After committing to the Summer Documentary Program, I immediately became excited about one particular thing Portland is known for: bike commuting. I have been a bike-commuting fanboy since I was in elementary school, and since then I’ve logged related achievements such as solely commuting by bike to work and school for a year and riding a unicycle four miles to class on my hometown’s annual Bike to School and Work Day. And so to prepare for seven weeks in the city, I greased my chain, pumped up my tires, and began scouring maps of Portland’s extensive bike commuting infrastructure.
We’ve now been in Portland for almost two weeks, and I am shocked at how much riding I’ve actually been doing. The program and its projects have sent all of us to the far-flung fringes of Portland, and since I’m staying in Milwaukie—a couple of miles south of Portland’s city limits—I’ve been spending a hefty amount of time on the saddle. Like two to three hours a day, HEFTY. As a result, I always arrive at my destination sweaty, and if it’s the end of the day, with a very sore hind end. Nevertheless, I’m still enjoying my daily commutes, my bike hasn’t been stolen (yet), and so far I’ve avoided a North-to-car collision.
Besides the quantity and quality of bikeways in Portland, I’ve been most impressed by the number of super speedy riders around town. Growing up in Bellingham, Washington, I rarely (if ever) got passed by other bikers. Here, it is a daily occurrence. I try not to care, but each time I hear someone coming up behind me, I feel compelled to pedal a little bit harder. When people do inevitably pass me, I try to console myself by pointing out that they have clip-in pedals or are wearing spandex. But really, I’m just not as fast as I’d like to think I am. The other day I got especially bummed when an old shirtless guy cruised by me on a cruiser bike with unbelievable ease. His effort-to-speed ratio seemed impossibly good. When I took a closer look, though, it turned out that he was riding an electric-assist bike. If he hadn’t been, I may have hung up my bike and bought a bus pass to protect my apparently very fragile biker ego. Anyway, I’ve gotta go—traffic is getting bad and I still have miles to ride before I’m home.