Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Portland Still Not a Bicyling Utopia

A mom taking six kids to the science museum in Portland.

Yesterday when I went for a bike ride a white car (plate 159 FVY)  had to slow down to safely pass. The driver screamed at me as he sped by, being delayed about 15 seconds.

I suspect this was a teenager having a bad day, but it reminded me that in one of the best cities for bicycling, on a road clearly marked that bicycles will be present, drivers like this one felt that extra patience/caution on his part was nothing short of extortion. This is America and the car is king – everyone else is obligated to yield the road or suffer the consequences.

Being yelled at reminded me of growing up in the Midwest in the 1970s and 80s as people routinely yelled wisecracks when I rode my bike on county roads and trucks and cars passed dangerously close, even if there was no other traffic.

Although Portland is a great city for bikers of all stripes, non-cyclists often characterize the place by the fanatics, who would seem to run traffic signals as an ideological statement, endanger pedestrians, clog streets with misplaced narcissism, and participate in  The World Naked Bike Ride as a weird sex rite.

Each year Portland sees a larger number of bicycle commuters which suggests that cycling to work, and bicycling as a way of life, is creeping into the mainstream. I hope that as more people ride the stereotypes of the urban cyclist will fade. I like the thought that in Denmark when a grandmother rides a bike to the grocery store such is so common an occurrence that it doesn’t warrant a blog post or video.

This is the future I want for my kids, where they can ride a bicycle on an urban roadway and know that there is civic culture that respects cycling. I love Portland because we have started this public discussion, but there is still a long way to go.

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