A Visit to Portland

Portland is a wonderful place. Everybody knows it is the one of the best (link) cities if not the best city (link) in North America for cycling. The relatively compact development patterns (for a US city) means that distances between trip generators and destinations are small enough to make cycling practical for a lot of people. And there has been a lot of effort expended to create bike-friendly infrastructure.

It’s also one of the best cities for mass transit (link), and includes real trolleys (with real steel rails) in the transit mix.

There is a little bit of a potential conflict here, as I discovered on a recent visit.

My wife and I visited Portland recently, arriving May 19 for a two week visit to various Oregon destinations. I grew up Oregon, and some of my old friends have ended up in Portland, so I was planning to do some visiting, in addition to getting reacquainted with the city.

The first full day there, my wife was suffering from the remnants of a sinus infection and jet lag, so I left her at the hotel (recommended) and took the trolley to walking distance from the nearest bike rental shop . They set me up with a serviceable hybrid, and I took to the streets.

It was a short ride to the river. After rolling along at the riverfront MUP for a while, I got onto the street again. I made a left turn onto a one-way street, looked over my right shoulder to check traffic before getting into the right lane, and Crunch! I was down hard. I failed to notice that there was a trolley track in the street that I just turned onto. I somehow made it to the sidewalk and called 911. It was clear that my left arm was broken.

Surgery to install plates and screws and two nights in Good Samaritan (also recommended if you have the misfortune of needing their services) later, I was back on the street. The rest of the Oregon visit was less active than originally intended, but visits with family and friends (through the pain-med fog) meant that it was far from disappointing.

The hard cast came off July 11, the eighth week after the incident, and I wore a brace and did physical therapy for few weeks. I got permission to get back on the bike after eleven weeks (August 5). I am now in the 16th week of recovery, and things are getting back to normal. The arm still ain’t quite right, but it’s getting there.

I love Portland, and I even love the trolleys.  The bike/trolley conflict is an open issue. For a first step, a little more warning would be nice.  A few more signs like this might have saved me some pain and suffering.  If you visit (or if you live there) just be real aware of where the tracks are.


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