- BikeScore 70
- WalkScore 63
- TransitScore 50
- League of American Cyclists Community Rating: Platinum
Portland’s bike reputation precedes it. The League of American Cyclists doesn’t hand out a lot of Platinum Biking City ratings (4 total at last count), but Portland easily qualifies. Add to the mix a solid food scene, a wealth of unique neighborhoods, and more breweries than we knew what to do with, and you have the kind of biking destination that makes for easy press.
Moving beyond all the glowing articles and getting down to the business of actually biking Portland, however, we found that the distinction between it and Minneapolis, Montreal, or Vancouver is not always easy, at least concerning infrastructure. Depending on where you stay and where you go in each, it's more or less a toss-up which of those 4 cities has put more money into making biking safer. All of them have scenic bike paths connecting far-flung places. All of them use "Bike Boulevards" to make certain (mostly residential) connector streets safer for bikes. All of them have the occasional soaring, majestic bike/pedestrian only bridge to make you feel special. So don't think that Portland has some magical advantage over several other similarly bike-centric places in North America. It's nice to bike there, but it's just as nice in several other places.
What Portland does have, however, is a bike identity. Seattle is "big business in the Pacific Northwest." Vancouver defines itself by its stunning surroundings, its Olympic heritage, and its avid sports scene. Montreal is the European-inspired historic jewel of Canada's east. Minneapolis is "just as good as Portland, but with tons of snow." But Portland defined itself early on with the bicycle, and bikes still permeate nearly everything there. Portland has courted the younger, not-into-spandex, beard-and-beer-and-bikes crowd in a way that no other city has, to the point that Portland quickly became identified with biking in general. "Portland and bikes" is a co-branding exercise gone gangbusters.
It's important to note that Portland is more than just seriously crafty beers, house-cured gourmet pickle/charcuterie plates, full sleeve tattoos, and staggering numbers of beards that wouldn't look out of place in a Ken Burns documentary about Appomattox ...(best t-shirt I saw there: "The Bearder The Better'). Those things are there in greater density than anywhere else, but there's plenty of regular folks, 15 IBU pilsner, and top-shelf food that isn't too trendy. At times Portland can be cartoonishly "bikey," but I'm glad someone is acting as the petri dish for the rest of the country. I'm glad that Portland has the cajones (and the political climate) to push the envelope farther and farther, to integrate bikes more and more into regular life for more kinds of people at all income levels. Portland, I salute your freak flag.
One final note on the beer: I don't yet know what an over-saturated "peak beer" marketplace looks like, in which good brewers just can't make a living, but I have a feeling that Portland and its 150+ (and counting) breweries will find out before anyone else does. In the meantime, there's so much good beer there that you simply will not be able to sample it all. But it's fun to try.
There’s “bike culture,” and then there’s “Portland-level bike culture.” Whatever you’re doing on a bike in Portland, it will not surprise anyone. Biking 10 miles each way to work wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. Putting our whole family onto one bakfiets cargo bike to go to dinner didn’t even get us noticed. Portland is at that point where the simple act of riding your bike to do normal things is no longer considered exceptional, risky, or frankly even very interesting. Portlanders sometimes take bike culture to silly levels, but people do silly things in every city.
People in Portland take their bike etiquette a little more seriously than in most places, so brush up on your hand signal skills. Politely announce when you’re passing “on the left,” and signal every upcoming turn, or incur some bearded wrath. Cyclists here were overwhelmingly polite and friendly, but it gets crowded out there, and making your intentions clear to other cyclists keeps everyone happy.
Portland has built just about all the infrastructure you could ask for, so danger from major car traffic is rarely a concern. There are, however, some lingering diagonal embedded train tracks across some streets, and they send even experienced riders to the emergency room with alarming frequency. Cross such train tracks at as close as you can get to a 90 degree angle, so your front wheel doesn’t become suddenly lodged in the groove, throwing you instantly over the bars. If you have a lighter bike and are so inclined, you can also “bunny hop” the front wheel lightly over the tracks to help mitigate the risk.
We never had much trouble finding legitimate places to securely lock up a bike, even a bakfiets. We believe the bike theft levels to be about what you’d expect for a major city with a thriving bike scene, which is to say that leaving a bike out on the street overnight is probably unwise without several high-quality locks securing both wheels and the frame.
Spinlister is like the Airbnb of bikes! Use promo code, BIKABOUT, for $10 off
- Clever Cycles - $30+ daily for Brompton folding bikes and family cargo bikes includes a lock, helmet and map
- Cycle Portland - $15+ daily for hybrid, road and single speed bikes. Helmets, locks and panniers are included.
- Everybody's Bike Rentals - $25+ daily for commuter, road or touring bikes. All prices include lights, lock, helmet and bike map. Rain gear and panniers extra.
- Pedal Bike - $35+ daily for Jamis Commuter, road, tandem or kids bikes and trailers and trail-a-bikes. Helmets and locks included.
- Tri-Met - 100% of buses outfitted with bike racks and bikes allowed on light rail many times of the day
- Portland Aerial Tram - for the best view and to save yourself a monster hill climb to Council Crest Park, take the bike friendly tram for $4.35
- Cascade (Vancouver, BC - Seattle - Tacoma - Portland - Salem - Eugene) - $5 for roll on service
- Coast Starlight (Seattle - Portland - Los Angeles) - $10 boxed service
- Empire Builder (Chicago - St. Paul/Minneapolis - Milwaukee - Spokane - Portland/Seattle) - $10 boxed service
Bolt Bus - Free under bus storage
Support Local Advocates
Bikabout donates 25% of annual revenue to local advocates. You, too, can power better biking in Portland by becoming a member of BTA!