Sunday, August 3, 2008

Portland vs Seattle

OK, I admit it . . . as a Portland native, I'm a bit prejudice. Knowing my prejudice you might question the validity of what I am about to say . . . Portland is light years ahead of Seattle in many ways, especially transportation. Here is the proof.

We decided to go for a Sunday morning bike ride our first since moving here three weeks ago. The day started with a half mile ride to the closest MAX station where we waited two or three minutes and then boarded the first train. After hanging our bikes on the hooks by the door, we took our seats for the five mile ride to the Rose Quarter. Arriving at our destination less than 10 minutes later we followed the well marked route (complete with a special stop light just for bicycles) to the Vera Katz (Vera, a former mayor, and I go way back to the time when we shared a hair stylist) East Bank Esplanade.

The Esplanade is part of a complex system of bike/pedestrian paths that offer scenic touring as well as basic transportation. From our starting point we could ride to Sellwood on the South, East to Gresham or make a loop along both sides of the Willamette River returning to our starting point on a bike/pedestrian path across the lower level of the Steel Bridge.

We joined the hundreds of walkers, joggers, and riders headed South along the waterfront. Most of the path follows the edge of the river with a steep landscaped bank falling into the water. One section floats on the river and gives a striking water level view of the city. A bronze likeness of Vera complete with a fresh lei of flowers sits comfortably on a low wall surveying the scene. The path travels under four bridges and past OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) before connecting with a more inland route to Sellwood or Gresham.

After a short side trip to Burgerville for a fresh Oregon raspberry milkshake, we took a bike path across the Hawthorne Bridge to Tom McCall Waterfront Park on the West side of the river where the West Bank Esplanade continues along the seawall. The park was buzzing with activity in preparation for the upcoming "Bite of Portland."

We just made it across the Steel Bridge as the horn went off signaling everyone to clear the roadway before the bridge opened for a boat. Watching the bridge open and the boat pass was an added treat. Our leisurely 2 1/2 hour journey concluded with another MAX ride.

Our first biking experience led us to investigate online maps of other dedicated bike paths and regular commuting lanes on surface streets. A complex lattice of convenient routes will keep us and my beautiful Italian bike busy for a long time.

Prejudiced or not, I stick with my statement: Portland is light years ahead of Seattle.


  1. I agree with all of this. Portland's transportation is much better that Seattle's.

  2. Another star for Portland which is also down at street level. It was in Portland that the free yoga for street people programme was pioneered. Now they offer courses for people wanting to begin similiar programmes in their communities.

  3. I think Portland has preserved the feeling of unique neighborhoods (Seattle lost much of that feel years ago), and of a vibrant, people-friendly urban center.

    Thanks for the vicarious visit.

    Glad all is well.