17 August 2009

16 July 2009

Extra! Extra! Shameless Self Promotion!

[the press release i wrote for the neighborhood bike event. --sph]

Neighborhood Goes By Pedal

Is Kerns Neighborhood the most bike-friendly in Portland? G.T. Meili, shrugs his shoulders at the question, “We might be.” Don’t mistake his low-key demeanor as laissez-faire. The strides in biking infrastructure that Kerns has made in the last fifteen months were exactly what the Goodfoot Nightclub owner had in mind when he created the Bike Advocate position on the neighborhood board at its annual elections in May of 2008.

“When people think of neighborhood associations they think ‘boring,’” Meili confides, “we created sustainability and bike advocacy positions on our board to kind of reach out to the interests of a new wave of neighbors who might not otherwise turn out for this kind of thing.” In the past year the efforts of the neighborhood have yielded measurable success—the recent installation of bike corrals on 28th north and south of East Burnside perhaps being the most visible.

“Right locality, right time, right city,” Kerns Bike Advocate Sean Hutchinson suggests, “all these things were happening around bicycle infrastructure already, so to be able to add the clout of the neighborhood association helped push them in our direction.” Hutchinson lists the overwhelming support for the Twenties Bikeway, a $2.1 million project to bring a dedicated North-South corridor for bike traffic through the close-in Eastside with Metro’s Regional Flexible Funding dollars, as another of the neighborhood’s successes, “I don’t know how much a role our grass roots online campaign or testimony at Metro played, but I do know that the Twenties Bikeway was the most favorably reviewed of all the proposed projects.”

Although Hutchinson had been a long time bike commuter, even coordinating for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s yearly Bike Commute Challenge in his day job as a producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting, the role of neighborhood advocate did not come with stringent prerequisites. “Basically he said he’d do it,” Meili deadpans.

“Having the neighborhood association on board can really help expedite the process,” remarks Sarah Figliozzi, Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Bike Program Specialist who oversees the on-street bike parking installations, or corrals. “Having an outside voice that speaks from the perspective of the community at large helps the City develop parking solutions that serve the whole neighborhood's needs.” The corrals at Pambiche, Crema and Ken’s Pizza on 28th Avenue represent the 18th, 19th and 20th installations by the city.

The denouement for Kerns comes August 16th at the Southeast Sunday Parkways event. PBOT will close 14 miles of streets to cars as part of an all day bike festival. Kerns’ Vice-President Angela Kirkman wrote the grant funded by Southeast Uplift Neighborhood Coalition that will enable the neighborhood to promote bike safety and awareness through the disbursement of helmets, bike lights and reflective accessories. Partnerships with Legacy’s Trauma Nurses Talk Tough program and the Bike Gallery have allowed the subsidized helmets and bike mechanics to be part of the event. Three bands—Dave Fulton, Pancake Breakfast and Physical Hearts—will play outdoors at the Box + One building nearby to the new corral at SE 28th and Ankeny.

Ironically, the Sunday Parkways route almost missed Kerns Neighborhood entirely. “Initially we had it drawn up heading south from Laurelhurst Park,” informs Janis McDonald, the PBOT Project Manager who heads up planning for the Parkways events, “after meeting with them and hearing their plans we realized this community would be a great inclusion for the Southeast route.”

“We’re looking at this as a celebration of all we’ve been able to accomplish in the last year,” Hutchinson crows. “We had these grandiose visions starting out, and, remarkably, they’ve played out just as we schemed.”

Angela Kirkman [insert e-mail, phone]
Sean Hutchinson: sepahu [at] gmail.com, cell 503.453.4316

CremaCorral.jpg: Kerns Neighborhood Association has planned a bike safety and awareness event at the Box + One building around the corner from the new bike corral installation at SE 28th Avenue as part of the Southeast Sunday Parkways event. A grant from Southeast Uplift Neighborhood Coalition funds the event.

TokenSwap.JPG: Kerns Neighborhood Bike Advocate Sean Hutchinson exchanged his minivan for a new bicycle and beer tokens at the 2008 Tour de Fat festival sponsored by New Belgium Brewing. Proceeds benefited the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

09 June 2009

Forty Nights and SEVEN DEES

What's a company to do when bikes continually carve a path through your commercial landscaping? Install gi-normous boulders, of course. But what if you do that and the bikes still find another spot to cut through? Just park your cherry picker's basket in the gap as pictured above!

