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Monday, July 04, 2005

how I spent the two hundredth and twenty-ninth birthday of our country.

Y'know, I'm not big on either fireworks or patriotic celebrations, but it's the Fourth of July in Portland. And being in the city, there's really no way to avoid fireworks on this night, so might as well make the best of it.

And the "best of it" on Monday July 4th, 2005 consisted on going to a b-b-q in the Richmond neighborhood of SE at my friend Steve Libbey's pad. We cooked meats and not-so-meats, consumed cold ones, and waited for night to fall.

As night dropped its curtain around 9:30pm, a gaggle of us (eight?) hopped on our bikes and dodged fireworks down the hill towards the waterfront. As we crossed 12th, all traffic increased, not only the motor-vehicular type searching for the "best parking spot" (in vain, I may add), nor pedestrians armed with lawn chairs, but other bicyclists. Could they know, as we did, that riding your bike down to the waterfront for the fireworks was the best option? I think they do.

Closer we go and the traffic becomes choked. We were going to use the Hawthorne Bridge to get to the Esplanade, but by SE 6th we could see it was wall-to-wall with people. We detoured to Taylor to get to the Esplanade, but by the time we reached the portal at Salmon, we could see that wasn't going to be a great choice either. Eric R. came to the rescue and brought us to the lawn-esque area at the east foot of the Morrison Bridge, and from there we had a great view of the fireworks going off from beside the Hawthorne Bridge.

After a half-hour, the fireworks were done and it was time to go. The rest of the group headed eastward, effectively beating the car-driving crowd. But not me, I needed to get downtown to do some work. But how the heck was I going to get there? The ideal bridge crossings--Hawthorne, Burnside, Steel, were choked with families. But here I was at the Morrison, the least bike-and-ped friendly bridge downtown.

If you don't know the Morrison, the bridge was built in 1958, in an era when road engineers considered non-motorized transport as a quaint anachronism, nothing that should be factored into the equation. So the Morrison was endowed with very poor bike-and-ped facilities--various stairways to negotiate around the many on-and-off ramps, a steel grate deck, and most importantly "Bicycles Prohibited on Roadway" signs to let you know you, yes YOU, don't belong here. Soon there will be improvements on the bridge to allow for better access for those not driving, but for now it sucks.

But hey! This is a big holiday here and the bridge is overloaded with peds. And I'm all for taking advantage of these situations. With bells ringing and lights blinking, I embarked on the Morrison, GOING THE WRONG WAY. And it worked! Pedestrians were overflowing onto the traffic lanes, so I just went around them all, and the cars had to wait!

Near the west end of the bridge, I ran into another cyclist doing the same thing.
"It's like Critical Mass!" he mentioned. And yeah, it is.

I turned onto SW 2nd (which was almost empty) exhilarated and loving life, for the moment.

Thank you, America.

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