developed a system of carrots and sticks that puts the onus on riders and scooter operators to fix that problem.

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(Source: PBOT scooter pilot application)

PBOT will mandate a 25 cent “street use fee” be added to each scooter fare. Revenue from that fee will be added to a 5 to 20 cent “right-of-way fee” (based on where the rental takes place) charged to scooter companies in order to “generate funding to build safe places for people to use e-scooters, such as protected bike lanes and neighborhood greenways.”

Scooter with a seat.

The more a company does to prevent riders from riding and parking on sidewalks, the more scooters they’ll be allowed to release (and the more money they can make). PBOT is offering a 20 percent increase in the size of a company’s fleet if they, “implement innovative technology or business practices that eliminate sidewalk riding.” PBOT will also award more points to a company’s permit application if they offer scooters that can be locked to public bike racks (instead of sidewalks or ADA ramps).

When it comes to accessibility, PBOT will allow operators to introduce scooters with seats.

As for riders who flout traffic laws, PBOT will make operators responsible for issuing warnings and fines to account holders who aren’t riding legally. In today’s announcement, PBOT said they’ll employ “regulatory specialists” who will monitor sidewalks and illegal riding and then forward that information onto operators. After a warning, a rider could get a fine of $50 for sidewalk riding or $15 for illegal parking.

These sidewalk fines are likely to raise attention of transportation and social justice advocates. The Portland Police Bureau has a problem with racial bias and PBOT’s own Vision Zero Task Force recommended against increased enforcement of automobile due to racial profiling concerns. It remains to be seen how illegal sidewalk riding will be enforced without singling out people based on how they look. (And remember, many people ride on the sidewalk because they feel they will be killed or seriously hurt while sharing streets with auto users.)

Another area of concern last time around was the use of scooters in Portland Parks properties like the Eastbank Esplande and Waterfront Park. It was technically illegal (no motorized vehicles allowed in parks), but many people did it anyways. To limit access to these areas, PBOT says they will require companies to use “geofencing” technology that prevents riders from ending a trip and parking in Waterfront Park.

To encourage availability in east Portland, companies will be allowed to increase the number of scooters in their fleet by 35 percent if they meet or exceed 2-3 trips per scooter per day. A minimum of 15 percent of a company’s total scooter fleet must be deployed east of I-205 (that’s down from a 20 percent minimum last pilot).

Permit applications are due April 9th and PBOT will notify finalists April 18th.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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The Monday Roundup: Zwift world domination, helmet testing standards, ignoring drivers, and more

Mon, 03/25/2019 - 08:34

Welcome to the week.

We’re excited to announce a new sponsor: Lovejoy’s Tea Room at (NE 33rd and Killingsworth). Owned and operated by a BikePortland reader, you’ll get a 10 percent discount if you arrive by foot, bike or transit!

And with that, here are the most noteworthy things we came across in the past seven days…

Next level indoor riding: A must-read from Bicycling about how Zwift is making indoor cycling not just a training tool but a new discipline altogether.

Clearcutting the Corridor: Sellwood resident Edith Mirante laments the loss of trees near her home adjacent to a newly paved section of the Springwater Corridor path.

Helmet ads in hot water: The German transport ministry is facing harsh criticism for a pro-helmet ad campaign that features scantily-clad models.

Bike taxes lowered: In a bid to reduce congestion and promote cycling, the Belgium parliament voted to drastically reduce taxes on the purchase of new bicycles from 21 to 6 percent.

Street protest collision: A man who drove his truck through a crowd of protestors in October and allegedly hit one person on purpose, had the case against him dismissed when the plaintiff said he wouldn’t testify.

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E-scooter injuries: As the next wave of e-scooter use comes this summer the Centers for Disease Control are taking a closer look at how people were injured while using them. In San Diego, 48 percent of people injured had a blood alcohol level above the legal limit for intoxication and 52 percent tested for an illicit substance.

Get rid of cars in cities: Not only is Portland not on this list of eight cities taking bold action to limit car use in cities, we are actively working to expand car use (thanks PBOT and ODOT!). Sorry.

Hate crime with a car as the weapon: A jury ruled that a man with ties to a white supremacist gang is guilty of a hate crime when he purposely used this Jeep to run down and kill Larnell Bruce in Gresham in 2016.

