I was wrong, Salem, and you deserve my apology. When our family moved from Portland to come here for my job, I was sure I was coming to cycling purgatory. I didn't give you much of a chance. I imagined all kinds of problems with your city streets and how cars interact with bikes, and I pictured that I would just avoid riding your downtown core as much as possible. I was wrong to think that way about you. I mean, we all know what kind of attention Portland gets when it comes to city riding, right? Not so for Salem. But it’s only because folks don’t know what they don’t know. Well, I am among the reformed. Those of us who have learned your streets from the handlebars have reason to love it here. We have all got to start saying it loudly on your behalf, Salem. For that reason, today, I stand before you and all 19 of my readers to proclaim: Salem, you ARE a bike town!
You’ve got good signage for bike routes, your lanes are well marked, and things are very accessible to cyclists. Your bike shops are really quite amazing, especially the people who work in them. Sure, on weekdays the traffic can get congested, so yeah, that’s an area where you could improve. Weekends here? Wow. Cyclists should feel like royalty. I rode your downtown streets a couple of times this weekend, and both times were great!
On Saturday I took the road bike for a spin, and after a morning meeting I took a squiggly route back home. I had a few minutes to poke around downtown before the return trip, so I just took random rights and lefts until I ended up at Saturday Market. It’s only April, so there’s not much produce being sold there yet, but lots of folks were out enjoying the first almost-warmish day together. I met some nice people just visiting here from Louisiana. They say it’s already hot there and getting hotter. We’re spoiled in this corner of the country when it comes to the weather. I continued on my ride through town and got to snap off a few pics of the Willamette University campus in its springtime color. The students there looked especially happy to have the sunshine.
Today Mrs. C and I had a delightful Sunday. After an early church service we zipped home and changed, then spent the next few hours ambling around town on our bikes. We kept a pace that was comfortable for both of us, and criss-crossed around the downtown area with ease. I took the blue beast so we could pack a few things along with us; Mrs. C's hybrid bike is a perfect match for city riding and it made me happy to see her happy. There are so few cars downtown on Sunday morning, you have your pick of lanes for blocks in either direction. That made the riding more casual and fun for both of us. We did indeed ride bikes and then drink coffee! Found a coffee shop and a little patch of sunshine on the corner of State and Commercial. Across the street were some spandex-donned cyclists doing the very same thing at another coffee establishment. I’m tellin’ ya, bikes and coffee pair very well together here in Oregon!
Cyclists, whether you’re passing through or stopping to enjoy what the center of Salem has to offer, don’t just ride the edges of this town. Go through the middle.