Changing gears…

Today’s goal: Communicate what it’s like to drive in Portland, Oregon.

There are many transportation options for getting around in America’s “weirdest” city. You can walk. You can ride a bike. You can use various TriMet options like the MAX light rail, the bus, and street cars.

And, if you are some kind of gigantic douchebag, you can hop in your vehicle and drive.

It’s true. “Low car households” account for 60 percent of growth since 2005.

A low car household is considered one where there are more adults than cars. My wife and I are part of this elite group as we sold my car (named The Spaceship) when we hit town. There are two of us and only one car. We be greenies.

This is officially a trend. In 2005 about 20 percent of households were considered low-car. By 2011 that number had grown to 25 percent.

Try driving a car in Portland and you’ll be in for all sorts of culture shock. First, you’ll get dirty looks that make you feel guilty as hell. WTF? Someone’s driving a car? Let’s lynch him!

Make no mistake. As a driver in a car you are the enemy.

Cars get no respect. They basically represent moving targets for pedestrians and bicyclists to fuck with at will.

Secondly, when driving a car, the rules of the road that you’ve lived by basically go right out the window. (Caution: That’s probably considered a form of littering.)

After observing the various phenomenon at play, I believe I’ve gathered enough empirical evidence to formulate a hypothesis.

Tom’s Hypothesis #42
In Portland, no known laws, natural or behavioral, exist to explain intersections.

Intersections are where it all happens. It works a little something like this.

  1. You arrive at an intersection and do your bit for the greater good by obeying the law and coming to a complete stop.
  2. You wait your turn.
  3. When you have the right of way, before proceeding cautiously, an illegal jaywalking horde jumps out and denies you the basic right of existence.
  4. Repeat Step 2 and 3 until ready to break out a machete and conduct some impromptu social engineering.

You pull up to a crosswalk. You come to a stop to allow pedestrians to pass. When it’s finally your turn to go that’s when more pedestrians come along and act like the own the whole planet. They brazenly step out in front of you. They know damn well what they are doing.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that, when driving, you are expected to watch for people on the side of the road who might be thinking about crossing the street. A good way to find these folks is to watch for the zombie walking dead who stare with dull dead eyes at small electronic devices. When you least expect it they’ll move suddenly into your path. It might be fun to hit them but zombie brains require nothing less than OxyClean to protect your finish and then, of course, there’s the paperwork that can ruin your whole day.

You might be under the impression that intersections and crosswalks are places where the rule of law applies and concepts like taking turns. This attitude will not serve you well.

Instead, you need to recognize intersections and crosswalks for what they truly are: Invisible stop signs. Proceed through them at your own peril.

Basically every single one of them is a place where something will jump, leap or be thrown in front of you, and you had better have the reflexes of a Tazmanian wombat or you’ll be totally screwed.

Why make any effort for the various forms of transportation to get along with each other? That would make everything calm, better and reduce raw anger. Obviously we can’t have that.

I’m not one to let defeat get me down. I like to adapt. When it comes to driving I have a new plan. Don’t do it. Ever. I anticipate our groceries will last another two weeks before we start to die.

I win. Game over! Ha ha ha!

Source of statistics in this article:

15 responses

  1. Snoring Dog Studio | Reply

    I live in Boise where cars still reign supreme. I walk to work and have to keep both eyes out for cars that assume no human would ever walk in public. That’s what gyms are for. Occasionally, I ride my bike, but I ride on the sidewalks. No way would I take my chances in the road. I don’t feel sorry for myself; I feel sorry for the squirrels who haven’t figured out that the car is king.


    1. Boise is a gorgeous city. We especially loved this neighborhood candy and ice cream store. Can’t remember the name of it, but we’ve found nothing like that in Portland. Yet. We can get lots of carne asada burritos, though.

      It might have been named Goody’s.


      1. Snoring Dog Studio

        It’s Goody’s! And it’s in a lovely neighborhood called the North End. I love carne asada burritos!


  2. I feel the need to start sending you canned goods so neither you nor the food will perish!!


    1. Neat. I do still have the ability to get to my own mailbox since it’s on our front walk. That usually isn’t too much traffic.


      1. I’ll start stockpiling. 🙂


  3. I’ve been know to wait, watch, and cross the street AFTER the car has passed. Silly me.


    1. You really like to buck those trends. You’re an outlier.


  4. You left out that other transportation type – the electric car driver.
    Only by them plugging in to recharge at the public parking spots can you know how much better than you they are.


    1. Oregon, while exporting wind energy, still imports coal energy, too. So when I see those electric types I just yell out something friendly, like, “Murderer!” 🙂


  5. But what if you were driving an electric car?? Better? Or some sort of Trojan Horse with a hidden giant (carbon) footprint?


    1. They don’t fall for such things around here any more. An electric car earns you no special privileges. Of course, I’m talking completely out of my ass since I’ve never owned and/or driven one.

      Besides, 40% of Oregon’s electricity comes from coal. Cars = enemy.


      1. Coal?!?!? I thought it would come from pot-burning.


    2. Sadly I found about this a few seconds after my comment publication deadline or I would have worked it in.

      Portland has started giving away parking spots to restaurants! I. Shit. You. Not.


      1. Wow. Maybe I’ll just drive my electric car THROUGH THEIR LOBBY!


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