01 May 2009

Bye Bye Johnny; Hello Pavement

I'm told this is going on Bicycle Magazine's blog but I wrote it weeks ago and still haven't heard anything so I'm posting it here first. You're welcome, mom...

August 16th, 2008 will forever stand out in my memory as a fateful day. On that day the kids and I scribed a farewell message in shoe polish on the old minivan’s window and donated it to a local bike charity. Strictly speaking it was a “swap” not a donation, set up by the folks at New Belgium Brewing. I soon found myself the proud owner of a spiffy Black Sheep commuter bike with tricked-out components, panniers, a full gear set--all the bells and whistles (actually, the bell came separately).

But I should point out this automotive trade-in was not the “push, pull or tow” variety. Our 1997 Nissan Quest was a bit like a member of the family. Poundage of rogue goldfish and gummy worms, no doubt, still occupy the crevices of Ike (age 4) and Tallulah’s (age 2) middle-row captain’s chairs. We spent many hours grooving to kid rock (the genre, not the performer) in its confines on the way to work and/or daycare. It was no schlub discard our “Johnny” as we called it, but the decision had been made: it was our destiny to be a one-car family, and Johnny would go down honorably as a substantial tax write off.

The decision though was one the family agonized over. When I made my submission video for the swap, the numbers were against me. Living in Portland, Oregon, of course I bike commuted pre-swap from time to time; it was my civic duty (you take an oath when you register to vote). I had long wanted my bike commuting to transcend to a higher plane though my wife Jennifer really wasn’t really copacetic with the proposed arrangement. So before I would trade in my workaday trappings for the flowing robes and long white beard of Enlightenment, there were to be some down-to-earth negotiations and assurances.

“You are not doing this,” Jenn said. I’m paraphrasing because my mom might read this. “No!” Ike demanded. Even my two-year old burst out in abject laughter at the preposterous idea. I assured Jenn that there was no way I would win the contest and that just by submitting the video didn’t mean I had to actually go through with it.

I did.

Ultimately, my wife acquiesced and agreed to dispense with one of our cars for a year’s trial. She’s good that way. There may or may not have been the promise of a Prius in the offing.

Long story longer, she and the kids met me downtown at the riverfront for the ceremonial giveaway. Only, it turned out, the tow truck wouldn’t be taking Johnny away that same day. We ended up taking it back home to await its eventual removal with a parking ticket on the windshield. That was the kids’ last trip in Johnny.

You know how you build up obstacles in your mind and psyche yourself out of the positive change for which you profess a longing? This bike-commuting thing may be one of the more constructive mid-life crises on record. Turns out there was a way to make arrangements for picking up the kids at daycare across town when my wife had client dinners or other social engagements after work. Grandma and Grandpa didn’t seem to mind renting a car for their visit in the absence of a seven-seat vehicle. My doctor was amazed that I dropped nine pounds in the three weeks after my daily commute began, and at the follow up to my physical I effectively stayed the high blood pressure medicine prescription she’d been considering for me. Granted, I’m still balding and overweight, but still, there’s progress there.

Now, I’m not going to lie to you. It’s true what they say about Portland. If you don’t like the weather, stick around five minutes and it will still be raining. And there have been days when I have had to drag myself to my bicycle. On those days, if an auto were an option, there’s no way I’d be bicycling. But when I hang my sopping jacket or tights from my locker door, I can chalk up one accomplishment before my day’s even begun. I’ve encountered scenarios on my commute (a barn owl, prostrate septuagenarians, cartoon-themed panhandlers, volcanic eruptions, tons and tons of goose shit—all true) that you just never encounter in a car. Though I may miss NPR, I had a habit of switching to sports talk anyway.

The point I’m trying to make is that sometimes, left to your own devices, as good intentioned as one might be, there’s going to be some backsliding. These lapses in will power are human nature, not necessarily character flaws. Sometimes it takes a little less to become something more. So I got rid of my car.

Here we are at Day 237 of the Year of the Bike. The white beard never grew in. I put back most of the pounds I shed. But I do ride my bike to and from work everyday. Some people think that’s crazy, irresponsible, heroic, or whatever. But what I’ll tell you (in the strictest confidence) is it’s, surprisingly, really not that big a deal.

