Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Neal de la CCC

The Midwest.

The homogenized melting pot, where the whitest of the white go to live together and be free from the dangers of seeing or hearing about the ‘other’; a city where abstinence only education was the –only- form of sex education, and there were parent groups protesting even this. Prescription drug abuse, affairs and divorce were prevalent.

It was a haven for upper middle class suburbanites, where their suburb is a suburb of another suburb. It was a place where land is cheap and architecture is from the ‘cookie-cutter’ era.

I knew I needed to leave, but I never knew how badly I needed to leave until I did. After a bout with Iowa State University, the University won. I came to Portland to continue studying for two prime reasons: 1) I had family on the East coast, and felt it too similar to home, and 2) Portland was the most affordable option of West Coast cites, that is, cities that were as far away from my cookie cutter house and still on the continental United States.

Portland was a good choice for other reasons. I had decided to get a degree in Volunteer Management. Portland is perfect for that degree because there are a million places in town that utilize volunteers, and so getting experience was easy.

I ended up here for a few reasons. I was already an avid biker, and had been for years, and used the CCC as my bike shop.

No I didn’t live in the neighborhood, but had a friend who told me about it, and I really liked the idea so I decided to come around.

Second, I had my degree, but was not putting it to any use. I was working some entry level job, I think I was a barista at the time, on Hawthorne. The CCC had grown to a point where it needed a dedicated Volunteer Manager, instead of including those duties with the shop manager. By that point I was around fairly often, heard about the job, applied, and here I am.

Four years ago.

Grown like a blackberry bush, man. When I arrived we did our entire volunteer, administrative, and business through the one building. Now we have offices on MLK, that’s where my office is, we ‘rent’ space over on Interstate where we store Holiday Bike Drive bikes, and have the store that is still dedicated to volunteer participation, as well as standard bike store business.

Yeah, the Interstate building we share – well, the veterinary clinic across the street owns the building and rents us the space for dirt cheap.

Yep, that’s the one

No, I’ve never looked in them, I don’t really want to know.

It would just sort of shatter my brain to know we stored all these bikes – bikes that are going to be the first shiny and new bike these kids get – across the aisle from dead animals. It doesn’t stink, and they are filing boxes, so I’ll just go with my assumptions.

The Holiday Bike Drive is a great program we have for under-privileged kids. What we do is simple, we take donated bikes all year from the community, clean them up until they look as good as new, make sure the bikes are safe, and then in one big event we give them all away.

No, we rent a nice big space, put all the bikes in order of size, put some bright shiny floodlights on them and let these kids have at it. When they have found one they like, one of the shop’s mechanics will adjust the seat and handlebars to fit the kid. They are also provided with a helmet if they need one.

It’s a service to the community

You were there on a day where I had to drive. I drive only when it is necessitated by work. For instance, if I know I will have to run out to REI for one of our programs. Other than that I bike everyday.

The bike boxes are a big point of contention amongst bike commuters. I am very much in favor of any program that the city uses to keep biker rights and safety at the forefront of people’s consciousness. I am also very in favor of them because this summer is sure to see some ridiculous gas prices – which always leads to a lot more people on the road biking. This increased ridership is great in some respects- I love seeing people on the road biking. There are some major safety issues to contend with also. The bike lane is only about two and a half feet wide, with no passing lane. The congestion downtown will be worsened by inexperienced riders and experienced riders trying to mesh. I know not everyone is a daily biker, and I don’t expect them to be. But one of my main concerns is biker safety, so I am concerned about how crowded the bike lanes will get. The green boxes will help that congestion though, I think. It will offer a bit of a chance for experienced bikers to get around the newer bikers in a safe way.

Safety is always, always, a concern for bikers. Or it should be. We offer several classes in bike safety, to everyone ranging from children to adults, new to old rider. And I don’t care if you have ridden for three decades or three hours, you can still learn something new in our classes. In the Create-a-Commuter class we take eligible candidates and provide them with a bicycle, a lock and lights. We hope to put more people on the roads everyday.

No, your bike is nicer than the ones we give away.

You what? You commuted all the way across downtown. How can you not wear a helmet and how are you not dead?

Do you want me to give you one? I’ll give you a helmet if you promise to wear it.

I’d tell cars: “If we are in a collision, what is maybe a scratch to your paint is a trip to the emergency room for me. See and respect bikes!”

“Portland is bike-friendly, that does not make bikers invincible”

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