The Beautiful People of the Bike Lane

In Portland, Ore., we have bike corridors and bike lanes, both of which are marked with large images. Bike corridors are streets marked with bike symbols that provide easier access for bike transportation. The bike routes are recognizable thanks to the oversized bike symbols, while the bike lanes that run along side roads have lined borders and are marked by a thick, stick figure riding a bike with a floating head.

Bike lane marker plain

I didn’t know what they were called until I did some research. I didn’t care for the knick name “bike guys” somehow preferring my own more generic name of “lane markers.” Once I began to notice the footless people riding on these bike symbols in the bike lanes it was hard to miss the detailing added to the occasional markers. While huffing and puffing around town, their entertainment value is undeniable. Sure the thrills are cheap, but the designs also provide a bit of low-key joy to the world. If you study the generic nature of the stick figure person on the bike, you can imagine how some creative enhancements spice them up adding pizazz to the bland features.

I wasn’t sure who decorated these things before I researched the subject. I surmised it was the work of one person. The designs seem uniform and consistent in the number and style of additional elements. My theory had me under the impression that bike marker decorations were the work of a lone, talented vandal. Consulting the bible of all Portland Oddities, PDXccentrics, which exists in book and blog form, revealed that the lane markers are the work of PBOT, that’s the Portland Bureau of Transportation. Which makes sense because, when I had a look at the movie “Martinis in the Bike Lane,” I discovered there’s a bit of know-how involved in burning the thermoplastic material that makes the designs into the road. This isn’t something that gets pasted on the asphalt which negated another of my theories about the markers being giant stencils.

SW Terwilliger Blvd

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How can I knock this? I just happen to think that a hobbyhorse is a goofy toy. I probably would have had hours of maniacal, improvised fun with one if I had one as a kid. The subtle use of green in the hat, belt and boot made me want to stop and take a picture. Of course there’s no shame in riding over a one legged hobbyhorse rider.

N Vancouver

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Dubbed the transportation super hero, this female representation of the decorated bike lane markers is one of the reasons I don’t like the bike guys moniker. I can really appreciate this cape and glasses wearing female super hero. Usually it’s the exact opposite, when super heroes only wears glasses to disguise themselves as normal people.

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N Broadway

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I like how this marker celebrates the Rose Festival, a local event who’s spirit I’ve never really caught. It brings back memories of  the incline that stretches from Lovejoy and well past the Broadway bridge. When this Rose Princess marker showed up it provided comic and cuteness relief. It’s a nice acknowledgement of the rose parade tradition. I couldn’t tell you a single thing about the significance of the half dozen roses she’s carrying, in case you’re wondering.

Here’s a blog entry as part of the PDXccentric web site.  Scroll down to get the history:https://pdxccentric.wordpress.com/c4-bike-guys/

Great coverage from a Portland bike community blog: http://bikeportland.org/tag/bike-lane-characters

Post Script:

A week or two after this post I discovered a photo I took of another lane person. This is more of example of the older “bike guys.” This one might be smoking a pipe and sporting horns.

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