Most Portland phenomenons revolve around gender politics, beer, and attention from Japan. Since 2004, the Sprockettes, the world’s first all-female punk minibike troupe, has filled all these requirements.
These creative women teamed up with New Belgium Brewing for their Tour de Fat, which has seen them stretch their tires on a national scale, inspiring copycat groups in England, Japan (yup), and even San Francisco, where the landscape is possibly the least accommodating for downhill circus stunts.
There’s good news and bad news. Unfortunately, the collective that once included dozens of active participants is currently down to two members. However, this means there are plenty of openings—possibly even one for you.
For those of you tired of Snapchatting from the sidelines, we offer some literal squad goals for how to tell if you’re a good fit for the team.
You want to empower girls.
The Sprockettes have hosted summer camps for young girls since 2011, where they teach young’uns how to acro-balance, do bike tricks, and dance. If you don’t have this sixth sense, or the ability to speak to children, then you probably won’t be able to participate in some of the Sprockettes’ most vital community programs.
You have Wednesdays and Sundays free from 6-9.
You may have to surrender your spot in that beloved creative writing Meetup group in order to join the Sprockettes. The team has mandatory practice meetings on Sundays from 6-9, but in order to be a star player, you’ll want to attend their other meeting on Wednesday night from 6-9 as well. And if you don’t have all of the minibiking and dance skills down, you will want this time to hone those skills.
You fight crime.
When the Sprockettes aren’t educating us on body positivity and gender politics, they’re fighting crime. Back in 2007, two Sprockettes members returned a stolen bike to its owner. So, if you’re a part-time caped crusader or if you’ve tattled on a neighbor with outdated license plates recently, you are likely to possess the morale of a Sprockette.
You’re at least 21.
Turning 21 truly is the gift that keeps on giving. As with all of life’s finest amenities, you’ll have to be at least 21 to participate with the Sprockettes. As you might assume, these women are probably plenty of fun to grab a drink with after a given performance.
Lastly, you should be female identifying if you want to join the team.
GO:The Sprockettes open recruitment is at Buckman School basketball courts, SE 16th and Stark, Sunday October 23, 6-9 pm.
It’s worth pointing out that Portland’s spot on the list is a notable victory, beating the rankings of Austin, Seattle, and New York City. Still, since 2016 saw the unveiling of the BikeTown bikes, achieving third place could be viewed as a letdown.
The list takes note of Portland’s Vision Zero plan, which is designed to eliminate traffic fatalities over the next 10 years, and adds that the percentage of PDX residents who are bike commuters rose by 27 percent between 2013 and 2014 (according to US Census data).
With the publishing of the list, the question remains: What will Portland have to do to hit #1? Hard to say, but coming up with a warning call that’s friendlier than “On your left!” probably can’t hurt.
Evan Hanczor was eager to explore Portland on a BikeTown ride.
The Brooklyn, N.Y., resident rented two bicycles last weekend from Portland’s brand-new, bright orange bike-share system. But he had no idea that by clicking “yes” on the contract in the BikeTown phone app, he was waiving his right to sue the bike share.
“That’s troubling,” Hanczor said July 22. “When you’re hopping on a bike, you’re agreeing to some risk. But if it was a clear malfunction of the equipment, whoever runs this should have some sort of exposure.”
Last week’s launch of a long-awaited Portland bike-share system was by many measures a success. In its first six days, 5,500 people made 13,023 trips on the rental bikes.
But within 48 hours of the BikeTown debut, a Portland personal injury lawyer made an alarming discovery: an obscure clause in the contract, barring riders from suing BikeTown in court.
Buried about three-quarters of the way through the bike share’s user agreement, a clause stipulates that users must waive their right to a civil jury trial if something goes wrong on a ride. Instead, the contract forces them into private arbitration with the bike share’s operator, New York-based company Motivate.
“You agree that any dispute or claim relating in any way to your use of the services will be resolved by binding arbitration, rather than in court,” the agreement reads. It also bars customers from joining a class action lawsuit.
The clause, first reported July 20 by the website BikePortland, is a rare instance—possibly the only one—where a contractor providing publicly funded Portland city services has locked out its customers from suing, even if they get hurt or have their property damaged. Five arbitration experts, as well as numerous city officials, interviewed by WW could think of no other local examples.
Those legal observers were troubled.
“The city spent time developing this, using employees’ time, using money from the citizens of Portland,” says Lake Perriguey, a leading Portland civil rights lawyer. “To access government services, generally you don’t have to waive your constitutional rights.”
Portlanders can sue their water and sewer providers. They can sue other transportation services: TriMet, the operators of the SmartPark garages, and even the aerial tram. They can sue rec centers and public pools.
WW could find just one contractor receiving city money that has an arbitration clause similar to BikeTown’s: Active Network, which provides services for Portland Parks & Recreation’s website. (A trash-pickup company contracting with regional government Metro has a similar clause, but with an exception for injuries or property damage.)
Private arbitration clauses in contracts are used to shield corporations from consumer lawsuits, says Phil Goldsmith, a Portland lawyer and mediator.
In the 1990s, “businesses started doing arbitration as a way to gain advantages over their nonunion employees,” says Goldsmith. “The stronger party writes the terms, the weaker party gets to say yes or no.”
Legal experts say arbitration stacks the deck against consumers.
