Bicycling is a cultural phenomenon in Portland—likely the most beloved mode of transportation in the city. Besides the sheer numbers of cyclists you see on roads and pathways, you'll find well-marked bike lanes and signs reminding motorists to yield to cyclists.
There are more than 320 miles of bicycle boulevards, lanes, and off-street paths in Portland. Accessible maps, specialized tours, parking capacity (including lockers and sheltered racks downtown), and bicycle-only traffic signals at confusing intersections make biking in most neighborhoods easy. Cyclists can find the best routes by following green direction-and-distance signs that point the way around town, and the corresponding white dots on the street surface.
Educators, advocates, riding groups, businesses, and the city government are working toward making Portland even more bike-friendly and safe. An intended 950-plus miles of bike paths are planned over the next two decades. Despite the occasionally daunting hills and frequent wintertime rain, cycling remains one of the best ways to see what Portland offers.
Cycling in Portland has evolved into a medium for progressive politics and public service. Several bike co-ops in the city are devoted to providing used bikes at decent prices, as well as to teaching bike maintenance and the economic and environmental benefits of becoming a two-wheel commuter. Check out the helpful Bike Portland (www.bikeportland.org) website for information on regularly scheduled bike events, cycling-related local news and advice, and referrals to reliable bike rental, sales, and repair shops.
Fat Tire Farm. For treks in Forest Park, rent mountain bikes at Fat Tire Farm, which is close to the park's Leif Erikson trailhead. The staff here really knows their stuff, from repair and maintenance help to advice on the best trails and routes. 2714 N.W. Thurman St., Nob Hill, Portland, OR, 97210. 503/222–3276. www.fattirefarm.com.
Waterfront Bicycle Rentals. For jaunts along the Willamette River, Waterfront Bicycles has everything a visiting bicyclist needs. There is a variety of styles and sizes of bikes to outfit the entire family, including balance bikes for the little rider. Reservations can be made online at least 48 hours ahead. Guided bike tours are offered as well. 10 S.W. Ash St., Suite 100, Downtown, Portland, OR, 97204. 503/227–1719. www.waterfrontbikes.com.
If you’re a social rider, group rides set out from several local shops. Check the events pages of Bike Gallery (www.bikegallery.com), River City Bicycles (www.rivercitybicycles.com), and Bike Portland (www.bikeportland.org).
Bike paths line both sides of the Willamette River through downtown, so you can easily make a mild, several-mile loop through Waterfront Park via the Steel, Hawthorne, or Sellwood bridges.
Bicycling Sauvie Island’s 12-mile loop is a rare treat. Situated near the mouth of the Willamette River and Columbia Slough, the island is entirely rural farmland. Besides the main loop, the island offers out-and-back jaunts to beaches and pristine wetlands. To get to Sauvie Island from Portland, you can undertake the 10-mile ride in the wide bike lane of U.S. 30 or shuttle your bike there via TriMet Bus 16.
The Columbia Historic Highway begins 17 miles east of Portland on U.S. 84 and rolls almost 90 miles along the Columbia River Gorge. This National Scenic Area will take you past a series of thundering waterfalls towards sporty Hood River, Oregon. You can shorten the route by turning around after the awe-inspiring river view at Mile 12, or after a breathtaking descent to Multnomah Falls at Mile 18. Many riders begin and end at McMenamins Edgefield, a funky, historic resort where anyone (not just guests) can get a warm shower, cold beer, and good meal. Reach the Edgefield by bike or shuttle there via TriMet’s Bus 77.
The Springwater Corridor, when combined with the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade ride on the east side of the Willamette, can take you all the way from downtown to the far reaches of southeast Portland along a former railroad line. The 21-mile trail heads east beginning near Sellwood, close to Johnson Creek Boulevard.
Though much of Forest Park’s 70-plus miles of trails are reserved for hiking and non-biking activities, there are 28 miles of single track mountain-biking trails and fire lanes open to biking, including Leif Erikson Drive, an 11-mile ride whose dense canopy occasionally gives way to river views. Along the park’s trails you may come across old-growth forest as well as some of the park’s more than 100 species of animals and birds. To reach the Leif Erikson trailhead, bike up steep Thurman Street or shuttle there via TriMet Bus 15. Maps and information on the trails can be found at www.forestparkconservancy.org.
Department of Transportation. For information on bike routes and resources in and around Portland, visit the Department of Transportation website (look for the Active Transportation tab). You can download and view maps and learn about upcoming bike-related events and group rides. Portland, OR. 503/823–5490. www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation.