Tag Archives: portland

Snow Gets In Your Eyes. Spring Edition.

We Portlanders are a weird bunch. All winter, we gripe about not getting enough snow. If we get half an inch and the schools don’t close down, we grumble about not getting our snow days. Yes, even adults, especially if we work in schools! Unless you are a transplant from the Northeast or Midwest. Then you laugh at the rest of us.

Anyway. Now it’s March. It’s officially spring. And we’re getting snow — so of course we are complaining that we DON’T WANT ANY MORE SNOW! It’s simply not the right time for us. Bad snow, bad!

My husband has a snow day today. He drives a bus for one of the schools in the West Hills, and they are closed. I’m off too, ostensibly on spring break, but the other day I did bike to work during a fairly substantial snowfall. And while I was biking, I had snow in my eyes and a snippet of song in my head. I wrote up a full parody today, just for you. The original song is “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” My version is AWFUL. Please forgive me. :-)

They told me it was spring

And my heart took wing

For I am found astride

My bicycle outside

Every day with pride

Then, they said it just might snow

On the valley floor

Oh, I did not believe

But on the morning’s ride

Snow got in my eyes.

So I rubbed them and I roundly cursed

The weather prediction folks

Yet  today I still have found a way

To get there with all my spokes (with all my spoookes….)


Now laughing friends still ask

Isn’t this a task?

Oh, so I smile and say

No, this is no prize

Snow gets in my eyes

Snow gets…in…my…EYES!


Bicycle Licensing

Every few months…or maybe weeks…the issue of bicycle licensing comes up. Some people think bicyclists should have licenses, and that they should have to pay a fee to license their bikes just like auto drivers do. Here’s one line of reasoning that I read today, in an opinion post on the OregonLive website:

Not all cyclists violate the rules, of course, but even cyclists know that their comrades are out there and they are not operating their bikes in a safe manner. We have all seen you, and you know who you are. Portland — bicycle center that it is — knows this; pedestrians know it; motorists know it.

Supposedly, licensing would help stop this lawlessness. However, I could easily make the same statement this way:

Not all drivers violate the rules, of course, but even drivers know that their comrades are out there and they are not operating their motor vehicles in a safe manner. We have all seen you, and you know who you are. Portland knows this, pedestrians know it, cyclists know it.

And drivers ARE required to be licensed and insured. I don’t think the argument holds up.

The other argument is that cyclists should pay their way like everyone else. The truth is that we already do. Many of us also drive, so we pay license fees and gas taxes. We also pay property taxes (either as property owners or through our rent payments) and income taxes, and portions of those taxes also feed into transportation funding. Meanwhile, we’re creating LESS impact on both roads and air by riding our bikes (see this article on Grist by Elly Blue for a fuller explanation).

While I support education about and enforcement of traffic laws, I don’t think additional licensing and/or fees for bicyclists are good solutions. Instead, let’s get more people educated and riding!

Photo by oedipusphinx — — — — theJWDban on Flickr, used via CC BY 2.0 license.

A New Bicycling Challenge

Portland is a city of bridges — 10 bridges across the Willamette River and two over the Columbia River. If you follow that link, you’ll see that I didn’t count two more — they’re railroad bridges, and I can’t cross them by car or bike!

As far as I can recall, I haven’t crossed any of Portland’s bridges by bike, though. I don’t commute to or live near downtown, so I haven’t had any reason to. But this summer, I’m planning to hit at least six of them through the Providence Bridge Pedal.

The Bridge Pedal is an annual event in which the city closes down auto traffic on the the Willamette River bridges and lets bikes take over! Even the two bridges that are interstate highways! Many people on bikes cross the smaller bridges every day, but this is the only chance for cyclists to cross the Fremont and Marquam bridges.

There are three ride options — crossing all 10 bridges requires a 36-mile ride, but you can also choose 8 bridges in 26 miles or 6 bridges in 13 miles. I’m opting for the latter. My daily commute is only a little over 2 miles each way, so I don’t do a lot of distance riding. I am training up to it, though — even though 13 miles isn’t very far (and I have done a ride that long before), I expect that climbing at least a couple of the bridges will be difficult for me.


Last weekend, I rode to the farmers’ market and back up the big hill — without stopping or walking for the first time! Today I did an 8.7-mile ride to pick up our ground coffee order, including a climb up a steep overpass. I managed this one without stopping or walking too, but it sure takes the breath out of me! When climbing, I actually feel like I need bigger lungs. I’m at capacity. And back at home, I did feel slightly nauseated from the exertion, despite stretching to cool down and drinking water.

