Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cycling and PDX

(image from
Portland is known as an either great town for cyclists, or as a horrible town for cyclists... depending on who you ask.  We have a great number of bike lanes, connecting bike paths, racks on the fronts of the city busses, bike holders in each light rail car, bike boxes (big green painted spaces on the roads at certain intersections where the bike traffic is heavier), and a ton of really great bike shops.

So, what's the problem then?  If there are all of these totally awesome attributes, where is the issue?  Most individuals, myself included, are of the mindset that as long as the cyclists that are using the road follow the same traffic rules as vehicles, then no problem.  Unfortunately, there are those motorists that really just don't care, and will turn into cyclists at lights, swerve and cut them off, and in general, just not play fair.  Would you do that to someone on a Harley?  Probably not.

Our family is what you would consider "Recreational cyclists".  We go on the weekends for rides, and we are usually on designated bike paths ( Nine times out of ten on the "Springwater Corridor Trail" - which is fantastic).  Both my husband and I grew up using sidewalks when we rode our bikes, and even now, to me, the idea of riding on the road - even in a bike lane - seems a little like living dangerously.  That being said, Ethan, who is nine, knows the basic rules of the road in regard to cyclists.  Stay to the right, stop at stop signs, obey all of the signs that are there for cars, wear your helmet, use lights and reflective gear, etc.

Last weekend, we were again on the Springwater trail, starting at Oaks Park and looping along the Willamette River, across the Steel Bridge, and into downtown Portland - Waterfront Park.  The route then takes you back across the river on the Hawthorne bridge and back down the bike path.  One of the things that is GREAT about the path on the East side of the river is that it has lanes marked out.  Especially in areas that are more narrow than others.  Last weekend happened to be the Seattle to Portland Ride (which I really wanted to do, but missed the registration deadline).  Some of the cyclists were incredibly courteous (Special thanks to the gentleman that thought I was doing the ride and was concerned when I didn't make the correct turn - thanks, dude, that was cool.  :) )  The waterfront area was very busy.

Ordinarily, we are used to that area being congested.  BUT, usually pedestrians are pretty good about keeping to the correct sides of the road.  This was not the case this past weekend.  There were people ALL over, not caring who they were walking into, cutting off, or nearly knocking over.  I had one woman and her daughter walk right in front of me, say "Ooops" and then laugh... as I nearly fell into the river.  Trust me, you don't want to fall in the Willamette - remember the three-eyed fish from the Simpsons?

My issue is this.  How am I as a recreational rider supposed to teach my kids to be courteous and follow the "rules of the road" when others really just don't care?  It is very disheartening for me to see people so blatently saying "screw you" and being rude... and then complaining about how the cyclists are cutting people off and winding up all over the place. While, yes, there are some cyclists that do, indeed, act like they run the show, the vast majority of us are just trying to get around like everyone else.  I model good behaviours that Ethan has picked up on, going slow or walking through crowds, letting people cross, or making sure to watch out for little kids on their bikes, or those that are using recombinant bikes (flat out, you guys are just harder to see...), making sure to say "on your left" when you are coming up to pass someone... It is just hard for me to keep saying to him that this is what we need to do to be courteous riders, and if more people did it then cyclists wouldn't have such a bad reputation.  But the more I think about it, the more I'm of the mindset that no matter what we try to do, there are still going to be those out there that just make it more and more difficult.

So, riders... PLEASE obey your street signs, stop doing stupid things that you KNOW you wouldn't do in a car, and if you are on the bike paths... make sure to let people know when you are passing them!!!!  (Side note, I did Tweet Mayor Adams about getting stripes on the downtown side, so we'll see what happens!)

Friday, July 2, 2010

So, the Other thing...

The other night, I was watching the news.  First, I remember when I was little, we had these things that we had to do at school, usually due on Mondays, called "Current Events".  We had to take a news story that we found in the paper, or later on, that we found online, and had to write a short summary of the article and our reaction to it.  As I was watching the news, I tried to think about that, and which of the articles would be appropriate for my oldest son, who is 9, to take to school... shockingly, there were two stories.  I'm not bashing the media when I say this, but REALLY?  Every other story was about a rapist, or murderer, or child porn, or something of that nature.

One of the stories that was actually appropriate, relevant, and sickening to me as a parent, was a blurb about budget issues within the Portland Public Schools.  I have gone out of my way to keep Ethan in the North Clackamas school district, specifically for these reasons.  In addition to closing several High Schools and letting go multiple administrative and teaching positions, they now want to take away Physical Education for all of the Elementary and Middle school grades.  Wow.  For a country that has a higher child obesity level as compared to almost every other country in the WORLD, good plan PPS, take away gym class. 

