Wednesday, June 11, 2008

PDX Pedalpalooza!

Outdoor Mobile is proud to send Tulsa's very own Santa to the Portland Pedalpalooza! Santa will arrive at the PDX Greyhound Station, 550 N.W. 6th, on Friday, 12 June, at 1645 PDT. Immediately upon arrival, Santa will bike in the SantaCon Critical Mass.

Stay tune to this post for pix!

PDX Dispatch, 2344 PDT, 19 June---I'm finally able to get to a wifi'd connection. There is a HUGE backlog of blogging. It has been backed by all the kewl PP stuff I NEED to do. Be that as it may, here goes.

Portland DESERVES the League of American Wheelmen's Bicycle-Friendly City Platinum status. Before PDX pats itself on its collective back, there is baggage. As one keynote speaker noted, PDX now finds itself playing in the Olympics of the world's most bike-friendliest cities.

PDX has certainly come a LONG ways. But, it still has a long way to go.

Northbound M.L.K., PDX.

The Greyhound bus finally rolled into PDX on Friday the 13th. And, true to it's reputation, strange stuff, annoying stuff happened. My trusty Bike Friday was still somewhere between KCMO and Boise, Idaho. Whatever.

I missed the SantaCon Critical Mass. But, somehow, managed to win the lottery for a nice warm bed at the PDX Rescue Mission. The hostel on Glisan had no vacancies. I am doing PP on not just a half-baked, last minute whim on Wednesday the 11th. It was more like a quarter-baked proposition with the attendant budget.

Ok, so it will be an adventure. I need to do more research into homelessness for another project anyways. Whatever.

At 0500 Saturday the 14th, I got the B-Friday and rolled to the day version of WNBR to start at 1400. At 1330, five men including myself were looking at each other. The questions: Is this all that's gonna show? And, more importantly, who's gonna strip first?

At 1350, a whole swarm of bikers showed up. Immediately, the clothes went OFF. At 1400, WNBR hit the road. I stayed behind, fully clothed, with camera in hand, incredulous at the reality of the spectacle. In Oklahoma, the naked spectacle would have netted the whole group FELONY indecent exposure and branded for life as registered sex offenders.

What more should I say about WNBR, World Naked Bike Ride? OFF da FRIGGIN' hook! I am one of those people who don't find a whole lot of enjoyment from biking naked, unless the possibility exists for getting arrested. There seemed to be little chance of the PDX Police Bureau busting over 1,000 naked bikers.

The official PDX ordinance on public nudity is naked, ok. Doing the dirty, while naked is NOT. Of course, Oregon statutes do not criminalize public indecency. Free speech and all that.

I arrived early for the pre-party. It was the usual crowd of the insiders, friends of friends, and lost souls who really needed some assurance and support from some stranger, playing the Booze Nazi. That was me.

The automatic reaction of whoever is in charge of whatever PP event is to put the early birds to work as volunteer. That seems to be how stuff gets done around here. So, I'm game.

Someone assigned me to keep the alcohol out of certain areas. No cameras, either. I was not going to break that rule again. During the daytime version, I committed the worst faux pas. I clicked pictures of naked people in public while I was fully clothed. On the nighttime version, professional photographers went briefless while clicking. That image will haunt me for sometime.

As Booze Patrol, I really didn't have much to do, except to encourage the few wandering souls without a friend for naked support. 1,000 drunken motorcyclists in one place are sure to cause a whole lot of problems. But, 1,000 drunken bicyclists just get naked.

Jonathan Maus of BikePortland introduced himself to me. As a professional journalist, I am sure he is fairly jaded. But, even he commented, "This is CRAZY!"

The actual ride went on for an hour, beginning from an industrial warehouse, in the Northwest. Since I didn't go, and fully clothed, I assumed the ride meandered around the condo district, 23rd Street restaurant row, and Downtown. Even the homeless were taking about WNBR the next day.

Next day came soon enough at 5 a.m. I did not sleep. After WNBR wrapped up, I rode around town in the early a.m. as the sun rise. I needed to crash somewhere. And, finally, hit the grass near Lovejoy Station, a rent-control condo development.

One of the burning PDX issues beyond bicycle access is housing. Developers can't seem to build condos fast enough in Downtown. There are not enough beds for the homeless.

A few weeks prior, the homeless encamped at City Hall to make their presence known. The lame duck Mayor Potter and cronies tolerated the direct action, until the public defecations finally got out of hand.

