Wednesday, December 4, 2019

strongly thinking of hanging up this blog

I am in a place in my life where I've grown tired of describing things to people who live far away.
When I ride I mostly ride alone. Because I'm too slow for the folks I used to be able to keep up with.
I need too many bathroom breaks now to handle super-long rides without a motorized exit strategy (i.e., having someone come get me or being close to transit).
When I don't ride it's because I'm physically and/or mentally tired, depressed, creaky and cold. I ride less often in the winter than I used to.
I'm older, slower and creakier, and riding hurts sometimes now.
I still enjoy puttering on bicycles at home and will continue to do so.
I'll still ride for transportation and, on warmer days, for pleasure.
But honestly, how many times can I blog about riding to the same places over and over again before it becomes silly?
So yeah, I thinking of retiring this blog. I'll leave it here but may not add much more to it as time goes by. Because doing so feels redundant and it's time for me to stop repeating myself. I'm too young for that just yet.
Rubber side down, kids, and happy riding.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

everyone needs a good little weepie now and then

This beautiful little video has been making the rounds for some time now.
Because I'll soon be knee-deep in the family rush of Thanksgiving AND in getting my album finished and duplicated,  I'm not going to be riding a whole lot in the coming few weeks.
I thought I'd post it here.
Enjoy, practice gratitude daily and be kind to each other.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

more bike fun today at rivelo

After I get my work done I'm heading over to Rivelo to say hi to Grant Peterson. He's visiting from RBW to talk about his latest bike designs and Rivelo has a couple of test bikes for folks to try out.
Plus, I'm on a mission for more Lip Ivo, which Sweetie tried on our visit to RBW in 2004 and now cannot live without.

The latest bike design from RBW is being called the Hillybike, and it's basically a fat-tired, sit-upright 650B cruiser:

(from the RBW site)
No. 19: the usual, then canteens, books, enviro-stuff, Doris Day, grips, and HILLYBIKE details

Grant has been pushing step-through frames for quite awhile now. I believe it partly because a lot of his target market are getting older and want a bike they can enjoy for a long while, even after swinging a leg over the back of the bike becomes too difficult. (Look, at some point, even I will likely be looking for a step-through bike of some kind, though mine will take 26" wheels instead.)

More and more of RBW's bikes are mass-built and sport fewer lugs than the early models. At this point, they've been able to avoid Chinese-built frames, though for how much longer is anyone's guess.

The truth is that RBW, like any other bicycle company, has had to bow to market forces far larger than they can steer. One day RBW will either have to sell Chinese-made stuff like everyone else, or they'll have to stop carrying items made only there if they want to stick to their principled guns.

Rivendell still offers plenty of things made in the USA, Europe and Taiwan. Like Lip Ivo, for instance. And of course, Grant's oddball perspective on making your very expensive bicycle look funkier and cheaper:

Honestly, I don't get this aesthetic at all. It reminds me too much of every crap bike with a broken frame and gummy, old-duct-taped padding I ever dismantled. But every time Grant visits, he gives some kind of bar-taping demo that invites folks to make their bikes look like this. Whatever. It's all good, Grant; as we like to say in Portland, you do you.

I'm going to try and get there by around 1 or 1:30. Join me if you're in town. There will be plenty of beautiful bikes to admire, and lovely bikey people to commune with. I'll try and take some pix to share here.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

gravel riding before it was a thing

I recently received this 1986 Specialized Rock Hopper. At first blush it looked like it had potential.
Almost entirely original parts, including Tommasini grips, Shimano BMX platform pedals and a Shimano "deerhead" shifter (sadly, only one and not a complete pair).

I had hoped to turn this into something I could either sell or keep and ride. (It's a rare vintage mountain bike in a smaller size.)
The bike came with original tires.
The rear tube wouldn't hold air, so I went in to investigate. I was more than a little surprised at what I found.
I had hoped to find one or two holes that I could patch, and save the tube.

That's gravel inside the tire, which of course poked so many holes in the tube that there was no point in trying hard to save it.

Upon closer inspection, I discovered that  the crumbly stuff stuck to the tube had once been a tire liner. Did the gravel roll around in there and destroy the liner? Or did exposure to the elements do it?
This bike had spent perhaps decades sitting under a carport, and had collected a fair amount of rust on anything made of steel.

Getting further into the bike, I discovered that the eyelets on the front rim were beginning to show tiny cracks here and there -- nothing fatal as yet, but enough to indicate that this bike had been ridden awhile before being put away.

I just can't believe that anyone tried to ride this with all that gravel in the tire.

At this level of use and aging it's likely going to become another refugee bike.
It's pretty old and cool in its own way; but the components are too worn for this bike to be of much value to a collector. It will be better off getting ridden by someone who needs a bike. So now I'll need to figure out which parts are worth removing and replacing with more basic, functional stuff. I will probably try to find a mater for that shifter and use it one one of my bikes (The stem shifters I adore so much on my All-Rounder are wearing out and I'm thinking of going to top-mount thumbies).

Meanwhile, I've got a couple more bikes after this to fix up for folks in need.
And I'm still gratefully taking any and all functional locks, lights, bags and racks if you have any to spare.
Thanks, and happy riding!

Friday, November 15, 2019

bake sale at gladys bikes, tomorrow!

