Portland's bike roots run deep—and more people bike to work here per capita than in any other city in the nation.
You can quibble about whether our status as a unique bike utopia is deserved. Local activists fought in 2015 to downgrade Portland's "platinum" bike-friendly rating by the League of American Bicyclists, arguing that our bike roads are far from perfect, our streets are full of bike thieves (see page 16), and our community is full of anti-bike backlash that shouts down new bike spending—like some folks on Southeast Foster Road are doing right now (see page 19).
But Portland's bike history goes back as far as any city's, from its very first bike paths in the 1890s to the first modern citywide bike plans in the 1970s—which means the city has built up years of bike landmarks both triumphant and mournful, stretching back to our earliest years as a metropolis. Consider this map and issue a celebration of Portland's layered, complicated relationship with bikes, warts and all.
A. Biker Bars
We visited Hopworks Urban Brewery's bike-happy Bike Bar and six other bike-themed places to get spun.
B. Community Cycling Center Mural
Northeast 17th Avenue and Alberta Street
One of the first in the country to do so, the CCC is a nonprofit devoted to getting bikes to people who otherwise wouldn't have access, teaching repair skills and bringing biking to a broad range of communities. The two-story bike mural fronting the shop is a testament to its vision, with bikes ascending to outer space.
C. Start of First Bike Path in Portland
North Williams Avenue and Rosa Parks Boulevard
Back when Williams was a plank road, Portland made its very first bike path in 1897, starting at this corner and heading north to Vancouver. Eight hundred people paid for it, but 6,000 used it—beginning a network of bike paths that were all converted to car streets by 1917.
D. The Alberta Clown House (RIP)
Northeast 25th Avenue and Alberta Street
Once home to bonfire parties, drag races and just about every 20-foot-tall welded bike in town—a standing bike-centric Burning Man localized to just a single yard—the former base of Dingo Dizmal and the Clown House troupe is now…just a house.
E. People's Bike Library of Portland (aka Zoobomb Pyle)
Southwest 13th Avenue and Burnside Street
This pyramidal pile of tiny-wheeled bikes is used by speed freaks to bomb down the hill from Washington Park. Their lock-up point has been permanently enshrined as a piece of city-sanctioned art.
F. Erased Portland Bike Capital Wall
Southwest 2nd Avenue and Ash Street
Here is the wall that once proudly proclaimed "Portland Is America's Bike Capital." Thanks, Amanda Fritz.
G. Drunk Bros Who Need a Pedicab
We spent a Saturday night as a pedicab driver in Timbersland.
H. Here Be Thieves
Learn how to identify a safe bike rack.
I. Naked Bike Ride Mural
Southeast 9th Avenue and Division Street
This mural features naked animals on bikes, near the edge of the Tilikum Crossing and entrance to the Springwater Corridor. Because naked animals on bikes.
J. Citybikes Annex Mural
Southeast 7th Avenue and Ankeny Street
Portland's original worker-owned and run bike shop, since 1990, has had so much art on its locations' walls—from simple bike to New York-subway-style graffiti—it's hard to keep track. The most impressive are the annex's crows in the spokes of giant bike wheels.
K. Hawthorne Bridge Bike Counter
West end of Hawthorne Bridge
More important than it looks, this cycle counter puts hard numbers on the approximately 30,000 cyclists who cross the Hawthorne Bridge each day—a constant reminder to policymakers that cycle commuters are a major constituency in this town.
L. Matthew Schekel Memorial Shrine
Southeast 37th Avenue and Taylor Street
A 10-foot-tall stone lighthouse and two multicolored wheel sculptures still stand at the otherwise quiet intersection of 37th and Taylor, where cyclist Matthew Schekel in 1998 was struck and killed by a delivery truck that ran a stop sign—galvanizing bicycle activists to the notion that cyclists are vulnerable even in quiet neighborhoods.
M. The State of Bike Activism
The Clinton Bike Corridor is a focal point for today's bike activism.
N. The Unnamed Ghost Bikes of East Portland
Northeast 108th Avenue and Weidler Street, Northeast 126th Avenue and Halsey Street
Ghost bikes are grave markers for cyclists who've been struck and killed by automobiles. Often they are marked with plaques, and their sites are recorded at ghostbikes.org/portland. But these two lonely bikes within 20 blocks off each other, unmarked with the names of the victims, are as haunting as tombs to unknown soldiers.
O. Bike for Speed
We raced across the city by bike, bus, taxi, Car2Go and Lyft.
P. Tykes on Bikes
We asked an expert the safest way to transport a kid by bike.