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Posts Tagged ‘bike’

Non-Portlanders, bear with me — this is a local issue, but it’s probably the sort of thing that may come up in your area too (or perhaps it already has).

Summary of the situation:  I-5 crosses the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington.  The bridge there (actually two side-by-side spans) is in need of repair/replacement/expansion due to age and increased traffic. The current Locally Preferred proposal (so designated by six local partner agencies) would “replace the existing Interstate Bridges to carry I-5 traffic, light rail, pedestrians and bicyclists across the Columbia River. The new bridges will not have a bridge lift. They will carry three through-travel lanes and up to three auxiliary lanes for entering and exiting the highway in each direction. Like today, northbound and southbound traffic would be on separate bridges.”

Problem:  Naturally, not everyone agrees with this plan.  Some think it will just encourage more car traffic and urban sprawl.  Some think we shouldn’t bother with light rail, just cars.

Why am I thinking about this today? President Bush has just designated the I-5 bridge replacement as a high priority project, which will make it happen much faster.

What I think:  I’m strongly in favor of alternative transportation.  I think we need to get out of our cars — and yes, I need to do better with that, too.  However, we aren’t going to eliminate all car and truck traffic.  In fact, one of the main reasons for fixing the I-5 bridge problem is that I-5 is a major truck route, transporting goods up and down the west coast.

We also need to have a safe crossing for the cars, trucks and busses that are on the road.   We don’t need a bridge collapsing into the Columbia River.

So, I think we do need a new bridge, along with the promised pedestrian/bike/transit upgrades.  As far as preventing increased congestion and sprawl goes, I think that’s another matter entirely.  We do need major lifestyle changes — but we’ve got to convince people in some other way, not by bottlenecking traffic or by allowing a bridge to fall into disrepair.

However, the issue is even more complex than thatOther potential problems include contamination of Vancouver, Washington’s drinking water resulting from bridge construction, air and noise pollution affecting residents near the construction site (many of them low income), and possible effects on endangered species of fish in the Columbia River.

After reading all of that today, I’m still somewhat reluctantly in favor of the current proposal.  I think it best balances the needs of area residents.  I do think the project managers should be required to take all possible measures to protect the environment and area residents, though.

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I haven’t been commuting to work recently, as I haven’t been working.  I’ve been laid off for almost two weeks now.  My interest in biking and bussing hasn’t waned, though.  I’ve been taking some short rides to the park and the store, and I’m planning to fix up my bike a bit, although I don’t want to spend too much money on my piece of JC Penney junk.

So, for your reading pleasure today, I’ve got two pieces of alternative, car-free transportation news.

First up, the city of San Francisco plans to require businesses with 20 or more employees to provide some sort of transit benefit.  Their choices would be:

  • Provide employees with transit passes or vanpool reimbursement,
  • Provide door to door shuttle service for employees, OR
  • Provide pre-tax transit reimbursement accounts for employees (similar to health care or child care reimbursement accounts), so that employees can use pre-tax money to pay for transit passes.

Although this would be a requirement for employers, participation by employees would be optional.

According to SFGate, businesses actually agree that this is a good idea.

Moving north to Seattle, Mayor Greg Nickels has announced Car-Free Sundays for several neighborhoods in August and September.  No, not every Sunday — just one Sunday for each street.  Reactions are mixed, says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.   “We might as well close for the day,” announced one restaurant owner.

Oh, give me a break.  If you want people to come to your street that day, make it an event!  Have a street fair, or some special entertainment, and publicize it.  People will come.  People may be more likely to come!

Mayor Nickels apparently said (not specifically in response to the above), “It’s just for one day, just chill.  Get out of the car and walk.”  OK, how old is this guy?  He sounds like me.  “Just chill” comes out of my mouth several times a day.  Oh, wait, I forgot, I’m old now, too.

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As I said in my last bus post, I lost my bus pass.  Therefore, I have to pay cash (or buy another pass or tickets) in order to ride the bus.  I was contemplating biking exclusively, but didn’t quite make it today.  I rode up to the bus stop this morning, and caught the bus to work; then I rode back the whole way on my bike.  You see, I think there’s slightly more uphill on the way there than there is on the way back.

What’s important, though, is that I did not use the car.

This morning, I had several items on my to-do list to complete before leaving for work.  In addition to shower, dress, eat, etc., I needed to get a carefully crafted email reply out to an editor, pack a lunch, and find my bike lock.  No, I didn’t prepare last night.  Shame on me.

Anyway, I got all this done, made it to the bus stop, and only then did I think “I suppose I could have taken the car.”  Yay, me!  It didn’t even occur to me to say “screw it, I’m taking the car.”  I guess I really have gotten used to a car-free commute.

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Well, yesterday I finally did it — I took the bike on the bus.  It was easy.  I made it to my bus stop with time to spare, and then it only took me a few extra seconds to figure out the bike rack.  It’s totally self-explanatory.  I challenge you to do it, too — in fact, I challenge Wendy B. in particular to give it a try!

Coming home was a little harder.  I had put my bike in the back of a co-worker’s truck for the afternoon, and then she gave me a ride up to the bus stop at 122nd, so I didn’t have to ride to the bus stop.  The bus, however, never came.  After waiting more than 20 minutes (for a 71, after 4 p.m., which really shouldn’t happen), I took off under my own power.  I rode all the way home, and the bus never caught up to me (if it was even there).

My ride was from SE 122nd and Market to just past NE 122nd and San Rafael, and then into the neighborhood to our house.  That’s not a huge distance, but for me that was a challenge.

Now I know that I can bike for some distance.  The next challenge in that area is to get my bike working properly.  It’s a junky old J.C. Penney bike that I bought cheaply from someone on Craigslist.  It works (obviously), but the brakes could use some help, and the gears sometimes shift around randomly while I’m riding.  I’d like to get a really decent commuter bike, but I need to save up some money for that.

In a related story, I lost my bus pass, so I may be biking it the rest of the month.

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