Gladys Bikes, the cool and very friendly bike shop on NE Alberta Street, was broken into in a particularly spectacular way earlier this week. A large plate glass window was broken and there's a rather large gap between what insurance will cover and, well, the rest of the replacement cost.
So friends of the shop are hosting a bake sale there tomorrow (Saturday 11/16) from 1-5 pm. Buy a cool sticker for $10 and eat your fill of fresh-baked goodies.
I'm gonna bring my guitar down from 1 to 3 and sit in a corner and play some background music.
Come down, eat goodies and hang with your bike people. You know you wanna.

See you there!

No photo description available.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Catching up: Fall riding days are so sweet

I haven't been riding as regularly this fall, owing to some physical fatigue and also to ramping up my preparation for recording. Post-production has given me a chance to rehearse other material for my upcoming trips, and also to ride my bike a little more during these lovely, late-fall days, Here are a few shots along the way, including a healthy dose of #coffeeneuring, scenery-gawking and clearing my head.

First, a lovely coffee meetup with friend Barb, who helped out with some post-production work for the CD. The labels fit snugly in her recumbent's rear bag and she turned around the printing in a day. I was grateful both for her work and for the chance to catch up.

Then a few days later,  a nice spin around SE Portland for errands and of course, more coffee.

Want to see beauty? Just look up.

The trees are shedding their leaves quickly since the rain finally showed up. Leaving sidewalks carpeted (and slick!)
When the rain subsided, I was comfortable riding in a t-shirt, a heavy wool sweater and jeans.
A thin wool cap fits nicely under a helmet and wicks excess sweat pretty well.

Add some fingerless wool gloves and I've got all I need to enjoy riding in this season.
And finally, another short ride around the neighborhood, where I relished time to simply stare at the fading fall colors, in the trees and carpeting the ground.

Above: Enjoying fresh coffee at Ps and Qs, with my old ACW mug. (I made my own using a decal and double-walled steel mug I found at Goodwill. It's holding up nicely, and cost roughly $18,00 less than the one offered at the ACW web store.)

I chose not to enter the official Coffeeneuring Challenge this year; I had plenty of patchesk bandanas and pins, and didn't feel a need to earn any more. Instead, I chose my own rides and coffee drinks, and sometimes I recorded them and sometimes I didn't.

By focusing more on the experience and less on the completion, I rode less frequently, but enjoyed my rides more.

I especially love to ride up and down the many alleyways in N/NE Portland, which show the backsides of houses and sometimes garages and driveways set at odd angles to the alley. Riding these instead of residential streets gives another, gentler quality to my rides that I adore.

In the absence of rolling countryside, it's the closest thing I'll probably know to the rides enjoyed by CTC members fifty years ago in England.

Next up: Tomorrow, I'll go multi-modal to The Map Room to listen to the final mixes of my album.
I'm very excited, and will try to get some scenery in along the way.
Happy riding!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

What do you do if you can't ride? Walk.

For several weeks now, my left hand has been giving me more and more trouble. Decreased grip strength and flexibility, more stiffness, swelling and pain.
I had to stop fixing up old bikes over a month ago. I rode last week but it was painful whenever I had to lift my bike onto the bus rack, or use the front brake lever (with my left hand).

Still, I had work to do.

I powered through my High Holy Days work, wincing whenever I played guitar.
I came home, and tried to practice for my upcoming recording session.  yesterday morning, I hit a wall, and called the doctor. By the evening, I was in the urgent care office, getting a cortisone shot in my hand.

The pain was epic, technicolor.
First, the lidocaine shot, which made me yell a ragged, loud sound that rang up and down the hall.
Then, a second shot of cortisone with a little more lidocaine mixed in, which also hurt but this time like a massive liquid bruise flowing through and around my left middle finger joint and beyond. I yelled again, but it came out sounding like a clear note.

Today, I rested at home until around 4pm, when I was climbing the walls and couldn't take it anymore. I went for a long walk around the neighborhood on a grey, drizzly afternoon with fall colors everywhere. Walking along the same streets I usually ride allowed me to slow down and see things even more up close, and although it took awhile longer, I enjoyed it.

I'm off the bike for at least the next four days, and hope that by then the pain will subside enough to let me take a spin on my Rivvy. Because right now the colors are just too good not to be outside.

If you're riding this week, may all your miles be beautiful.

Image may contain: plant, nature and outdoor

Friday, October 4, 2019

ABC = Always Be Coffeeneuring

Scenes from today's ABC ride. Shout out to Tarik Saleh (of the world famous Bike Club), with whom I enjoyed a lovely second breakfast at Breadwinner Cafe. We had a fascinating conversation about bicycles, renewable energy, bacon, art and death.

The man, the myth, the legend.
Tarik Saleh created the best rules ever for a bike club, and you can join!
Check out to hook up with some club merch!
And remember, Try not to be an ass.

Below: the latest colorway. That yellow really makes it pop. This one's going on my bookbag.

One final caution:

Now that the days are shorter and wetter (at least here in PDX), make sure you've got fenders and lights on your bike and reflectivity everywhere possible. I used to think it was a bummer having to dress like a Christmas tree on LSD in order to feel safe; but time and reality have softened my views on fashion and now I just want to get home alive.

Your local bike shop (or construction supply store) has tons of reflective solutions to make YOU pop at night for a very reasonable investment of money, time and adhesives. DO IT.

And happy riding.

refugee bike update: THANK YOU

Just a shout-out to my Portland readers and their friends who've brought me their old bikes for Catholic Charities' refugee resettlement program.


