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ride report: showing up

Posted Apr 05 2009 11:51pm
Today I had planned to go to the CRC "Less Bridge" rally downtown.

First, a little history for my out-of-state readers:

The rally was designed as the first in a series of actions to voice larger opposition to the Columbia River Crossing Commission's recommendation that a new Interstate bridge be built across the Columbia River -- with 12 lanes for automobile traffic.

There are all sorts of reasons that this is wrong. Here are my top three:

1. Building a 12-lane freeway bridge without addressing the issues that cause the perceived need for it -- like the differences between Vancouver, WA's and Portland OR's approaches to dealing with sprawl, for instance -- is shortsighted and reflects mid-20th century planning. We've long outgrown the "more-cars-is-better" idea. It's time to move on towards sustainable, smart growth that promotes walkable, bikeable cities. In turn, urban density promotes getting to know your neighbors and getting along with them. Portland has been working on this vision for over 30 years. Clark County (WA) has some serious catching up to do in the fight against sprawl.

2. Building a 12-lane freeway bridge that will still feed into a 3-lane bottleneck (which there are no immediate plans to adapt to the larger bridge) does NOT constitute "traffic calming". It creates a clusterf*ck that will only increase congestion and traffic jams.

3. Creating more capacity for cars on both sides of the Columbia River means that increased motor traffic will spill off into residential streets, some of which are less than two miles from the river. What happens when drivers try to find shortcuts on surface streets? They get impatient, drive too fast and someone inevitably gets hurt. As a resident of a neighborhood that will see an IMMEDIATE impact if this bridge is allowed to be built, I feel ignored by my elected officials -- especially those on the Portland City Council and Metro regional Council who voted to support the CRC's recommendation.

Lots of suggestions for a better scenario abound. Here are my top three:

1. Stop catering to the trucking and automotive industries! We don't need more superhighways. What we need is a stronger, better-funded RAIL system for both freight AND people. Rail is the most sustainable form of longer-distance travel and we need to get back to promoting and growing the railroad system again in this country.

2. Run MAX (Portland's commuter light rail) all the way into Vancouver, WA. Hell, we already have cross-border traffic with TriMet and C-Tran; why not just make it more complete? And frankly, screw the folks in Clark County who voted it down last time. They simply do not understand the bigger picture and I am tired of waiting for them to wake the [bleep] up. Get the Governors of both Oregon and Washington involved, as well as the federal government, if necessary, but make light rail regional and grow it to serve the larger population that is expected to live here in 20 years.

3. Improve the existing Interstate Bridge -- seismic upgrades would cost about as much as just tearing it down, while a new 12-lane bridge would cost five to seven times more -- and build a much smaller, second bridge for local access (so Hayden Island residents don't have to get on a freeway just to go to the nearby stores) and for sustainable transportation across the Columbia. The second bridge would be for low-speed auto traffic, biking, walking and transit -- and would be a much safer way for bicyclists to cross the Columbia River into Vancouver from Portland.

Now that we've got all that out of the way:

The rally was scheduled for noon. By 9:30, however, the sun was so bright and the morning so pleasant that I left the house two and a half hours early just to ride around. I enjoyed a quiet Sunday morning ride through Northeast and North Portland, admiring flowering trees and smiling at joggers and dog-walkers and the like. I stopped at a yard sale where I found a Palm Pilot and recharging stand and cords in someone's "Free" box. I fished it out from among the Lego blocks and Barbie clothes and examined it.

"Is this really free?" I asked the guy sitting on the steps of the house.

"Yesh," said the guy, who looked and sounded VERY stoned for ten a.m. on a Sunday morning. "It's like, totally empty, I emptied all the stuff out of it, you know. Dunno if it works anymore, though, that was four or six months ago or something. I haven't turned it on or charged it since." He shrugged sleepily. "So maybe it works, maybe it doesn't. I dunno, man."

The guy was a minor idiot. I figured it might be a fun toy for me to fiddle around with, or a possible upgrade for Sweetie (don't know which is better, hers or this one, but I figured she'd know). I thanked the guy, tucked the Palm and its charger into my bike bag and sped away.

I continued on through Woodlawn, up along Albina Street and over to North Mississippi Avenue, tooled around side streets back and forth in the Boise neighborhood, and finally made my way over to the Rose Quarter. I was having one of the loveliest mornings on a bicycle in MONTHS. It had warmed up so that I was in knickers and shirtsleeves only a couple of miles into my ride; the morning was bright and sunny and springy and best of all, my knees didn't hurt once. I loved the quiet, the sound of the breeze through a set of windchimes, the sight of a ladybug -- a ladybug! -- landing on my bell and hanging out for three blocks until it flew off. It was very possibly one of the best bike rides so far this year, and I meandered around side streets because I sort of didn't want it to end.

I finally made my way downtown and waited for the rally to begin. Most of my pictures are up at my Flickr page; here are a couple for now:

My Rivvy, hanging with her peeps under the Morrision Bridge at Waterfront Park. (It seems that MOST people came by bicycle.)

Not a lot of love for Portland Mayor Sam Adams right now. He gave the green light to the proposed 12-lane bridge, and, well, people were already unhappy with him:

Seriously unhappy:

Here's my hero: the only Portland City Commissioner to vote against the CRC's proposal -- a gutsy move, considering she's a freshman commissioner taking a big political risk -- Amanda Fritz. You go, girl:

I signed some postcards to my representatives and made a note to myself to look up more info online at home. The rally ended around 1:30. Several friends wanted to ride somewhere together, and I was ready to join them until I heard they wanted to go fairly far southward, meanng a longer ride home for me. Since I still had chores to do at home, I opted out and promised a lunch date with one of them soon. The ride home along the Esplanade was crowded but lovely, with all the cherry trees in full, fluffy bloom and birds flying overhead hoping for sloppy seconds from the Saturday Market crowd. I could not help smiling as I pedaled along without effort on an amazingly gorgeous day.

Total distance, a very lazy, happy 11.5 miles. I want all my rides to be this good, and that's why I will support every effort to BLOCK construction of a 12-lane monster across the Columbia River. If you're interested in finding out more, check out these links:

Happy riding.
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