Role reversal: Ford has a problem with their Explorer SUVS as hundreds of people say fumes inside the cars are making them sick.

“The best offense is none at all”: The Bike Snob says no matter how angry you are, it’s never worth it to confront an auto user.

Longer commutes: New data show higher housing costs in Portland are leading to longer-distance commutes and the bad news is public transit users spend way more time getting to work than drivers do.

Helmet testing: After the big debut of new “WaveCel” helmet tech last week, VeloNews reports that the folks behind MIPS say more standardized testing is needed to make accurate comparisons between safety ratings.

No more cars: A NY Times columnist says private car ownership is on the way out and she’s practicing what she preaches.

Twitter thread of the week:

Cars are the perfect late capitalist consumer product: an expensive, often de facto mandatory, solution to a problem that the product itself has largely caused.

— Michael T Sweeney (@mtsw) March 22, 2019

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Alpenrose lawsuit and sale dies; the velodrome and ‘cross venue lives!

Fri, 03/22/2019 - 13:56

The velodrome is home to several race events each year.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Great news to start off your weekend: The Portland Tribune reported a few hours ago that the possible sale of Alpenrose Dairy that would have ended public access to the velodrome and cyclocross venue is off.

As we shared earlier this month, fears of a sale of the dairy and surrounding property led to a lawsuit by members of the Cadonau family. They aimed to stop the sale, which they claimed was nothing more than a money-grab by other members of the ownership family.

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A few minutes ago we received a statement from the suit’s plaintiffs: Tracey Cadonau McKinnon, Carl Cadonau III and Cary Cadonau:

Petition on Change.org.

“We filed a lawsuit to prevent a sale that would have ended Alpenrose Dairy as we and the community know and love. The outpouring of support from the Alpenrose community was overwhelming. We are pleased to report that our collective efforts have resulted in the termination of the pending sale. Accordingly, there is no reason to continue the lawsuit. We are humbled by and deeply grateful for the support of the Alpenrose community.”

In addition to a beloved venue for cycling, Alpenrose was home to other community assets like a little league field, a theater, and more.

A petition to save the dairy has gathered well over 9,000 signatures.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Jobs of the Week: GO Box, Velotech, Community Cycling Center

Fri, 03/22/2019 - 09:10

We had four jobs posted this week… and one of them (from Pedal Bike Tours) has already been filled!

Just goes to show that if you are job-curious, you should: sign up for the Job Listings Email so you get notified ASAP; spend the measly $75 to post your job with us because these listings work!

Learn more about this week’s listings below…

–> Operations Assistant – GO Box

–> Customer Experience Specialist Full Time – Velotech

–> Bike Mechanic – Community Cycling Center

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For a complete list of available jobs, click here.

Be the first to know about new job opportunities by signing up for our daily Job Listings email or by following @BikePortland on Twitter.

These are paid listings. And they work! If you’d like to post a job on the Portland region’s “Best Local Blog” two years running, you can purchase a listing online for just $75. Learn more at our Job Listings page.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Weekend Event Guide: Rat Patrol, Albina history tour, gold sprints, and more

Fri, 03/22/2019 - 08:32

Shot from Marine Drive taken earlier this week.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

This Weekend Event Guide is sponsored by Treo Bike Tours in Eastern Oregon. Plan your 2019 trip today!

Welcome to the weekend. Spring is finally officially here and we could not be happier about it.

With peak riding season around the corner, it’s time to make sure you’re ready to ride. That means having your mind, body and bike in usable condition. This week’s guide has several rides, events – and even a clinic – that will help you get ready.

Thanks to our friends at Treo Bike Tours for supporting BikePortland! If you haven’t explored a trip out at their eastern Oregon paradise, you owe it to yourself to consider it.

Friday, March 22nd

Rat Patrol Friday Night Ride – 8:00 pm (roll out 9:00) at Irving Park (NE)
Roll out for a fun, slow, welcoming, and social group ride with this, “inclusive bunch of misfits.” More info here.

Saturday, March 23rd

Sorella Forte Women’s Club Ride – 9:00 am at River City Bicycles
The Sorellas are one of Portland’s most well-respected clubs Their weekly ride is geared toward intermediate riders and will have an average speed of 15-17 mph and will go about 30-40 miles. More info here.