“Arbitrations are typically run by these private arbitration companies,” says Mark Ginsberg, the Portland personal injury lawyer who spotted the BikeTown clause. “They are very pro-corporation-biased. They are not fair, they are not a level playing field. They are not even close.”
In a statement, a Motivate spokeswoman defended the company’s practices.
“We believe arbitration is the most efficient and expedient process for resolving disputes,” Motivate tells WW in a company statement. “The process assigns a neutral arbitrator to each case and provides an option for either part to have a new arbitrator assigned if there is any doubt about the first one. And, consistent with best practices, we provide an opportunity for any members who prefer not to arbitrate to opt out.”
There is a way out of BikeTown’s arbitration clause: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line, “ARBITRATION AND CLASS ACTION WAIVER OPT-OUT” within 30 days.
But Goldsmith says few people will bother.
“It’s a fig leaf,” Goldsmith tells WW. “Some number in the high 90 percent of people never read it.”
Mandatory arbitration clauses are common in private companies’ contracts, appearing in user agreements for companies from Microsoft to American Express and apps such as Pokémon Go.
But they’ve received increased scrutiny and backlash since a 2015 New York Times investigation.
This spring, the Consumer Federal Protection Bureau proposed new rules to ban financial companies from putting the clauses in contracts with customers. New rules proposed last month by the Department of Education would ban the clauses in the contracts of any educational institution that receives federal funding. Chicago’s city council is currently considering a proposal to ban any company that uses the clauses from doing business with the city.
When city officials launched BikeTown last week, they praised it as an ideal public-private partnership.
Officials lauded the fact that the program will not require taxpayer money for its day-to-day operation, instead relying on a five-year, $10 million sponsorship deal with Nike. The project began in 2011 with $2 million in federal grant money, allocated by Metro. The placement of its racks, bicycles and terminals was organized by the Portland Bureau of Transportation, and the state contributed $42,000 for a BikeTown rack at Union Station.
Yet city transportation officials say they did not know that Motivate was placing an arbitration clause in the BikeTown contract.
“Throughout the process of launching BikeTown, we have been careful not to discuss the ins and outs of the contract negotiations,” says PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera. “We feel this is important in order to preserve the integrity of both past and future negotiations. We do encourage all people who use BikeTown to read the user agreement.”
City Commissioner Steve Novick, who oversees the bureau, now says keeping a distance from contract details was a mistake.
“When the city attorney and PBOT negotiated with Motivate, I now wish the city had considered asking for stronger language concerning legal remedies,” Novick says. “We should keep this in mind with all city contracts. These mandatory arbitration clauses are now rampant, and that is disturbing.”
Ginsberg says he was disappointed to discover the clause in a city program he otherwise supports.
“I really do want BikeTown to succeed,” Ginsberg says. “[But] that type of agreement is not needed to run a bike-share program.”
Next week, the Oregon Department of Transportation is expected to bring to a close one of the more interesting chapters in recent Portland City Hall history, by tentatively approving about $3 million in lottery funding for a new bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Interstate 405.
The idea of connecting the Pearl to Northwest Portland with a bridge closed to cars traces its origins to a 2002 Portland Bureau of Transportation plan that also envisioned turning West Burnside and Couch streets into a pair of one-way streets.
The so-called Burnside-Couch couplet went nowhere. For years it looked like the bridge plan would, too. That plan called for a dedicated crossing for only bicyclists and pedestrians to give people options other than the busy bridges at Northwest Everett and Glisan streets.
In 2008, then-Commissioner Sam Adams championed the idea of a Flanders Street crossing—with a characteristically big idea that seemed to anger as many people as it excited.
He wanted to repurpose the Sauvie Island Bridge at U.S. 30 (which was about to be decommissioned) as the new pedestrian/bike bridge—a feat that engineers deemed possible at a cost of $5.5 million.
“Of all the harebrained ideas to come out of City Hall lately, the Sauvie Island Bridge caper takes the cake,” Glenn Gillespie of Southwest Portland told The Oregonian. “Three big spenders on the Portland City Council have foolishly agreed to squander more than four or five million taxpayer dollars to ‘recycle’ the old bridge and move it to a new location as a pedestrian/bicycle crossing. It would make a lot more sense to earmark that money as a down payment on a new Sellwood Bridge, before that venerable and worn-out structure falls into the Willamette River.”
Meawhile, supporters of the bridge wrote in an op-ed that it would be foolish to back away: “I-405 needs a pedestrian and bike bridge. The city of Portland has a tremendous opportunity in its hands, which looks very much like the Sauvie Island Bridge, and it would be a tragic loss if we failed to take advantage of it. The construction of I-405 tore apart the fabric of our community. This project would begin to stitch it back together.”
Then-Mayor Tom Potter hated the idea, saying the bureau didn’t have that kind of money and, if it did, it should go to repairing streets and building sidewalks. Potter was preparing to leave office, but Adams was running to replace him as mayor.
Adams’ opponent, Sho Dozono, highlighted the bridge project as an example of Adams’ zeal for splashy, legacy-cementing projects over more mundane, fiscally responsible endeavors.
But the real obstacles to the project went by the names of Walt and Jean—also known as the north and south cabins of the Portland Aerial Tram.
