Expose Yourself to Bikes

The mountain's out! Time to air up the 10-speed.

Spring in Portland is a series of small victories. We celebrate the day every camellia blooms at once; the first dry weekend; the first day Mount St. Helens peeks through the mist. Last Wednesday saw a major milestone: the first bike traffic jam. On an unexpectedly sunny afternoon, a crowd of homeward-bound commuters stretched in an unbroken line from the Hawthorne Bridge to Ladd's Addition. 

Yes, the fair-weather bicyclists are back on the streets, awoken from our bus-bound hibernation and ready to show up at barbecues in padded shorts and talk too much about our rides while any nearby year-round commuters roll their eyes. But what will we talk about once we've finished with our calves (sore!) and how famished we are after the two-mile trip over? Friends, that's what newspapers are for!

We could discuss the unassessed dangers of riding on non-designated routes, the heroic efforts of Jim Parsons to make the streets safer, the torturous climb to Pittock Mansion, the motivations of the Unipiper or Rex Burkholder's commute. We could ponder the state of women in the bike industry, the pros and cons of wooden frames, the joys of beer and bikes, and the merits of energy bars. Or we could just flip to the event calendar and start planning our next ride. Whatever we do, you'd better change the subject from calves, 'cause I could show these babies off all night.

Our cover image is an homage to the iconic photo at left, which was shot in 1978 by Michael Ryerson, a staffer at The Northwest Neighbor. The photo is of Bud Clark, then the relatively unknown owner of the Goose Hollow Inn (and founder of the Neighbor), flashing Kvinneakt, a downtown sculpture by the Seattle artist Norman Taylor. As Ryerson tells it, he and Clark set out to make a poster for the Venereal Disease Action Council (we don't get it either), but when he asked his readers to submit captions, they came up with "expose yourself to art." Ryerson borrowed $500, ran off a couple thousand posters with the photo and caption and set up a booth at Neighborfair, a community event in Waterfront Park. He sold 800 posters for $1 each.

By the time Clark, the flasher, was elected mayor of Portland in 1984 (overturning incumbent Frank Ivancie), Ryerson had sold over 250,000 posters across the U.S. He says the profits allowed the struggling newspaper to survive. He wasn't the only one to benefit from the notoriety—Clark paid off his campaign debts by selling signed copies of the poster. (Ryerson later sold the rights to the poster to Mike Beard, who owns Errol Graphics.) 

While he enjoyed near-universal popularity in his two terms as mayor, Bud Clark was especially loved by Portland cyclists. He regularly biked to work at City Hall and led an annual "Bike to Work with Bud" ride. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance presents a Bud Clark Award for Lifetime Achievement every year in his honor to bicyclists who have made major contributions to cycling in Portland.