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Bike Commute Challenge - Ride Blog #4

by Frank Mungeam

Bio | Email | Follow: @KGWNews


Posted on September 20, 2007 at 6:24 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 2:35 PM

During the month of September, KGW employees are "Going Green" by joining the BTA Bike Commute Challenge. Seven percent of our staff has agreed to bike to work at least once in the month - double the rate that led Portland to be tops in the latest Census report on major city bike commuting.

During September, our two-wheeled commuters will share their ride experiences. Here's the fourth, from Special Projects Producer Rich Kurz.

Change in the making
by Rich Kurz

With a commute that's only 10 minutes longer by bike than by car, and a route that's almost entirely along roads boasting bicycle lanes, who wouldn't ride to work every day? Well, me, unfortunately. But on days like today when I get my act together early enough to roll the bike out of the garage and leave the car in the driveway, I get the chance to see a city in almost constant change.

From my home in inner Northeast Portland, it's a short jaunt to Ainsworth Avenue. Wide and tree-lined, I still have to keep it in high gear to keep up with the commuters in cars heading out towards their jobs. That leaves me little time and little attention to check out which house just sold and which is getting a new coat of paint to go with the new owners. Here, just across MLK Boulevard, comes another of the more noticeable changes - the coffee shop that's gone from locally owned to Coffee People to Starbucks in a matter of just a few short years. And it's here, too, that I need to stay on my toes, watching out for those drivers whose caffeine hasn't kicked in before they turn into traffic.

Not much further along, change presents itself even more starkly once I cross Killingsworth, safely in the bike lanes of Vancouver Avenue. To my right, stretching across a massive plot of dirt, rises the beginnings of the Humboldt Gardens housing complex. It's a redevelopment in the truest sense - taking the dilapidated remains of the Iris Court Cluster and rebuilding them to offer low- and middle-income Oregonians homes in an area that's quickly becoming one of the hottest areas to live in Portland.

And just how hot it is becomes apparent riding home that same stretch of neighborhood. Northbound, the commute trades North Vancouver for North Williams. It seems almost every week that I ride, a new storefront opens up. First came the New Old Lompoc and Pix Patisserie at Williams & Failing, then popped up the so-cool-it-doesn't-even-need-a-sign Vendetta bar, followed in the last few months by a yoga studio and a hipster coffee shop. It's impossible to talk about the changes here without mentioning one of the most significant impacts. Long the centerpoint of Portland's African-American community, many of the new store owners and homeowners are white, taking advantage of the close-in location and relatively low property costs to change their own lives.

There are no such concerns once you dodge car traffic on Broadway and bike traffic on the Broadway Bridge. Building continues almost unchecked in the Pearl District, displacing only empty warehouses. And now, nearly ten years after the building boom kicked off in the neighborhood, you can still see the pace of progress almost every day. A crane lifting giant beams into the air for yet another condo or apartment building and construction trucks blocking off part of a street while workers take a shell of a building and turn it into more high-priced real estate.

It's a fitting end to my ride - and a fitting reminder of how much Portland changes every day, every week, every month. And it's a reminder that I don't get on days I take advantage of I-5's traffic lanes instead of Portland's bike lanes.

by Rich Kurz