Last weekend I participated in a 28-mile bike ride called "Bike to the Future". It was initiated by the "Coalition for a Livable Future (CLF)", which I had never heard of before this ride, but they seem to be doing some pretty good stuff. CLF coordinates the efforts of over ninety sustainability organizations in the Portland Metro area plus does some major research on sustainability practices. One of the greatest things they are doing right now is a program they call "Shift the Balance". Even if you don't live in Portland, click on the link and read the list of ideas. It's a great list. It really is a forward thinking agency and the stuff they advocate doesn't necessarily requires solar panels on the roof or a wind farm in the back yard.
The ride itself was great and the hills were always perfectly timed with the areas I wanted to spend more time looking at, or vice versa. It was also a great introduction to some really nice neighborhoods I never knew existed in North Portland. That's actually one of the great things about bike travel is that you see and experience what is around you, rather than just view it out your window like a dull movie with an NPR soundtrack. Just keep an eye out for the cars because some of them are not keeping an eye out for you. Bright yellow clothing and flashing lights on your bike don't make you less cool, and they just might make you less dead someday. <<<<Safety message to some of my fellow bikers who equate "think safety" with wimpiness. And to the guy who told me my bike looked like a Christmas tree, (I have one flashing light on the back end) I forgive you and wish you maximum visibility when you most need it. OK, repeat after me. Lights...cool! Dead...not cool! Lights...cool! Dead...not cool!
There were three slightly interactive rest stops on this ride but the one I enjoyed the most was a brand new neighborhood called "New Columbia Housing". It is a project of the Housing Authority of Portland and is a superb example of thoughtful planning. Essentially what they have done is bulldoze what was once a crime-ridden community of ticky-tacky, industrially painted, drab, low-income only housing and replaced it with a genuine neighborhood of great looking low income, middle income and luxury homes, along with low-income senior housing and apartments. To this they added parks, a recreation center, play fountain, play yards, lots of trees and grass, a brand new school and the most humongous upside down tree you ever saw. CHECK OUT THE PICTURES! They even bulldozed AROUND the old trees, left them standing where they were and designed around them. Great thinking...really!
By realigning the roadways the housing authority was able to add more units in the process and serve more people. The entire project was also specifically designed to bring people together by the addition of walk-throughs and adding open spaces and trees making it feel more like a true community than a development. It was all built with sustainable practices in mind and I was quite impressed. CLICK HERE to read more about how this development was built sustainably. If other cities are not studying this as a model of housing done right, they should.