My readers who live outside of the city limits of Portland, Or-Uh-Gun (all five of you!) probably have a rosy picture of how Portland is bike heaven and we pave our bike lines with gold, we drink free beer with the mayor at City Hall,* blah blah blah. Maybe you got that impression through our weekly New York Times write-ups. Or maybe from a friend that visited once. And yeah, we got it better than a lot of other places in the U.S. of A. Heck, sometimes we don't even feel like we're in the US, enough so that some Canadians would even consider moving here if they had to move to an American city.**
But then the reality hits ya square in the face. We are still indeed in "Merika." And there is no more American institution than the United States Postal Service. And since it is a federal agency, it's not affected by Portland's "Bikes? Sure!" policies.
I've used the East Portland Station Post Office located at SE 7th Ave and SE Taylor St ever since I've lived in Portland.*** For the past 8 or so years it's hosted my lovely Post Office Box. I've moved umpteen times in those intervening 8 years, but still have had the same mailing address. It's a great post office for a P.O. Box due to its central location and 24 hour lobby.
But...its bike parking sucks. Behold: the wheel eating bike rack.
I have a feeling the bike rack got put here in 1974, right after the first Arab Oil Crisis. This was the one second that even a conservative federal agency like the USPS would even consider doing something like this, as a way to deal with the crisis. It looks 1974 vintage, in its wheel eating glory. I don't know how this type of rack was ever practical, except during some quaint old era when people didn't actually lock their bikes.
During the modern era, however, when we're expected to lock our bikes to something permanently mounted to the ground, this type of rack creates...problems. The only way you can U-lock to the rack is through the front wheel, meaning the frame can get stolen. And even if you go through the trouble of cabling through everything else, the bike can easily fall over, which leads to the "wheel eating" name. So while this rack looks like it should accommodate eight bicycles, in reality, the most you'll ever see is two, parked on the far ends, as evidenced above. Once in awhile, someone will park sideways in the rack, but most folks will look for another street sign or something rather than take their chances with this piece of shit.
If only there was a better bike rack to lock to. But the sad thing is, there was.
Just to the left of the wheel eater was a standard staple rack. Besides offering a better way to lock a bike, it was a fascinating glimpse into the Portland underground culture of the 90's and 00's, as it was covered in layer upon layer of band/zine/anarcho/bike/what-have-you stickers.**** And it was heavily used! In fact, most people would lock their bikes to the staple first, and only use the wheel eater when the staple rack was full.
Then one day a few years back, without warning or explanation, the staple rack was gone, never to be replaced. All that's left is the bolts in the pavement.
|Not that great of a shot, but gives you an idea.|
I'm wondering if one day the USPS will be gracious enough and throw us bicyclists a scrap by replacing the current abomination of a bicycle rack with something more functional. Heck, a wave rack would do.
But with the imminent government shutdown, I'm not holding my breath.
*Actually, that one is totally true. I have gotten
wasted goodly inebriated at City Hall.
**Also true! I get told that like every time I visit Vancouver.
***10 years in April!
****Including a few of mine.