Completed in 2006, the tram project was supposed to cost $15 million, but ended up costing closer to $55 million. That bill was still stinging when Commissioner Dan Saltzman—the crucial swing vote— said no to Adams’ project, which would have required using a specific contractor due to certain limitations. That also gave Saltzman pause.
“The last thing I want to do is be in a position where the contractor feels like they have us over a barrel,” he was quoted as saying in The Oregonian.
When Adams pulled the plug, in May 2008, he said he couldn’t “responsibly proceed” given concerns around cost.
Eight years later, PBOT is proposing to build a new 24-feet-wide span for $6 million, with $3 million in lottery funding and $3 million in city-funded system development charges. An Oregon Department of Transportation committee will weigh in on the city’s request on July 21, which a final decision expected in August.
Leah Treat sees advantages to bringing up the rear of the bike-share pack.
When Portland launches its bike-sharing program July 19, the top-rated city for bicycling won’t be the first U.S. city to do so—or even one of the first 50. It’ll be the 65th, behind tourist hot spots like Spartanburg, S.C., and Omaha, Neb. (And, of course, New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C.)
It took eight years and several failed attempts for Portland to get to this point. But backers of the new system, dubbed BikeTown by corporate sponsor Nike, aren’t upset about the wheel-spinning.
“We’ve learned and been able to watch what other cities have done,” says Treat, director of the Portland Bureau of Transportation. “Our system is going to be the largest smart-bike system when we launch. It’s going to be awesome.”
WW sat down with Treat this week to talk about her expectations for BikeTown. We also talked about the features of the new system—and why bike helmets are very unlike bowling shoes.
WW: How many riders are you expecting in the first month? The first year?
Leah Treat: We’ve already passed the 500 mark for founding members [with 600 members signed up for annual passes], so we’ll have a minimum of 600 and likely a lot more as tourists are visiting. Tourists adopt bike share at a much higher rate. As people are visiting the city, they’re going to be getting on bike share.
I’m picturing a lot of tourists tooling around without helmets. Will they have any?
They will either have to bring their own, or they can go to a local store and buy one. There’s not a helmet law [for adults], so we’re not providing helmets. We are looking at options to have helmet vending machines, but we still don’t have good options available for that.
If bowling alleys can figure out how to disinfect shoes, why can’t bike shares figure out how to sanitize helmets?
Their shoes don’t leave their site! They have all the equipment right there in one location, and there’s somebody there running the business. With 100 bike-share stations, it’s not really the same.
How do you ensure that this program doesn’t become just another amenity for privileged Portlanders?
The data in other cities doesn’t bear that out. Women adopt bike share at rates greater than in the commuting population. It’s picked up by tourists, who are visiting the city. The more infrastructure that’s provided, the more numbers of people who use it. In the area where we are launching, there’s more than 50 percent of the affordable housing located within 500 feet of a station. We have bike-share stations near affordable housing, near transit, near retail. We have a really low price point. For $2.50, which is the equivalent of a bus ticket, you can get a bike-share trip.
But for $2.50 on TriMet you can travel to your destination and get home as long as you do it in 2½ hours. You only have 30 minutes by bike. So why is that a good option for low-income riders?
I think it depends on where you’re going and how fast you need to be there. Bike-share bikes are immediately accessible, and you don’t have to wait for them to show up. You don’t make stops along the way, and if you have a short quick trip to make bike share is a faster, same-price option.
Why are women who won’t commute by bike willing to use the bike-share system?
There are a lot of theories. Women constantly say they want to be safe. They want to feel safe in order to ride bikes. Women have adopted bicycles in their own households at a much lower rate, so they don’t own bikes. A bike-share bike presents them with the opportunity to try out biking. So they get on the bike, and [the bikes are] very heavy, they’re very big, and they’re easy to maneuver and they’re safe. They start using the bike share bike as a trial and discover that they like it.
How do you respond to criticism that bike share doesn’t allow disabled riders to participate?
We’re going to be launching a pilot program [in spring 2017] for adaptive bikes. It’s going to be separate from the bike share system. But we’re going to try out a few different types of bikes and see what works.
You’ve said cities that adopted systems early didn’t anticipate how popular they would be. So what’s the biggest lesson from those cities?
It’s important to have the stations relatively close together, because they’re meant for shorter trips. So station density is incredibly important. It’s very important to launch your system in an area where it’s going to get picked up and adopted quickly, which is a dense area. That’s why we targeted the central city. We have to make sure we keep the system balanced, so we’re being incredibly watchful about how the bikes migrate.
So what does that mean? You’ll have trucks out and about moving the bikes around?
We’re going to try to avoid using trucks as often as possible because we’re very aware of our carbon footprint. We are looking to have the bikes rebalanced with bike trailers.
So if you have too many bikes near Pioneer Courthouse Square and not enough at Portland State University, someone will move them by bike trailer?
One of the employees of Motivate [the operator] would do that.
We’re never going to be able to prevent people from locking up to the racks, but as the bike-share bikes come into the system they’re going to take up most of the space. We’ll start with warnings, and if it does become a problem, we will end up with having to remove [personal] bikes from the system.
The great thing about our bike-share system, though, is that the bikes don’t have to be on that dock. The bikes are the smart component. In other cities, where it’s really a problem when people lock up their bikes to the bike share dock, it’s because the docks are the smart part of it, so the bikes have to go into that dock to get its computer synced up and all that. All of our logistics and technology are on the bike, but we still don’t want people locking their bikes to the bike-share dock.