I've received bikes and parts all summer, and fixed most of them up and moved them along well before the end of August.

Right now I'm working on a couple of build-ups -- two mountain bikes that I'm building up from parts around a couple of donated frames (special thanks to Kai at Upcycles for those!). When those are done, I'll have some space for more bikes. If you or another Portlander you love has an old dead bike floating around, let me know.

A special note on type of bike --

While I will take almost any bicycle if it's whole and complete, I prefer old mountain style bikes with derailleurs. That's because Portland is a very hilly town -- it was built over a bunch of little dead volcanoes -- and giving someone a single-speed with a coaster brake when he'll end up living at 185th and southeast Hell is kind of mean.

Also, for liability reasons, I cannot accept children's bicycles. Please donate those to Community Cycling Center for their afterschool programs.

If you want to see some of the bicycles that have enjoyed new life in the refugee resettlement program, check out my flickr album.

Below: Just a few of the bikes you've donated to this program, repaired and ready to ride. Thank you!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

It's Fall! ...and an announcement for my Portland readers

Greetings, bicycle lovers!

Fall officially began on the 22nd. But we've been easing into it with a one-step-forward, two-steps-back sort of gait for a couple of weeks. Today marked the beginning of the end of warm days in the high 70s/low 80s, with a high reaching only 67F and the week's forecast introduces us to successive nights in the 40s.

I couldn't be happier. After a summer that included more humid days than I used to, I'm ready for sweater weather, even if it comes with the need to carry raingear in my saddle bag from now through next June. Tomorrow I'll be swapping out the shorts and cotton socks, and swapping in the woolies (my dresser's only large enough for one season's worth of clothes).

Once my music work is finished for the season (Oct 18 is my last day when I have to be in top vocal form for severa weeks), I'll look forward to some rides in the local parks to admire the turning leaves and the cooler air. Nothing ambitious anymore, but always pleasurable.


And now, for that announcement for my Portland readers:

As I get farther and farther from lots of bicycle repair work, the time is coming when I will need to let go of some of my bicycle parts and tools. Rather than post a detailed list and toss it all up online, I'd rather make it available to local folks first, on a cash-only basis. I'll announce a day and time for either late October (I promise it won't be Haloween) or early November, likely a Sunday. I will post the date here and invite you to email me for a location, day and time.

I will be selling stuff at stupid-low prices because I want it to get into the hands of bike mechanics who will use it. I don't care if you're a hobbyist or a working shop pro, I have some tools and want to see them go into good hands. I will be selling things affordably enough that I hope I won't have to endure a lot of haggling. I just want to move things along with the least fuss possible.

Whatever's left at the end I will donate to my favorite bicycle nonprofit, Bikes 4 Humanity.

Along with the tools I'll be moving along a few random parts and possibly some accessories (clothing, camping gear and bags).

So there you have it. Watch this space for an announcement and help me gain some clarity.

And happy Fall riding!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Coffeeneuring for the hell of it

So the Coffeeneuring Challenge will soon be up and running.
And this year, I don't think I'm going to sign up for it in any official way.
Partly because it overlaps my High Holy Days schedule enough that I don't want to HAVE to ride on a rainy day if my voice tells me it's better to stay indoors; amd partly because I feel like I've done everything I can do with this and still have fun.
I have enough patches and bandannas to last awhile; and in fact will be passing sme of the extras along to friends because I just don't need them anymore.

But still, coffeeneuring is a perfect excuse to ride your bike somewhere.
So if you want to get a cup of coffee, treat yourself and ride to a cafe. Support the local economy. Move your legs and breathe some outdoor air.

Drink up! And hapy riding!

Saturday, September 7, 2019

seasons turning: a ride through north portland

I woke up too late to make it to shul this morning so I decided instead to enjoy a little bike ride around North Portland before the rain came in the late afternoon.
Stops along the way included Peninsula Park, N. Willamette Boulevard (a couple of scenic stops), and the compass rose viewing area at the south end of University of Portland.

Some pix from the day's ride, which meandered for a couple of hours and stayed deliciously cool and cloudy the whole time.


Sunday, September 1, 2019

It's all in the label: Surly edition

This weekend, an item appeared for sale on eBay, a nice wool cap in lovely purple stripes.

 I think it's attractive.
If I didn't already own one each of a simple knit cap and a wool brimmed cycling cap, I might consider buying it.

Except for one small thing: the price.
The opening bid on this wool cap is $30.
That's right, thirty bucks for a factory-made cap that is pretty but otherwise unexceptional.

Here's where things get interesting.

The hat was advertised not by its material first, but by its brand name, which somehow seemed to make that high opening bid okay.

The hat was sold by Surly Bikes. On the other side it had a small label with its logo on it.
And for a moment, even in MY jaded mind, the price tag wasn't so crazy. Because I, too, have been conditioned to shop for brands. That's especially true when it comes to bicycle-related things.

But I caught myself, and regained my senses. That tiny label on one side is why the seller is charging -- and may well realize -- his asking price. The allure and the "lore" of the Surly brand is so strong that even a simply knit cap can demand a higher price if you stick a "Surly" tag on it. Never mind that it's too bulky to fit under a helmet, or that there's nothing about the style of the cap even remotely related to cycling; that little tag makes all the difference.

I reflected on this paradigm ten years ago with the Rapha brand, marveling at how the application of a carefully-researched and well-branded name could increase the price of a cycling jersey by two to three times its prior value. EVen after Rapha was bought by a Walmart subsidiary in 2013, people still flock to the brand.

