Lessons from the bike lane

Each morning and most evenings I walk the mile and a half or so from my hotel to the Portland Convention Center.  I zig zag through downtown streets, go along the East Esplanade, an old industrial dock along the Willamette River.  Then I take the Steel Bridge across river then up the ramps and stairs to the Convention Center.  The photo above was taken between the river and convention center and roughly shows how busy it is in the morning.

The weather has been great and a 30 minute or so hike is great when I’m going to be camped out in a folding chair for the entire day.

Portland was Bicycling Magazine’s #1 biking city, which doesn’t surprise me at all.  On my walk I probably see 50-100 bicyclists.  Some are serious athletes in spandex and high performance bikes.  Several mornings I’ve seen a mom and her elementary-aged daughter on a tandem.  Others are probably tourists or newbies.

It’s pretty clear that my role as a pedestrian is to get out of their way.  I’m careful to yield at intersections and pinch points.  On a bike, momentum is everything.  On foot I can start and stop easily.  But on a bike, getting going from a dead stop is an awful lot of work.

It’s momentum, or more accurately the lack of momentum, that has me concerned about General Conference at this point.  Last week we started out like a bicyclist going up hill in wet sand.  It seemed to take forever but a detour into committee rooms got us moving and we came back with a sense of purpose and enthusiasm.  We were finally getting stuff done and Tuesday the promise of a plan from the Council of Bishops for a way forward buoyed our optimism.

We started yesterday receiving the plan from the Bishops.  Nothing seemed too radical, nothing, I thought, that would get the middle upset, although the extremes were sure to get rankled about something.  We were, it seemed, going downhill with a tailwind.

But mistrust and frustrations flared, frustrations boiled over and it got ugly.  I mean ugly ugly.  Productivity for the rest of the day was minimal and the odds of getting anything passed with noses so far out of joint seems roughly the same as the Browns winning the Super Bowl this year.

Four years ago delegates left Tampa frustrated that so little had been accomplished.  And now this morning as we again start pedaling uphill in wet sand I don’t know that we will be able to get any momentum going again.

My hopefulness exceeds my optimism at this point, and I desperately want to be wrong about it.

Photo credit:  Jonathan Maus, BikePortland

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