The thing Portland has most feared has come to pass. Bicycling magazine has released its ranking of top bike cities and Portland is... number two. After Minneapolis, Minnesota. THE SHAME!
- Now this bike map handkerchief is only good for drying my tears.
Official Portland bike maps have long-touted our #1 status with a seal-of-approval on each map reading, "Best Bicycling City in USA (since 1995 - Bicycling Magazine)." But as advocates warned last fall, other cities that look to Portland as a leader for bicycling are starting to catch up.
When the US Census released bike commute numbers back in October 2009, Portland had the highest bike-to-work rate in the country (6.4 percent), but Minneapolis was nipping at our heels in second place with 4.5 percent.
Bicycling Editor-in-Chief Loren Mooney says her staff was impressed with that level of biking in frigid Minneapolis. "Portland’s been a national leader for a long long time. It’s doing so many things right and it’s so good. What surprised me this time around is just how rapidly other cities are improving," says Mooney. "Minneapolis did get points for what I will call winter riding adversity. The level of passion required to be a dedicated bike commuter there is high in the winter. When we went and visited, we were impressed by the level of passion in that community."
The prize stresses innovation in infrastructure and Mooney pointed happily to Minneapolis' downtown rail trail the “Mid-town Greenway”—an old railroad line that is now a “bike freeway” through the center of town.
"In terms of bike friendliness, Portland was for a long time considered the only game in town. Portland’s leadership has been good for bike friendly cities across the country and now other cities are reaching that Portland level. If it’s going to continue to be the kind of leader it has been over the past decade, it needs to take us to the next," says Mooney. She added that, from her perspective, Portland's 2030 bike plan is not "significantly more ambitious" than plans put together by similar cities.
Download a pdf of the Bicycling "Best Bike Cities" feature here.
UPDATE 12:26 PM: Mayor Sam Adams called to discuss our demotion. "Well phooey I say!" the mayor actually said, "Clearly the author gave them extra credit for bicycling in Minnesota’s snowy winter. No way can we let this stand. We will be cloud-seeding this winter, to show Bicycling magazine that we, too, can bike in winter snow."
But seriously now, Sam, what about Portland's bike plan being not significantly more ambitious than those of other cities? "I think this is a good healthy wake-up call and should serve as perspective for those harsh critics who think I’m pushing too hard or too fast. We might have been ahead of the pack, but we’re only scratching the surface of our own potential. What has been described as ambitious and aggressive and in some cases unrealistic bike plan for 2030 is anything but. It’s actually becoming the norm for transportation. But it also means we’ve got to step up our game."
So will the mayor be pushing Portland forward by riding his own bike to work every day? "You know, I haven’t riding this winter. I've been taking transit and driving," replies Adams, who says he will be back on a bike soon. "I need to lose some weight."