Tell me something about bike share that people don’t already know.
Nike has the right to wrap 400 of the bikes per year in their own branding. They’re going to call them “unicorns.” They’re going to look different than the orange bikes. [Side note: There will be 100 “unicorns” designed to look like sneakers on launch day.]
Why are the bikes orange?
It’s the Nike shoebox color, and the basket on the front is supposed to look like a Nike shoebox.
How much do bike-sharing apps like Spinlister worry you?
Not at all. This is a biking town. People are excited about biking, and any new transportation option that you can bring to the city is going to be well-used.
So what’s the biggest risk?
I don’t see any. I think it’s such a good program, I don’t see what the risk is.
Come on, there has to be some stumbling block you’re worried about.
Nope. We’ve had so many intentional, intense conversations. We have a great operator. We have a great sponsor. We have great staff and community partners. I don’t see any risk to what we’re doing. I’m excited about expanding it and keeping it going.
In the end are you glad it took Portland this long to launch bike share?
Yes, in some weird way, there are a lot of benefits to being the 65th city to launch bike share in the country.
On Saturday, June 25th, thousands flocked the streets of Portland for the annual World Naked Bike Ride. Warning: These pictures contain nudity. Obviously. Use caution when looking through them in coffee shops.
[EXPRESSIONIST PIANO] Oft-barefoot pianist Benjamin Clementine is a transfixing figure, in both sound and stature. The young Brit was born to Ghanaian parents and began his career busking in the impoverished boroughs of London. Last year, he won the Mercury Prize, a well-earned honor given his audacious debut, At Least for Now, which pairs haunting arrangements with the raw, emotional gut punches of Nina Simone. He does this with a one-two approach. His songs often begin with theatrical piano and strings before turning to a tenor that evokes an unmistakable sense of longing, even before his solemn monologues begin to address it directly. Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell St. 9 pm. $15 advance, $18 day of show. All ages.
Carioca Bowls Anniversary Block Party
[HAVE A BOWL] Free bowls for the first 50 people kick off this acas joint’s all-day birthday party. DJs go until 9 pm, with pop-up events like yoga (8 am) and samba lessons, and giveaways. Carioca Bowls, 827 NE Alberta St., 8 am. Free.
[FOR CINEPHILES] For film buffs who would kill to have lunch with their favorite New Hollywood director, DePalma is your dream date with the creator of Carrie, Scarface, Dressed to Kill and The Untouchables. Sitting in what looks like the living room of fanboys/directors Noah Baumbach or Jake Paltrow, Brian De Palma walks us through his life and IMDb page. [B+]Hollywood Theatre.
First Annual Tin Foil Hat Ride
[PEDALPALOOZA] Fuck aliens—ride bikes. Break out your tin-foil hats to protect your brain waves from nosy aliens and government agencies as you ride around Portland. If you don’t want to crunch your style, the Big Lebowski Pedalpalooza Ride starts at 7:30. Col. Summers Park, Southeast 20th Avenue and Belmont Street. 7 pm. Free.
Fruit Cider Invitational
[FREE TO DRINK] This is how to do a cider fest: lamb gyros, live music and two days of ciders of all stripes—free admission, $2 for a 4-ounce taste, and $6 for a full glass, with ciders that include a seriously excellent Cider Riot hopped strawberry, limited-edition cask-conditioned ciders, and one-offs from Nat’s, Baird & Dewar, and Apple Outlaw. Through June 25. Cider Riot, 807 NE Couch St., ciderriot.com. 4 pm.
Hot Dog Taste Test
[COMIC BOOKS] “They taste a bit like petroleum, and they’re a little extra soft from the boiling,” Lisa Hanawalt writes of New York street hot dogs. “But throw some ketchup and relish on there and tell me that doesn’t taste ‘okay!’” Hanawalt’s comedy comes in part from granting the banal a degree of attention uncommon outside of standup sets. Her comics about food, published first in McSweeney’s food magazine Lucky Peach and now in her book Hot Dog Taste Test (Drawn and Quarterly, 176 pages, $22.95)—are both absurdly funny and meticulously engaged with their subject. Lisa Hanawalt is at Floating World Comics, 400 NW Couch St., floatingworldcomics.com at 7 pm. Free.
Nuggets Night featuring the Kingsmen, Flamin’ Groovies and more
[MONSTER GARAGE] To benefit the recent rebirth of now-listener-supported KISN FM, the station that once premiered the cream of the oldies, this ninth Nuggets Night has expanded to a box set of sorts, highlighting a pair of legendary artists alongside the annual event’s traditional assemblage of cover sets by local acts and one-off tributes. Friday’s slate brings the only Northwest stop for the Flamin’ Groovies, the final show of Beyond Veronica, Eyelids (as requested by the Groovies), the Pynnacles (who debuted at Nuggets Night 2012), and a Dead Moon-themed Karaoke From Hell performance. The Minders, buzzy girl-garage group the Mean Reds, and the Blue Whips—a specially-formed collaboration between the Cool Whips and Blue Skies For Black Hearts—accompany Saturday headliners the Kingsmen, of “Louie Louie” fame. Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave., 503-288-3895. 8 pm Friday and 7 pm Saturday. $20 Friday, $15 Saturday, $30 two-day pass. 21+. Through June 25.