So once I realized what tricks were being played on my mind by a combination of my upbringing and the phenomenon of branding in today's capitalist economy, I calmed down, had a chuckle and moved on. Because when I can buy a knit cap for five bucks, why spend thirty? Especially since the only reason for the high price is a stupid little tag that could be easily removed?

To be fair, some heavily-marketed items are worth the higher price in terms of function and quality. That's why I continue to be picky about the jeans and shoes I wear. But in so many cases, perfectly acceptable non-branded versions of some items are a third of the price, work just as well and look just as nice. And while this may not always be the case, especially if the Buy Local crowd has their way (they won't in the end, but I digress), it's true enough for now that if you have three kids to outfit for school, you can do it a lot cheaper and more simply then this.

This is the power of branding. The right combination of style-making, words and tag placement is enough to make us lose our heads and want to buy something that may not really be all that special.

I am working on the habit of examining each and every one of those moments when I'm tempted to lose my head. If I stop and do a seven-second check in, I find I'm less likely to shop in general. On my budget, that's a good thing. But learning how not to lose our heads economically may be good for the whole world, too.

I'm going to enjoy a bicycle ride today, to find my head again. It's Sunday, a perfect day for it.
Happy riding!

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Sunday Parkways follow-up

So a couple days ago I received this email from a fellow I've worked with at Parkways for a number of years. I've chosen to remove his name to protect his privacy.

Hi Beth - Someone in the community sent me your recent blog post on Sunday Parkways.  They were concerned about your message and what I would think about what you wrote.  I wanted to share what I felt about this.

First, you're pretty much spot on.  I know what your role has been as a mobile mechanic, which is distinct and different from the route management crew.  Our team has had to adapt to a growing population interacting with our lovely Parkways Routes.  By getting the events open with the resources we have, I'm quite proud of what we've accomplished over the years.  But, it sure is different than how it was.  I thought your blog was fair and raised good points.  Happy to speak to those if you like, but mainly wanted to say that I support you and this blog.

Second, if this was your last Parkways, I just want to say a genuine Thank you for all your years of service.  You were the reason we kept the Mobile Mechanic position going.  You signed up, rode around and simply made people's days better when you helped them.  We can't do all things forever Beth, so there's nothing but pure gratitude for all that you've give Parkways.  

We've been in the same circles for 15 years, and that's because we both believe that empowering people on bikes is a great life to lead.  If not at Parkways, I'm sure we'll be crossing paths many times again in the future.  

Take care and have a great weekend.

I wrote back to thank him for his efforts and for making me feel welcome each year as a volunteer.
I also indicated that I was going to step aside from volunteering as an official mechanic at future Parkways, for the reasons I'd stated earlier and because it felt like it was time for me to do so.
(I may choose to ride as a Mobile Mechanic, but I won't wear anything connected with Sunday Parkways or PBOT if I do.)

I am grateful for this positive exchange, esecially with someone whose work I really respect.
I hope Parkways will be able to weather Portland's growth, and I really hope the folks at City of Portland will wake the hell up and divert resources to Parkways -- and to meaningful pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure -- because our beautiful badly needs all of the love it can get.

Rubber side down, kids!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Sunday Parkways: acquiescing to reality rather than changing it.

Once again, BikePortland,org has released a lovely report on the "success" of Sunday Parkways.

Oh, how I wish I could embrace this report as the complete story.
Alas, there are other factors at work here.
I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but here goes:

1. This is my twelfth year of volunteering at Sunday Parkways as a Mobile Mechanic. I have hung in there since the beginning. And I have been glad to do it. I haven’t always been needed, but when I was needed, I was there and read to help repair or adjust someone’s bicycle, roller skate or even a wheelchair so folks could get back to enjoying the Parkways experience.

2. In the early years of Parkways, the most complicated or high-speed intersections along each route were managed by Portland Police, with support from professional flaggers. Volunteers were asked to manage residential intersections so that people could get home while the route was open. From the beginning, there was and has ALWAYS been some pushback from local residents trying to get in our out  of their neighborhoods. In the early years it was a rarer occurrence, and usually solved with a smile and a wave as those behind the wheel waited patiently for volunteers to move a barricade or escort them slowly and safely off the route.

3. As Portland grew in size, our roads were filled with more cars and our streets became more built up with retail businesses, condos and high-end apartments. Of course, the streets became more crowded at Parkways. At the same time, this evolution was taking place, PBOT was having increasing difficulty recruiting enough volunteers to help manage the comings and goings along the route. This has been especially prevalent in the last three or four years. At the same time, the City’s budget for Parkways has shrunk, forcing PBOT to beg for money from participants each year, all year long. Finally, a couple years ago the Portland Police Bureau withdrew their on-street presence from parkways, citing budgetary constraints.

The combination of these realities has meant that Parkways hasn’t been able to keep pace with Portland’s growth. In at least two instances, routes have had to be changed or shortened to avoid potential skirmishes with homeless people camping along part of a route where physical assaults and robberies have happened. (This point is being made for folks who wonder why none of the Parkways routes utilize much of the Springwater Corridor or the I-205 bike-ped path anymore.)

4. Over the last four Parkways seasons, this has translated into my personal experience of being yelled at, harassed and even physically threatened by angry car drivers who encountered road closures due to Parkways and were outraged at not being to go where they wanted at that moment. In two cases I had motorists actually DRIVE their cars TOWARDS me in a menacing manner.
One threatened to run me down if I didn’t get out of his way.
The other made a similar threat if I tried to take a picture of his license plate.

