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Affirming Portland’s Status as a Platinum Bicycling City

News Article
In this article

(April 16, 2015)

Portland is a platinum bicycle-friendly city because our investments in bicycle transportation have been effective.

  • The increase in Portlander’s bicycling to work since 2000 has been the primary reason why drive alone commute trips have dropped from 64% in 2000 to 57% in 2013 (last year for which census data is available).
  • Bicycle transportation captured the biggest share of the 40,350 increase in daily commute trips by Portlanders since 2000. At 34% of that total, bicycle transportation is leading Portland’s efforts at limiting congestion. It is more than double the number of increased car trips.
  • We are also seeing Portland students ride to school at eight times the national average. We have seen bicycling and walking to school increase 35% since 2006.
  • We recently installed our 125th bicycle corral. Business owners understand that attracting people who bicycle is good for their business. This is supported by research conducted by Portland State University that found that people who arrive to commercial districts by bicycle spend more over the course of a month than do people arriving any other way (download OTREC-RR-12-15 report from above link).

Efforts since 2013

Portland has never wavered in its commitment to create a world-class bicycling city. We continue the types of efforts that first won Portland platinum-level bicycle friendly community status in 2008. Portland was re-affirmed as a platinum-level bicycle-friendly community in 2013. At the time we had a bikeway network of 329 (centerline) miles. Today Portland has 345 bikeway miles with another 38 miles funded. Since Portland was last re-affirmed at the platinum level the city has:

  • Expanded our bikeway network
  • Made significant upgrades to existing bikeways
  • Built some of the best active transportation infrastructure in the country
  • Secured funding for significant further expansion
  • Opened our 125th bicycle corral
  • Encouraged and educated thousands of Portland adults and children about bicycle transportation
  • Slowed down people driving on high crash and residential streets and
  • Advanced cutting-edge policies.

We know our work is not done. We continue to strive to improve our bicycle transportation systems in support of our goals of creating a livable, equitable, healthy and prosperous city.

Since 2013, Portland has:

Completed the following Engineering and Safety Projects:

  1. Implemented the 4-mile 50’s bikeway project ($1.5 million) that included the removal of 200 on-street parking spaces (1.8 miles), diverted traffic from a neighborhood greenway, created 20 mph speed limits on more than 2 miles of the corridor, installed a bicycle-only signal and implemented an innovative use of the rectangular rapid flash beacon for a bicycle crossing
  2. Implemented the 2-mile North Williams Traffic Safety project ($1.5 million) that converted a five-foot bicycle lane on one of Portland’s busiest bicycle corridors into an eight- to 12-foot buffered bicycle lane through the removal of travel lanes and on-street parking
  3. Created the 2.8-mile 80’s bikeway neighborhood greenway, bringing those streets down to 20 miles per hour
  4. Built the 1.8-mile North Michigan neighborhood greenway
  5. Built the Going to the River project, which included an improved pathway from residential N Portland to Swan Island, a key employment destination
  6. Built the 4.8-mile North Portland Connector neighborhood greenway in North Portland
  7. Striped bicycle lanes through the Montavilla commercial district
  8. Performed a road diet on SE Division Street that allowed us to extend bicycle lanes further west and negate the need for going over Mt. Tabor when bicycling in that corridor
  9. Built the 2-mile Holman Street neighborhood greenway and extended the Bryant street greenway further to the west
  10. Removed a travel lane on NW Everett Street to create buffered bicycle lanes from NW 23rd Avenue to 14th Avenue
  11. Striped bicycle lanes on SW Vermont Street
  12. Built a raised cycle track on a segment of SW Multnomah Street
  13. Created buffered bicycle lanes on the totality of the 2.5-mile Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway in SW Portland
  14. Created buffered bicycle lanes along SW Broadway to make the Broadway to Barbur Blvd connection in SW Portland
  15. Created buffered bicycle lanes on the city-owned portion of Barbur Boulevard
  16. Opened the Gibbs Street bicycle- and pedestrian-bridge between Corbett Lair Hill Terwilliger neighborhood and South Waterfront
  17. Opened the first segment of the completed South Waterfront Willamette Greenway Trail
  18. Extended the Columbia Slough Trail another mile to the west, where it will meet up with another project that will decommission a roadway and convert it to a bicycle-pedestrian pathway
  19. Built the Clinton to the River connection, that includes dedicated cycle track, off-street pathway, signalized crossings of SE 11th and SE 12th Avenues along a historic bicycle demand path
  20. Built buffered bicycle lanes along SE 17th Avenue that connects to a bicycle-pedestrian overcrossing of Powell Boulevard
  21. Build nine-foot buffered bicycle lanes along a half-mile of NE Killingsworth Street with another mile of that corridor funded for similar development
  22. We recently added our 18th intersection with a bicycle-specific signal (N Vancouver & Wheeler) with four more intersections currently funded for bicycle specific signals (all pedestrian hybrids/HAWKS)
  23. We recently added our 29th bicycle box (at our 20th intersection) with the addition of bicycle boxes alone the heavily bicycle-trafficked SE Ladd Avenue/SE 21st Avenue intersection.
  24. We installed our 125th on-street bike corral; this added to the approximately 6,600 city-provided spots in Portland for bicycle parking (This does not include the inventory of bicycle parking on private property. Our development code requires both long- and short-term bicycle parking with each new development or re-development with number of spaces tied to proposed use and building size).
  25. We updated our bicycle parking code and are in the process of preparing additional updates to address parking spacing, number of spaces provided, proportion of hanging vs standing racks and requirements for large bicycles (cargo bikes, etc).
  26. We have undertaken a myriad of signing, crossing, and painting projects that enhance the city’s existing bikeway network; most notably we just installed new wayfinding signs for our neighborhood greenways.

