Thursday, May 7, 2009

Portland, OR: The Bicycle Holy Land

Portland gets a lot of credit when it comes to bicycles. Our city saves for and spends money on cycling facilities in a way that most places don't bother to, we make plans that prioritize cycling and other modes over auto use, and we have a large contingency of cycling advocates, activists and fun-ists that keep it that way. And while, as with any place, Portland could always be doing more than it is to advance the plight of the bicycle, it has never been disputed that we aren't generally ahead of the game when compared to other US cities.

I had a chance to witness this remarkable cohesion yesterday evening, when I rode out the the Portland Police Bureau's SE Precinct office for a Shift meeting. The topic at hand was Pedelpalooza, and what I saw was 4 officers sitting around a table with about 20 representatives of Portland's bike fun scene, talking to each other about what the police department can do to keep Pedalpalooza fun, how to help keep large rides safe and enjoyable, and brainstorming solutions to possible conflicts between riders and police officers.

I guess what impressed me the most was that this meeting happened so fluidly, everyone was receptive and honest, and most importantly, people were looking for a pro-active solution. This is a phenomenon that I have never seen before! My perception of police has always been that they are rigid and unforgiving when it comes to things that are not the norm, things that are often times perfectly safe and controlled, because they are new and different. But here we have leaders of law enforcement actually encouraging these kinds of events, doing what they can to help them!

This is what makes Portland a bicycle holy land. It's not the relatively flat landscape, the picture-perfect summers, or the masses of hipsters with nothing better to do. It's the willingness and encouragement of all of it's people to validate the bicycle's role in a healthy and thriving society.

Pictured : Officer Robert Pickett, cycling's best badged friend.