I was rattled, and completely unable to enjoy my Parkways experience after each of these incidents.
Still, I kept signing up for shifts as a Mobile Mechanic, continuing to believe in the vision of Sunday Parkways and wanting to do my part to support it. This may have been a mistake on my part.

Yesterday, while I initialed my name on the volunteer roster to check in as a Mobile Mechanic for what would be my last Parkways event of the season, I was handed a bright pink slip of paper. Printed in large letters on one side was the sentence “May I help you?”
I was told by the volunteer coordinator that I needed to acquaint myself with this in case I hadn’t seen the online training.
On the other side were instructions explaining how to help drivers off the closed route and how to diffuse a potentially threatening situation where an angry car driver was concerned.
The instructions state that helping Car drivers get off the route safely, AND to keep parkways participants safe from car-drivers along the route, was Job #1 for EVERY volunteer.
And apparently, this is now the stated policy for every volunteer at Parkways from here on out, regardless of one's assigned shift duties.

At this point, I realized that I was being corralled into becoming, like it or not, another “Mobile Intersection Superhero” and that, in effect, I was being asked to place myself in harm’s way to protect Parkways participants. In short, I was being asked to do the job of Flaggers and Police.

I walked away, sat at a table, and thought carefully about my choices.

I could place myself in harm’s way voluntarily, and accept the changed nature of both Portland AND the event; or I could decide that it was time to stop volunteering. After some discussion with my sister, who was there to ride the route with me for company and conversation,  and after taking a few deep breaths, I took off my mechanic vest and volunteer shirt, put on another ordinary t-shirt, and rode away. With two other mechanics on duty I would not be missed in that role. And because I did not appreciate the way I was being corralled into becoming a volunteer traffic cop, I decided I was done.

If this is the future direction of PBOT’s management of Sunday Parkways, it is highly unlikely that I will sign up to volunteer again.

I can hear what some of my younger, stronger, more daring bicycle community friends might say to me:

— “For crying out loud, grow a spine. Take a self-defense course or something.”
(I’ve taken two. They’ve given me good tools but have not changed my essential personality. I tend to avoid physical conflict rather than embrace it, and I refuse to feel ashamed of that.)

— “You ought to buy a Go-Pro [camera] and mount it on your bike, and use it EVERY time you ride. That’s the world we live in now.”
(WRONG. The world we live in now is placing ALL of the responsibility for bicyclists’ safety on individual cyclists, and taking it completely off legislators, traffic planners and law enforcement. I refuse to play along with this line of reasoning. My taxes help pay for the roads and I expect some of that money to be used to support people who walk and ride bikes, not only people who drive cars.)

— “Everybody has to do their part.”
(Agreed. I’ve been doing my part for twelve years. My part has been changed with inadequate training and support, and I don’t need to buy into what feels just a little bit like bait-and-switch.)

The photos taken of yesterday’s event show shiny, happy people riding their bikes, scooters and roller skates on streets closed to motorized vehicles. But were those roads really and truly closed?
I doubt it.
The final instruction on my pink sheet reads:
— LET THEM WIN - Safer to stop [participants and move them through
— DON’T ARGUE - Once angry, they won’t be happy. Just tell them you’re there to help.”

The only “training” is an online course with Power-point pages and statements made in outline format. There is no meaningful training provided for how a volunteer is supposed to diffuse an angry and potentially threatening situation.

At the bottom of my sheet was a phone number to call to report incidents:
— Drivers who yell and threaten
— Drivers who hit or bypass barricades
— Drivers who drive dangerously
— "Please text short details of incidents to [phone #]"

I don’t see this as a terribly effective way to create real change on the ground, especially when all other signs point towards letting cars and car culture win. In a city designed for cars, is there really any other way to handle all of this? I doubt it. And I just can’t put my health and safety on the line for it anymore.

I don’t think real change is impossible. But we do need to change the way Parkways is managed and executed in order to keep it safe for anyone not behind the wheel of a car. To do that, we need to think bigger, the way Bogota, Colombia did when they created the first Ciclovia:

— Create a budget string for the event. Divert car infrastructure monies into it if necessary.
— Bring back police and more professional flaggers at every event.
— If you need additional Route Monitors, put them in special uniforms, train them properly, authorize them to act on behalf of PBOT, and PAY them to place themselves in harm’s way.
— Statewide — hell, nationwide! — bring bicycle/pedestrian safety into the school curriculum, and make every student pass a bicycle and pedestrian safety course BEFORE they are allowed to study for a driving learner’s permit.
— Raise the learner’s permit age to 17, and raise the driving age to 18. In every state.
-- Reduce and eventually eliminate subsidies for private car ownership and divert those monies into public transit, and increased lift services for seniors.

I recognize that these are pipe dreams.
I recognize that in America we already lost the car-versus-bicycle wars a very long time ago, before I was even born.
But I cannot let go of my vision of rebellion against car culture. Especially when cities try to organize some kind of “safe streets” initiative but end up kowtowing to the automotive and petroleum industries over and over again.
Sunday Parkways still cannot exist without cars and trucks. And that right there says something about how the City of Portland is trying to convince folks to get out their cars, while at the same time refusing to fight the industries that they rely on for the staging of these monthly events.
While my politics are far from perfect, I know that you can't have both ways in equal measure without something beginning to slip.