15 April 2009

Twenties Bikeways Funded

Today's discussion about bike corals at the Belmont Business district meeting got me curious about when Metro's selection of Regional Flexible Funding projects would be announced. As some of you will remember, RIDDEN advocated on behalf of the Twenties Bikeways project which would put bike lanes on 28th through Kerns Neighborhood where I live and reside on the board as Bike Advocate.

Somehow it flew under my radar, but this announcement was made in late
March and, in fact, "our" project was among those approved!
We are now beginning in Kerns the decision-making process as to where we want to prioritize bike corals placement and planning a safety day and helmet/light giveaway as part of the Sunday Parkways event in Southeast Portland.

PDOT 's decision on funding these corals is based largely on "destination"
and "visibility" considerations. Hopefully, the news about intended
bike lanes on 28th assuages any concerns over encouraging bike
traffic there. The intersections with Bike Boulevards or low-traffic
cross streets (Ankeny and Davis, as identified in the Bike There!
maps) still do make for good candidates and have already support among
adjacent businesses, another key for PDOT . For those interested, I've linked to the .pdf with the list of all the Metro funded projects here:

Thanks to everyone (Mom) who read my earlier post and advocated through the online forum.


30 March 2009

The Oregonian expands the divide

What is it with The Oregonian and cyclist advocacy these days? Did anyone see the Jack Ohman's caption contest this week?


If you read this, submit an entry that satirizes the O's take on CRC, the Idaho Law, etc.

To read more about their editorial board's favorite target these days, go here:


04 March 2009

Some Numbers...

You're tired of the same old excuses: work, two kids, diarrhetic cramping. There is good news. I'm halfway through the Year of the Bike--200 days to be exact. Excluding weekends, holidays and telecommutes that's 115 commute days or...
1610 Miles
80,500 Calories
1575.5 lbs. of Carbon Dioxide reduced.
So, I guess I don't' feel that guilty about not blogging.
Gotta run (see excuses above)!

03 February 2009

Groundhog Day vs. the Butterfly Effect

Two movies from 1993 introduced sophisticated scientific concepts into the popular lexicon. Well before February 2nd, 2009 the term "Groundhog Day" had become synonymous with a kind of tragic deja vu--the feeling that one is doomed to repeat the same scenario repeatedly until reaching some transcendent epiphany that looses that entrapment. The "Groundhog Day" phenomenon owes a nod to the idea of a parallel universe as suggested by the theory quantum mechanics. It was boosted, of course, into the public consciousness by the Bill Murray movie of the same name.

And it was Jurassic Park--cue Jeff Goldblum's nervous tic--that took Chaos Theory to the masses. Specifically the concept of the "Butterfly Effect" as suggested by the late mathematician Edward Lorenz who theorized that the "sensitive dependence" of weather patterns were so significant that a butterfly flapping its wings in Florida could cause a tornado in China. This idea is most commonly used in modern parlance to suggest one small change that causes a ripple of various effects.

This relates to my bike commute how? Well, I started the day yesterday feeling like the bike commute was Groundhog Day, the same thing over and over. And then on the way home, kind of accidentally, I veered from my normal pathway and realized how much change had occured--a cut-through blocked off, a house remodel--just a block or so off my normal course. There's safety, reliability in known pathways; there's value in intermittently veering from the path. Change means nothing without some constant to guage it by; repetition breeds boredom.

Which category of commuter do you fall in?

27 January 2009

Snow Commute Haiku

Cute, white, wet. You blitz
my face like tiny pin pricks.
Welcome, snow. Now go.

19 January 2009

Viva La Backpack

It was the early Nineties when I first attended college. A lot of kids were slinging their backpacks over one shoulder in those days. Not me. I always afforded the backpack it's proper respect. A strap for every shoulder, plus one that rides like a Breathe Right strip across the chest--barely touching the bottom-most border of the areola. I remember my blue canvas sack with a reinforced leather bottom that I used to smuggle Molson Goldens into a Pearl Jam concert.

Christmas of 1998 my older brother Bryan bought me an REI model that was what I call a triangle pack--not to be confused with a messenger back which was the rage during those days. Rather than a strap over each shoulder, there was one shoulder strap and a side strap that connected to the the main front strap for an ergonomic and fashionable hang. When I was in grad school I would load it up with 3-d modeling textbooks and head down to enjoy the media circus around the Ray Lewis murder trial outside Coca Cola World in downtown Atlanta. I would later be married across the street.

