Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Boom, Winter is here.

The lady B and I had a coffee date in Sellwood this afternoon so I decided to put that in the middle of a nice bike ride and show off some spandex to the customers at Marsee Baking. It took about 5 minutes for me to turn around, go back inside, and grab a heavier coat, tights, and second pair of DeFeet wool gloves. Holy Cold and Wet, Batman. 44F with solid rain and gusting winds is a whole new wardrobe and a world away from 44F and partly cloudy. Especially once the rain finally creeps under your jacket collar, down the back of your shorts, and through the seal at the top of your booties.

Riding in Portland itself is just not all that much fun. Sure, it's ranked as a great city for bicycling, and it is - a great city for bicycling. It's still a big city. And big city riding always kind of sucks, especially when the weather turns bad.

So today, when Trimet Bus #2833 pull a jack-ass-in-a-sportscar move and tried to pass me quickly on the left on Barbur drive and then cut across the bike lane to get to the right turn lane without waiting to be clear (or waiting 3 seconds for me to get far enough forward that he could cross safely behind me), after I spent hours pounded with rain and repeatedly forced out into traffic due to large wet leaf dumps in the bike lane, I threw up a hand and cursed city life.

There are two major threats to riding in SW PDX in the winter: drivers, and leaf piles. The drivers are what they are - most good, a few bad - and that's a constant. The leaf piles I just don't understand. It appears that the official road cleaning policy here is to let leaves and junk get good and soaked for a few weeks, and then hope that enough cars drive up and down the roads to cut a few nice tracks down the middle for traction. Combine that with vegetation so overgrown on all the road edges that most turns are completely blind, and you have an exercise in bike ninja skills just to get through some of the neighborhoods safely. Especially if some antsy driver behind you decides to floor it.

All in all, this town is great for commuting by bike - compared to other big cities. It's even great compared to most small cities outside of the PacNW since at least around here the idea of non-motorized transportation is taken seriously. It is also not fair to hold PDX to a Willamette Valley small town standard - you can't cram 2 1/4 million people into the Portland–Vancouver–Hillsboro Metro Area and expect Eugene-Springfield type traffic conditions. But still - I expect my taxes to buy me civilization. Roads swept clean every couple of weeks and safe, courteous public employees are pretty important parts of a civilized community, at least in my eye.

Keep it safe out there.

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