Monday, April 28, 2008

The Bikiest Brewpub in Portland?

A couple weeks ago John Foyston worked a short review of Hopworks into the Oregonian under the O's Cheap Eats rubric. No slam on either John or Hopworks, but journalists must be doing pretty well these days, if a $9.25 burger qualifies as cheap. Anyway, I don't want to quibble over the definition of "cheap".... Instead I want to take issue with the opening sentence of John's review.

"Portland's bikiest, most sustainable brewpub is now open," writes John. I definitely applaud HUB's moves for sustainability, and I love the bike theme in both the name and the decor of the place. But I had a visceral reaction to the word "bikiest", because anyone who could describe HUB that way has obviously never arrived there by bike [Update (2008/10/28): That was a stupid thing to write -- John obviously has arrived by bike (retraction).].

When I first heard of Hopworks, my immediate thought was, "How am I going to bike there?" I've been getting around by bike for a long time, and I'm not afraid to ride in traffic if I need to. Nevertheless, Powell Blvd. is one of those car-clogged behemoths that makes you roll your eyes when you think about crossing it. If you try and approach from SE 29th, depending on the time of day, you'll watch wave after wave of westbound and eastbound traffic until you get an opening in both directions to scurry through. If you'd rather cross Powell with a traffic signal, your choices are 26th and 33rd, three or four blocks on either side of Hopworks. That probably means you'll walk your bike on the sidewalk from that intersection, though if you love adrenaline you could battle the pent-up traffic both ways and turn left at 26th.

Then I thought, well, fair enough, the people living south of Powell now have a place they can bike to easily. But if you look at a map, their choices are little better -- the nearest neighborhood streets that go through to Powell from the south are 28th and 32nd. And check out this snippet from a map of pedestrian injuries and deaths between 1995 and 2004. HUB is just west of the big dot signifying two pedestrian injuries; the little dots are locations where one pedestrian was injured; the X's are pedestrian fatalities.

Here's another map showing bicycle collisions between 2003 and 2006. Whoops, looks like crossing Powell at 26th isn't such a great idea -- 4 or more bike crashes at that corner during that period. At least there was only one bike crash at 33rd. The point is, whether you're walking or biking to Hopworks, the volume and speed of traffic in that area is a danger to those not encased in metal pods, even if you come from further south.

For the bikiest brewpub, I would put forth someplace like Roots or the Lucky Lab, which draw lots of biking patrons and have good connections to bike lanes and bike routes. Or maybe the Quimby Street Lucky Lab -- the first time I biked over there, I was fuming that I had to lock up to a stop sign, only to walk in and find out that the bike rack is indoors.

Of course, there are worse locations than 30th and Powell -- at least it's close in. I've biked to Hopworks a few times and will continue to do so -- the beer is fantastic, as is the moderately-priced organically-grown food. And I'm not alone, either: the bike racks out front are usually so full that I have to lock up to the wheelchair ramp alongside the parking lot. I suspect that HUB's community spirit will be a good influence on future traffic planning for the area, but for now its location alone keeps it from being the "bikiest".


  1. At least you'll be good and drunk for the trip back across Powell...the El Diablo is particularly good at numbing pain.

  2. If you read it carefully, I'm not at all worried about how to get home, just how to get to Hopworks.

  3. I try not to read anything with "bikiest" in the title too carefully.

  4. I saw you reading a "bikiest" web page just the other day. No, wait, that one was "bikiniest".

  5. It was "bikinier"...I stay away from the hardcore stuff.

  6. I agree 100% - great beer, great build-out and re-use of an older building, but the location is less than spectacular. I am betting at least 80% of their business will end up being from people that arrived by car in the long run.