Commute is a walk in the park
- Michael Sievers
- Portland Tribune - Opinion
MY VIEW • Pedestrians tread lightly on the environment
My fellow citizens, what did you do for Earth Day 38? Were you good and green, too? Me, I minimize carbons (footprints optional) every day through a personal green program called “life on the stroll.” Or, as the day demands, I may invoke a favorite streetside query, “Yo, have you heard that Portland has pedestrians?” Yes, I’m one, and trust me, it’s a perilous, pothole-filled path. It’s a role in which, as the late Rodney Dangerfield lamented, “I don’t get no respect.” At the office, the suburbanites scoff at the idea that us pavement pounders ponder a friendlier environmental future. Then there’s the Ralph Kramden-like character who drives the bus route I use as a backup on mornings when the thought of another day as a pedestrian commuter is too much. Last week, as the bus doors opened, he looked at me and said, “Hey, do you mind walking today? I need these seats.” I guess the honeymoon is over. Do other pedestrians have these problems? Pedestrian rejection provides perspective. It’s not exactly a case of Saturday night fever, but the Bee Gees’ classic “Stayin’ Alive” is an important theme as each day begins. My day, for example, begins with a city panorama. I gaze east from Northwest Portland, turn on my GPS and hope the bears in Forest Park are still sleeping. From there, it’s literally all downhill a few miles. Of course, every day is different. On foot, one’s sense of the city is acute. Pedestrian life may not be pretty, but it’s certainly vivid. Which invites the inevitable comparison of the adjective and noun. The former may define the unimaginative plodder; the latter says indefatigable and savvy. So let me share my strategy and streetside encounters as a Portlander in peril. No day, of course, begins without my baseline survival checklist: cash, TriMet pass, sports page and time for coffee. Oh, did I mention attitude? One can’t leave home without it. This is a must, as in must be lucky, lucid and likely to live another day. Now, as I ease into the early morning, my first strides are those of muscle memory. As the fog lifts, I’m gazing into Ken’s Artisan Bakery on Northwest 21st Avenue. The early customers are deep into the paper as the trash trucks grind through the neighborhood. The light deepens on the stroll over Interstate 405. My destination is the Pearl Bakery on Northwest Ninth Avenue. En route I encounter my people: cell clones, iPoders, dog walkers, runners and the usual squad of bad drivers. These sights and sounds offer the unanswerable questions: What do cell people talk about at 7 a.m.? Why do dogs wear Burberry coats? How do those bicyclists stay warm? Inside, the bakery is friendly and warm. The coffee is strong, and the sports pages are filled with important minutiae. Now, fueled for the stretch run, I gambol to the Burnside corridor. Where, like an average Moses on a morning mission, the river of cars parts on cue as I cross the park blocks from north to south. Then it’s a bust down Broadway to continue my constant pedestrian pursuit of Earth Day every day. Michael Sievers lives in Northwest Portland.