Friday, October 02, 2009
A Fine and Private Place - Emphasis on the "Private"
I actually started this post back in June. At that time I was simply planning on talking about a part of my daily commute, for lack of anything more interesting. Then I got caught up in things, and this post got pushed to the side and forgotten. Recent developments reminded me about it, however, so I am dusting it off and putting it out for all to see.
Here in Portland, we've got lots of great places to ride our bikes, either as commuters or as weekend road warriors. Riverview Cemetery is one such place. Almost every weekday morning I ride my bike up the hill from the Willamette River through the cemetery to get to the transit center where I board the commuter bus to Salem. The ride through Riverview is the highlight of my day. A mile and half of quiet roads winding through old tombs (cool!) and new flat gravestones (boring!). The grade is a gentle (mostly) 4% or so, with the occasional 11% pitch, and at 6:00 AM the only traffic is other cyclists and the random deer or coyote.
Most mornings on my way up the hill, I meet up with Lee Rogers, the cemetery's supervisor, as he makes his morning rounds. If I have time, I'll stop, and we'll chat about the weather and whatever critters we've seen that morning. Lee thinks it's great that cyclists use the cemetery, because the only other option for getting up the hill is a steep, winding road with no shoulder and lots of car traffic. Lee and I have also talked a lot about certain cyclists who are not content with a leisurely ride through the quiet cemetery hills but, rather, used the cemetery as their own private time-trial course, barreling through funeral processions and cussing out mourners who had the temerity to park their cars in the road. Worse yet are the cyclists that think that graves make good cyclo-cross hazards. Fortunately, the inconsiderate riders are in the minority. Unfortunately, they are ruining it for the rest of us.
Lee had told me months ago that the cemetery management was being pressured by plot owners and mourners to close the roads to bicyclists. Management has resisted those calls so far, but last week they took a step toward controlling speeding cyclists by installing speed bumps in three places. Unfortunately, the execution of this plan was not very well thought out. The bumps are higher and less rounded than your typical speed bump, and for at least one day they were unpainted and had no warning marks. That led to several bike crashes, and an extremely vigorous debate on a local cycling blog. Now the cemetery management is once again considering an all-out closure. Needless to say, that would be a huge loss to Portland cyclists. But I can understand the cemetery's position. It is, after all, private property, and we are trespassers upon it. And even though 90% of us are respectful of both the primary purpose of the land and of the extreme graciousness the owners have shown in allowing us to use their roads, it only takes one moron using a child's grave as a mogul to ruin it for the rest of us. And, sadly, just as in every other population subgroup, there are a lot of moron cyclists out there who treat Riverview as their own private Idaho. Thanks for nothing, guys.