Portland, Oregon: The 2nd Most Bicycle Friendly City in the World! But Why?

In 2010 Virgin Vacations named Portland, Oregon the 2nd Most Bicycle-Friendly City … in the world! (Okay, so Amsterdam was first.) Additionally, Portland was voted the #1 Place to Ditch Your Car by Sunset Magazine in 2011. So, what is it that makes Portland so bicycle-friendly? Is it the fact that — in some Portland neighborhoods — bike commuters can be as high as 9% of all commuters? Is it the fact that the Portland metro area has an extensive and ever-growing network of bicycle trails? Or the fact that cyclists can easily cross most of Bridgetown’s 11 bridges on their wheels? Or is it that pretty much anything a human being can do, Portlander’s do on a bicycle, including food delivery, pub crawls, tours, and – of course – crazy, fun, weird events like the Naked Bike Ride (doing their part to “keep Portland weird”)? Here are some highlights of what makes Portland so cycle-friendly.

1. Connected to Public Transportation:

TriMet, Portland’s award-winning transportation system (voted #1 in the nation in 2011 by U.S. News and World Report), accommodates bikes at all hours on all their buses and trains, and provides secure bike parking at many of their transit centers. Go to www.trimet.org/bikes to find out more about how to combine bike riding with public transportation in Portland, how to plan a trip, and how to use Bike and Ride stations.

2. Plenty of Information for Cyclists:

For great maps to help find your way around Portland — and the surrounding area — by bike, go to the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation web site (www.gettingaroundportland.org).  The site also includes information about how to ride safely in and around Portland, bicycle shop locations, bicycle locker rentals, and bicycle theft prevention.

3. Bike Tours & Bike Rentals:

Portland boasts several awesome bike tour companies who also rent bicycles by the hour or day, if you would rather be left to your own devices.


– Pedal Bike Tours: Pedal Bike Tours offers several tours around Portland, to the wine country, or the beautiful Columbia Gorge. Or you can spin around Portland with a friendly, knowledgeable guide who will show you the best of Portland’s coffee roasters, microbreweries or food destinations. If you’d prefer to rent bikes, they will bring the bikes to you; no need to hunt around for the shop! Pedal Bike Tours also conducts company outings (www.pedalbiketours.com).

Portland Bicycle Tours/Oregon Bicycle Tours: Meet the tour group in downtown Portland, or request a hotel pick-up at no extra charge. All tours are easily paced, relaxing and designed for the participants’ comfort and relaxation. Tours go to the Historic Waterfront, the Columbia Gorge, the Willamette Valley Wine Country, Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls or the Oregon Coast. Or create your own custom multi-day experience! Bike rentals also available.  (www.oregonbicycletours.com).

– Waterfront Bicycles: Portland’s largest rental fleet! Includes mountain bikes, tandem bikes, children’s extensions, and bike trailers. Tours include trips to the International Rose Test Garden, The Japanese Garden, Mt. Tabor (a beautiful public park in the city limits, located on an extinct volcano!) or to one of Portland’s fun-to-explore neighborhoods with shops, restaurants, and — of course — microbreweries! Waterfront Bicycles does repairs in the shop, too! (www.waterfrontbikes.com).

4. Pedicabs:

What is a pedicab, you may ask? It’s basically a rickshaw, a bicycle transport fueled by an eager Portland career-bicyclist. Portland is home to several Pedicab companies, with eager, strong cyclists ready to be dispatched at your pleasure. They will take care of the transportation for your pub crawl, wedding or bachelor/bachelorette party, quick sight-seeing trip through downtown, or jaunt to a nearby food cart. Spiffy pedicab amenities that have been sighted around town include fluffy blankets, rain-covers, heaters and I-pods. Oh, and some of the pedicab drivers wear fairy wings. Many of the pedicab companies also provide tours. Bring cash!

– Pedicab Companies:

PDX Pedicab: www.pdxpedicab.com, 503.828.9888                                                                                                                 Portland Pedicabs: www.portlandpedals.com, 360.510.1818

5. Deliveries by Bike:

It’s not uncommon to see bicycles attached to artfully decorated trailers zooming around downtown Portland, delivering pizza, soup, flowers, or important documents to eagerly waiting customers. Portland Pedal Power (www.portlandpedalpower.com) delivers food from local restaurants, groceries and food carts, as well as artisan chocolates, beer and wine.

6. Annual Events:

Portland is the scene of several uber-fun, super-quirky bike-related events each year, including the Worst Day of the Year Ride (to prove how hard-core you are), the Midnight Ride (to show that you can ride anytime, anywhere) and the Naked Bike Ride (why? That is the question we are all asking!).  Plus, from May through September there’s a monthly Sunday Parkways event held in different neighborhoods around the city.

Tips for Biking in Portland:

-   Keep safety at the forefront. Obey rules of the road, play nice with motorists, and (duh) wear a helmet, reflective lights, and bright clothing.

-   There is, unfortunately, a decent amount of bike theft. Bring a really strong lock, or use a bicycle locker.

-    This is Portland. It rains a lot. A LOT. But, as Columbia Sportswear says, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inadequate gear. Have fun!

Merlin Varaday Written by:

Merlin Varaday was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, raised in Ashland, Oregon – home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival – and has spent the last ten years in infamous “keep it weird” Portland, Oregon. With a B.A. in Tourism Marketing from Portland State University, Merlin’s day job is to answer questions for visitors to Portland and tell them about everything awesome in the grey-skied City of Bridges. Additionally, Merlin has contributed to the writing, editing, and layout of the Old Town Chinatown Crier (www.oldtownchinatown.com). Currently working on a blog about Living the Good Life on the Cheap in Portland (web location to be announced shortly), Merlin’s immediate plans are to stay in her hometown and write about all that the quirky metro has to offer. Which is a lot: leading developments in sustainability, an award-winning transit system, eccentric annual traditions like the Santacon, and culinary anomalies such as Voodoo Doughnuts. Because of this, Merlin considers herself a “stay-put writer” (as apposed to a travel writer). “Maybe sometime soon I’ll get to travel some place fantastic,” she says, “and then I will be a travel writer. For now, Portland offers a tremendous amount of material.”