Bike commuters set Portland apart



Posted on September 25, 2009 at 12:32 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 5 at 6:27 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. -- More workers commute on bicycles in the Rose City than in any other metro area in the United States, according to the Census Bureau, with about 3.5 percent of the population two-wheeling to the job.

Portland tops in bike commuters

"Portland has the distinction among large cities as having the highest percentage of bicycle commuters ... workers pedal to work about 8 times the national average of 0.4 percent," according to Census public transportation data culled from the .

Bike commuting triples in Portland

The number of bicyclists commuting to work in Portland is rising quickly. In 1996, less than 2 percent of Portlanders commuted to work via bicycle. That number had grown to 6.4 percent - or more than 17,000 bicyclists - by last year, according to the Census.

Mayor Sam Adams said Portland experienced the largest one-year increase in U.S. history of residents who use bicycles as their primary mode of transportation.

"Our small investment in bicycling infrastructure and education are paying off in a big way," Adams said. "Once again the data backs up our belief that when Portlanders are given a safe, convenient alternative to driving they will get out of their car and onto a bike."

Adams noted that Portland has been investing in bicycle commuting infrastructure since the 1990s. And it's worked for newcomers like Leilani Wong, one of Portland's newest bike commuters, who recently decided to ditch four wheels for two.

"It went really well. I was on my guard a little, but it's going good," Wong said as she nervously checks the traffic signal in front of her, pedaling past the Hawthorne Bridge on Wednesday afternoon.

Wong was encouraged by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance's Bike Commute Challenge, an annual month-long call for companies to send their employees to work on bikes instead of in cars.

She joins a growing number of cyclists who ride to work every single day. They each have their own reasons, but collectively they're part of an exploding local culture.?

Portland's two-wheeled contingent is supported by bike boulevards, bike boxes and bike lanes. Details:


Bikes vs. cars

Portland has always been at the forefront of the bike commute revolution. But the growth hasn't always come without its pains. Corners around town memorialize bicyclists that were killed in traffic accidents. Bike rage has joined road rage in Portland's commuter warfare and the clashes often make media headlines.

"I've noticed they don't stop at stop signs like they're supposed to," comments one driver.

"They turn right in front and bam, what can you do?" asks a cyclist.

Portland's Bureau of Transportation touts what it calls a "multi-modal strategy" for city commuting, so that residents can choose whether to drive, bike, walk or take mass transit about town, said Sue Keil, the city's transportation director.

"The census data tell us that this strategy is working, which means we have a safer system enjoyed by more types of commuters."

Bike commuting is very metro-centric and concentrated to a handful of large American cities, according to the national statistics. Nearly nine out of 10 Americans still drive to work and 77 percent drive alone.