Yes, I know that there are budget issues.  Portland, however, has a great history of huge sports companies located within city limits.  Adidas to the north, located minutes from downtown (you can see the downtown buildings from the Adidas campus), and also Nike, located a whopping 15 minutes away, in Beaverton.  Not to mention there is also Lucy sportswear - a division of the VF Corporation, and several others.  Why not ask them for grant money?  Who cares if it's (sports equipment, gym uniforms, shoes for those who need them) logo'd?  When school districts allow Coke, Pepsi, Frito-Lay, and other various corporations into the schools, their machines go in, their ads go up on the billboards... which, side note, the sodas and energy drinks aren't really helping combat the whole childhood obesity thing.

These schools looking at taking away the physical activity from the kids who need it the most, because let's face it, by the time you get to high school, your workout habits are established.  You know if you're a runner, lifter, cyclist.  You know your food groups, and what you should be eating.  In elementary school and middle school, this is the time that all of this knowledge needs to be developed.  Not to mention, high school kids have the opportunity to get up between classes and walk around, stretch legs, etc.  (Give the teachers a five minute break before the next group of rowdies...)  These younger kids, recess isn't enough.  They are cooped up in the same classroom all day - for the most part.  Plus, even at recess (and in most gym classes) they aren't allowed to play most of what we did as kids... dodgeball, kickball, tag, red rover - they've been deemed "too dangerous".  Really?  Pretty sure we all turned out okay, and are turning around as adults to find rec leagues to play those same games!  Some schools still offer music and library once a week.  If they are REALLY lucky, they might even still have art classes.  Also, these main classroom teachers need a break!  Seriously.  You try dealing with a bunch of 7, 8, and 9 year olds for 5 and a half hours straight.  Hair.  Grey.  Or gone.  :)

Sure, parents are responsible for educating their kids on good food habits, however, with the current state of the economy, more and more parents are working at least one job, and kids are spending more time in daycare.  Sad, yes, but true.  Even after school recreational sports are becoming more and more competitive and it's becoming all about the kids who are the best on the team, as opposed to being a "rec league" to go out and have fun.  In fact, I'm not even sure that those exist for kids at this point.

So, Portland Public Schools, I appreciate everything that you do for the kids in your district.  I understand that eliminating Physical Education is the easiest, most broad reaching (meaning it will affect ALL, not just some of the schools - thereby saving the most money) cut that you can make.  However, I will continue to keep my kids in the North Clackamas district, even with our budget shortfall... last I heard, we were still having gym class and library in the fall.

There is a Facebook campaign to save gym in the Portland Public Schools.  Also, this is a GREAT article about kids brains and gym class... check it out by clicking here, and you can find Michelle Obama's take on physical education at this site.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Justice System and Journalists

Alright, so it's been a while since I've written, and well, with several baseball games a week and school getting out, I think I have an excuse.  :)  That being said, we have a little boy here in the Portland area who has been missing for almost a month.  The last week of school, he disappeared, and the last person to see him was his step-mom, who dropped him off at school for a science fair... and no one heard from him again.

I'm not going to sit here and reiterate the details of the case, for that you can click here, or you can go to Facebook and join the "Missing Kyron Horman" page.  What gets me, is that Kyron's dad filed for a divorce from his wife, Terri - Kyron's step-mom, and also filed a restraining order against her with regards to their daughter, Kiara.  To me, this shows that there are major issue within this family, and chances are this situation has not been helpful to that. 

Obviously, this is a family in upheaval and turmoil.  There are things going on at their homes that we, as the public don't know about, and quite honestly, we shouldn't know about.  These people aren't celebrities, nor did they sign up for a reality show to document the struggle to find their missing child.

Part of the divorce and restraining order was sealed by the judge, for reasons that were clearly stated by him.  It was along the lines of "finding Kyron is the highest priority, and I'm sealing this so that the investigation is not harmed by the contents of the order".  Plain and simple.  The local media has now filed motions to get that court order unsealed.  Pardon my naivete, but I believe that the Judge said that leaving the order unsealed would be detrimental to the investigation of the missing child.  So, yes, fantastic plan, go ahead and unseal the order, put the kid in greater danger than he already is, and while you're at it, add to the pain of the family. 

The highest priority of all of these people should be finding this little boy, and putting the resources toward that, not spending more time in court.  I completely understand and agree with the news media having access to the information... when it is appropriate.  The judge said that he would unseal the order... when the time was right.  I was a journalism major, I completely agree with the freedom of information act, and the public having access to these types of records, but not during an investigation of a missing child.  There is information in the proceedings that was deemed unnecessary for public knowledge, and the media should be respectful of that.

I don't necessarily support Terri Moulton Horman, I don't know her side of the story.  I always found it a little odd that she was the last one to see him, and then her story didn't line up.  But, that being said, she seems to have been cooperative with police investigators, and hasn't hired a lawyer until two days ago.  To me, those aren't the actions of someone who is necessarily guilty.   

For more information on the latest developments in the case, again, click here, or you can go to the "Missing Kyron Horman" Facebook page.