I’m looking forward to meeting this challenge. How are you challenging yourself this summer?


Bicycle Commuting Mama: Still Going, How About You?

We’ve had both sub-freezing weather and rainy weather in recent weeks, but I’m still biking along every day! Well, there was that one day that we had freezing rain, and I didn’t get out until about 10:00 a.m. when it thawed out, but that was OK. The only problem was that it was garbage day, and we didn’t get our garbage and recycling bins out, because they sit at the top of a short but steep slope, and it was still covered in ice when I left. So the recycling bin is overflowing now! Yay, recycling.

I know other parts of the country have much more severe weather, though. How are you getting around? Do you drive, walk, bike, bus? Or just stay home?

Here in Portland, we’ve had a bit of an uproar because a member of our State House of Representatives proposed a bill that would make it illegal for children under the age of 6 to ride on a parent’s bike or in a bike trailer. Yes, that really does mean what it sounds like it means. No toddlers and preschoolers in a child seat, or in a trailer intended for babies and toddlers, or on the back of an Xtracycle.

Huh? I mean, even if you’re not that into biking this has to sound a little crazy. Lots of people, normal, average people, take their little ones out on bikes!

Representative Mitch Greenlick (D-NW Portland), thinks young children on bikes are a public health risk.  He told BikePortland that he bases his concern on a study done by Oregon Health Sciences University, his employer.

We’ve just done a study showing that 30 percent of riders biking to work at least three days a week have some sort of crash that leads to an injury… When that’s going on out there, what happens when you have a four year old on the back of a bike?

Oy. Yes, the study exists. The injuries counted in the study included everything from a scraped knee on up. Cycling advocate Mia Birk has an excellent analysis of the study.

Greenlick says that if we can save even one child’s life, we should do it. But meanwhile, thousands of children die as automobile passengers each year, and I don’t see Greenlick proposing that they be banned from riding in motor vehicles as well. And I’m not proposing it, either! I’m just saying that there’s definitely a double standard here.

Cooler heads have convinced Greenlick to pull back; it’s now going to be a topic for further study rather than a potential law. But he certainly got a reaction from Portland’s family biking community!

Challenging Week

It’s back to work week for me! And it’ll be back to school week next week. Both of these present challenges, but I’m also participating in a couple of bike challenges this month.

30 Days of Biking has returned for September! This Minneapolis-based event is open to everyone in the world.

The only rule for 30 Days of Biking is that you bike every day for 30 days—around the block, 20 miles to work, whatever suits you—then share your adventures online.

Yeah. That works for me. I participated in the original 30 Days of Biking in April, but didn’t quite make it to 30 days, because I had to take my bike to the shop, and they kept it for several days. C’est la vie. I’m doing it again. So far I’m two for two.

September is also Bike Commute Challenge month in Portland. Every year, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance sponsors this month long event, in which workplace-based teams compete based on the total percentage of commutes made by bike. I’m entered as part of my employer’s team, and plan to make 100% of my commutes by bike.

Work and life are already bringing challenges, frustrations and setbacks this month, but at least I’ll be getting out on my bike.

Bikes Help People

It all started with a piece on BikePortland about the Community Cycling Center’s findings on the lack of racial diversity in bicycling.

I heard about it because BikePortland mentioned on Twitter that Jack Bogdanski of Jack Bog’s Blog had made note of the piece. He called the report “sad, funny, or both,” chastising the CCC because they weren’t investigating why racial and ethnic minorities “don’t have job opportunities, or health care, or good schools.” And BikePortland rightly noted that the CCC is a cycling advocacy group; that’s what they DO.

It’s not like the Oregon Food Bank is spending donor money to research cycling among minorities. It’s an organization focused specifically on cycling.  And isn’t this better than spending money only on, say, recreational cycling, which benefits an even smaller group of people?

Also, strangely enough, riding bikes can help people with economic concerns as well.

To have a job, or to attend school, one has to have transportation. A bike is a great way to have transportation and to be independent of both the price of gasoline and the vagaries of Tri-Met budget cuts and fare increases.  That’s the biggest reason why I ride a bike to work. I’m not doing it to be cool. I’m doing it because we really can’t afford to have another car and the accompanying expense of gas and insurance. It helps that I also know it’s the right thing to do for our future. But I don’t know if I’d be that strong if it weren’t also economically necessary.