Portland’s VR art show: Specular
[GALLERY VIEW] When you arrive at Hap Gallery this month, the space will be completely empty save for a pair of enormous black goggles hanging on the wall, trailed by a long chord. Putting them on transports you into an immersive virtual reality installation, designed by artist Damien Gilley, that resembles the digital future promised to us by sci-fi films of the ’80s (think Tron). Hap Gallery, 916 NW Flanders St., 503-444-7101. Through July 9.
Sabi and Friends Closing
NoPo’s vintage and variety store is closing after eight years on the main drag in St. Johns. Everything is for sale, all weekend, with over 3,500 square-feet to pick over. Sabi and Friends Vintage, 8402 N. Lombard St., 12-5 pm Friday-Sunday, June 24-26. Free.
SATURDAY, JUNE 25
World Naked Bike Ride
[BE FREE] Feel the breeze through your pubic hair!Bikes and naked people: two of Portland’s defining features. Ride around with your clothes off and enjoy striking views throughout the city. World Naked Bike Ride, Mt. Scott City Park, 5530 SE Harold St. 8 pm. Free.
B-Side Tavern’s 10th anniversary, with Big Business
[BETTER THAN EVER] Metal’s sludgiest duo returns to the Northwest to celebrate B-Side Tavern’s 10th anniversary.In all its grimy glory, Big Business has rebounded after a three-year silence—smaller in size but larger in confidence. Command Your Weather, the band’s first release since 2013, comes after a split from longtime guitar player Scott Martin, reducing the group back to a duo. It’s a separation that has only proven positive. B-Side Tavern, 632 E Burnside St., with Red Fang, Helms Alee, Rabbits, Gaytheist. Noon. $20. 21+.
Copa America Live
[FOOTIE] The finals of the largest soccer tournament of US soil since the ’94 World Cup hit this weekend. LeBros, looking for a rebound? Kells Brew Pub, 210 NW 21st Ave., 5 pm. Free.
[LOSE YOURSELF] The breakout indie flick that is director Anna Rose Holmer’s first feature, follows a young, tomboy boxer named Toni who joins an all-girl dance team, the Lionesses. As Toni gets lost in the lip gloss universe, Holmer’s slow-motion shots of workouts, dance scenes, and the mysterious fainting spells that begin to afflict dancers avoid the cutesy approach to preteen struggles that we expect from such films. In the best scenes, dancers take over urban areas, like a highway overpass, with their heavy breathing echoing across the cityscape as the camera pans out. Not Rated. Living Room Theaters.
[OHMMM] Two studios are hosting bud-friendly yoga classes. OmYeah Yoga’s Buddha Bud includes complimentary marijuana before and munchies after class. Though not technically cannabis-themed, Bob Marley Yoga is a DJed flow on the rooftop of Yoga Union led by one of Portland’s most badass teachers. OmYeah Yoga, 2377 NW Westover Road, omyeah.com. 6 pm. $30. Yoga Union, 2305 SE 50th Ave., Suite 100, yogaunioncwc.com. 7:30 pm. $20.
[DISGUSTING BLASPHEMIES] By the mid-2000s, most relevant black-metal bands had dropped the schlocky B-movie Satanism that long served as the subgenre’s thematic basis. But Paul Ledney—the maladjusted mind behind Profanatica and its dark ambient-noise sister project Havohej—is single-handedly keeping the schtick alive. Ledney, by virtue of the virulently sexualized anti-Christian lyrics and imagery he delivers via an almost incomprehensible shriek, is one of the few musicians able to create transgressive extreme metal without veering into full-on hate speech, but don’t be surprised if Profanatica’s music—black metal played with death-metal force—makes you feel sick to your stomach. Panic Room, 3100 NE Sandy Blvd. 8 pm. $17. 21+.
[FUNHOUSE PARODY] Anyone who’s smoked a J knows the inevitable hallucinations, hit-and-run car accidents, suicidal ideation, manslaughter and general descent into madness that follows, as the 1936 propaganda film Reefer Madness first taught us. Funhouse’s musical transforms the scare piece into lighthearted satire. Funhouse Lounge, 2432 SE 11th Ave., 503-309-3723. 7 pm Thursday-Saturday, June 23-July 23. $25-$30.
Sous Nami Smackdown
[MYSTERY MEAL] Think of it as Iron Sous Chef: At Slabtown French spot St. Jack, the sous chefs from Taylor Railworks (Trevor Payne), Russian spot Kachka (Matthew Wickstrom) and Spanish-modernist Ataula (Chad Norman) will throw down with dishes made from “mystery ingredients” announced on the spot. The winner will be judged by Naomi Pomeroy (Beast), Greg and Gabi Denton (Ox) and some schmuck with a pen. St. Jack, 1610 NW 23rd Ave, 503-360-1281. $10 nets admission and a cocktail.
Y.G.B. Daytime Party Vibes
[PARTY IN THE STREET] The other Portland Saturday Market is this alt-street fair on MLK. This week, Y.G.B. Portland is amping up the music with Lamar LeRoy, an XRAY DJ who builds his own speakers by hand, and Akela Jaffi, who is breaking from House of Aquarius to start her solo career this summer. 4709 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. 3 pm. Free.
