It's a question that's been asked again and again in recent years: Is Portland truly America's Bike Capital, or just a bike-filled flameout ready to give over the crown to a more-motivated city?

A recent decision by the City of Portland isn't quite siding with the latter, but it's probably not helping our case. According to a report on, the city is forcing the owner of downtown's Pedal Bike Tours to kill the enormous mural reading "Welcome to America's Bicycle Capital."

Crews will erase that verbiage Thursday, leaving only the circle and green bike, Michael Andersen reports. From the story:

[Pedal Bike Tours Owner Todd] Roll said he's regularly found himself defending the "bicycle capital" claim, especially to visitors from Minneapolis, but feels he's on solid ground.

"We are the largest city to have achieved platinum status" from the League of American Bicyclists' city ratings, he said. "In fact, we are twice as large as all the other three put together. … I've always been willing to cede the crown as soon as a city our size or larger hits platinum."

The root of the legal issue, Roll said, is that if the city issued a permit for the sign — and last year, he shelled out $2,000 to apply for a variance that would give him a shot at one — it would lose control over its future content.

"They're afraid we would put up a Coors Light ad," Roll explained to a passing tourist as he walked beneath the sign Tuesday afternoon.

True, the mural is a bit swaggering, but it had also become something of a landmark—a calling card and photo-op for people coming to experience "Portlandia." Just the type of thing you'd think city hall would embrace.

We've got a call in to the Bureau of Development Services—which enforces code on signs—to get more on the situation. Roll wasn't at the shop when we stopped in to ask about it.

One upside to the mural's destruction: It prevents us from having to shamefacedly take it down if/when another city—say, a hard-charging Chicago or Seattle—truly does unseat us.

Update, 6:30 pm: According to Roll, the decision to disallow the mural came all the way from the top of the Bureau Development Services. He says he was told BDS Director Paul Scarlett made the call he'd have to scrap the offending words. A spokesman for the bureau hasn't returned our call.

Roll knew when he put up the sign he might have run afoul of city code, but he says an existing mural had faded from the wall and he hoped the city would give its blessing for some fresh paint. He admits he exceeded, by a wide margin, the square-footage limitations the city imposes on such signs.

The first sign of trouble came in late 2012. Roll got word someone had complained about the mural, though city bureaucrats wouldn't say who, or what the substance of the complaint was.

"I've actually just been dealing with it since then," he says. "We were able to drag it out."

Roll claims BDS employees assured him he'd be approved for a variance if he filled out the proper paperwork and paid appropriate fees (he says $1,500). But it turned out the city would only give him a conditional six-month permit to keep the bike art. The words had to go.

"They said [the decision] had gone all the way to top," he says.

That was October, but Roll didn't do anything to change the mural. Then last month, he got word his temporary permit is up, and that the sign will have to be inspected. He's arranged for a painter to come this week. "We’re just gonna paint over the words and modify the top. We’ll put our name on there and add an arrow to point out where we are, and it’ll be an ad."

Roll says this is something of a relief. In the years since the mural went up, he's heard continuous criticisms from cyclists—complaints the sign's ugly or that it's above a parking lot(?) or that it's contributing to a perceived malaise in Portland's bike activism.

"I don't want to be the poster boy for the 'Portland is lazy bikers' argument," Roll says.