It’s indisputable: The best way for visitors to explore Portland is by bike. Sure, you can stroll along the waterfront or drive up to Council Crest for some stunning views—but there’s no better way to get a sense of Portland’s unique neighborhoods, cultural hubs, and happenin’ bike paths than behind a pair of handlebars.
Lucky for you, Portland’s made that option incredibly easy.
If you’re the type who’s arrived in town with bold visions of day-long bike exploring or cross-town rides, your best bet is renting a bike from one of the many purveyors in and around downtown.
But if you just want to stick closer to your AirBnB, take a quick pedal across the river, or a one-way trip to a nearby lunch spot? There’s Biketown, Portland’s own bike-share system.
It’s not like bike share you might have used elsewhere. In Portland, the computers and locks are on the back of the bike—not mired in a kiosk. That means you can pedal wherever you’d like and, though it might cost you $2 more, lock up right by your destination. For more information, including maps, pricing, and where to find the Biketown kiosk near you, check out biketownpdx.com.
Even then, there ARE some hard and fast rules to the system.
Download the App First
If it’s your first time renting a Biketown whip, be sure to download the app and plug in your payment info before you get to a bike corral. Trust me, it takes longer than expected—but it’s well worth it. The handy app helps you locate nearby bike corrals, track down available bikes, and remind you where Biketown’s service area ends (ending a ride outside that perimeter will cost you $10).
Ring Your Bell
Ding ding! The bell’s right there on your handlebars, it’s mellifluous, and it decreases the number of pedestrians who leap in the air (or yell obscenities at you) when you whoosh by them in a blur of orange.
Brake for Pedestrians
Oh, you’ll be tempted to act like you didn’t see them waiting at the crosswalk with a stroller. Don’t do it. Bikes get an unfairly bad rap in this town, and you can help change that. Courtesy!
Wait for the Red Light
The number of bike-oblivious drivers in Portland has skyrocketed in recent years. Don’t make yourself even more of a car target by trying to catch that yellow-turning red light. Come on—is it REALLY worth it? (Answer: No, it is not.)
Count on Getting Anywhere Quickly
Even if you’re a seasoned commuter, Biketown’s clunky bikes aren’t built for speed. Give yourself plenty of time to get from A to B, so you don’t have to break any of the previous very important rules. You’re on vacation (ideally)! Bike like it.
Bike on the Sidewalk
There’s a very simple reason Portland streets have dedicated bike greenways, bike lanes, and bike-only traffic signals: Because you’re supposed to bike on them. Plowing your two-wheeler through groups of distracted pedestrians on a narrow sidewalk is, frankly, unsafe. It’s also illegal in downtown Portland.
Mess With the MAX and Streetcar Tracks
It’s possible you’re charmed by the streetcars chirping slowly around town. DON’T BE FOOLED. The tracks those merry trains run on will take you down, and fast. To avoid bloody knees and bent wheels, cross them perpendicularly if you must make contact at all.