Hidden History of Albina Walking Tour – 11:00 am at Sons of Haiti Food Cart Pod (N)
Local nonprofit Know Your City will lead this educational excursion to help make your more aware of the places many of us only ride through. This area has gone through transformative change and we owe it to those who lived here before us to be aware of — and respectful of — that history. More info here.

Western Bikeworks Gold Sprints Series – 6:00 pm at Western Bikeworks (NW)
Hop on a stationary bike and spin as fast as you can. Or just watch in awe. A great excuse to hang out at your local bike shop. They’ll have drink discounts, snacks, and a fun and welcoming vibe. More info here.

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Sauvie Shootout – 9:00 am at Ovation Coffee & Tea (NW)
With road racing season right around the corner it’s time to get those legs tuned up. There’s no better local ride to do that than this weekly hammer-fest. Not fast yet? Groups of different speeds will form and ride together. More info here.

Bike Shop Storytime and Q & A – 11:00 am at Clever Cycles (SE)
This kid-oriented event is hosted by volunteers from Kidical Mass PDX and Books With Pictures. Don’t forget to bring your bikes (if you want to ride afterward) and your family biking questions and curiosities! More info here.

Clinic: How and When to Buy a Bike (Guys Welcome) – 5:00 pm at Western Bikeworks (NW)
Ride Like a Girl Portland wants to help you make the best decision on that new bike purchase. Bonus: Western Bikeworks is offering a purchase discount for anyone who shows up. Everyone is welcome. More info here.

Stay plugged into all the bike and transportation-related events around the region via our comprehensive event calendar.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Check our Gravel Riding Guide and get excited for the season

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 12:31

Scene from the Hell of the North Plains ride in January 2018.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

This special coverage sponsored by Oregon Triple Crown, Co-Motion Cycles, Rolf Prima Wheels, and Ride With GPS.

Gravel grinding, rambling, mixed-terrain riding, off-roading, adventure riding — no matter what you call it, exploring unpaved backroads is one of the most popular things to do on a bike these days. What’s not to like? Pedaling on logging, fire, and farm roads gives you the accessibility of road riding and the adventure of mountain biking all rolled into one.

Gravel Guide partners!

While the gravel trend is strong nationwide, our regional and statewide abundance of quiet backroads has made it a fast-growing part of our cycling scene.

And this year it’s poised to explode: Promoters are launching exciting new events, the industry is offering new gravel-specific bikes and products and local riding clubs are making it easy to find new roads and new friends.

Thanks to a partnership with the Oregon Triple Crown series, Co-Motion Cycles, Rolf Prima Wheels, and Ride With GPS, BikePortland will bring you more gravel coverage than ever this year. I’ll be traveling far and wide to pedal some of the best dirt roads in the state and will keep you plugged into the gravel scene. I’ll also share guest posts from other gravel riding fans, profiles of gravel bike builders, and more.

If you’re a veteran of this site, you’ll know we’ve been fans of unpaved road riding for a long time. For us (and many others), it started with Otto Miller Road back in 2012. In 2013 I rode the “Bullshit 100” ride and was hooked forever.

In hopes of getting you hooked — and/or helping you plan your season — below is a list of major gravel rides happening in Oregon this year (you can also check the Gravel category on the BikePortland calendar for the latest listings):

April
Gorge Gravel Grinder – 4/7 (Breakaway Promotions)
Yamhill Gravel Fondo – 4/20 (Zone 5 Promotions)
Cascade Gravel Grinder Day 1 – 4/26 (Breakaway Promotions)
Cascade Gravel Grinder Day 2 – 4/27 (Breakaway Promotions)
Cascade Gravel Grinder Day 3 – 4/28 (Breakaway Promotions)

May
Oregon Coast Gravel Epic – 5/4 (Mudslinger Events)
Oregon Emerald Outback – 5/4 (Benjamin Colwill)
Gravel – 5/17 (Cycle Oregon)
Sasquatch Duro – 5/18 (Mudslinger Events)

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This is Bacona Road last Saturday. Can’t wait for all the snow to melt!