[BLOOD N’GUTS] Few modern filmmakers are as divisive as Danish provocateur and psychopath Nicholas Winding Refn, he of neon-drenched landscapes and blood-soaked elevator shafts. Refn’s latest—The Neon Demon, a horror fable set in L.A.’s fashion scene—was drowned out by booing at Cannes. That’s either a deterrent or a credit, depending on your disposition. In anticipation of its opening, we ranked his previous films, from worst to best.
Frank: To Be Frank
[DELL’ARTE ART] CoHo’s Summerfest starts with a commedia dell’arte-style one-woman show profiling the Rat Pack’s 17th member: Frank. Billed as “an interactive, live life retrospective,” the show has Emily June Newton, with stubble painted on her face and eye shadow up to her eyebrows, smoking a fat cigar. “Flamboyant” might be underselling it. Newton, an Australian cabaret star and comedian, has settled in Portland to develop this one-woman show after touring internationally and collecting MFA degrees in places like San Francisco. Summerfest passes are $60 and include four shows over four weekends, through July 17. CoHo Theatre, 2257 NW Raleigh St., 503-220-2646. 7:30 pm Thursday-Sunday, June 23-25. $20.
[JOIE DE FUZZ] With Always on the Weekend, the Naked Hour band members channel the jovial hijinks of their friendship into smart, melodic fuzz. Teal Bluestone’s sweet, diaphanous voice is a ballast point for the walls of distortion her cronies prop her fragility upon. It’s raw but somehow extremely tender and inviting. Their collective joie de vivre humor is revealed through bursts of meticulously crafted explosions, perhaps indebted to the stuffy rehearsals of their youth. “It was the worst experience growing up,” Bluestone groans.Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave., with Blowout and Rod, on Sunday, June 26. 9 pm. Free. 21+.
For a decade, the Bowie vs. Prince ride has been an anchor of the month of bikey fun known as Pedalpalooza. Over the last year, both glammy rock legends passed away. And so yesterday’s ride was the end of an era.
Team Prince launched from Sewallcrest Park and Team Bowie set out from Holladay Park for the last mobile dance party on Saturday.
After sparkling through the streets of Southeast Portland for a half hour, blasting anthems from bike boomboxes, the teams united to ride through Downtown and ended in Sellwood with karaoke and sips of Montucky’s limited-edition Pride cans.
The man in the silver pickup warned me: If I hiked down the hill to the old railroad tracks, I wouldn’t come back.
My buddy and I were 11 miles west of the town of Timber, standing at the junction of two jagged logging roads, as deep as you can get into the Oregon Coast Range without ditching your car. We were looking for Beaver Slide Road, the gateway to one of the Northwest’s most dramatic and isolated day hikes—an unauthorized 6-mile stretch along the abandoned tracks of the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad.
They call this the Salmonberry Trail, but it doesn’t really exist yet. And unless the state can come up with tens of millions of dollars, it might never exist. That would be a huge missed opportunity, as the Salmonberry could someday be among the region’s biggest backpacking and cycling attractions—86 miles of trail, stretching from Portland’s western suburbs to the coast.
For now, the trail is an open secret shared by word of mouth and hiking websites.
I’m only a casual hiker, but I couldn’t resist the lure of a deserted railroad in the middle of a rain forest. So I set out to hike the trail’s most rugged and scenic 6.5 miles, getting dropped off at the top of Beaver Slide Road, with a scheduled pickup five hours later at Cochran Pond.
At least one person thought this was a very bad idea: the man in the silver pickup, who rolled in on the gravel road as if on cue from a low-budget, backwoods horror flick.
He knew the spot. But I shouldn’t go down there, he said. Beaver Slide Road was too steep to climb back up. The tracks were so overgrown with brush, nobody could get through—I’d be trapped in the ravine.
He stared at me, pityingly.
“You might make it,” he slowly conceded. “But you might wind up having a long, cold night.”
The dashboard clock on my buddy’s Saab read 3 pm. It was far too late in the afternoon to be looking for a trailhead, and clouds promised a May downpour.
I did what the city folk you read about in the newspaper always do in these situations—I threw on a backpack and started gingerly down to a trail that doesn’t yet exist.
For more than a century, visitors have underestimated the Coast Range. The 200-mile mountain range on the west edge of the Willamette Valley lacks the dramatic, snowcapped volcanoes of the Cascades. These mountains have the wettest weather in Oregon: The ravines are emerald-green rain forests, where Douglas firs grow massive on the ridges.
It’s rugged country. Beaver Slide Road, the start of my solo hike, drops abruptly off the side of a mountain that smells of freshly logged fir trees. Hiking guides say the road’s grade exceeds 40 percent—steeper than the Guinness world record for a residential street. It’s a mudslide with a name.
Even if you’ve never heard of the Salmonberry Trail, you’ve probably seen it: Every car traveling to the coast on U.S. Route 26 passes beneath the Port of Tillamook Bay tracks. The railway’s 150-foot wooden trestles are Pinterest shorthand for #authentic Oregon adventuring.
Building those trestles was an epic struggle.