I started my patch collection before I even had the backpack. I think my earliest patch dated back to 1991 and the summer I spent studying in Innsbruck, Austria. I knew I wanted a patch for a backpack or a travelling knapsack of some sort, but wanted to save it for the right one. By the turn of the century this new pack already boasted a wide collection of travel keepsakes--the trip to the Southwest where I got engaged populated the bag with several patches from a variety of National Parks we visited. I'm not sure if I put a Lake Powell patch on that pack, but that's where I popped the question. I'm a big fan of the original Planet of the Apes movie and also the Edward Abbey novel Monkey Wrench Gang, so I kinda killed two birds with one stone on that stop (never realized before both works invoke primates titularly). The night I proposed I got drunk waiting for something magical. There wasn't much to do at the primitive campsite. Earlier in the day we'd set up the tent and went for a meal at the resort restaurant. When we returned the tent was gone. I thought it had been stolen, but noticed some green fabric in a ball some 200 yards away. Turns out there were 80-mile an hour windstorms that ripped the tent out of the ground. Some other campers had been nice enough to track it down and lay some rocks on it. I later thanked them and they admitted they'd only done it because they thought it was their tarp. We still camp in that tent. I haven't repaired the slight rip across the roof it incurred that afternoon.

My wife sewed the patches on my backpack. It was Gortex-lined, so the needleholes degraded the waterproofing. But it was the pack I'd waited years for. There's one on there with a frog from Costa Rica where we spent our honeymoon. Another with a lobster from Boston where I saw the Braves play the Red Sox thanks to a jiggered radio contest the summer before I moved to the Northwest. A few years later the zipper broke on that pack. It sort of rendered it unreliable as a means of transport. I may have even added a few patches after that--where else was I gonna put them? In the interim, I'd received Ortleib Pannier bags one Christmas: 2003, I'm guessing. We pronounce "Pannier" the French way even though Ortleib is a German company.

My wife works for an apparel company, and so I'm the lucky beneficiary of random items, including a similarly styled tri-corner pack. Since the onset of the Ortleib era I haven't had much reason to revert to the pack. I enjoyed that unencumbered feel of having nothing on my back while I ride. Then last week, I left my bike at work over the weekend. We went out for drinks on Friday; it was freezing cold. So I figured I'd just get a ride home. I wound up taking the bus in on Monday morning. I didn't want to carry my Ortleib bag over my shoulder. If you've done it, you know the little hook juts into your back. Not at all ergonomic. So I went back to the new/old backpack. And it's enjoyed something of a renaissance the entire week. It's cold enough that back sweat is not an overriding issue. It just felt right, familiar. If you haven't used a backpack in a while give it a try. You might be pleasantly surprised.

18 January 2009

Take, These Broken Wings

Yesterday evening a thing happened to me. At the corner of Houston and Broadway, I was pedaling full speed when my bike splits in two. I land on my feet running between the front and rear wheels, and after 10 yards of this I slow the three of us to a stop. I pick up both ends, still connected by the break cables, and dash for the sidewalk just as the next wave of Sixth Ave traffic begins to whoosh by. This all transpires in less time than it takes to type “Oh my.”

I prop what is now a unicycle tethered to an anchor against the nearest signpost. I swing my head around looking for some explanation. People walking by don’t know what to think of the situation. Two weeks ago I dropped $30 on this bike to get the breaks working. Can I take it to that place and have them weld the frame back together? I refuse to ride the train to work again. Not again, not me. I do have $400 in cash. But I’ve come to love this bike. White, athletic, stripped of the gear-changing apparatus. Born in 1909, cast in molten lead and depleted uranium, christened with a bottle of Night Train. Three cranks and it morphed into a herd of bison. It was a Manhattan bike – the kind that can cooperate with the front of two cabs and the back of a Chevy Tahoe. This bike never had a name. My first commuting bike. The kind of bike that doesn’t get stolen, unless a MOMA curator happens to walk by. How could I have let this happen? Maybe I didn’t. Maybe the bike itself chose to let go at the just right moment to spare my life. You know, Jesus did that.

I chain the two pieces to the post and make my way down Houston. I haven’t absorbed what just happened, but I still have an obligation to roast a chicken tonight. Now I am immersed in five lanes of sheep shuffling east and west through the cryogenic wind tunnel. The same sheep that refuse to look both ways when they step out of a cab. A bike zips by, but there is no epiphany in the spindrift floating in its wake, at least not within reaching distance from this icy sidewalk. I’ve been commuting cross-town for 18 months, five days a week, that’s over 700 rides down Houston. Never mind the Manhattan circumnavigations, the trips to the Bronx, riding the ferry over to Breezy Point. I need a new bike, I tell myself, tough guy that I am.

