Straddling the arterial

Getting into bikes–especially in a town like Portland with such an established culture around them–is an exciting combination of learning the language of a subculture and feeling as though you are part of a movement to reshape mainstream culture, and creating a new language around that.

I struggled for a moment whether to start with this abstract thesis statement or to describe my run in with Norm this afternoon. I obviously went with the former to make the run in seem more meaningful.

Anyway, I spotted my fellow member of the Bikes for Humanity board coming to the 33rd and Powell intersection where I already was from the southeast. The light had just turned red, meaning this long light would have Norm and me sharing this space for close to a full minute, him pointed north and myself on the other side of the ODOT-controlled river of flying automotive metal pointed south.

This has happened to me several times, crossing Powell or Division or other major arterials in the city. Bikes can trickle to the front of the line of cars, often granted green-painted bike boxes to hang out in, so a cyclist is much more likely to see a friend or acquaintance on the other side of the light than a driver might. Likely there’s no sense in stopping to chat because either of you would have to wait for the light to cycle all the way back, and what would be the protocol for who would make such a gesture? Everybody’s time is valuable after all.

I thought about texting Norm, but dismissed it. We smiled and waved as we straddled the arterial waiting for the light to change. Another time I shouted across Division with a friend of mine about whether we were going to the same wedding. I made a shivering gesture to comment on the whether. Then the light changed and we smiled and waved, just as Norm and I did today.

I think it has something to do with faith in friendship and movement at the same time and might have something to do with this gif I just made from pics I took at the Ladd’s 500:




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