“The Salmonberry is a rugged, remote canyon,” says Ross Holloway, a former state forester who now directs the Tillamook Forest Heritage Trust. “It always has been. I guess you could call it one of the last vestiges of manifest destiny, building that railroad through the canyon.”
Elmer Lytle, a Portland railroad promoter, started building the Pacific Railway & Navigation Co. line in 1905. Japanese, Polish and Hungarian immigrants dynamited the tunnels and erected the trestles, then among the tallest in the world. (At least two workers died on those trestles—killed by a runaway train car.)
Engineers dealing with blind curves, Oregon fog and nauseated passengers gave the railway another name: “Punk, Rotten & Nasty.”
The railway opened in 1911, offering daily passenger service from Portland to the coast. But its main use was hauling logs from Coast Range old-growth forests.
Before the PR&N line was completed, a local timberman named Coleman H. Wheeler purchased more than 70,000 acres of prime timberland around Nehalem, according to Paul M. Clock’s book Punk Rotten & Nasty: The Saga of the Pacific Railway & Navigation Co.
That’s when a winter storm whipped into the Oregon Coast, delivering 20 inches of rain in two days, and destroying large portions of the track then operated by the Port of Tillamook Bay.
“Oregon’s little railroad that could doesn’t know if it can anymore,” The Oregonian reported. “Landslides and washouts have left sections of track hanging in midair. One tunnel is packed full of thousands of cubic yards of mud and trees.”
Federal officials pledged to find $26 million to restore rail service. They never did.
Instead, a railway through a gorgeous stretch of remote terrain between a major port city and the coast was abandoned and left to rot.
At the bottom of Beaver Slide Road, I spotted the abandoned railroad tracks, gliding past a Salmonberry River swimming hole and into a tunnel. It was the stuff of movie-house nightmares: pitch-black, seemingly endless. But inside, lit only by my iPhone, the tunnel was peaceful and silent, with little debris and a smattering of hot-pink graffiti.
Out the other side, the tracks ran east, crisscrossing the river on small bridges. The air was perfumed with creosote, the pungent tar used to seal the wooden rail ties. Soon, evidence of the 2007 storm appeared: The hillside dove out from beneath the tracks, leaving them twisted in midair like a kiddie-park roller coaster.
That meant scrambling along the ravine to skirt the washouts, each one bigger than the last. At a place called Kinney Creek, the tracks had snapped off completely, shearing the metal 20 feet above the water.
Getting around the wreckage meant scrambling down to the creek along a plume of mud. Someone had tied a heavy rope to a tree at the top of the hillside, with knots along every 3 feet of its length.
I grabbed the rope and slid down the muddy, 20-foot hill, caking the seat of my jeans in dirt. The plunge didn’t feel like a feat of wilderness endurance. It felt like being Huckleberry Finn.
I yelled the only thing in my head: “Wheeeeeeee!”
The Salmonberry Trail dangles a tantalizing prospect in front of hikers and cyclists: a route from Portland to the coast that doesn’t use a highway.
“It would mean a really beautiful ride,” says Alison Graves, executive director of Cycle Oregon. “You’d literally be riding down memory lane, and seeing what built this state. For people who want to try long-distance cycling without having to compete with cars, it would be a huge draw.”
Less than two months after the 2007 storm destroyed the Port of Tillamook Bay railroad, people started suggesting the tracks should become a trail.
That’s not a novel idea. The rails-to-trails movement is more than 50 years old in America. The Salmonberry Trail would be the 22nd stretch of railroad turned into a bike path in Oregon. The most famous is the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, which runs along 22 miles of modest Washington County hills. The longest is the OC&E Woods Line State Trail outside Klamath Falls: a 109-mile ride through ponderosa pine and sagebrush along the rail bed of the Oregon, California & Eastern Railroad.
But none of those trails runs through territory as rough and isolated as the Salmonberry.
In the past five years, the plan has become an official state project, with all the tedious trimmings: its own intergovernmental agency, bimonthly stakeholder meetings, and a 125-page concept plan that charts the fixes needed to develop each mile. If you catch planners at the right moment, you can hear them whisper about the “Infinity Loop”—a figure 8 of bike paths stretching from Timberline Lodge to Haystack Rock, with the Salmonberry Trail at the center.
The chances of the Salmonberry Trail becoming reality are strengthened by a formidable backer: Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose), who represents this coastal district and sits on the Oregon Legislature Ways and Means Committee, which dishes out state dollars.
“I don’t wear a lot of spandex or spend much time on a bike,” Johnson says, “but this is an area of spectacular vistas and amazing terrain. I think we are creating something that will have national, if not international, cachet for bicyclists.”
Still, there are obstacles: Most obviously, money. Cost estimates range from $18 million to $54 million, and that’s not counting the price of reinforcing the tunnels and trestles so they won’t fall on tourists. The Salmonberry Trail Intergovernmental Agency has raised just $1.1 million.
Parts of the construction job will be in a remote canyon with few access points for vehicles—the same problems that faced Elmer Lytle more than a century ago, but with new environmental constraints. Already, project supervisors are conceding that paving the trail with asphalt through the Salmonberry River canyon probably isn’t feasible. Hard-packed dirt may have to suffice.
And all of this will take time—which is something advocates might not have.
“One of the biggest challenges is keeping the passion alive through a very bureaucratic process,” Holloway says. “Gosh, it’s been four years since people started talking about this, and we’re still about two years away from serious trail-building.”
