Cycling in Portland, Oregon

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A station for Biketown, the city's new bicycle-sharing system
Bicycle mural in Portland, 2014

Bicycle use in Portland, Oregon has been growing rapidly, having nearly tripled since 2001; for example, bicycle traffic on four of the Willamette River bridges has increased from 2,855 before 1992 to over 16,000 in 2008, partly due to improved facilities.[1] The Portland Bureau of Transportation says 6% of commuters bike to work in Portland, the highest proportion of any major U.S. city and about 10 times the national average.[2]

Due to its urban bicycling efforts, Portland has earned multiple "bicycle-friendly city" awards,[3][4][5] including being awarded platinum status by the League of American Bicyclists,[6][7] and it ranked second in the CNBC's 2019 most bicycle-friendly cities in the US.[8]

In July 2016, Portland launched a bike share program,[9] named "Biketown" because of a naming rights deal with Nike,[10] with 1,000 bikes and 100 stations. It is operated by Motivate.[9] The new system logged more than 100,000 rides in its first two months of operation.[11]


Portland's reputation as a bike-friendly City was enhanced by The Yellow Bike Project, a 1994 civic engagement action led by local activists Tom O'Keefe, Joe Keating and Steve Gunther.[citation needed] O'Keefe proposed painting donated bikes – repaired by at-risk-youth served by the Community Cycling Center – bright yellow, and deploying them for free use around Portland. O'Keefe cited the Provo movement's White Bicycle Plan in Amsterdam as inspiration after watching the documentary "Sex Drugs & Democracy".[12] "Gratis Pedalis Feralvus"[citation needed] was a tongue-in-cheek slogan for the quirky eco-transportation project. About a dozen yellow bikes, painted for free by a local auto body shop were launched. Eventually 60[13] to 100[12] bicycles were part of the project. Ultimately the project failed after bikes were stolen, vandalized, or thrown into the Willamette River.[14]

Bicycle Transportation Alliance[edit]

The bicycle revolution in Portland started taking off with the founding of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance in November 1990. The first project of the BTA was persuading TriMet, the regional transit agency, to carry bicycles on its buses and light rail trains. BTA gathered over 7000 signatures and the support of numerous local city councils, prompting TriMet to conduct a one-year trial on a few bus lines. After a year of no significant problems and an increase in transit ridership by cyclists, TriMet instituted the first 100% bicycle accessible major transit system in the U.S. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance grew into one of the most effective cycling advocacy organizations in the U.S. The BTA focused on making major streets safe for cycling by advocating bicycle lanes, improvements to all seven pedestrian-accessible Willamette River bridges linking the downtown to the rest of the city and for safe, secure bicycle parking. In 1992, BTA successfully sued the City of Portland under ORS 366.514, the Oregon "Bicycle Bill," forcing the City to provide bicycle facilities as part of all projects. The City appealed this to the Oregon Court of Appeals which upheld the BTA's position, solidifying the responsibility of all governments in Oregon to provide safe bicycle and pedestrian facilities in all projects.[15]

Portland Bike Plan[edit]

Interest in city transportation planning began in the early 1970s after the state of Oregon passed comprehensive state land use laws with the city of Portland drafting its first 'Bicycle Master Plan' in 1973.[16]


The city's first bike plan that was adopted in 1973, titled the '1973 Portland Bike Plan', called for nearly 190 miles of bicycle infrastructure to be built in the city and created a citizen's Bicycle Advisory Committee along with a Bicycle Program within the city’s Transportation Bureau.[17]


By 1996, after the city had created the nearly 190 miles of initial bicycle infrastructure from the first plan, the city adopted its second bike plan in 1996, titled the 'Portland Bicycle Master Plan', which called for an additional 445 miles of bicycle infrastructure to be built over the next 20 years (cumulative of 630 miles by 2016).[17]


