Riding a bike in Portland isn’t exactly a leisurely activity that one takes part in on a boring Saturday. It’s a way of life.
Portland sees six percent of its commuters travel by bike; that’s more than 17,000 people. Most cities can claim less than one percent commute by bike. Minneapolis comes as a close second, sporting just under five percent of bike commuters, but they’ve been rising steadily, coming dangerously close to beating Portland as the top bike city. Portland is also the only large American city that has earned a platinum rating for its bicycle-friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists, and was named the number-one bike city in the U.S. in 2012 by Bicycling Magazine. Portland loves bikes so much that we keep count. Down at the Hawthorne Bridge is a bike counter that counts each cyclist that crosses the bridge. Since Aug. 8, 2012, the meter has counted almost three million bikes.
Be sure to wear a helmet—it’s not uncommon to have a cyclist, sometimes while cycling, chide you for not taking the necessary precautions. Eighty percent of Portland cyclists use a helmet, and the ones that don’t probably shouldn’t be on a bike in the first place. Bikes are also legally required to use a flashing light during twilight and at night.
The city has installed 319 miles of bikeways in town, and in some cases bikes get their own paths entirely, including eight miles of bikeway that separate bicycles from cars. According to BikePortland.org, Portland had zero bike-related fatalities in 2013 (as well as 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2008 and 2010).
To further encourage bicycle safety, Portland is the home of Pedalpalooza, a weeks-long cycling festival with 34 different events, many of which are created by participants. Pedalpalooza events include the Zoobomb Century ride, which is a 100-mile race where the participants ride mini bikes down steep hills on the city’s west side.
But the highlight is the famous World Naked Bike Ride, the largest nude bike ride in the country. It is exactly what it sounds like: An event spreading awareness to cyclist vulnerability on the road. Nude bike rides can also be found elsewhere in the country, but Portland’s is the largest, attracting up to 8,150 participants. Riders show up, dress down, slap on body paint (if they so choose) and embrace oncoming traffic, displaying fully the dangers of cycling on the road.
There are at least 60 bike shops located in Portland, including Portland State’s very own Bike Hub. If a cyclist ever has an issue with their bike, help is always just around the corner.
It’s also likely a fellow cyclist will show up and help you out with whatever the problem is. If you have a flat tire and you don’t have a pump, someone will likely have one for you to use.
There are numerous trails for cyclists throughout Portland, and the city has managed to map out a collection of nine popular routes to take. These rides all add up to nearly 225 miles of cycling, often looping throughout each of the city’s five regions.
Start out in Northeast Portland, ride west across the bridge (any of them will do), cut through the Pearl, head into downtown, ride over the Hawthorne Bridge, and find yourself in Southeast. Or continue out west toward the wilderness and steep hills, climbing as high as Pittock Mansion, and barrel your way back down. Or take a ride out to the Gorge, which can be a 60 mile ride.
It’s not uncommon to find a pub that cyclists will stop in to enjoy a pint. Take for example the Hopworks Bike Bar in North Portland. Heavily influenced by bikes, the ceiling directly above the bar is lined with bike frames and is located on a prime bike commuter street. There is even a stationary bike outside that customers can use to generate power to the building, and for every 15 minutes the bar will give you a dollar. Something to keep in mind!