Whether Portlanders enjoy work might be up for debate, but they certainly like pedaling there. A US Census Bureau report released May 12 shows Portland with the highest bike commuting rate (6.1 percent) of 15 major U.S. cities.
Portland came in a full percentage point higher than runner-up Madison, WI, almost doubled the rate (3.4 percent) recorded in both Seattle and San Francisco, and crushed the national average (0.6 percent).
“Of the large cities, we continue to be the number one city for biking to work,” says Rob Sadowsky, executive director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.
However they get to the office, more and more Portlanders are hopping out of their Subes and Prii. (According to Toyota, the plural of “Prius.” Latin scholars disagree.) Of the 298,389 workers in Portland in 2012, the Census Bureau reports, 11.9 percent took public transportation, 6.1 percent biked, 5.7 percent walked, and 7.1 percent worked from home.
More than other modes of transportation to work, bike commuting in Portland stands out for its rapid rise in popularity. Since 2000, the bike commuting rate has gained 4.3 percentage points. The Census Bureau report partly attributes the appetite for biking in Portland to infrastructure improvements—bike lanes and paths—aimed at creating a more bike-friendly city.
Nervous about getting in on all this sweet bike action? The Bicycle Transportation Alliance hosts workshops and events each year to promote biking in Oregon. We asked Sadowsky to share his best practices for bike commuting.
“You don’t need special clothes or special gear,” he says.
Above all, do what works for you. Some people bring a week’s work of suits into the office every Monday, to make changing easier. Others ride in work clothes. For repairs, carry tools or haul your bike on a TriMet bus to the nearest bike shop. A few general tips apply to everyone:
- After dusting off the bike you buried in the garage a decade ago, take it to the shop. Get a safety check. Make sure the chain is greased and the brakes work.
- Find the roads less traveled by cars. Balance speed and safety by choosing a route with wide bike lanes and gentle traffic flow. For a route optimized for biking, or just a way around the Sellwood Bridge, plug in your starting and ending address to Google Maps or Ride the City.
- Find a veteran bike commuter to show you the ropes on your first ride. In Portland, chances are you know one or two.