Even in good weather, I am wont to ride my bike rather slowly. Yesterday, I positively inched my way through the wintry morning commute, navigating rain and treacherous slicks of fallen leaves in fogged up glasses. And since I was dressed inadequately, in wool coat, wool hat, and jeans, I was utterly drenched by the time I hit the Broadway Bridge, only about a mile into my ride.
…at which point I was so cold, wet and miserable that for the sake of self-preservation, I lapsed into a Walter Mitty-like fantasy about crashing into the guard rail, catapulting overboard–my bike sailing above me in an arc to be captured by a passer by on his cell phone–then falling into the depths of the icy cold Willamette. There I summoned all my reserves and swam to the Eastbank Esplanade, where I was met by Sam Adams, who announced I would be awarded a medal for uncommon valor….
…at which point I was jolted out of my reverie by the new streetcar tracks on the Broadway Bridge, which were so slippery that fantasy almost became reality.
Much has been said about rain as a potential deterrent to Portland’s bike commuting aspirations. In Amsterdam and Copenhagen, notoriously wet and gloomy climes, weather does not appear to prevent anyone from hopping on their bike to work or to the store, all the while looking tres fashionable.
Indeed, inclement weather is not so much a deterrent to bike commuting as is the combination of inclement weather and cars, which makes the prospect of a crash much more likely. Take away the automobiles, and bad weather biking is not so different from bad weather busing or walking; dress appropriately, and you’ll do just fine.
To that end, I would have nixed the Eastside streetcar line and instead converted the stretch into one long and wide cycle track. I support the streetcar in theory but not so much in practice. Or as my son remarks on occasion: “I sneer at the streetcar,” a reference to his ability to walk faster than the slow moving mode.
Ten years ago, the return of the Portland streetcar heralded a new era in urban planning, one in which “everything old was new.” But in today’s fast paced world, that dictum has itself become something of an anachronism.
Alas, in today’s rudderless world, implementing innovation is an uphill battle. So as I wait for “new” new urbanist ideas to be legislated and funded–cycle tracks everywhere, high speed rail, commuter rail, Bus Rapid Transit–I will continue to ride, gingerly, in the rain.