Monday, February 26, 2007

Like a moth to the flame, they come to Portland

I arrived at my hideout this morning to find an unfamiliar bike locked to my rack. My first reaction was to ask myself. “Grrrr. Who the hell’s in my parking spot?”

To which my Self answered, Oh stop. Number one, there’s room for two bikes on those racks; and number two, you’re supposed to be happy when you see that more people are riding their bikes.

“Oh yeah,” I remembered. “Bikes good, cars bad.”

To me it seemed the kind of bike that was someone’s best friend, perfected over time with features acquired gradually and thoughtfully. The tubing bore a funny name I’d never heard, and the bike was a kloodged together mix of distinctive parts, including high handlebars on an already tall frame.

I saw a guy emerge from the side of the building and weighed a series of clues. 1, he was tall; 2, he wore a bike helmet; and 3, he was walking toward the bike.

“This your bike?” I asked him.
“Well, not really. I’ve rented it from City Bikes while I visit Portland.”

Is the world changing, or what? Usually the first thing people do is rent a car. This guy doesn’t even know his way around yet and he rents a bike. Not only that, it’s a really rainy day.

His name is Chris and he’s moving to Portland. He comes from what I think might be the only city in Texas that could produce this kind of person, namely Austin. (Am I being unbearably prejudiced? What would Molly Ivins say?)

Get this: One of the main reasons he’s moving here is so he can ride his bike around. He says that in Austin you get too sweaty. He’s visiting Portland in our worst weather to get the most realistic experience of it. Smart man. How many dodo-birds visit us in our spectacular summers and impulsively decide to move here only to slit their wrists by late February?

Word about Portland’s pedestrian-scale living is obviously getting around, and I’d be interested to know how. Maybe Chris can tell us. Are we totally famous for being a great biking city, or is this only going on at the word-of-mouth level among cyclists?

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At 2:12 PM, Blogger said...

hi, my name is chris, and i ride bicycles! it was wonderful to meet you this morning, Kate =)

before coming here late late thursday, i knew a grand total of one person in portland, and she's audrey-who-lives-in-your-building. she's not much of a cyclist, though she does do public transit versus driving, frequently. so my recommendations to the town all come from ex-pats or people who've passed through.

about two years ago, i stopped driving to work in austin. i live 4 miles from the office, and there are bike lanes the entire way. due to the nature of the parking situation, it took me exactly as long to drive, park, walk to the office as it did to bike from front door to office, plus i got to park in my office =). so far i've bike-commuted around 4,000 miles, to and from the office alone.

about a year ago i started dating a girl who had no car and she did not let that slow her down at all. she strapped her gear to her rack or put it in her trailer and biked all over town. her pharmacy was 10 miles from her home; her friends all lived 5+ miles away, and the whole time we dated she never once asked for a ride. for use of someone's shower, frequently =)

though we're not dating anymore, she got me started on this bike commute number, and 8 months ago, a new driver totalled my car and i decided to take the money and run, instead of buying back into the game. i calculated my savings at almost 8,000 per year, when you factor in gas, insurance, and repairs (i had a car that required frequent mechanic visits), while my bike costs me on the order of $100/mo to keep up. (i ride a bike that looks even more like frankenstein than the one you met today).

i often tell this story to people i'm just meeting, because when i arrive at a party in bike shorts and begging for a shower, people are shocked that i wouldn't have driven. and in the process i've gotten many comments that portland is a good city for people like me--less sweat, same level of bike-friendliness. and quite frankly, your mass transit is so much better that it really trumps austin. your reputation precedes you, and not just from cyclists. though i do hang out with a lot of cyclists =)

i look forward to reading and sharing more, but for now, i must go see some more of the town before i fly out tonight.

may your blinkies never fail!

At 2:19 PM, Blogger said...

hmm, i don't know how i have a "blogger identity" that's unviewable to others and somehow uneditable by me, but i am

At 5:10 PM, Blogger kate gawf said...

Hi Chris, wow, thanks so much for writing in. Your comment is so substantial and inspiring that I decided to post about it in the main part of my blog to make sure others noticed it. See my next entry.


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