By the time I get to Whole Foods my spirit has dropped to knee level and I realize I would have been home right now if the bike hadn’t split in two. I snare a plastic bag and start picking through the brown mushroom trough, which neighbors the exotic egg section, but tonight there are no ostrich eggs with the green $29.95 stickers on them. Just quail eggs. I feel as though my own ostrich eggs have been replaced with quail eggs. Let’s call mine pheasant eggs, given the clutch landing.

Then I see her. Mary Kate or Ashley Olsen. Olsen - a Viking hero. Am I spelling it right? God knows. She picks up an onion and her eyes grab hold of mine. The realness is too much. I quickly redirect my gaze to the guy she’s with, who’s wearing sunglasses, even though he’s not a celebrity, and he’s – did he – I think his tongue touched the mouthpiece of his cell phone. Mary Kate or Ashley Olsen, I remember you from Full House, when I lived with my mom and grandmother in a 3-bedroom house, which could be considered a full house, but without Stamos, are you still in touch with him? I take my time selecting Brussel sprouts so I can turn and take another look or two. I’m no star f***er, as Irene would say, but I must be sure. Yes, it’s one of her. I wonder, are they shooting a follow-up to Beyond Thunderdome? In this weather? Olsen is all ragged lace and droopy grey hems: the post-apocalyptic nymph busily foraging through layers of catalytic converters and rusted oil cans when Mad Max enters her auto-graveyard realm. Can she be trusted? She barters a dubious Firebird for Max’s blue heeler. As Max drives away we see her constructing an over-sized hamster wheel in the background. It’s a dispensable scene – still, it will be the scene people miraculously remember when push comes to shove in a heated game of Trivial Pursuit ten years henceforth. I don’t know, maybe she always dresses that way. I’m glad she brought a coat because it’s 10 degrees outside, and we’re a long way from Ayer’s Rock.

We part ways and I’m off to the free-range section. I wonder if the Olsen could see the loss in me. I think about how Alex and I used to play tennis, and whenever the score was 15-15, we’d yell “Olsen!” Mary Kate and Ashley were always 15 to me. But this one didn’t look 15, and that was unsettling. As unsettling as the prospect of bike-shopping. And having to walk back to reclaim my lock, and take this picture…

12 January 2009

Wheels Turnin'

There's a lot of stuff going on in my world. I'm the "Bike Advocate" of my neighborhood association. As such I lobby for various bicycle causes in and outside of the Kerns Neighborhood Board. We decided this year to apply for a Southeast Uplift Leadership grant for a "Bike Safety and Awareness Day". It's a small grant for use promoting the neighborhood association's activities around some such cause. I'm pleased to report that we received the grant and will be branding helmets, lights and bells with the KNA logo as giveways (donations appreciated, of course). The fundraising, we hope, will pay for the larger goal of an installation of a bike corral off 28th across from the DaVinci Arts Elementary School. We have lobbied for a crosswalk at this intersection of the increasingly trafficked "Restaurant Row." So these projects, are interconnecting and feeding on the momentum of one another (as noted in a previous post we've actively lobbied for Metro's Twenties Bikeway proposal along this same avenue). We got a boost for our Kerns Bike Day this week with the potential partnership of PDOT's Sunday Parkways program. Janis McDonald will be speaking about the event at next week's Kerns Association monthly meeting, which, as always, is at 6pm on the third Wednesday of the month at Pacific Crest Community School. All interested parties are welcome to attend. Get there on time for pizza. We'll be looking for volunteer bike mechanics or bike performers for our Kerns Bike Day this summer, so please be in touch if you're interested.

07 January 2009

The Word of the Day is Wind

Happy New Year. Felt like I was doing the "Ride Against the Wind" mime routine this morning...

Saw a gigantic owl under the Marquam Bridge on Monday. Looked like maybe it was injured. There was a guy about ten feet away from it on his cell, so I assume he was calling the Audobon or Humane Society. Looked like a Great Horned Owl.

I'm thinking about returning my x-mas present and getting a helmet cam for my bike. Look for all this and more in 2009.