Some bike rides just seem to develop a theme all their own. As a common sight or experience occurs several times along the chosen route you see a pattern and…presto, you have a themed ride. Past themes I’ve experienced include: Cars Running Stop Signs; the always popular, Talking on the Cell While Driving theme; Western Tanagers at Every Turn; Cyclists Running Stop Lights;and during some morning commutes ,Tots in Trailers. Today’s theme: Broken Glass in the Bike Lane.
No, not my favorite ride theme of all time but fascinating in a terribly annoying way as a theme. For cyclists, broken glass is really a common road hazard creating the common malady – tire puncture. It’s not at all uncommon to dodge a spot of glass on most rides. My most recent puncture was caused by a lovely little clear shard of glass. So, broken glass = not unusual. But what was remarkable today was the quantity and the frequency on the same day. Let me just say, there seemed to be a conspiracy.
Glass from bottles, from car windows, TV screens (yes a television in the bike path), and who knows what all else littered today’s route. After having to dodge a half-dozen big piles and a few more small bits on my way towards the Marine Drive, I still was not prepared for the most remarkable glass hazard EVER!
Before I tell you about it let me take a short tangent and provide a little background. The route I take to work once a week in Vancouver, WA, takes me through North Portland towards Delta Park and a bike/ped pathway crosses the uninhabited wasteland often adjacent to most freeways. It takes an inefficient series of twists, turns, and underpasses and overpasses side trips, to bypass I-5 and it’s myriad on and off ramps. This area has been increasingly inhabited by homeless folk and pan handlers. Some are just seeking a place to shelter and stay dry, others are up to no good. Grateful that there’s no gridlock on the bike path, I’ve witnessed drug deals, drug overdoses, drunks weaving across the path, and gangs of panhandlers pressuring the motorists stalled by bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic.
So it was in this vagrant zone that the world’s most amazing bike path hazard appeared. As I emerged from below a pedestrian overpass and headed up the slight hill I saw three things. First: another cyclist. He has his bike on his shoulder and is walking in the grass next to the path. Second: a shopping cart on its side in the grass. Third: a very pretty, sparkly, glittery path. Glass of all colors coated the concrete from shoulder to shoulder for about 15-20 feet. Brown glass, green glass, clear glass broken into tiny bits, large shards, and jagged fragments with barely a trace of the path below.
Excuse me, but WTF????????????? I know times are hard. I can sympathize that someone may have a bad day and need to burn off steam. I understand that perhaps someone could just snap and start breaking bottles. I don’t get, but know, that people might break a few bottles for fun. But really, a whole darn shopping cart of bottles? Whaaaa?Perhaps the cost of living has so outpaced the Bottle Bill that all of those bottles are no longer worth returning for the deposit. Could it be a political statement about Banksters and the value of the US Dollar? Maybe, an ironic protest over the Columbia River Crossing debacle?
Really my description does no justice to the sight. Of course I chose to ride without my camera and can’t provide visuals but you can use your imagination to picture the scene. It was quite a sight to behold. Transport the whole mess off of the bike path to any other random concrete pad and perhaps you could charge admission. So colorful, textural, and complex, it could have been a modern-art installation: Grocery Cart Amok. Or, taken in segments the glass laid out like that but with some grout between would result in a beautiful mosaic in a new public building foyer. Perhaps you would see it at the boardwalk, the perfect crowd-assembling display for the Man Walking on Glass sideshow.
Instead we had the Cyclists Walking Around Glass side step. Not my favorite show.
One thing I would have liked seeing is all that glass going to some other purpose. What besides going to recycling or getting a five cent rebate could those bottles have been purposed?
1. Building a house. Well, at least starting a house. There are many glass bottle houses in the world.
2. Paving. Used to create interest in the landscape and provide a smooth surface for treading. You could pave around a whole city block of parking strips with what is now bike path flotsam.
3. Create a little terrarium. You could open a wee terrarium stand at Portland Saturday Market. With your sales proceeds you might have been able to take a nice trip to Xanadu. That’s how many bottles were there!
4. Make music. What a xylaphonic good time to be had if you had those bottles to fill up to varying heights with water and tap away with a spoon.
5. Crafts. Make wind chimes, mobiles, mosaics, hand paint and used as candle holders or vases, and much more.
But, alas, those fragments are now swept into the adjacent grass and will provide quite a puzzle for some future archeologist. In the meantime, it’s just a puzzle to me.