So, having a bike opens up one’s job opportunities, and can also help one save money in order to get ahead. What are the barriers, then? According to BikePortland, the CCC found that “three main themes emerged as barriers to biking: the cost of bikes and their upkeep, concerns about safety, and the logistics of riding (where to do it, what the rules are, and so on).”

Which brings us to geography. I’ve pointed out before that not so many people cycle out where I live.  Many people of racial and ethnic minorities have been pushed into outlying areas of Portland, where rents are cheaper, and that is exactly where bicycle infrastructure is lacking as well.  Check out the map – my neighborhood is one of the outlined areas.

So yes, we do have both geographical and racial/ethnic inequities in our bicycling system in Portland. And yes, that is important.  Hopefully the city will be able to scrape together money to build up the infrastructure in East Portland and other underserved areas; we are slated for at least one bicycle boulevard/traffic calming project at this time, and we have an East Portland Action Plan Bicycle Subcommittee that’s working with the city on infrastructure and bicycling activities (I’ve been loosely involved with this).

What do you think? If you’re not in Portland, is it like this where you live?

Two Days of Biking

I rode my bike two days in row. Shocking, I know!

Today was the second day of 30 Days of Biking.  I rode my bike to work as usual yesterday, but not today. Today’s weather included wind (with high wind warnings), rain, hail, sunshine, and temperatures in the low 40s.  This morning was awful, and I rode the bus to work (while also missing a connection and having to wait 10 minutes without an umbrella, but whatever).

The rain held off long enough for me to pick up the girls and walk home, and then cleared up again after dinner so that we could take a short ride. And I do mean short! We just went around the block (which is actually several blocks long), maybe half a mile or so. But it counts — 30 Days of Biking doesn’t require you to commute or go car-free, just ride a bike at least once a day.

And then the setting sun blazed out when we got home.

Planting Fava Beans and Spring Vegetables

We officially started planting the vegetable garden this weekend.  I’ve been wanting to put in peas ever since a sunny Saturday in mid-January. I weeded the beds and stirred up the soil in short sleeves, reveling in the scent of rosemary, lavender, and good clean dirt.  I was tempted to sow a few seeds while I was at it, but I waited.

Then, this past week I saw a suggestion from the local Master Gardeners’ twitter account:

Cover crop that feeds nitrogen to your soil? Plant fava beans now for spring eats, plant tomatoes when they’re done. Bam! Bam!

That sounded good. I Googled “how to grow fava beans” and found Harvest to Table, which told me that fava beans are a perfect cool-weather crop.  The site also told me how to plant and grow the beans, how many to plant per person in the family, and that they can be eaten fresh or can be frozen, canned or dried. I already knew that fava beans could be used to make both hummus and falafel, which are favorites of mine.

I didn’t, however, click the link for how to prepare and cook broad beans and fava beans. It didn’t worry me. I’ve cooked beans before.  So we planted them on Saturday. But on Sunday, my sister asked me “Have you ever actually cooked fava beans before?”

“Um, no,” I answered. “What?”

“Aren’t those the ones you have to shell twice?” my mother interjected cheerfully.

“Yes,” Wendy answered, explaining that while you’re supposed to be able to just eat them unshelled when they’re young, with mature fava beans “you have to shell them and then cook them and then shell each one individually.”

Uh oh.  We didn’t say any more about fava beans.  I looked it up later on Harvest to Table, and it’s true. Mature fava beans have to be removed from the outer pod, just like shelling peas, but then you have to cook them and “skin” them before eating.

That will be time-consuming. Perhaps we can just pre-cook them all and have a skinning party!

I’m still pleased to be gardening again.  And it’s not just fava beans. We’ve got an 8 X 8 raised bed (it’s the one that had pumpkins last year), and this time I’ve divided it down the middle with a small footpath, and then into squares à la Square Foot Gardening with twine.  My youngest helped me set up the squares; she handed me nails and cut the twine with scissors.

One row of squares is all fava beans, planted four seeds to a square.  There’s also a square each of carrots, lettuce and scallions. We planted these with some old-ish seeds to see if the seeds are still good. If they are, we’ll plant more (and if they’re not, we’ll open a less old-ish packet).  And we planted peas along the wire trellis.

In addition, the daffodils are blooming! I don’t do flowers in a big way, but I do like to have something blooming, and the daffodils are super-easy (as in, I do nothing whatsoever with them except deadheading).

I know some of you probably live in the land of still-frozen ground (I’m in zone 8, by the way), but is anyone else planting or starting seeds now?


Photo credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/foodista/ / CC BY 2.0