June
Oregon Gran Fondo (Sherman Route) – 6/1 (Mudslinger Events)
Skull 120/60/30 – 6/15 (Harney County Chamber of Commerce)
Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder – 6/19 (Breakaway Promotions)

August
Ochoco Gravel Roubaix – 8/24

That’s a seriously exciting lineup!

If you’re like me, you daydream with maps. Check out the routes of selected events in the Ride With GPS map below:

I can’t wait to share more as the season gets underway. Stay tuned for chances to win a free pass to the Oregon Triple Crown series and for lots more coverage. If you have gravel-related questions or story ideas, let us know!

For now, check out our 2019 Gravel Riding Guide for lots of ride recaps and photos, links to local resources and riding clubs, and more.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Guest Opinion: Losing the 7th Avenue greenway

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 08:51

This post from Kiel Johnson comes in response to news announced today that the Portland Bureau of Transportation has decided to route the Lloyd to Woodlawn Neighborhood Greenway on 9th Avenue.

“9th Avenue will become the greenway.”

The words put finality on years of advocacy, countless hours spent knocking on doors, talking with neighbors, making yard signs, and writing letters. This past Sunday my living room was overflowing with my fellow neighbors and their children who live on 7th. They had come hoping to hear something different. Nick Falbo, the PBOT project manager, had come to deliver to news. One family immediately walked out the door. No one knew quite what to do next.

Right now in Portland it feels like the push for a more livable city has been losing a lot.

Sometimes you get the outcome you want and sometimes you do not. The dream of a calm street outside our door where our children could safely go outside had come to represent something more than just an infrastructure project. It was a symbol of a changing neighborhood. “We aren’t against change, just not so fast” one of my African American neighbors said at a forum I attended where every African American person present resoundingly rejected a 7th ave Greenway.

There are two major African American organizations located on 7th, Albina Head Start and Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives. Both formed before I was born with the goal of helping right some of our society’s injustices. Neither of these groups saw how making 7th ave a greenway would help the people they serve.

In December my first daughter was born and I decided I was going to do everything I could to make the Greenway on 7th happen. I want her to grow up on a safe street where she would have the freedom to go outside. I wrote about some of my efforts in a series published on BikePortland this past fall.

Since hearing the news that the Greenway is not coming I have felt the entire rainbow of negative emotions. Anger, sadness, despair at a broken city process, and a looming sense that the world is inherently ruined. Losing is always hard and it is even harder to think that my daughter will miss the chance to grow up on a safer street when we had the designs and money all in place to make it happen.

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Right now in Portland it feels like the push for a more livable city has been losing a lot.

50 people showed up at an Ice Cream Social event we organized in September.

Whether it is the $500 million to widen a freeway or the well-worn 4-year-old plastic wands on the Better Naito pilot project that represent our cities lack of urgency to invest in real fixes. After watching the video Jonathan made of the I-84 path this week it is easy to wonder what is going on here. Why can we not solve these problems?

Part of it has to do with political leadership, part of it with the fraying and ineffectiveness of our advocacy institutions, and also a generational power struggle. We do not get to make our own history as we like, we have to make it in the reality inherited to us by past generations.

This past year I turned 32, over the past ten years I have started a nationwide push for getting kids to bike to school on bike trains and created a new business model that combines bike valet with bicycle repair that has helped make the aerial tram the most biked to place in North America. I have successfully advocated for better bike lanes on Willamette Blvd and have tried to be a useful part of the conversation on as many other projects in Portland as I can.

We may not get the greenway we wanted but we can still make a better community. And in the end that’s what this is all about.

For every win I can count many more disappointments. Just because you lose sometimes does not mean you give up or were wrong for trying. Losing never feels good but there are certainly worse reasons to lose besides my city prioritizing the requests of community groups that have historically not been listened to which is something we need to do.

At the end of our meeting my neighbors and I made a plan to host a series of block parties on 7th every Sunday this summer. One thing I heard from everyone is that there is a feeling of a lack of connectedness among neighbors. We also agreed to meet this Sunday to go on a neighborhood bus ride to experience the expanded 24 bus that crosses 7th and now goes over the Fremont Bridge to NW.

We may not get the greenway we wanted but we can still make a better community. And in the end that’s what this is all about.

