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Archive for September 1st, 2011

Portland’s Benson Bubblers and Bikes

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Portland, Oregon has some unique features I haven’t seen in other cities. It appears to be a rather liveable place, and very friendly.

It appears a place open to artful living. Total strangers tell me how much they enjoy the bright colors of my clothing, for example. This happens rather frequently in Portland (both visits) and incredibly rarely in Lansing, Michigan (where I live).

One great feature is bicycle hooks inside public transit trains. Pedal your bike to the subway stop… roll the bike into the train, lift it up onto the hooks provided. Ride to your destination stop, take bike down, pedal away. Very cool.

Then again, I’m just in love with public transit trains. Lansing has a bus system with courteous drivers and on-time stops… and bike racks on the front of many buses. I may be just in love with the big city, but I’ve not seen the hooks in other cities’ train systems.

In the above photo, two bicycles are shown, one is in the background (look under the seated person). In this case, the riders had room enough to disregard the hooks.

It is a very bicycle-friendly city, all over. When I arrived at the airport, I noticed first the number of bicycle racks at the airport, along with a bicycle-repair rack (and a sign that one could borrow bike-repair tools inside the building).

Benson Bubblers

Also, Portland has some storied water drinking fountains. Here are a few photos of a four-bowl water fountain, both of which I took from inside a transit train while at a stop.  First a solo person walking past:

Then, a family really using the fountain well:

I loved finding these drinking fountains in Portland last time I visited. I was told by someone that they were put in around the time of Prohibition. I decided to look into the details.

Apparently a lumber businessman, Simon Benson, did not want his workers to frequent saloons in town. He donated a hefty sum of money to the city in 1912, to install 20 drinking fountains throughout the Portland downtown district.

According to this article, there are now 52 of the four-bowl Benson Bubblers in Portland. There are also single-bowl fountains but those were just put in by the city, not by Mr. Benson.

The first time I saw one of these fountains, it was a bit out of the blue and I was delighted. I was just walking to the subway through a neighborhood, and there it was on a corner.

It’s a lot like having a beautiful sculpture, but one which has a function, in the middle of where people actually live. I love it!