Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling knows how to beat Portland’s clogged summer peninsula traffic. He parks his car.
Instead, he throws a leg over his scooter and zips around town with his face in the wind.
“Traffic in this city is just brutal,” he told me, sitting on his orange, Italian-styled steed, parked in front of City Hall on Tuesday.
His bike of choice, a 150cc, 2-stroke, 2008 Stella by Genuine Scooter Company of Chicago, makes parking much easier. While not allowed in many peninsula parking garages, his scooter slides easily into any of the city’s free, 10-hour, motorcycle-only spaces.
He said fell in love with the scooter experience while traveling in Italy. So, last fall, he took a motorcycle permit course — his bike is big enough to warrant a full motorcycle endorsement on his license — and bought a scooter from a dealer on Warren Avenue. He was up and scooting just in time to go door-to-door, campaigning last fall.
And his bike gets around 100mpg, to boot.
“I think we ought to really try to incentivize people to take up less room on the road and reduce their carbon footprint,” he said. “If we had a lot more two wheels, instead of four wheels, we’d be saving a lot of space, saving a lot of parking down here.”
He sees his scooter as part of a diversified transportation future for Portland that includes busses, bicycles, motorcycles, commercial trucks and a lot fewer single-passenger cars.
“The more we can encourage people to reduce, reduce, reduce, I think the less congestion we’ll have and [it will be] better for the planet,” he said.
Strimling said he likes the way his scooter keeps him in touch with the city and visible to people on the street. He’s had more than one policy conversation at an intersection red light.
“I’m definitely going to get something about homeless on the medians or how we’re going to deal with the housing crisis or how do we create higher paying jobs,” he said. “Oh yeah, I hear it all the time.”
I asked him if maybe he didn’t think it was a little beneath the mayor of the state’s largest city to be seen on such a tiny scooter. Wouldn’t he rather have an air conditioned limo or at least a big, rumbling Harley-Davidson?
“This is exactly what I think the Mayor of Portland should be jumping around in,” he said. “This is just a way to stay connected to people, reduce your carbon footprint, walk the walk, you know.”
Note: Big thanks and a fist bump to BDN reporter Darren Fishell for driving my truck through Portland while I shot video footage from the back.