It was something to see, newbie.
Five years ago in this town, you could hop in the car around lunchtime and speed from one end of the city to the other in record time, just because you felt like it. You could sneak out of work at 3 pm and be home—or at the bar—in no time flat.
That old open road was a-callin’, and Portlanders were answering. But that’s not the town you’ve arrived in. These days, we’re a town of gridlocks.
Thankfully, Portland has an awesome cheat code: the bicycle.
No city in the US has built as robust a bicycle network. And while no one would argue we’ve done things perfectly, getting from A to B by bike is much more pleasurable—and not infrequently faster—than the rage-box you arrived in.
Exciting, right? As you get ready to transition into your beautiful new lifestyle, here are some things to keep in mind:
• You’ll save money
Sure, Oregon just passed a wrongheaded $15 tax on new bicycle sales, but if you’re looking to buy your first bike in years, $200 and a fast Craigslist finger are typically enough. Don’t sweat what people are going to think. Find a bike you dig, and start skipping the gas station.
• You don’t have to commit
If you’re not into jumping in with both feet, the city’s Biketown bike share system is here for you. The bikes are slow, but convenient in the central city.
• Rain is nothing to fear
Sure, the wet can get to you after a while. But with proper preparation (fenders, solid rain gear) there’s no reason why Portland’s mild drizzles should strand you. Even with allowances for gearing up and drying off, you might still save time.
• Neither are hills
Seattleites will tell you our city is flat. My friend Ryan was that way, until crossing the Broadway Bridge utterly destroyed him. Yes, Portland has hills. They might be difficult at first. They will become less difficult. You will come to relish them.
• Everyone’s freaked out at first
If you’re not used to it, biking alongside traffic is weird. It’s scary. The good news is, with good planning, it’s easy to stick to Portland’s Neighborhood Greenways, minimizing contact with vehicles. Eventually, the cars won’t intimidate you so much (but always stay on your guard).
• You should obey the traffic lights
Yes, you will see other cyclists breezing through reds. You might even feel foolish staying put while they do so. But they are the ones who are foolish. You are a goodwill ambassador. This does not necessarily apply late at night.
• You need to trick out your bike
With a bell and lights, at least. The bell is better than shouting when you’re coming up behind a pedestrian. The lights are necessary by law if you’re travelling at night, and just very, very smart.
• U need a U-lock
There’s simply no other option. You can learn that the hard way (I did) or just trust me.