Already, the forest is reclaiming the Punk, Rotten & Nasty line.
The trestles appear in good condition—give or take a terrifying plank wobble—and exactly as breathtaking as their many Instagram glamour shots suggest. At least one tunnel is starting to collapse, leaving a dripping skylight in a mountain.
As I walked toward the trestles, the train tracks disappeared under raspberry brambles and huge maple leaves. It was at times impossible to see I was on a trail at all, except by sweeping away the overgrowth to find the twin metal rails below.
Yet there was never any danger of tumbling off the tracks. Every time the railway approached a washout, a well-trod dirt pathway would dogleg to safety well in advance. I was being guided through a storybook forest by the people who had read the landscape before me.
By the time I reached Cochran Pond, it was nearly dusk. The man in the truck had been wrong: The walk was painless, except for the tick attached to the back of my neck.
The lure of the Salmonberry Trail is a chance to walk through Oregon’s past—a world of railroad engineers and lumberjacks. But on the hike, I caught a glimpse of the future: a state where people can hop on a bike in Banks and ride to the coast while passing more steelhead than cars.
That future is no sure thing. But the Port of Tillamook Railroad is a place where Oregonians meet vast challenges. The tracks are ready for the state’s best trail. We’re going to make it.
Portland’s bike roots run deep—and more people bike to work here per capita than in any other city in the nation.
You can quibble about whether our status as a unique bike utopia is deserved. Local activists fought in 2015 to downgrade Portland’s “platinum” bike-friendly rating by the League of American Bicyclists, arguing that our bike roads are far from perfect, our streets are full of bike thieves (see page 16), and our community is full of anti-bike backlash that shouts down new bike spending—like some folks on Southeast Foster Road are doing right now (see page 19).
But Portland’s bike history goes back as far as any city’s, from its very first bike paths in the 1890s to the first modern citywide bike plans in the 1970s—which means the city has built up years of bike landmarks both triumphant and mournful, stretching back to our earliest years as a metropolis. Consider this map and issue a celebration of Portland’s layered, complicated relationship with bikes, warts and all.
A. Biker Bars
We visited Hopworks Urban Brewery’s bike-happy Bike Bar and six other bike-themed places to get spun.
B. Community Cycling Center Mural
Northeast 17th Avenue and Alberta Street
One of the first in the country to do so, the CCC is a nonprofit devoted to getting bikes to people who otherwise wouldn’t have access, teaching repair skills and bringing biking to a broad range of communities. The two-story bike mural fronting the shop is a testament to its vision, with bikes ascending to outer space.
C.Start of First Bike Path in Portland
North Williams Avenue and Rosa Parks Boulevard
Back when Williams was a plank road, Portland made its very first bike path in 1897, starting at this corner and heading north to Vancouver. Eight hundred people paid for it, but 6,000 used it—beginning a network of bike paths that were all converted to car streets by 1917.
D.The Alberta Clown House (RIP)
Northeast 25th Avenue and Alberta Street
Once home to bonfire parties, drag races and just about every 20-foot-tall welded bike in town—a standing bike-centric Burning Man localized to just a single yard—the former base of Dingo Dizmal and the Clown House troupe is now…just a house.
E. People’s Bike Library of Portland (aka Zoobomb Pyle)
Southwest 13th Avenue and Burnside Street
This pyramidal pile of tiny-wheeled bikes is used by speed freaks to bomb down the hill from Washington Park. Their lock-up point has been permanently enshrined as a piece of city-sanctioned art.
F.Erased Portland Bike Capital Wall
Southwest 2nd Avenue and Ash Street
Here is the wall that once proudly proclaimed “Portland Is America’s Bike Capital.” Thanks, Amanda Fritz.
This mural features naked animals on bikes, near the edge of the Tilikum Crossing and entrance to the Springwater Corridor. Because naked animals on bikes.
J.Citybikes Annex Mural
Southeast 7th Avenue and Ankeny Street
Portland’s original worker-owned and run bike shop, since 1990, has had so much art on its locations’ walls—from simple bike to New York-subway-style graffiti—it’s hard to keep track. The most impressive are the annex’s crows in the spokes of giant bike wheels.
K. Hawthorne Bridge Bike Counter
West end of Hawthorne Bridge
More important than it looks, this cycle counter puts hard numbers on the approximately 30,000 cyclists who cross the Hawthorne Bridge each day—a constant reminder to policymakers that cycle commuters are a major constituency in this town.
L. Matthew Schekel Memorial Shrine
Southeast 37th Avenue and Taylor Street
A 10-foot-tall stone lighthouse and two multicolored wheel sculptures still stand at the otherwise quiet intersection of 37th and Taylor, where cyclist Matthew Schekel in 1998 was struck and killed by a delivery truck that ran a stop sign—galvanizing bicycle activists to the notion that cyclists are vulnerable even in quiet neighborhoods.
Northeast 108th Avenue and Weidler Street, Northeast 126th Avenue and Halsey Street
Ghost bikes are grave markers for cyclists who’ve been struck and killed by automobiles. Often they are marked with plaques, and their sites are recorded at ghostbikes.org/portland. But these two lonely bikes within 20 blocks off each other, unmarked with the names of the victims, are as haunting as tombs to unknown soldiers.