Sunday Parkways cannot simultaneously serve as a meaningful vision for a car-reduced future AND as a pop-up diversion for those who embrace car culture the other 360 days a year. Based on my experience I would consider it less visionary and more diversionary these days.

I have a vision that one day, cars and trucks will become so expensive to own and operate that perhaps we won’t need a Sunday Parkways anymore.
And yes, I know that’s ridiculous.
I know that, in order for me to survive as part of a modernized human race, my politics cannot be pure;  because I, too, depend on cars and trucks and a landscape that favors them for many of the things I need to survive.
But I still hold to that vision, and I won’t apologize for it.
And in whatever way I can, I will continue to chip away at the car culture, even if in the end it means shortening my own lifespan too.
Ride on, friends.
Ride and stroll and support public transit and take the quieter paths whenever you can.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

goodbye stompy: end of an era

Stompy has a new home tonight.

I'd been trying only halfheartedly trying to sell my singlespeed bike (Stompy, Version 3.0) for months. Meanwhile, I'd taken it out a few times and ridden it -- the longest ride was in April when I rode 68 laps in the Ladd's 500 -- and each time I liked it, but I also sort of didn't.
The bike was light, and nimble, and fun. But it was also a little cramped for me when I compared it to the more relaxed upright position on each of my two other bikes. I had just resigned myself to having to store it for another winter when I got a text tonight asking if it was available.

Half an hour later, I had sold it for the asking price to a younger woman with (presumably healthier, younger knees), who rode away happily after handing me the cash. I watched her ride away, pounding the pedals from a standing position all the way up the hill on 13th. And I knew it was a better bike for her than for me.

Just before she arrived, I took one last photo of the bike, a lovely bike, a fabulous bike that I had ridden both off-road and on pavement since building it up three years ago.

I wasn't ever planning to race again, so why did I build another singlespeed? Maybe because the fantasy, the tiniest hope of an idea of racing, still lurked at the back of my mind. As long as I had that bike the fantasy could stay and hang out awhile longer.

But fantasies can only be sustained for so long before they stop making sense.
So when I got the text tonight, I knew it was time to let the bike, and the fantasy, go.
I'm fine with it. I raced on a singlespeed bike for six seasons of short-track and four seasons of 'cross and people told me I was a badass for doing it, even though I finished last or near last every time. The one time I made a podium it was because there were only three of us in the category; all I had to do was finish, not die, and I'd earn a State medal in womens' singlespeed. I still have that medal and at some point I'll probably let go of it, too. But not yet. It still reminds me I was badass once, and could be again in some other way.
I still have my 'cross jersey, too, a long-sleeved affair that just fit me when I was twenty-five pounds lighter than I am now, and today I can still zip it up but man, it's a tight fit. Do I frame it with the medal and hang it on the wall? Naah. Maybe at some point I'll give it away, but again, not quite yet.

So today was a good day, a day when I could let go of a period in my cycling life and it felt totally okay. Tomorrow I'll go for a ride on a bike that fits me and feels way more appropriate to the rider I am now.

Happy riding.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Parkways tourism: an eye-opening perspective

I went to Sunday Parkways today as a tourist.

I had signed up to be a rolling wrench; then a family scheduling matter preempted my volunteering so I instead joined my sister and other family members for a leisurely ride around a greatly-shortened Outer Northeast loop.

Being a tourist was nice. I didn't have to worry about anything and could just ride at a mellow pace, enjoying the event through the lens of my great-niece and -nephew, ages 9 and 7 respectively. This meant less riding and more fun exploring and playing in the parks along the route, but I didn't mind.

What I did learn, both by observation and from friends who'd volunteered, was that the overall rate of volunteers had sunk to new lows with this year and at this event especially. This was a confirmation of a hunch I'd nurtured over two years, that PBOT was having trouble recruiting volunteers, especially to be Intersection Superheroes -- those who sit at intersections and assist/guide car drivers across the closed streets of the Parkways route. There were noticeably fewer people staffing the intersections, and some of those weren't really doing their jobs. When a driver approaches an intersection s/he must be escorted across the route at a walking speed. Today, I saw over a dozen drivers helping themselves to move barriers and drive along the route to get where they wanted to go, sometimes driving along as far as two or three blocks before turning off the route again.

I'm pretty sure this is not what PBOT had in mind.

I admit that, the first two times, I had half a thought of getting off my bike and helping direct traffic when the volunteers were just sitting there. A closer look revealed that one volunteer was busy tabling for a cause to notice the car was there; and the other volunteer was sitting next to a walker so she clearly would've been challenged to help direct traffic. I let go of my momentary guilt and rode on, enjoying myself for the rest of the ride.

But it confirmed my suspicions that Parkways is really suffering from a lack of funding for professional staffing (flaggers and police, particularly) and a growing inability to recruit volunteers for each event. This route, formerly seven miles, was shortened to just over four -- mostly likely to avoid having to staff more major intersections with professionals now unavailable.

Honestly, I was glad not to have to volunteer today. But I also wonder about the future of Sunday Parkways when the signs are so clear that its organization isn't keep pace with the city's growth, or with the changes that will be needed to keep it viable and safe.

I haven't signed up to volunteer for the remaining two Parkways. I'm busy in August, and the September event is the day after Selichot and a week before Rosh Hashanah.
Plus, I've now volunteered for four shifts at parkways and feel I've done my bit for the season. And I'm not really up for being expected to work as a traffic cop when that's not what I signed up for.