The city revised its bicycle plan again in February 2010 when the Portland City Council unanimously adopted its third bike plan, titled the 'Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030', which called for $613 million of spending on bicycle infrastructure over the next 20 years to expand the bicycle infrastructure target from 630 miles by 2016 to 962 miles by 2030 and increase the daily bicycle modal share from the current 7-8% to 25% by 2030.[17][18] With only about 300 miles of bicycle infrastructure built by the end of 2009, the plan sets a target of building 662 miles of new bicycle infrastructure in the city over the next 20 years.[17]


With enabling legislation from the 2011 session, Portland lowered speed limits from 25 to 20 miles per hour (40 to 32 km/h) on 70 miles (110 km) of designated neighborhood greenway streets to increase safety for increasingly heavy use by pedestrians and bicyclists.[19]

Bicycle infrastructure[edit]

Bridge over Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard, a part of the Springwater Corridor Trail along Johnson Creek

Portland is developing a network of bicycle boulevards to make cycling easier and safer.[20] The east side of Portland is particularly well-suited for this technique due to its consistent grid of north/south and east/west streets. The boulevards are defined with a combination of street markings, signs, and better signals for crossing busy intersections.[21]

Another route is the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade.

In order to try to prevent car-bike crashes the city has painted sections of hazardous bike lanes blue.[22]

More recently, the city has installed experimental bike boxes that allow bicyclists to wait ahead of motorized traffic at red lights.[23]

An important milestone in Portland's utility cycling infrastructure was the expansion of the sidewalks of Hawthorne Bridge in 1997, which significantly improved the safety and ease of bicycle commuting across the Willamette River.[24]

In 2004, a bike path along the Sunset Highway between Sylvan and Cedar Hills was completed, helping to link Beaverton and downtown Portland.

Bicycle access to the Morrison Bridge opened to mixed reviews in March 2010.[25][26][27]

In recent years, the City of Portland has built personal motor-vehicle free bridges for pedestrians and cyclists who's commute crosses busy interstates or the Willamette river, and need a safe route. Some of these bridges include the Blumenauer Bridge (2022), Ned Flanders Crossing (2021), and the Tilikum Crossing (2015), which is open to pedestrians and cyclists, as well as MAX, buses, and Streetcar.

In 2021, PBOT began to place large, concrete planters to replace the traffic cones they had used for the previous year, in order to slow down traffic on neighborhood streets. They were strategically placed at intersections in residential neighborhoods, and most have signage above them which indicate a recommended speed limit of 15 mph.[28]

Bicycle parking[edit]

A recent project will bring covered bicycle parking to the popular southeast Hawthorne Boulevard shopping district.[29]


2007 Tour de Fat group ride

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance sponsors an annual Bike Commute Challenge, in which thousands of commuters compete for prizes and recognition based on the length and frequency of their commutes.[30]

Pedalpalooza is an annual festival with hundreds of community-organized free bike events.[31]


The following table shows Portland's historical bike commuting mode share with data coming from the Census Bureau's annual American Community Survey:[32][33][34][35]

Calendar year 1990 2000 2005 2010 2014
Portland bike c. share 1.2% 1.8% 3.5% 6.0% 7.2%
National bike c. share 0.4% 0.4% 0.4% 0.5% 0.6%

