Over the past couple of decades, certain cities and parts of the country have emerged as particularly desirable. This often happens. A city or neighborhood becomes wildly popular, and a certain element settles there.
Portland, Oregon, has reached that status. You might find the Portland lifestyle appealing. Perhaps you like its walkability. You may like all the eclectic bars, nightclubs, restaurants, coffee shops, and other hangout spots. You might also appreciate the happy people you see riding bikes and seeing the sights in the tourism ads. Portland certainly offers visitors and residents plenty, but do the ads that make it seem like a utopia do it justice? Does living there deliver in the way ads, movies, and TV shows make you believe it will? Let us talk about one Portland aspect in particular: its bike-friendly status.
Portland Is A Cyclist Utopia
Portland ranks second only to Minneapolis for being one of the safest cities for bike city when factoring in the number of bicycle related fatalities as recorded by The National Highway Travel Safety Administration. Other top destinations include: Denver, Chicago, San Francisco, Stockton, Baton Rouge, and Tampa.
Does Portland Deserve Its Bike-Friendly Reputation?
In 2020, 80 Portland cyclists suffered injuries. Five died during that same year. Portland has about 641,000 people living there. That means it’s one of the larger cities in that part of the country. The 2020 crash and fatality numbers are not bad when considering the city’s size. Unfortunately there will always be traffic accidents, no matter how many bike-specific signs, dedicated bike lanes, advertising and promotion efforts to encourage bike safety, and other programs that Portant offers to encourage bike safety for commuters and visitors alike.
Covid-19 dominated 2020. It showed up in that year’s first quarter, and it shut many cities down completely. Some cyclists still rode bikes around Portland during that twelve-month period, but nowhere near the numbers you will see now. City residents didn’t see as many cars on the roads, either. Lockdowns and people working from home made this year an anomaly.
Should You Move to Portland for the Cycling Opportunities?
Some people look at cycling opportunities in major cities and think they are a nice feature. Others feel much stronger about this detail, though. Some people ride their bikes every day. They attend school after chaining up their bikes in front of academic buildings. They find work near their homes they can reach by bike. They do not own cars, and they feel like they never will.
For these people, bike injury and death stats matter very much. Bike lanes do, too. Portland certainly has many bike lanes. No one can deny that. That still doesn’t convince some people about the city’s bike-friendly status, though.
Other Ways You Can Determine a City’s Bike Safety Status
If you look at Portland’s bike crash stats going back to before the pandemic, they paint a more complete picture. In 2019, Portland saw 219 bike accidents. Almost all involved a bike hitting a moving car or a moving car hitting a bike.
Since bike accidents happen more frequently in non-pandemic years, it is evident that you can set 2020 aside and not judge it the same as you would a normal 12-month period. Cyclists who think they might become Portland residents might want better information, though. That typically means checking out message boards and public forums where bikers gather and post their thoughts.
In general, cyclists like Portland’s biking opportunities. While car drivers might not yield the road every time when they see someone on a bike, cars and bikes often occupy the same spaces without incident. You will find about 400 miles of bike lanes in Portland, far more than most other major American cities. The city is also investing in bike-specific traffic signs, parking areas, off-street trails, and interesting places to explore.
Should You Move to Portland if You Bike Everywhere?
Even with some daunting stats, Portland seems like it earns its bike-friendly status. You can ride safely there if you avoid certain behaviors and embrace others. If you wear a helmet, you are doing yourself a service. So many bike accidents cause head injuries, and flying over the handlebars can change your life in a hurry. You may also consider elbow and kneepads. You might not look cool wearing them, but if you hit a vehicle or one strikes you instead, you’ll feel glad you wore them.
You should also remain in the bike lanes. You will find them in most places, but if you learn there’s a city area without them, you can avoid it and take another route if you work or live nearby.
Portland also has a feature many other cities don’t have, and it’s a bike-friendly one. They have what the city calls greenways. These aren’t exactly bike lanes, but they’re sections where bikes and pedestrians have more room and cars have less. Cars can drive there, but most drivers respect the walking and cycling community and stay away.
How Else Can Portland Bikers Stay Safe?
If you ride at night in Portland, that’s always a risky proposition. You’re safer riding during the day when drivers can see you better. You can also avoid riding on rainy or foggy days. Fog makes it less likely drivers will notice you, and rain makes the streets slick and hazardous. You can stay off the streets if you’ve consumed alcohol. Biking while drunk isn’t quite like operating a motor vehicle in that condition, but it’s still not the smartest move.
Portland Welcomes Bikers
Not only is Portland a great place for cyclists to move to so they can enjoy the bike-friendly nature of the city but it's a great place to visit if you are looking for a bike-friendly guys trip. There are some fabulous opportunities here, from exploring back-woods trails and mountain biking as well as touring trails if you want to peddle your way through Oregon's wine country or bike from one downtown brewery to the next. Or, for those foodies who want to burn some calories between snacks - you can bike easily between the different food truck pods, too. Others may prefer to bike along the river.
If you aren't bringing your own bike, don't worry - Travel Portland has plenty of options in terms of bike rentals for fully able-bodied people as well as adaptive options for folks with disabilities. The Portland Bureau of Transportation also offers maps and other guides to help you plan your route.
Just make sure you avoid the city’s most congested areas, and you should do fine. Learn the designated bike lane and greenway locations. You can also look into bike paths that crisscross public parks. You can ride along them and use them as shortcuts, and you can also take in the foliage there when the weather turns and fall approaches.