Apparently, the bicycle community inspired the homeless direct action. After bicyclists took over City Hall for one of their street parties, other groups got the same idea. 2,000 students protested the war in the Spring.

PDX has a weak Mayor form of municipal government. City Commissioners are elected at-large. With enough warm bodies, just about any local special interest mafia group can make significant changes, sometimes to the annoyance of the rest of community. Everybody needs a high threshold to stay sane.

Sanity is certainly not a virtue when City Hall kowtows to the bicycle community. PDOT is on their way to increasing the number miles of bike lanes. While they seem to be fairly benign, bike lanes created their own set of problems of the legal variety.

Bike boxes are probably over-the-top for an Okie used to just cutting to the front of the traffic jam at the traffic lights. The danger is in the civil courts. If a bicyclist is not in a bike lane or bike box during a collision with a motor vehicle, he/she may not be entitled to damages.

22 June:
I am totally sloshed on red wine, blogging from a free hotspot, BeulahLand on the corner of 28th and Burnside, PDX. I am waiting for Harold and Kumar to start at 2145. I left my cam at Angela's place. It has all the pictures from today's Sunday Parkways. I'll post the pix later. So, stay tuned, people.

Right now, I am like TOTALLY sloshed. It's kinda hard to type. If you guys have pix of the silly Santa rolling today, BRING it! I got to ride not just one, but two, tandem 'bents. OMG! WHAT a HOOT! Thanks a whole bunch, Aaron! I'm like TOTALLY hooked on 'bents now. I NEED one that folds and goes into a Samsonite suitcase.

I bet BIKEPORTLAND will probably scoop me with today's Sunday ParkWays. I hope Jonathan is about as sloshed as I am. Probably not, DAMMIT.

I am gonna deferred to BIKEPORTLAND for the write-up. I am like so SLOSHED! Keep the comments comin', people!

23 June:
Most of my day was used on recovering from Sunday Parkways. I must have done 4 or 5 six-mile laps over the course of six hours of closed off streets. Then, I bought 5 liters of red wine, got drunk, and went to bed.

If Pedalpalooza is such a dream vacation, there is still an element of Portland that reminds me of Tulsa. IGNORANT motorists and talk show hosts insisting bikes don't belong. More than the usual number of motorists got a bit too close. I had to really stick out my arm out to make sure they didn't get closer, unless they intend to kill me.

Within the various PP group rides, motorists pretty much behave. But, some motorists want to push the issue when there's an assertive single biker in their way. I'm trying not to hang on to the baggage so I don't pass the crap onto the next hapless soul.

It has occurred to me that one of the reasons why PDX bike activists insist on bike lanes is because they are too nice. They really don't want to 'impede' motorists. There are many times I actually feel for motorists who are stuck behind the various rides.

These rides can get pretty big, take up the whole road, like an 18-wheeler. Yesterday, there must have almost 12,000 on the Sunday Parkways route for six hours.

The great cultural feature of Portland is the diversity of bikers, beyond spandex. Which translates into a wide diversity bikes and bike shops. There is enough bicyclists to support niche retailing. It's not just racing and spandex.

I've noticed a number of purists who have no intentions of exporting their culture. Much of the niche trade stays local. If, by some chance, some aspect of the culture is exported, it's only by accident. The fixie culture is like that.

The tallbikes have made it out of town. Next up are the zoobomb bikes. But, I really need to get with writing for Street Roots. I can't help feeling there's a HUGE connection between housing and transportation.

It is especially obvious in PDX. Every morning, I pass the makeshift encampment of the address-challenged sleeping on the concrete sidewalk. Portland City Ordinance allows overnight camping for people in line to get the early tickets for special events and first dibs to the latest and the greatest electronic loot at big boxes like Best Buy. City ordinance allows street encampments when the Mayor declares an emergency.

Obviously, there is an emergency. There's not enough housing. The City also criminalizes sitting and lying in public places, the so-called anti-sit/lie ordinance. Just because cops wake up some address-challenged person doesn't make the homeless problem go away. It simply makes the person wander around like a zombie and adds to degradation.

As I enjoy the wonderful experience of doing the Portlandish thing, selling Street Roots, on street corners, it occurred to me that the City could either work with the homeless or against them. What goes around, comes around.

