Saturday, September 27, 2014

Pedal Bike Tours Mural

The next mural on our ongoing tour is the giant bike design on a building at SW 2nd & Pine St. This mural went up in 2012, sponsored by the Pedal Bike Tours shop located in the building. Until recently it included the words "Welcome to America's Bicycle Capital" in giant letters below the bike logo. This did not strictly comply with the city's convoluted rules around signs and murals, and earlier this year an anonymous complaint put it on the city's code enforcement radar. In May, the city forced the shop's owner to paint over the words, leaving just the logo itself visible. The owner had tried the old "better ask for forgiveness than permission" thing, only to learn that is absolutely not how things work in Portland, at least not where code enforcement is concerned. The one and only thing better than begging for permission here is spinning it so it's somehow jointly your idea and the city's idea, which is what happens with most big development projects. Commissioner Schmoe does a photo op and takes credit, and you make the money, and "everybody" wins. I have no clue how one arranges that sort of thing; if I knew the secret, I certainly wouldn't be here on the internet explaining how to do it for free.

To be honest I think I like it better this way. The words always struck me as a little too, I dunno, self-congratulatory, and there's the little detail of whether this claim is actually true or not. Apparently the shop saw a steady stream of disgruntled tourists insisting their home cities were America's one true bicycle capital, I suppose because tourists are assholes and have nothing better to do in Portland than nitpick at local businesses' signs. Minneapolis, of all places, was singled out as home to some of the more zealous arguers. I can see how they would be far ahead of us in terms of bike-friendly Midwestern flatness, and I'm told the city is quite pleasant during the summer month-or-so when the polar ice recedes. And I suppose the bland calorie-rich food is close to ideal if you're carbo-loading for a long ride. But more to the point, it's probably just safer to fight us over Bike Capital than fight Alaska over Dogsled Capital. Cuz them's fightin' words.

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