I hope PBOT can get it together, but I worry that what's needed is too far beyond them.

Friday, July 12, 2019

riding, recovery and other bodily science experiments

Just a heads-up to let you know I'm still here.
Most recent riding was a bit of coffeeneuring at Nossa Familia's NW cafe, where I rode in a cooling summer rain (t shirt got soaked and I didn't care because it felt glorious), and enjoyed an iced coffee.
For the last couple of days, riding has been difficult because of a muggy heat that has settled in.

It never used to get muggy here in the summer.

Welcome to climate change.

Temperature regulation becomes a challenge during perimenopause. I sweat, I tire easily and I totalyl crap out after doing a simply task like mowing the lawn.
I thought about a ride today, but every time I got up to go outside I got baked by the sun and the humidity and had to go back inside the house and lie down.

I certainly hope this is not the new normal. When I feel well, I LIKE riding my bicycle.
But in the meanwhile, I'm taking little energy spurts to clear out some old stuff on eBay and make space in my workshop before the summer gets to close to ending. I have lots of music to learn and/or review between now and September, and my riding will likely become a less strenuous reward for my hard rehearsal work at home.

Some updates:

I enjoyed a lovely Shabbat bicycle ride and potluck dinner out on the Columbia River  couple Fridays ago. It was really nice to go for a longer ride in the cool evening breeze, with folks from The Alberta Shul (a non-profit promoting Jewish communal life on Portland's east side).

Below: Our Shabbes candles, and the sunset as seen from the park we rode to.
No photo description available.


Image may contain: bicycle and outdoorI sent off the last batch of Refugee Bikes to Catholic Charities this morning. I am now out of both bicycles and U-Locks, and cannot proceed until I find more of both. I am taking donations if they come my way but will not actively pursue fixing up more bikes in earnest until the fall.

The bikes continue to be well-received at CC, and just last week I saw someone downtown riding a bike I'd fixed up earlier in the spring; he'd procured some panniers and was hauling bags of groceries. Seeing the bike in action under a happy rider made me very happy as well.

Most of the bicycles I've rescued and repaired for this effort can be seen here:

Note: This reflects only about three-quarters of the bikes I've repaired. I didn't photograph many of the earliest bikes and missed a few along the way. I now make an effort to record every bike, mostly so folks interested in the ways a bike can be modified for city riding can consider many options.
I LOVE refurbishing old racing and touring bikes for the less-glamorous demands of city transportation.


On the disability front: I got what will likely be a first hearing.
Sadly, they scheduled it on -- yup -- Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. There's no way I can make the hearing on that day and have applied for a rescheduling. My lawyer believes this is a valid reason and that they will honor it. I just hope they don't honor it on top of a gig or something. I am keeping the faith and hoping it will turn out okay.

I'm also raising funding to record my latest collection of original songs. If you'd like to learn more and participate in this effort, check it out here:

Torn right now between another nap (I've already had one today but I am feeling really sleepy and worn out), and a tiny spin around the block on my bike.
If I do the latter I can reward myself with an iced coffee or something.

Wherever your bicycle takes you this weekend enjoy yourself!
Happy Friday and Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, July 5, 2019

you're not imagining things. the grief and fear are real.

Why I struggle with transportation choices and their impact on my life.
Because the grief and fear so many struggle with is real.
And in the end, we are just another species on planet Earth that is being compelled to face our extinction.
I can't stop it, but I can make the most of the time I have.
So I make music, and teach, and fix bicycles for refugees, and try to live a life that is simple and deliberate.
We're another species that will one day be extinct.
That is not a possibility I ever considered until only recently.

Today, I'm gonna work on bicycles.

What will YOU do with the time left to our species on this beautiful planet?

Monday, July 1, 2019

sunday parkways: a symptom of rampant consumerism?

I participated in my second Sunday Parkways of the 2019 season yesterday.

The day was warm and sunny, and lots of happy people were enjoying themselves walking, bicycling and skating along the route. There were a number of folks trying to get to or from home in their cars, but by and large they all mnaged to get where they were going with what looked like relatively little aggravation.

In short, it was a lovely event, enjoyed by thousands of Portlanders.

This was my twelfth season volunteering as a Mobile Mechanic. I've been quite happy to volunteer, even if I've actually been asked to ply my skills less and less frequently over the years. (With a bike repair station at every park along the routes, I've been asked for help far less frequently along the Parkways routes; yesterday I did not perform one single repair during my shift.)

At each park along the route, dozens of booths from various businesses and non-profit orgs tried to attract the public's attention. At most of these booths, schwag was in great abundance. (I always help myself to things like reflectors and patchkits, which go into my refugee bicycle project.)
Nearly all of it was plastic junk: silicone bracelets or keyfobs, plastic water-measuring devices from the city water utility, sunglasses from a credit union. In a year's time a lot of this stuff, taken home in Parkways participants pockets, will end up in a curbside free box or in the trash. Most of it was made in China and required no small amount of fossil fuels to make and transport to the United States.
In fact, there is an entire industry devoted to providing corporate schwag for companies to hand out, all in the name of branding.

The more I see of these things, the sadder I feel.

When are we going to get away from this? And why is it taking so damned long?

I don't know.

But I do know that every encounter I have with this reality is inspiring me to make some profound choices about how I live, what I consume and how I deal with the leftovers.
It's a struggle, of course.