— Kiel Johnson, @go_by_bike on Twitter

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PBOT decides on 9th Avenue for route of future Lloyd to Woodlawn Neighborhood Greenway

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 07:03

Close-up of new proposal showing where the greenway will jog over to 9th. See full map below.
(Graphic: City of Portland)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has shifted course on their Lloyd to Woodlawn Neighborhood Greenway project. Citing a lack of “broad community support,” for the Northeast 7th Avenue route option, they’ll announce later today that the new greenway will be on Northeast 9th Avenue. (Update: Here’s the official announcement.)

The change in plans comes despite major support and a grassroots activism effort to save the 7th Avenue route.

Background

These initial designs for 7th Avenue created much excitement in the community.

The enthusiastic support for 7th Avenue began three years ago at a meeting where volunteers with northeast Portland neighborhood associations gave an overwhelming thumbs-up to making it a low-stress, family-friendly bikeway. There was debate (and dueling petitions) from the start, but supporters of 7th far outweighed the opposition.

When the project was officially announced one year ago, PBOT said the final route could be either 7th or 9th, or a combination of the two; but initial public feedback strongly favored 7th. 7th is the flattest and most direct route between the forthcoming Sullivan’s Crossing Bridge over I-84 and the Woodlawn neighborhood, while 9th has hills and other considerable drawbacks from a planning, budget, and connectivity perspective.

9th also runs squarely into Irving Park, which does not currently have a through bikeway that meets greenway standards.

Once plans for the 7th Avenue route came into focus back in July, those who supported it were even more excited. PBOT’s plans were truly groundbreaking and represented an unprecedented level of human-scale, cycling-oriented designs. There were mini-roundabouts, a park that would stretch across the street (creating to cul-de-sacs that would create dead-ends for drivers), and more.

But there was one big problem: A key segment of the community — one that has weathered institutional discrimination and vast changes to their neighborhoods in a relatively short period of time — was not fully on board.

“This would make it more difficult for people — frankly, low-income people who are trying to use the services of Head Start.”
— Ron Herndon, Albina Head Start to The Skanner in August 2018

Many black people who’ve lived in adjacent neighborhoods for a half-century or more were not comfortable with such transformative changes to 7th Avenue. The backlash to the project reminded us of the controversy in 2011 around the North Williams Avenue project. People like Albina Head Start Executive Director Ron Herndon (shown above), were concerned about how the plans would impact driving access to his building on the corner of 7th and Northeast Fremont. And Herndon wasn’t the only one.

PBOT soon came to the realization that their traditional methods of engagement and open houses were not giving them a complete picture of public opinion. So in September of last year they paused the project and took it directly to black business owners, black residents and black community leaders.

PBOT’s realization and rationale

PBOT’s Nick Falbo (right) at a focus group with black residents in January.
(Photo: PBOT)

“There’s no doubt we underestimated the role that this street plays in the hearts and minds of Portland’s black community.”
— Nick Falbo, PBOT project manager

PBOT Project Manager Nick Falbo said in a phone interview last week that despite their attempts to include all community voices in the planning process, “There’s no doubt we underestimated the role that this street plays in the hearts and minds of Portland’s black community.”

Falbo said they worked hard to make sure their initial plan for a 7th Avenue greenway accommodated all the needs of business owners and other stakeholders along the corridor. They presented it to neighborhood associations and organizations like Head Start and the Soul District Business Association. At the same time, letters of support for 7th Avenue were pouring in.

“But it got the point,” Falbo shared, “Where that support [for 7th] was actually becoming a liability.”

As support grew with the realization that a dream-like cycling street could become a reality, so did the opposition.

“We started hearing from the Soul District Business Association and other black community partners like SEI [Self Enhancement, Inc.] and PCRI [Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives] and they started raising concerns,” Falbo said. “When Albina Head Start says this might be bad for their families, and when John Washington with Soul District Business Association says this might be bad for their main street, and when service providers in the area say this will be bad for their communities, we really owe it to them to listen.”

Falbo said PBOT realized there was a “big division” in the community. So they held two focus groups in December and January organized by SEI and PCRI. “We learned a lot,” Falbo said. When it comes to 7th Avenue, “It certainly plays a bigger role in the black community than we ever anticipated.”

