By Halcyon Orvendal
Given our school’s focus on sustainability and our youthful demographic, Lewis & Clark students might wonder: Is our campus bikeable? The short answer: no. The long answer: It could be. It depends on what you consider to be bikeable and how you use a bike to navigate Portland and our campus.
LC clearly makes an effort to get students biking on campus. Students have access to ample storage and services for bicycles, traffic is calmed so that bikers feel safe on the surrounding streets and the Pioneer Shuttle offers further bike access at its stops.
LC clearly has the will, in both administration and student body, to make a bikeable campus, but we are no Amsterdam. The problems for bikeability at LC arise not only from our history as an estate, but from the historic intentions of Palatine Hill as a whole: to establish a paradise of Pacific Northwest beauty free from the modernity of the city, and to make sure anyone without a car (that is, anyone who was poor) stayed out.
LC is a unique college campus because it wasn’t purposefully built to be one. The meticulous sightlines, abundant recreation and fairytale landscaping make for a beautiful wedding venue, but are dependent on steep stairs, winding paths and muddy shoes. None of this is really a problem on foot, as any building on campus is only ever a fifteen minute walk away, but on a bike (or any wheels for that matter) steep stairs and gravel pathways mean constant dismounts and potential pedestrian collisions.
The nice thing about being a cyclist is that you’re also a pedestrian, which is why nearly everyone who owns a bike and lives on campus makes the daring trek to the academic side strong-willed and bikeless.
But what about the students who own a bike and don’t live on campus? For them, the campus is pretty accommodating. Most of those aforementioned bike parking areas are conveniently located where the roads meet the campus, meaning students can get off the road, lock up their bike at the entrance and enjoy the serenity of the estate on foot.
However, trouble arises upon examining Palatine Hill as a whole. The area isn’t just car-centric, it’s people-exclusionary. Anyone without a motor is greeted by an impenetrable fortress of sidewalk-less labyrinthine streets which demoralize even the business executives they were designed to protect—not to mention the Teslas and SUVs speeding by with intent to kill as you try to find your escape.
Even given the unavoidable physical demands of biking on a hill, Palatine Hill should be bikeable. It is within biking distance of Lake Oswego, Sellwood and the South Waterfront with its bicycle highway leading into Downtown Portland. Our community also has a dedicated bicycle path that cuts through the region and leads to Lake Oswego.
The issue is that bicycles are forced to take the long way round to reach any of these destinations. The aforementioned bike path is only 0.1 miles from the residential side of campus, but if a student wants to get there on bike, they have to ride 0.5 miles up busy South Palatine Hill Road to the law school and then another 0.2 miles to get to the spot that should be two pedal strokes away.
LC, with around 2000 students and 750 employees, is an obvious travel node and an institution worthy of cycling infrastructure. South Palatine Hill’s union of green politics and green cash needs to put its money where its mouth is and expand its existing bike networks to serve not only the recreation-obsessed peloton dads who appreciate the extra miles, but also the cheap college students who will actually use it.