Report on Bicycle Transportation in Portland, OR

Posted by Content Coordinator on Tuesday, June 18th, 2013


Portland is a city where people travel by car, public transit, walking and bicycling.  All of these transportation modes are viable ways for residents to get around, and each is here to stay.  Charged with examining the current and future role of bicycles in Portland, your committee has determined, after a year-long study, that bicycling has become a fundamental component of a balanced transportation system.  The city should plan for and encourage the continued growth of bicycling as a transportation mode in ways that optimize choice and efficiency, enhance opportunity and equity, address public perceptions and attitudes, and, especially, promote safety for all transportation modes.

Your committee believes bicycling is an affordable and efficient means of transportation that is essential to continued growth in the local economy and overall quality of life for Portland residents.

In short, your committee finds that the right question is no longer “Should we promote bicycle use?” It is: “How should we structure our transportation system to optimize choice, efficiency and safety for all modes of transportation, including bicycling?”

The primary challenge facing the City of Portland is logistical, integrating bicycling into multi-modal transportation in a way that is affordable, efficient and safe.  A secondary challenge is tactical, relating to identifying stakeholders fairly and accurately, communicating the rationale and impact of proposed transportation projects to them, and providing appropriate avenues for input and feedback.

While Portland has made measurable progress in expanding bicycle ridership and improving bicycle and pedestrian safety, perception trails reality.  Your committee heard repeated examples of poor stakeholder identification and engagement for bicycle planning projects, as well as poor communication of those projects’ timelines and impacts.  This lack of due diligence has made some projects needlessly controversial or vulnerable to delay and cost overruns. 

The dozen members of your committee met at least once per week from May 2012 through May 2013, interviewing various stakeholders and experts, including Portland Mayors Sam Adams and Charlie Hales, Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Portland Business Alliance Vice President Bernie Bottomly, TriMet strategic planner Eric Hesse, and cycling advocate and former city bicycling coordinator Mia Birk, as well as academic researchers, neighborhood representatives and community leaders, and many other interested parties.

Your committee concludes that there is little organized opposition to bicycle use in Portland.  However, there is latent, but pervasive, uneasiness among some residents that expanding bicycling opportunities will come at the expense of other modes of transportation.  There is also widespread fear among many motorists of traffic collisions with bicycles.  Active opposition to bicycling emerges primarily on a case-by-case or anecdotal basis.  Today’s reality stands in sharp contrast to the skeptical attitude toward bicycle use many Portland residents held just two decades ago, as well as to antagonism between bicycles and automobiles frequently portrayed in local media coverage of bicycle-related policies and proposals.

Portland2030 Bike Plan:  Identified Benefits of Bicycling

  • Safer streets
  • Reduces the causes of global climate change and promotes a healthy environment
  • Limits the costs related to health care and obesity
  • Equity and access to affordable transportation options
  • Provides a viable transportation option
  • Creates fun, vibrant and livable neighborhoods
  • Supports Portland’s local economy

View full report (online): No Turning Back

About City Club of Portland 
“City Club of Portland is a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and research based civic organization dedicated to community service, public affairs and leadership development. Through weekly Friday Forums, citizen-based research reports and other programs the Club examines issues of importance to the Portland metropolitan region, the state and society as a whole.”

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