Wednesday, August 26, 2009

KidsBikesDads goes to Portland...

Last week I went to Portland, the self professed bicycle capital of USA. While they may be oozing with bicycle infrastructure and culture, I know a few other Bike-friendly cities *cough* Boulder, Davis *cough* that might take issue with this claim.

City boosterism aside, Portland is GREAT for bicycling, especially in the heart of downtown. I was in town for the National Safe Routes to School conference. I was really stressed out, as not only was it my first national conference, but I was also presenting. Later, my stress would be compounded twelvefold as two of my bosses came and watched my presentation... but that is for another day.

As it pertains to this blog... my company's headquarters are in Portland - and they have a stable of bikes to choose from, to loan out to visiting friends and staff. I was given three options, a foldable bike, a hybrid, or the cargo bike.

CARGO BIKE! The utility bicyclist in me couldn't refrain. What's more, the bike turned out to be a Madsen. Madsen cargo bikes are beautiful... but I always wondered how they handled.

As I set out on the office, I had quite a big load to haul. Not quite Madsen worthy (I hear they can haul 600 lbs!), but still a load big enough that you wouldn't want to carry it on your back. In LA I'd look like a pretty big fool, rolling around on a cargo bike in a shirt and tie. Not in Portland, I blended right in...

Poor attempt at trying to capture what the back of the bike looked like en transit. I rode from our office to the conference. But where would I park such a bike, one might wonder?

Safe Routes Conference planning to the rescue! Not only is bicycle parking ample in Portland, but special events parking is double the pleasure. These handy little fixtures are portable, space efficient, and provide parking for about 10 bikes per stable, I reckon. Locking up was a sinch, as the Madsen has a clever design where they've added a diagonal support that stems from the seat tube to the horizontal bucket support part of the frame. It was the perfect height for convenient locking.

The Madsen was super responsive, and easy to ride. I quickly concluded that my wife would be able to handle this guy with little difficulty, especially with our littl'n in the back. The shifting was clean and the breaks were more than strong.

One of the things I really liked about Portland, was that the majority of their bike shops cater to transportational bicyclists. Cargo bikes, fenders, panniers, racks... were all abundant. In many of the shops I went into, the road bikes were in the back, with the more utilitarian designs up front. Can you imagine this $3,200 Bullit sitting out front of a store in LA? Forget about it.

Another sight that brought tears to my eyes... bike corrals. Bike corrals are so awesome for many reasons. But a couple that come to mind:

  1. they symbolically show that bikes belong on the street.
  2. they also show how much more space efficient accomodating bicycle parking is compared to cars
  3. they display a city's willingness to put other modes of transportation above cars.
There's probably more, but those are the ones I like. In my profession, we kind of roll our eyes every time someone mentions Portland, as if we've never heard of it or that we weren't aware of how great it was. However, my trip reminded me just how much they deserve the accolades... and also how badly I want to win this contest...