This guy says to me today, “You’re going to bike to work? Like, a bicycle? With the wind and rain and all that?”
And now say in your head again, but be extra whiny where you see the italics to get the full effect of what I’m dealing with down here. Ha ha. Yes buddy, yes I am. Call me crazy, but tomorrow I will turn in the keys to that shiny company-provided rental car and proceed to bike 20km (12 miles?) each day to/from the office. Not that it really needs justification, but oh let me count the ways: Gas is about $8USD a gallon where I’m working, a brief contract in New Zealand. I’ll be turning in some major hours on this crunch and I’ll need the exercise and “zen” time to wind down. Ahhh… that almost meditative biking state. Or maybe some days I’ll flip it, slam a flat white and pretend I’m a bike messenger in NYC… and race the clock for a change. Being the southern hemisphere, we’re coming to the cusp of summer and along with it, the wind and rain is fading away. Yeah… ok, I could go on, but you know what? The short of it is… damn it, I’m a Portlander. We bike.
When I’m on these jobs where I’m able bike to work, use another gasless alternative, or hop mass transit – I have to say it feels good to have it dialed in and be able to talk about the ol’ commute without it being a total negative downer. It’s become one of those keys to sanity(tm) I occasionally find the need to rant about. David Byrne (yes, that David Byrne) intellectualized in his book Bicycle Diaries that the only way to truly become one with a city is to take it by bike. To step out of the armored steel chariot and leave yourself exposed to the belly of the beast. And he’s right. It opens things up and you can’t help but soak up life around you – osmosis! And soak Portland up we do. And although that’s an unintentional rain joke – when we’re not biking in the rain, sometimes, we’re even biking naked. Ha!
Portland and it’s bike scene are regularly ranked #1 as the Best Biking City in America by Bicycle Magazine. The biking infrastructure? 2nd to none. Fully wired with bike lanes & paths, some of which (like Willamette Blvd, Vancouver & Williams Ave, Clinton St, the Springwater Corridor) are almost better termed as bike “highways.” A healthy daily commuter parade that has created fully aware and bike conscious drivers that are increasingly cool with sharing the road. Beautiful scenery, fresh air, the trees, the river. Ample parking, a bike shop every few blocks, custom builds and unique styles fully encouraged, bike racks on city busses and trains… it’s not hard to understand; Portland makes biking easy.
A recent survey at Bent Image Lab turned up that almost 1/6th of the company is biking to work these days, over double the city average. Any given day, it’s a mob scene at the bike rack out front. A few catch the bus or carpool, and there’s a good number of Benters riding in lower impact scooters and motorcycles. Several are able to walk to work (jealous!). One absolutely crazy dude even drives an old Fiat convertible converted to 100% electric, and there’s another classic VW Karmann Ghia convertible in the Bent family that’s had the same treatment.
I remember during bike-to-work month last year at Laika (Entertainment) out in Hillsboro, there was a huge response. I was especially impressed with one madman who regularly biked out to the studio in Hillsboro (far west of Portland) from Gresham (the eastern suburb). Let me say that again: Hillsboro. From Gresham. Holey Corn (!!) – I would guess over 30 miles each way, with steep grades… 2 hours both to AND from, I believe. Rick, you are the real deal and have my utmost respect. That, sir, was nothing short of phenomenal and a huge inspiration. Hard core!
The icing on the cake to all of this would be to rally the studios in town to further support the biking subculture and embrace the fine piece of legislation that our own Oregon congressman Earl Blumenauer helped put in place a couple years back: the Bicycle Commuter Act! (click for more info)
I was first introduced to this while at Sony Imageworks in Los Angeles, who (as you can imagine) had very aggressive alternative transportation policy in place, being that California is total smogsville and needs all the help it can get to keep a car off the road. This is a nationwide program and it’s premise is simple: Bike to work 3 days a week, get $20 each month for your “trouble.”
That’s $240 a year towards bike maintenance, upgrades, gear, weather protection, and storage. Or more like pizza & beer… we need to carb load it and fatten you up. Ya bike too much! Ha!
Bikers pocket the cash, and employers save 9.5% on FICA taxes, let alone the cool points and respect scored with employees. Win/win all around. No time like the present. Just do it. 🙂