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Bike Riding in Portland, Oregon - Bicycle Heaven Right Here on Earth


Bike landscaping lawn cart Concordia University Portland Oregon

Concordia University in Portland uses a number of pedal-powered utility bikes for its maintenance and landscaping tasks around campus.

David Fiedler

Bike Friendly Transportation Options Everywhere:

On my first trip to Portland, I knew I had arrived in bicycle heaven when I got off the plane, and literally the first sign I spotted pointed me to the bike assembly station. Yes, right there in the terminal, adjacent to the commuter train station, is a permanently-mounted bicycle workstand with loaner tools, such as pedals wrenches, a pump, etc. Installed recently for use by both travelers bringing their bikes as well as airport employees who cycle to work, the workstand is modeled after similar stations in other airports around the world.

Dominant Bike Culture:

Next I climbed on the train, where overhead hooks in a clearly marked space next to the door allow cyclists to roll their bikes on the train and then hang them vertically. This convenience frees up the bike rider to sit (and not have to hold their bike during travel) and creates more space in the car during busy travel times.

Buses also have front racks for bikes, so it is easy to go anywhere without a car using bike-bus-train-combinations. And this is not just fair weather riding either. Portland gets a lot of rain, and I saw many riders out even in a flat-out downpour, comfortable and dressed right for the weather.

Terrific Places to Ride:

Prior to my arrival, I spent a fair amount of time researching routes, trying to figure out where I was going to ride. Turns out that was totally unnecessary, since virtually EVERYWHERE in Portland is a good place to ride. You see bikes all over, and the motorists I met were uniformly mindful of cyclists. Most major streets have marked bike lanes, and everywhere else cars and bikes intermingle comfortably.

If you are there as a tourist, downtown is the best place to start riding. A crowd of scenic and distinctive bridges combined with lots of green space in the parks that line the Willamette River make downtown riding a pleasure. Waterfront Bikes-- (503)227-1719, open 10-6 every day) is right there in the middle of it all at 10 SW Ash Street, corner of Naito & Ash. They have an expansive fleet of rental bikes plus great tips on local rides whether you want to go five miles or 50. Plus, a terrific arrangement in Portland generally is the standing partnership between bike shops for immediate repairs on each other's rental bikes. So if you're out on a ride and you get a flat, just push your bike into the next shop, and they'll fix it no charge. And since there is enough bike shops in Portland "that you can't swing a dead cat without hitting one," as one of the Waterfront staff told me, you won't be walking far.

As far as specific routes, I won't suggest anything in particular since the on-street riding is happy and comfortable. But on the north end of town, you can find a lovely dozen-mile stretch of riding along the Columbia River-- and much of it on a separated bike path --where Marine Drive goes from the airport on the west end all the way to Chinook Landing park on the east. I was a bit underwhelmed by the Springwater Corridor though. It comes highly recommended by many locals as a former rail line that runs 20 miles all the way out to Boring, Oregon (insert your own joke here). A nice map can be found here. While having that much separated bikeway is nice, since it is an old train track, much in the Portland segment at least is decidedly unscenic, running behind industrial buildings, next to utilities, along busy roads, etc. My point is, when there is so much pleasant on-street riding, I don't need a bike path that isn't particularly pretty.

Portland destinations not to miss while out riding:

  1. About.com
  2. Sports
  3. Bicycling
  4. The Bike Life
  5. Travel With Your Bike
  6. Great Places to Ride Your Bike
  7. Bike Riding in Portland, Oregon - An Overview of Getting Around on by Bicycle in Portland

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