If you are paying attention to the domestic biking scene, chances are you have heard the city of Portland thrown around as a model for Biking in America. This recognition is not without merit; the city boasts one of the highest bike ridership rates in the entire country, with 8 times more people biking to work than the national average. Over 25 years of progressive urban policy, smart growth with a priority toward transit-oriented developments, and an efficient public transportation network, have all helped contribute to the city’s biking accomplishments. Portland really is a textbook example of how to create a beautiful urban landscape with a strong and positive bicycle presence. Bikers of all strides have become a ubiquitous symbol of the Portland ‘brand.’
Portland’s biking culture flourishes because of it’s equally strong built environment and the city’s focus on creating great public spaces. The traditional urban street grid creates narrow roads that prioritize people over the automobile. Downtown is very efficient to navigate, particularly for those not in a car. Several parks and plazas allow for informal gathering spaces and quick moments to take a break and recreate during the day.
Walking or biking is a pleasure when you have something nice to look at, and the eclectic mix of bold architectural styles keeps the eye visually stimulated while taking a bike ride or walk. This focus on denser neighborhoods is also not limited to downtown. Most of the city is creating wonderful urban developments in even the smallest infill sites, such as this ‘micro home’ community made up of very small apartments with no parking and a focus toward biking and pubic transit to fulfill the residents’ transportation needs.
What I found really amazing was that weather didn’t deter people from taking to the outdoors. It doesn’t matter if it is a sunny Summer afternoon or rainy Fall morning, Portlanders are out and about, running through plaza fountains to cool off or playing an impromptu game of basketball on a court covered in yellow leaves.
Every time I am in Portland, I am thoroughly impressed and humbled. The city of Roses is a true inspiration and great model for other American cities to emulate, and just a sweet city to ride in. Portland is among a growing list of cities around the world that are beginning to embrace more sustainable and progressive urban policy. It is one of the more progressive American cities that has not only taken on a ‘greener’ mantra, but also executes these lofty goals to a very high-level.
They say imitation is the finest form of flattery, so I’d like to summarize my thoughts on biking in Portland with this hilarious yet telling clip from the IFC show Portlandia.