According to a fact sheet on the focus groups published today, one participant said, “We know change will happen; that’s life. But the change has to be tailored to the community, not just an individual group without regard for others.” Another person said, “As soon as an idea comes up for any kind of project or changes, Black folks need to be at the table. Sometimes, we don’t even know there’s a table to be at!”

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Falbo said a major takeaway from these focus groups was a realization that PBOT’s Bicycle Plan for 2030 — passed in 2010, before the Williams project and the racial reckoning at PBOT that came with it — is woefully outdated when it comes to the issue of racial equity. “What we heard from our black community partners was that they weren’t involved in those processes [the Bike Plan and Transportation System Plan] and when we come to the community and we say, ‘Hey we’ve got these greenways for 7th and 9th,’ a lot of the response is, ‘Where did those [ideas] even come from?'”

And, similar to feelings we heard expressed around the Williams project, there’s a legacy of distrust around change in these neighborhoods — especially when it’s proposed by a government agency and isn’t seen as a benefit to long-time residents. “What they see in a project like this,” Falbo explained, “Is transformative change with the opportunity for unintended consequences and it’s something they fail to see a lot of value in. They’re just not getting things from this project that some others might be.”

Keep in mind, the changes proposed for 7th weren’t just a new bike lane. They would have forever altered the street, and therefore, the neighborhood.

As Falbo put it: “After more communication with these community partners it was pretty clear that we lacked the broad support that would be necessary for transformative change on 7th.”

The proposal

(Click images to enlarge)

Instead of a greenway on 7th, PBOT will put it on 9th. They’ll also create what they call a “Safer 7th”. They say it’s a “double-win”. Instead of changes to just one corridor, we’ll get changes on two.

Proposed route.

On 7th, the focus will no longer be to reduce the number of drivers. PBOT will instead use speed bumps and other measures to slow traffic down and improve safety. “Everything but diversion,” is how Falbo described it.

The existing traffic circle at 7th and Tillamook will be removed, and they might remove several others as well. Falbo says the circles work well on lower-volume streets, but as competition for space increases, they become points of conflict.

PBOT will create new crossings near schools, businesses, and at the bike streets of Tillamook, Morris, and Going. There will also be a new bike lane between Tillamook and Weidler to help people connect to the Lloyd District and the Sullivan’s Crossing Bridge.

The new greenway on 9th will begin at Tillamook and go north to Holman (another greenway). There will be median island diverters to aid in crossing and reduce driving volumes at the intersections with Webster and Emerson, as well as Ainsworth. PBOT will beef up crossings at Tillamook, Fremont, Prescott, Alberta and Killingsworth.

As for how to get through Irving Park, PBOT says they’re still working with Portland Parks & Recreation to figure out a design and funding. The plan will be to go ahead with construction of the greenway project without the new path through park. “We recognize the Irving Park path today is inadequate for bicycling, but we are committed to trying to solve that problem,” is how Falbo put it.

Responses to the new proposal

With the compromise on 7th and the greenway on 9th, PBOT says this new proposal has the broad support they didn’t see when the project focused solely on 7th.

New 7th Avenue resident Kiel Johnson (here with his daughter Lulu) is disappointed by the decision.
(Photo: Kiel Johnson)

PBOT Capital Projects, Assets and Maintenance Communications Coordinator Hannah Schafer says the new proposal gives the community even more. “We’re making improvements on two separate streets… From our perspective this additional engagement we did with the black community helped us build a better project.”

For Falbo, the experience has been a major education. “It definitely pointed to some blindspots,” he said.

Given what happened on Williams Avenue, how did PBOT not see this coming? When I asked Falbo that question, he said they knew they were operating, “in the shadow of Williams,” and that the blindspots with this project were partly based on timing (Williams was eight years ago). “There are different stakeholders now… Many people come and go, and roles change, and we haven’t done the best job maintaining those relationships from that experience. So we had to rebuild those relationships.”

