A big hullaballoo is being made of Bicycling magazine’s new list of America’s Top 50 bike-friendly cities. Portland, long declared as the number one bicycle friendly city, has been toppled from its lofty perch by Minneapolis, Minnesota. I for one, applaud that call. While Portland is a nice city to pedal around in, I’ve been to a lot of cities that have bike lanes. I know I just moved back here, but last time I checked, there is no way I could live car-free in this city. (relocating from San Francisco, rated at #6; there’s no legal mountain biking there either, but I’ve never had a hiker try to fight with me for riding the single track in Golden Gate Park) As a mountain biker, I’m forced to drive anytime I want to ride my bike legally on a natural surface trail that comes even close to the experience I want on my bike. As for Forest Park, I’ve been here over a month, with no desire to ride my bike on what we call “logging roads” out on the coast. I guess it’s nice not to have pick ups and logging trucks driving by, but I think I’d rather deal with them than the masses of annoying runners, walkers, and joggers.
Even New York, who is moving up to #8, has dirt jumps, a freeride trail, <and updated!> and 3 miles of XC trails in Manhattan. Seattle, coming in at 4th has a covered bike skills area that can be ridden in the rain, with almost a mile of single track underneath the freeway at the Colonnade. Oh wait, they have dirt jumps too, by the skatepark at Green Lake. Why don’t we have dirt jumps by any of the skateparks? Phoenix, which is way down at 15th, actually has shuttlable DH runs and burly, rock garden filled trails at South Mountain Park. Not to mention single track all over the place.
What do we have? Green paint to stop on at traffic lights. Lots of places to lock our bikes. Call me a bit surly, but what has Portland the city actually done for us residents that prefer knobbies over slicks and dropbars? Don’t get me wrong, these are all major improvements, but I’ve been doored before, and ran off the road on my road bike by a motorist, barely escaping injury. The door incident left me with at least 8 stitches. Guess what city this all happened in? If you guessed bike friendly city #2, you guessed correct.
Portland, I luv ya, but you gotta try a bit harder. I’ll tell you what you could do. Stop hemming and hawing about a social trail in Forest Park, and build a new one already! What is an 18inch wide patch of hardened dirt really going to do, besides move one user group away from the parade of dog walkers, joggers, and hikers? Said hikers will freak the f*ck out if you ride a bike on a trail in the park, but apparently you can get away with poaching trails in the park in an SUV. Maybe they don’t get mad at their own people?
We’ve got Police on the search for mountain bikers in hoodies for putting rocks in a stream, and splashing rouge trail this and that on the news. That wasn’t the mad bomber people, it was a big kid riding a bike in the park, moving sticks so they won’t get caught in their spokes. In reality, the trail that caused all the fuss most likely began as a game trail, and over time, was developed and built into what was found. The reason it was built there is obviously because it was the most quiet and least trafficked part of the park because they figured no one would notice. Turns out you noticed Portland, and decided to get all pissed off because a few people in the knobby-tire population were tired of not having a place to ride. We know you knew about it for a while too. Isn’t it a bit too convenient that the timing of the media uproar over the “discovery” of the trail worked perfectly to derail any further talks on developing a legal trail?
But when someone drives a Land Rover in the park, it doesn’t even make a splash. And what about turning their heads when it comes to people living in the park in the same exact area. If they are sleeping there, it stands to reason that they are pissing and crapping around the above mentioned stream? As long as they aren’t on a bicycle, that is apparently perfectly acceptable. And why are we so hung up on Forest Park? Last time I checked, there were a lot more places all within city limits that resembled a forest. Lots of them have trails there already, and have had them for years. Why can’t I ride my bike there legally? I would consider those parts of town extremely unbike friendly.
And while we’re asking the questions, how about we put in a bike park or three in somewhere? We certainly have enough skateparks. Why do I have to drive to Salem to find some legal dirt jumps? More of that driving stuff again. (Salem comes in at 19th BTW) Skateboarders created ramps underneath the Burnside bridge. BMX riders built jumps in the Grotto. Guess which one made the news lately? Guess which one may have a bulldozer pulling up? How about we put a bike friendly place in to ride bicycles there? Or what about all the space underneath the 405 Freeway? Are you saying, you can’t spare a block or two of space to put in a minor bicycle oasis? Clearly, that land is being used for something much more important: parking cars.
Portland is a nice place to live, and there is some great mountain bike riding nearby, but it certainly doesn’t deserve to call itself the most bike friendly city in the country. Portland, I’m calling you out. For the last several years you’ve become about as smug as these guys:
That’s right, you’re so smug, you think your farts smell good. WTF?
I’ll say this- I feel better after my little rant, and getting all of this off my chest. Don’t get me wrong, I live here, I want Portland to be the most bike friendly city. To a lot of us though, that means having a place to ride our mountain bikes that doesn’t involve driving somewhere, and I’m glad that Bicycling called that out. Until things change for the better, I’ll top off the tank and get the car loaded for the 40 minute drive to a good riding spot. Or maybe I’ll just stay local today, build up another fixed gear, steal a pair of jeans from my girlfriend, and go session the covered parking lot at the water front with my stupid-short handlebars. I might even see you at the next group ride at Forest Park. My cold and sluggish winter legs need to get out and pedal more anyway.
For another spin on the subject, check out BikePortland’s post.
What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Let a comment below, or call me out on Twitter.