If the City cracks down on street encampments further, the reaction will be like several thousand small slivers of glass slowly opening new wounds. It's really not beyond the imagination the homeless will react with small daily acts of passive-aggression. It could either be positive or negative. What will City Hall decide?

Another random thought: One of the really interesting problems bicyclists have in PDX is the shortage of bike parking. Yes, Fred Meyer's Grocery is surrounded by the typical free auto parking. But, there are not enough parking for the crush of bikes at many retailers.

There's also the added danger of bike-on-bike collisions. Be prepared to watch not only for cars, but, also another bike speeding at you from either the right or left at the intersection. They are going fast enough to do major damage. I wonder how the personal injury lawyers will handle that first one.

To Portland's credit, City Hall Tulsa will be asking voters to tax themselves more, $2 BILLION, to pay for street repairs. In the face of the upcoming $6 gas, not one dime for transit, biking, or walking. Though I will be voting NO Road Tax, I think the whole scam is GENIUS. Gooooooooo, Tulsa!

27 June, PDX:
I am in my Backspace "office," Downtown PDX. Catching my breath before leaving for Eugene Sunday afternoon. There are a boat load of pix on my camera I have not uploaded on flickr. So far, I've managed to submit two stories for Street Roots. Hopefully, they publish them, making lots money for fellow vendors to enjoy my spontenous largesse. There are two more in the pipeline. I will only get to read them online.

I am about to wrap things up here in PDX. It's been a whole lotta fun. Lotsa learning. Lotsa mellowing out understanding the why's of bike lanes and bike boxes. I've decided it's probably best to agree to disagree.

There is a real danger of getting hit by another bike. Driving a car is ridiculously laughable, if it weren't so stressful. Imagine stopping for red lights and stop signs every quarter mile. The average traffic is probably no more than 15 mph, citywide. Then throw in the bike traffic.

And, it ain't the average Tulsa bike traffic, where you might see ONE village idiot impersonating Santa on Memorial during rush, once a month. 10% of PDX are on bikes EVERYDAY. Bikes moved 95% of the cargo and catering for Pedalpalooza. The shortage of bike parking CITYWIDE is ANNOYING.

The danger of getting doored on the major bike arterial is very REAL. I've learned to move toward the double yellow, wave the motorists through on the RIGHT. If there's gonna be a dooring, a motor vehicle will crush the door, instead of the door crushing the Santa.

The most STUPID ride I've EVER done was the Wednesday Movie Bike-in. Almost 100 bikes showed up near Steele Bridge. We jammed the east Waterfront bike path, all the way to some secret location. When the sound machine showed up, I finally got some second wind from recovering from the Tuesday night Rocky Butte up-the-Alp d'Arse Ride.

When the crowd finally stopped as some secret location, it seemed like some alien mother ship was about to land in the field for the gratuitous alien kidnapping. After someone hooked up the DVD player to the projector, endless, annoying rounds of creepy B-movie flickered on screen, before the main feature, Twisted Jezebel Sister Gone WILD.

Somehow, I managed a nap amidst the incessant gun fire and the stupid, over-the-top dialogue on the screen. Everyone got their snarky hoots and howls at the really bad feature. FINALLY, the video crunked out. LOTSA loud howls of disapproval. I didn't mind.

It was cold. I simply got up and invented a new dance move, the back ass-ward scoot. It seemed to inspire other zombies to an impromptu dance party. I finally bugged out for a warm bed at around 2330.

Aaaaaah, yet another BEAUTIFUL Pedalpalooza day to come!

My Top Three PP events for next year:
1) Surveillance Camera Road Show---Footage from public surveillance cameras are largely unregulated affairs. The person(s) watching the boob-tube at the business end probably needs MAJOR entertainment. So let's entertain 'em! Don't forget about the private cams either.

2) The Big Creepy Haunted Ride---Bike to the local haunted houses.

3) SantaCon Critical Mass! 'Nuff said.

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allyoop said...

Hey Paul, I thought you were coming to Eugene for a ride in the wetlands before you go back to Tulsa!

Paul Tay said...

I'm still in PDX until the rest of PP on the 28 June. I've got a HUGE backlog of blogging to do. All the kewl PP stuff I NEED to do are getting in the way.

E-gene trip may be a play-it-by-ear possibility. Stranger things have happened. Thanks for the shoutout. xoxoxoxoxo...***MuaaaaaaH***