“We hope this decision will in some small way demonstrate this community values the participation of people of color in public investment decisions.”
— Jillian Detweiler, The Street Trust

New 7th Avenue resident Kiel Johnson is an active community volunteer who owns the Go By Bike valet and bike shop in the South Waterfront District and is a regular contributor to BikePortland. He launched a grassroots effort in support of 7th Avenue that we chronicled in a series of articles. He’s disappointed with the outcome (in a meeting this week with PBOT’s Falbo, he walked out of the room upon hearing the news). “Sometimes you get the outcome you want, and sometimes you do not,” he shared with us via email yesterday. “The dream of a calm street outside our door where our children could safely go outside had come to represent something more than just an infrastructure project.”

Johnson met many of his neighbors during his work. Those new bonds won’t go away even if his dream for 7th Avenue has. “We may not get the greenway we wanted,” he said, “but we can still make a better community and in the end that is what this is all about.”

The Street Trust used to support 7th Avenue. But upon hearing PBOT’s new plans, they’ve shifted support to 9th. In a statement, Executive Director Jillian Detweiler said, “We hope this decision will in some small way demonstrate this community values the participation of people of color in public investment decisions. A project on NE 9th can deliver the low-car experience needed to make a variety of cyclists feel comfortable without disrupting access to institutions serving people of color. The Street Trust is eager to advocate to complete the greenway through Irving Park to create a memorable route marked by a beautiful off-street segment.”

The project is scheduled for construction in 2020. Stay tuned for announcements of open houses and other opportunities to weigh in on the new proposal to iron out design details.

Learn more at PBOT’s Lloyd to Woodlawn Neighborhood Greenway project page.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Our annual don’t be a jerk in River View Cemetery post

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 13:10

Please slow down and ride with respect for others.
(Photo: BikePortland)

One thing I’ve realized about doing daily local news in a fast-growing city is that even if we’ve covered something several times, many people who are new to town are still in the dark about some things.

At least I hope that’s the case with a recent incident in River View Cemetery.

So if you’re new to town, please listen up: That forested path through the cemetery that takes you safely between the Sellwood Bridge and SW Palatine Hill Road/SW Terwilliger Blvd is private property. We are extremely lucky that the Board of Directors of the nonprofit that runs the cemetery have given us (via the City of Portland) the right to pass through. They do this because there is no other direct and safe option. And because they are nice people. Suffice it to say, the River View path is a gem that’s used and adored by many — from commuters to racers and weekend warriors — and it’s a privilege to use it, not a right.

“If this guy would have hit me, I would have been in the hospital with several broken bones.”

Longtime readers of this site will recall that we first raised a red flag about unsafe riding behaviors in 2006. Then a few years later we covered the issue again when the cemetery’s board threatened to install speed bumps to slow people down. The most recent bout of disrespectful riding happened in 2017.

And I’m sorry to say I’ve once again fielded a concerned call from River View’s new Executive Director Rachel Essig. She said a man riding his bicycle was going downhill “extremely fast” and crashed with a woman who was riding slowly uphill. The man was then “verbally abusive” to the rider he ran into.

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I got in touch with the victim a few days ago. She said she’s 62 and claims she was riding uphill around a blind corner before it happened. “He came around the corner so fast. I thought, he’s going to hit me, what am I going to do?!” Thankfully, she was able to avoid most of the impact and wasn’t seriously hurt (except for a big gash in her leg from where it dug into her pedal).

“If this guy would have hit me, I would have been in the hospital with several broken bones,” the woman told me.

To add insult to injury, after the man flew into a ditch to avoid her, he allegedly got up and started yelling, “F*** you b****!”*

(UPDATE, 9:07 pm: The man involved in this collision has shared a different version of the collision in a comment below.)

If this is how it happened, this is seriously rude behavior — both the fast cycling through the cemetery and the verbal abuse.

Signs posted at both entries clearly say the top speed is 15 mph. Yes, that means you need to drag your brakes on the descent. If you have River View as a favorite segment in Strava, you should remove it as such. In fact, you should contact Strava (like we and others have) and demand that they delete all cemetery segments from their system.

Again. Please refrain from riding like a jerk in the cemetery. And tell your friends that we could lose access to this precious route if the board gets tired of tolerating this type of behavior.

In related news, take note that the cemetery will be completely closed to cycling on Memorial Day Weekend — May 25th through 27th — in order to recognize the solemn holiday when many people seek peace with deceased loved ones.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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