Scared to death on the St. Johns Bridge

April 22, 2017

The St. Johns Bridge and I were born the same year–1931. I first saw it about twelve years later and have always held it in high respect as the blog I posted March 4, 2011, indicates. Today, Earth Day 2017, I read an article in the “Portland Oregonian” reporting that in the bridge’s 85-year history only one cyclist has been killed on the bridge: Mitchell Todd York, on October 29, 2016. Since I no longer live in the Portland area, my occasions to bike this bridge will not be often. My prayers are with all who ride this highway high in the sky, and especially with Mitch’s family.

Keith Watkins Historian

Once or twice a month, I bicycle across the St. John’s Bridge that spans the Willamette River on the north side of Portland, Oregon. Lots of company! Two lanes of fast traffic in each direction, more than 25,000 vehicles a day, many of them big and in a hurry because this beautiful bridge carries U. S. 30 across the river and connects two of the city’s industrial areas.

On each end of the bridge, which is almost half a mile long, a sign alerts motorists to the fact that bicycles share the roadway. This means that it’s legal for me to assert my rights to the road. And I do, but anxiously.

Pick-up trucks and eighteen-wheelers swing past me by sliding left toward the next lane of traffic. So far, no close calls, no squealing brakes, no loud horns, no harassing shouts.

Now and then I see other cyclists, most…

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Jottings from the notebook of an aggressive cyclist

March 10, 2011

Great Allegheny Passage / C & O Canal Towpath

One of the most interesting bicycle expeditions in the country is the off road trail all of the way from Washington, D.C. to the outskirts of Pittsburgh, 335 miles of non-paved, close to level, peaceful cycling. The best way to prepare for a week on the GAP—C & O is to study the TrailBook published every year by the Great Allegheny Press in Pittsburgh and Cumberland. It contains 224 pages of illustrated information about the trail, the nearby towns, American history that has been made along this passage through American history, travel preparations, and facilities and accommodations for cyclists. One of its best features is a splendid, detailed map—with the GAP on one side and the C & O on the other.

When I rode this route in the summer of 2010, I didn’t know about this book and pieced together some of the information from independent study. My advice: By all means get the TrailBook. It will be the best $10 that you’ll spend to make this trip a strong and good experience.

Also advised (or at least suggested): read my columns that describe the trip I made on this trail. The blogs begin on May 26 with a post entitled Bicycling the Potomac River with George .

Women on Wheels–bicycling

Millie Magner is a perceptive, dependable, and interesting reporter of bicycling in the urban context. Her Seattle-based commentary regularly appears on Her March 9 column “Women on Wheels—bicycling is a perceptive discussion of a topic that should be important to cyclists in cities all across the United States. The first paragraph and link to the rest of the article are posted below.

“According to Susan B. Anthony, “the bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world.”   Anthony’s statement seems to lend its truth to this day.  There are efforts currently throughout the world, especially targeting Africa, to get girls on bicycles.  World Bicycle Relief proclaims on their website, “In the hands of a girl, [a] bike is independence, education and economic self-sufficiency. In the hands of 50,000 Zambian schoolchildren, [a] bike is the promise of a better life for entire communities and generations to come.”  However, does this only ring true in developing countries?  What is happening in the rest of the world and right here in Seattle? Continue reading on Women on Wheels – bicycling – Seattle Bicycle Transportation |

Why Do Such Smart People Ride So Hard? PAC Tour’s Desert Camp 2011

In a few days, I will join fifty seemingly smart people who will spend a week bicycling up to 100 miles a day in the southern Arizona desert for the fun of it. We’ll be doing week five of PAC Tour’s Desert Camp 2011. How could such hard work be fun, some people ask me? Why do you find it so satisfying? I can mutter a few words in answer but have decided to ask a few people to help me come up with a good explanation.

Ten or twelve people on the week I will be riding have been on one or more of the PAC Tour expeditions I have done in previous years. I hope to talk with some of them and make notes on their experiences as aggressive cyclists. If all goes well, these conversations will be featured in forthcoming Thursday columns.

Cycling the St. John’s Bridge (part two)

Mardi Gras was an unexpected half-sunny and warm day in otherwise gray Portland and Vancouver. Since I had to travel to Portland for a dental appointment, I decided to continue training for the forthcoming week in Arizona by doing my Skyline Boulevard route. This takes me over the St. Johns Bridge (see last week’s column).

After last week’s scary ride on the sidewalk, I stayed on the main road where I usually travel. Despite the vehicular traffic that I described last week, I felt safe and secure. Two other cyclists were crossing the bridge at the same time, one going in each direction, both dressed (as I was) in bicycle-specific clothing. They looked to be seasoned roadies. And they were on the sidewalk. To each his own.