Projects under construction:

  1. The Tilikum Crossing, which will be the largest transit- bicycle- and pedestrian-only bridge in North America
  2. The reconstructed Sellwood Bridge, which adds no additional automotive capacity (one travel lane in each direction) but adds 36 feet of bikeway and pedestrian facilities, including two 12-foot shared pathways and two 6-foot bicycle lanes.

Upcoming Projects (funded)

  1. Bike Share will launch in 2016.
  2. SE Foster Rd. ($5.2 million). This 2-mile project through the heart of the Foster Business District will remove travel lanes and on-street parking in favor of buffered bicycle lanes on a corridor where none currently exist. This project, though it could increase travel times alone the corridor by as much as 3 minutes during the afternoon rush hour and cause automotive diversion onto nearby streets, was vigorously supported by the business district as well as by local residents
  3. East Portland Active Transportation to Transit ($4.2 million). This project is currently at 60% design and will help establish a low-stress bikeway network in East Portland, where few such facilities exist. It will transform this suburban-styled part of town with five miles of neighborhood greenways and high quality bicycle parking at three transit stations serving the Green Line light rail line. Other elements of the project include a neighborhood-wide encouragement program once the bicycle facilities are in place.
  4. Regional Economic Opportunity Fund in East Portland ($9 million). This project will provide access to transit throughout East Portland and will include development of the 100’s and 150s neighborhood greenways, both of which are significant north-south corridors.
  5. Central City Multi-Modal Transportation Safety Project ($6 million) will kick off next fiscal year. This project is slated to bring to Portland’s central city the network of cycle tracks necessary to attract the “interested but concerned” person into Portland’s downtown on a network of all ages and abilities bikeways.
  6. Time Oil Road project will add a 1.25-mile two-way protected bicycle lane along N Lombard and Burgard Streets in North Portland making a connection between N Bruce and the pathway system along N Lombard north of Columbia Boulevard
  7. N Rodney a 1.5-mile north-south neighborhood greenway that will run through an area of high existing bicycle use and higher potential use.
  8. 20’s bikeway project, which is currently at 90% design, will build a 7-mile north-south bikeway through the heart of inner-east Portland.
  9. The Connect Cully project will build out a network of low-volume shared roadways (driving, walking, bicycling) that will also create 3 ½ miles of north-south neighborhood greenways along three neighborhood corridors
  10. Neighborhood Greenways Assessment Report. Currently under way, this report will identify where neighborhood greenways are working well and where they are not; create an understanding of the role they play in Portland’s transportation system; and offer policy and design recommendations to allow greenways to achieve their full potential.


  • Open Streets – Portland conducted 10 Sunday Parkways events in the past 2 years with a record-breaking 135,000 people in attendance in 2014
  • Transportation Demand Management – Portland launched a new outreach effort called “Welcome Smart Trips” that provides information and outreach to new residents. Research shows this is when people make life changes.  Our results show a 7% reduction in drive alone trips and an increase of 8% in active transportation modes from our last year’s SmartTrips program. These are phenomenal numbers. Seventy eight percent (3,076) of all people who order materials get bicycling materials, which are the most requested.
  • Safe Routes to Schools (since 2013):
  • 10,930 students taught to safely navigate their neighborhood by bike with our 10-hour hands-on Bike Safety Education program
  • Over 43,000 students served by Safe Routes to School at 100+ schools—including elementary and middle schools—in five school districts [PPS, David Douglas, Parkrose, Centennial and Reynolds] plus several private and charter schools
    • $4.9 million+ in grant funds awarded to date for Safe Routes to School capital improvements around schools
    • Rates of walking and bicycling to school have increased 35% since 2006
    • Program evaluations conducted by the Portland Safe Routes program consistently show that Portland has much higher rates of walking and biking to school than nationally:
      • 8% of Portland students get to school by bike, vs. 1% nationally
      • 32% of Portland students get to school on foot, vs. 11% nationally

Enforcement and Vision Zero

  • Portland has embraced Vision Zero as part of Portland Progress, our two-year workplan that guides PBOT’s actions across the agency. This includes a variety of specific actions PBOT is taking to reduce fatalities, including the initiative to sponsor a bill in the Legislature to create a pilot program for unmanned photo radar safety cameras on High Crash Corridors.
  • Safety – Three years ago Portland launched a High Crash Corridor program to steer our resources to where fatalities and serious injuries were occurring.  PBOT coordinates with Portland Police on cross-walk enforcements on these streets, which makes the street safer for everyone.
  • Speed - Portland has formally proposed a new process in Oregon that for the first time would allow Portland to set its own speed limits on non-arterial, local roads.  We have made a formal request to the State Speed Zone Board and we will be presenting our case in a special meeting of that board.
    • In the past year we have lowered the speed limits on SE Division and NE Glisan from 35 mph to 30 mph.
    • We recently lowered speed limits on SW Multnomah and SW Vermont Streets.
    • We have applied to lower the posted speed on E Burnside from 35 mph to 30 mph.