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Portland Bicycle Counts 2008 (PDF), City of Portland
  2. ^ Weise, Elizabeth (September 9, 2012), "In Portland, Ore., bikes rule the road", USA Today, retrieved September 18, 2012
  3. ^ NBC News North America's most bike-friendly cities
  4. ^ "Bicycling magazine, Best Cities for Cycling (2008)". Archived from the original on 2009-10-03. Retrieved 2010-10-14.
  5. ^ Scan of 2006 Bicycling magazine Best Cities for Cycling
  6. ^ "League Names Portland a Platinum Community". League of American Bicyclists. April 29, 2008. Archived from the original on December 29, 2010. Retrieved October 18, 2010.
  7. ^ Portland Tribune: Bike group gives Portland 'platinum' award[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Higgins-Dunn, Noah (2019-12-12). "The 10 most bike-friendly cities in the US". CNBC. Retrieved 2020-08-28.
  9. ^ a b Njus, Elliot (August 26, 2016). "136,000 miles in, Biketown bike-share makes its mark on Portland". The Oregonian. Retrieved September 16, 2016.
  10. ^ Njus, Elliot (January 7, 2016). "Nike to sponsor Portland's bike-share program, call it Biketown". The Oregonian. Retrieved September 16, 2016.
  11. ^ Fox 12 Staff (September 15, 2016). "Biketown reaches 100,000 rides in less than two months of operation". KPTV. Retrieved September 16, 2016.
  12. ^ a b Don Ryan (December 9, 1994). "Portland Journal; Where Trust Rides a Yellow Bicycle". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-04-06.
  13. ^ Stites, Sam (28 August 2012). "Bike-Share Snare". Willamette Week. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  14. ^ Rose, Joseph (21 January 2016). "Remembering Portland's disastrous Yellow Bike Project". Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  15. ^ "Portland's Bicycle Revolution Started with a Lawsuit!". Huffington Post. September 4, 2013.
  16. ^ Initiative for Bicycle & Pedestrian Innovation (IBPI) (2010). "The Portland Bicycle Story" (PDF). Portland State University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-11. Retrieved 2010-11-29.
  17. ^ a b c d Bob Mionske (2010-02-14). "Road Rights- Your City Versus My City". BicycleLaw. Retrieved 2010-11-29.
  18. ^ Rose, Joseph (2010-02-11). "Portland's 2030 bicycle plan coasts to approval". The Oregonian. Retrieved April 15, 2013.
  19. ^ "Some speed limits in Portland lowered to 20 mph". KATU. August 24, 2012. Archived from the original on August 27, 2012. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  20. ^ "Bicycle Boulevard Planning and Design Guidebook". Portland State University - Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation. Archived from the original on 2018-11-21. Retrieved 2020-01-31.
  21. ^ BTA: Bicycle Boulevards Campaign Archived 2010-11-12 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Blue Bike Lanes Report, City of Portland
  23. ^ Bike Boxes, City of Portland
  24. ^ Birk, Mira; Smith, Jeff; Mead, Jill. "A Tale of Portland Bridges". Bikesafe. Archived from the original on 2020-01-31. Retrieved 2020-01-31.
  25. ^ Morrison Bridge Bicycle & Pedestrian Improvements Archived 2011-07-17 at the Wayback Machine, Multnomah County
  26. ^ Rose, Joseph (March 30, 2010). "Multnomah County opens new pedestrian, bike path across Morrison Bridge". The Oregonian. Retrieved October 18, 2010.
  27. ^ Morrison Bridge Bike Path Opens Today, The Portland Mercury
  28. ^ "PBOT's Slow Streets program moves ahead with permanent installations in response to positive community support |". 2021-07-29. Retrieved 2023-01-24.
  29. ^ Hawthorne Boulevard Project, City of Portland
  30. ^ Bicycle Commute Challenge information
  31. ^ Pedalpalooza, Shift
  32. ^ "2000 to 2010 bike commuters_largest 70 (2)". League of American Bicyclists. 2011. Archived from the original on 2012-05-03. Retrieved 2012-09-24.
  33. ^ "Copy-of-1990-to-2011-bike-commuters_largest-70". League of American Bicyclists. 2012-10-12. Archived from the original on 2012-11-01. Retrieved 2012-10-13.
  34. ^ Ken (2013-09-25). "ACS: Bike Commuting Continues to Rise". League of American Bicyclists. Retrieved 2013-11-07.
  35. ^ Ken McLeod (2015-09-17). "New Data: Bike Commuting Growing Steadily". League of American Bicyclists. Retrieved 2015-09-24.

External links[edit]