My clothing comes from somewhere.
The packaging for my food, most of which I cannot produce myself, also cannot be recycled (though we're good about washing out and reusing plastic Ziploc bags ad infinitum).
My medication comes in a syringe that cannot be recycled, and which by law must be disposed of by burning, which means all the leftover chemical residue goes into the air we breathe; is that really a good idea?

For decades, the bicycle industry has struggled with how to dispose of spent inner tubes and worn-out tires, which cannot be recycled easily or affordably. When I worked in the shop, tires were disposed of in the landfill, or bundled and sent to facilities for burning -- again, imagine all that rubber and oil going into the atmosphere. For decades, bicycle clothing has been made of Lycra, itself a derivative of plastic. When Lycra is disposed of, it cannot be recycled. And so, if no one wants it anymore, off to the landfill it goes.

And all of this is directly connected to the mass of consumerism that drives our global economy, our socialization, our very way of human existence in the Western world.
What can I do to stop supporting this big picture without hermiting myself off from the world?

I need to ponder this awhile. But first, another bicycle ride.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Very Big Things: an ongoing series of overthinking

Having now watched both nights of Democratic Party debates, I am left thinking some Very Big Things, and just thinking of them simultaneously alarms and intrigues me:

1. Climate change seems to be the most important issue, at least to my thinking. Even as we fight over diminishing resources -- and the political and economic control of those resources -- all of the other issues, like  gun control, states' rights, civil rights, economic disparity and homelessness seem far less pressing.
The specter of a rapidly warming planet should be scaring the crap out of every single one of us. And so it has been amazing to consider the lengths to which we distract ourselves from this reality in our homes, our personal and professional lives, our practice of any (or no) religion, and the way we conduct commerce.

2. While I continue to pursue as simple a life as I can here at home -- and last-night's Shabbat gathering was as simple and sweet and uncomplicated as any I've participated in, in a very long time -- the fact is that many of my fellow Jews are pursuing lives that are seemingly as complicated as possible.  We follow dietary rules that compel us to buy food that has traveled across the country. We observe holy days that compel us to buy ritual objects made and transported from halfway around the globe. Our professionals travel often, to professional conferences and, if they’re able, back and forth between North America and Israel regularly. We live in Jewish bubbles of our own making, ensconced in comfortable suburbs that lie beyond the reach of public transit and equip our kids with the best things life can offer — both educationally and materially, and all at considerable cost, because life in those bubbles simultaneously requires and justifies that we do so.

In my efforts to build some small semblance of a career as a Jewish professional, I have toured as a visiting artist and educator. While my travel is exclusively for work — my partner and I do not travel for vacations much farther weekend drive to the coast, simply because national or global travel is unaffordable for us — I still shudder at the carbon footprint of my choices. I wonder every day if my choices make sense anymore, in a world that is rapidly burning up. Friends and family tell me not to fret so much — even with all the recent air travel, my carbon footprint before my career change seldom, if ever, required automobile use (I rode to and from work daily by bicycle) and so my current choices still reflect an overall lifetime carbon footprint that’s considerably lower than most.

But this feels like a false paradigm to me, a legal fiction designed to allow me to do this holy work, an attempt to avoid the zero-sum game that climate change represents for the human species.

To calm my distress about the Very Big Things I’ve been wrestling with, I’ve spent my evening reading a number of online articles by Jews from across the spectrum of observance. All but the most radical of them suggest that we ought to be cautious about things like a Green New Deal, or any radical moves away from fossil fuel dependence and meat-based diets — after all, some argue, aren’t we each supposed to live a life based on Torah?

Well, sure. Okay. Torah is thousands of years old. It has provided guidance for our people for ages, and inspires me today.
But the earth is older than Torah by several million or billion years. The earth is older than Judaism. The earth is older than the human species.
And so, doesn’t it make sense that at some point, Judaism may actually become irrelevant? After all, if the earth really has been heated up beyond reversal, then humanity will one day be irrelevant — and nonexistent — as well.

Should we be turning to our tradition for insight on how to deal with the impermanence of things? Of life? Of the human species in its entirety? And can Torah properly prepare us for not only the end of the human species, but the end of our individual lives? What can we glean from Torah to help us come to terms with the death denial of our modern culture, the denial that urges us to distract ourselves with mass consumerism? Can Torah help us come to terms with the reality of human species extinction, which will surely come about as the earth adapts to a warming climate?

I want to figure this out. Because the truth is we’re all going to die someday, and pretending we won’t will only hurt each of us, and all of us, deeply and profoundly. Coming to terms with our eventual demise can only be healthy for all of us, and perhaps will give us insight on how to be better for the planet in the process.

Tomorrow will be a good day for a bicycle ride.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Sunday Parkways returns on June 30! Who's in?

Portland peeps!

Come to the next installment of the 2019 Sunday Parkways, on June 30.

Route maps, volunteer info and other stuff can be found HERE.

Parkways is still looking for more volunteers to make the event successful -- you'll get water, snacks and a t-shirt and you'll have fun meeting your friends and neighbors along the way.
(Below: making a friend during and after a quick bike adjustment, Sunday Parkways 2017)


I have volunteered EVERY YEAR since Sunday Parkways' inception and it's always a good time!
If you want to meet up a little early and grab some coffee, come find me at the Volunteer check-in at Arbor Lodge Park this Sunday morning at around 10am. See you there!