Say Nice Things 2024

Say Nice Things About Portland… Again!

It’s time to take Portland back from the buttholes. Here’s how.

Portland’s Cutest Creatures

Let’s say nice things about the city’s most adorable critters!

Why I (Still) Love Portland

A former Portlander returns to survey the city’s damage—and rebirth.

Say Nice Things FUN PAGE: Can You Find Time-othy the Chrono Goblin?

Time-othy the Chrono Goblin is causing trouble in Portland's past, present, and future... so find the little fucker, QUICK!!

Say Nice Things About… Biking in Portland

Things have changed since the early 2000s (not to mention 1896), but biking in Portland is still magical.

(Portland Chefs) Say Nice Things About… Portland Chefs

Portland’s premier restaurant and cart owners hype up the local food and chefs they love!

Say Nice Things About Local Drag Artists (Proudly Representing Portland All Year Long)

You might not know these performers (yet), but these drag artists consistently embody Portland’s strange and timeless beauty.

Say Nice Things About… Portland’s Themed Bookstores!

Whether you’re into sci-fi, romance, or weirdness, Portland has a bookstore for YOU!

The Evolution of Sleater-Kinney

Indie rockers reflect on 30 years as a band, and why they still call Portland home.

AfroVillage Does the Real Work on Portland’s Homeless Crisis

Founder LaQuida Landford shows up for Oregon’s most vulnerable ‘round the clock.

[Welcome to our second annual "SAY NICE THINGS ABOUT PORTLAND" issue! Read it online here, or if you like physical, paper-y things, you can find it in more than 50 locations all around the city!—eds]

Portland has been a bike city since the 1890s, just after the invention of the modern bicycle. By 1896, the city’s bike culture was strong enough to warrant distribution of a map of cycling routes, which contained advertisements for bike-friendly business establishments, including places to shop for men and women’s cycling apparel. 

When I first saw the 1896 Cyclist’s Road Map to Portland, I felt a sense of reverence and awe. Here I was, a 21st century Portland bicyclist, using streets established in the Gilded Age by people who had never seen cars. A lot has changed over the last 128 years, but we still have the magic that is riding a bicycle in Portland. 

In more recent history, Portland became known as one of America’s top bike capitals in the 1990s and early aughts, with the formation of heavy-hitting advocacy groups (the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, now The Street Trust, was founded in 1990), iconic events like the annual Pedalpalooza Bike Summer festival (2002), and bike scene documentarians, most notably Jonathan Maus of BikePortland (2005). 

Going into the early 2010s, Portland seemed set to become the next Amsterdam, only quirkier— the Netherlands don’t have a Unipiper! Back then, there were bike traffic gridlocks on the Hawthorne bridge, and hundred-person pelotons commuting on North Williams Ave every morning (or so I hear). But things have slowed down since then. 

Over the last few years, in response to the decline in local bike ridership, people have prematurely eulogized Portland’s bike scene— much like they’ve done with the city in general. While much of the “Portland is dead” narrative is overblown (hence the Mercury’s “Say Nice Things” theme), it’s true that people aren’t riding their bikes here as much anymore, and that has real, undeniable consequences for street safety and planetary health. 

But for all the time I’ve spent complaining about biking in Portland—and all the time I’ll certainly spend doing it in the future—there’s nothing anyone could do to tamp down my enthusiasm for it. I love riding my bike in this city, right here in the year 2024. And I mean, REALLY love. I am literally head-over-heels, madly in love with it, and I know I’m not the only one. 

The Northeast Rodney Avenue goats. (Taylor Griggs)

My romance with biking in Portland started as soon as I moved here. During my first few months in the city, I attempted to curb my disorientation by pounding the pavement on my cherry red hybrid Trek, figuring out the streets by trial and error. Experiencing Portland by bike helped me discover things I would’ve overlooked if I was traveling any faster than 10 miles per hour, and I began to feel like the city was a vibrant ecosystem that I could fit myself into. 

Of course, I’ve enjoyed riding my bike in many different cities, some of which have objectively superior infrastructure and accommodations for people on bikes. Still, there’s something uniquely magical about riding a bike in Portland. 

I feel that magic when I see the goats on the Northeast Rodney Avenue greenway, or stop during my commute to pet a neighborhood cat. I felt it when 20 people, most of them strangers, showed up at my house to help me move five miles across the city by bike. I feel it during the first warm days of spring, when the bottom deck of the Steel Bridge is packed with people on their bikes en route to see the cherry blossoms, and I feel it during the most miserable days of winter, when I’m all alone on the quiet streets, getting drenched by rain. I feel it when I wave to people I know when I pass them on a greenway, and take time to chat with them if we’re headed in the same direction. 

Biking map from 1896. (Courtesy Multnomah County Library)

Of course, I feel the magic when I look at the bike map from 1896, which proves that bicycling is integrated into this city’s very fabric, and we’d better do all we can to preserve and expand it.

(Quick, nonexhaustive speed round of other amazing Portland bike things: The school “bike bus” movement, when sunset hits at the Pedalpalooza kick-off ride, people who casually ride tall bikes, the year-round, weekly Portland State University farmer’s market ride, the absolutely raucous insanity of the annual World Naked Bike Ride, and all the passionate activists who have dedicated their lives to making the city better and safer for all people, on all modes of transportation.) 

To me, loving Portland and riding my bike go hand-in-hand. Only by spending so much time close to the ground, with the crisp air in my face and the feeling of uneven pavement under my wheels, could I develop the relationship with this city that I have today. 

Am I intrigued by the tales of gridlock bike traffic and seemingly unstoppable progress? Of course, and I’d love to see that again. But we can work to make things better and simultaneously avoid getting blinded by nostalgia. There’s a lot to delight in right now—and those delights are easiest to find by bike.