Portland’s neighborhood greenways and most streets with bicycle facilities are prioritized for preventive maintenance. Since 2013 we have repaved or re-sealed many miles of the streets that form Portland’s bikeway network, including neighborhood greenways and arterial street bikeways.

Bicycle Use

From our local counts we have seen bicycle use increase citywide approximately 3% per year in each of the past three years. This is based on city-organized volunteer summer counts at approximately 200 locations city wide. Results vary by part of city with some areas showing larger increases than others.

According to the US Census Bureau we saw an increase of 40,354 daily Portland commuters between 2000 and 2013 (the last year for which census data is currently available). The below chart shows how that growth in commuters broke out by means of transportation.

Change in commuting by Portland residents 2000 to 2013

Growth in mode since 2000

# of commuters

Percentage Growth

Change in commuters relative to 2000










Worked at Home






Drove Alone
























Total growth in commuters*:


Total Commuters*



*Not all modes are represented, hence the discrepancy between totals and sum of numbers in columns. Modes not represented include: taxicab, motorcycle and "other means".

Source: US Census Bureau, American Community Survey

This demonstrates that bicycle transportation has been the biggest contributor to the drop in driving to work from 64% of commuters in 2000 to 57% in 2013. Bicycle transportation has been the biggest contributor to limiting congestion generated by the increased number of Portland commuters.


The question of funding is critical to the work we do. As evidenced by our recent efforts with the Our Streets program to raise funding for transportation maintenance and safety projects, funding for the Portland Bureau of Transportation is limited.  Almost all the capital projects we undertake are done with grant funding from other sources. This limitation is perhaps best understood through looking at the buffered bicycle lane project done on NE Killingsworth, an example where we leveraged the opportunity to make better infrastructure for everyone by adding a bike improvement to a pavement maintenance project. The first segment, described above on page 2, was implemented as part of a repaving project in our Back to Basics preventive maintenance program. The only minimal cost associated with the buffered bicycle lane was the striping. To extend the facility the last mile will require grinding out all existing striping on the roadway before restriping. The total cost would be $50,000. Fifty thousand dollars represents approximately one-third of the Bureau of Transportation’s local and discretionary annual funding for bikeway projects. With more funding, PBOT would be able to undertake more of the types of projects we want to and need to build.

Because of our complete streets policies and Oregon’s complete street laws, almost all PBOT projects, regardless of type, include bicycle and pedestrian elements.


Portland, in the course of updating our city’s Comprehensive Plan and Transportation System Plan, will adopt an overarching bicycle transportation policy that states:

Bicycle transportation. Create conditions that make bicycling more attractive than driving for most trips of approximately three miles or less.

A supporting policy states:

Accessible bicycle system. Create a bicycle transportation system that is safe, comfortable, and accessible to people of all ages and abilities.

We will also be adopting a policy known by many planners as the “Green Transportation Hierarchy”. Officially called the Transportation Strategy for People Movement it outlines an ordered list that must be addressed in every transportation system decision:

Transportation strategy for people movement. Implement a prioritization of modes for people movement by making transportation system decisions according to the following ordered list:

1.  Walking

2.  Cycling

3.  Transit

4.  Taxi/Commercial Transit/Shared Vehicles

5.  Zero emission vehicles

6.  Other private vehicles

When implementing this prioritization, ensure:

-   The needs and safety of each group of road users are considered, and changes do not make existing conditions worse for the most vulnerable users higher on the ordered list.

-   All users’ needs are balanced with the intent of optimizing the right of way for multiple modes on the same street

-   When necessary to ensure safety, accommodate some users on parallel streets as part of a multi-street corridors.

-   Land use and system plans, network functionality for all modes, other street functions, and complete street policies, is maintained.

-   Rationale is provided if modes lower in the ordered list are prioritized.

Finally, the new Comprehensive Plan will have as a goal some of the strongest transportation safety language to date:

Goal 9.G: Safety

Transportation safety contributes to a livable city and ensures that people of all ages and abilities feel comfortable and secure using City streets. Human impact and economic costs are reduced by comprehensive efforts to improve traffic safety, including engineering, education, enforcement, and evaluation, all of which will move Portland toward zero traffic‐related fatalities and no serious injuries.


The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is the steward of the City’s transportation system, and a community partner in shaping a livable city. We plan, build, manage and maintain an effective and safe transportation system that provides access and mobility.