I’ve lived in Portland for almost 5 years now…how time flies! There are many unique characteristics about Portland, though I’m going to keep this post relatively simple. If you want to explore all the quirkiness of Portland, go catchup on Portlandia on Netflix. One of the most notable characteristics about Portland that is quite unique from any other city that I’ve lived in is as follows. You’re looking to cross the street. It may or may not be at a crosswalk. In fact, let’s say you decide to cross the street between intersections in the middle of the block. Disclaimer: These experiences are mine and mine alone, and do not guarantee that everyone will have the same experiences.
You step off the curb to look both ways to see when it’s safe to cross the street. I grew up in Chicago so I’m VERY diligent in finding a wide berth in cross the street no matter where I’m looking to cross it. With or without pedestrian crossing signals. With or without traffic signals or stop signs. In other words, caveat emptor…well, that’s for “let the buyer beware” and not “let the pedestrian beware”, but you get the concept.
Back to Portland street crossings. The many times early in my residency in Portland the following happened and still happens. As I observe traffic from both directions to find my opportunity to cross, all of the sudden, the traffic stops in the direction nearest to me to allow me to safely cross. The first couple of times this happened, I must have had a quizzical look on my face to the drivers because, uh, no one stops in the middle of traffic to let a pedestrian cross ESPECIALLY in the middle of the block! Yet it happened and continues to happen. Then as I start to cautiously step onto the street, the other direction of traffic stops to let me finish crossing. I actually looked around me one time to see if there were any cameras filming for a joke or Youtube of “jokes for stupid pedestrians”. No jokes, just amazingly courteous drivers all throughout the streets of Portland.
What’s my point? I’m seeing this aspect of the Portland culture starting to change. I’m seeing the need to be much more cautious making the sort of street crossing moves I mentioned above. I see less courtesy of cars welcoming other cars to merge. I’m seeing more aggressive driving with cutting other cars off, merging into a lane RIGHT BEFORE the offramp rather than “waiting your turn” in the line of cars exiting to the offramp. Now, I’ll preface by saying that this is NOT an exhaustive analysis or scientific study, but rather random observations and associations that I’m making with this seemingly innocuous shift in the courteous Portland culture, and it might be related to a lot more California plates.
In fact, in the last two weeks alone, I’ve had cars cut me off on I-405 or the 26 east and west, as well as a car just today literally sneak in to my lane in the offramp exit from the neighboring lane, no signal and barely enough room for the car. And the license plate’s state? California. To clear up before anyone jumps to conclusions on my biases or mischaracterizations, I’m not against ANYONE moving to Portland for the same reasons that brought me here (affordability, work-life balance, love of the outdoors) or any reasons for that matter. In fact, this influx of people from around the country or the world adds a broadening from other cultures and diversity, I believe. But come on, drivers! Don’t bring your bad habits to Portland! Get with the program and watch how the people do certain things around the city. They may be quirky, but there are some pretty cool behaviors that set Portland apart.
It’s not perfect, but I’m hoping that all the ways the Portland culture can change and be disrupted slows down or even that us transplants learn a few new things that make us better than where we came from. Keep Portland Weird, and Courteous!