Portland Cycling: The Best City in America for Bicyclists

By: Crai S Bower

March 28, 2014

One need only unfurl a bike map of Portland to realize this is not your typical cycling city. Sure, the multi-use paths, greenways and shared roadways are highlighted, but so are the “˜difficult connections’ and “˜difficult intersections’, those frightening obstacles that elevate the focus of the commuter and strike fear into the visitor. Even for a seasoned cycling tourist, these red dashes and circles will prove more important than the solid purple stripes that indicate car-free lanes.

As with its European cycle-centric brethrens, Copenhagen and Amsterdam, the Portland cycling scene is the best way to capture the local spirit. Consistently listed by Bicycling (and every other bike publication) as America’s friendliest cycling city, Portland has recently topped some worldwide lists too.

Portland | Springwater Corridor

Springwater Corridor © Travel Portland

Begin your tour-by-pedal of Portland beside the Willamette River along Springwater Corridor. Springwater, the southeast segment of the “40-Mile Loop,” conveys you through the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, riverine marshlands where naturalists have observed over 100 bird species, among the highest counts in the city.

A quick crossing through industrial Southeast Portland and it’s back to designated trail all the way to Boring, Oregon. Plan a picnic halfway at Powell Butte Nature Park, 616-acres of meadows and orchards, as well as the best view of Portland this side of the river. Like most trails in the Rose City, a MAX Light Rail station is never far away should you decide to take the easy route back into town.

Portland | Mt. Tabor

Mt. Tabor is a favourite climb © Travel Portland

Prefer an occasion to saddle your ride stateside? (Yes, there is a trail from PDX Airport to downtown, as well as a myriad of rental shops throughout the city.) Combine Portland’s festive spirit with its zeal for two wheel transfers during “˜The Worst Day of the Year Ride’ every February. This 15-mile, mobile costume party takes the brave, of all abilities and ages, for a mellow ride through the depths of the Northwest winter.

Portland | PDX primer

PDX primer: bikes & beer © Travel Portland

Fortunately, Portland’s World Naked Bike Ride is scheduled far from the February chill and much closer to the Summer Solstice. The global ride raises awareness about bike safety and the inherent vulnerability of riders in a mixed-vehicle environment. Pedalpalooza, Portland’s signature bike festival, fills the rest of June and now spans a whole three weeks! The festival has over 22 events scheduled with most organised by biking fanatics of all levels and backgrounds, plus most are free.

Portland | Evening ride in the city

Evening ride across the bridges © Travel Portland

The bike-brained will discover a bi-pedal promotion every month. The Filmed by Bike Festival screens every April, the Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show is built into autumn and the Portland Bicycle Film Festival just finished its March run. Sunday Parkways (May to September) closes several thoroughfares to cars and opens the city to two-wheeled enthusiasts. August sees Bridge Pedal, 20,000 riders crisscrossing the river, and the Portland Twilight Criterium, America’s fastest street bike race.

Travel Portland lists all of the above and more on its website. Whether you ride, watch or build, Portland’s bike scene will leave you gearing up for more.

Connecting you a wide range of destinations across the United States and Canada through our partnership with Delta makes booking a trip to Portland simple.

Have you experienced the Portland cycling culture? Let us know in the comments section below.

Written by Crai S Bower


Crai S Bower

Award winning travel writer, photographer and broadcaster Crai S Bower contributes scores of articles annually to more than 25 publications and online outlets including National Geographic Traveler, Journey, American Way magazines and T+L Digital.

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