The Classic - Cycle Oregon

Obama in Portland: Props to our “bicycle lanes” and bikes as far as the eye can see

Posted by on May 19th, 2008 at 9:06 am

“It’s time that the entire country learned from what’s happening right here in Portland with mass transit and bicycle lanes and funding alternative means of transportation.”
Senator Barack Obama

The historic crowds from yesterday’s Barack Obama rally made headlines from Chicago to India — but the big news around here is that bicycles left their mark not only that event, but that they have staked their claim as an important part of Oregon politics.

Let’s start with bikes — thousands of them.

In Portland, when 75,000 people show up on the Waterfront for any event on a gorgeous spring day, you’d naturally expect many of them get their on two wheels. Check out the photos below:

(Photo: Bob Crispin)

Bikes as far as the eye can see.
(Photo: Bob Crispin)

(Photo: Mason Marsh/Flickr)

I was not at the rally, but around 2:45 I got a text message from a reader who was in the crowd:

“The bike presence at the Obama rally is amazing…there are literally bikes parked all over on every railing on the waterfront from Hawthorne to Steel [bridges].”

One estimate puts the number of bikes at 8,000 on the railing above the river alone (that does not include the likely thousands of bikes locked to every pole, rack and tree in a one-mile radius!). After the event, bikes were reportedly bumper-to-bumper over the Hawthorne Bridge and I noticed several groups of 10-15 people riding north near the Rose Quarter as they filtered back into the neighborhoods.

The news of so many bikes — though not unexpected — warmed my heart.

But the next text message I received was even better.

Senator Obama, in a part of his 40 minute speech devoted to energy policy, singled out Portland’s “bicycle lanes” as something “the entire country” should “learn from”.

Here’s the key excerpt from his speech (audio stream/download is below):

“If we are going to solve our energy problems we’ve got to think long term. It’s time for us to be serious about investing in alternative energy. It’s time for us to get serious about raising fuel efficiency standards on cars. It’s time that the entire country learned from what’s happening right here in Portland with mass transit and bicycle lanes and funding alternative means of transportation.

That’s the kind of solution that we need for America. That’s the kind of truth-telling that we are going to do in this campaign and when I am President of the United States of America.”

Listen to it here:
Download mp3 (40 seconds, 780kb)

And yet another sign that bicycles have officially entered the national political scene is an article published today by the New York Times. Times reporter William Yardley (who knows a thing or two about Portland’s bike culture) has followed the Obama campaign through Oregon. In his most recent article, A Shift in Voters, but Oregon Still Embraces the Unconventional, Yardley writes:

“Multnomah County, which includes Portland, is particularly antiwar. Successful candidates, including Republicans, know not to leave Portland without courting the bicycle-commuter vote.”

These are all good signs; but what happens on the campaign trail is not the same as real change. It will take the work of voters, local leaders, and advocates to seize this moment in history and work together to push the pendulum toward more sustainable, human powered cities.

Don’t forget to vote!

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  • Mmann May 19, 2008 at 9:25 am

    I know events like this are rare, and weather & road closures played a part, but yesterday the (at least occassional) need for a dedicated, waterfront-area bike parking facility was obvious. Tour de Fat and NAHBS bike parking searches paled in comparison to yesterday\’s quest for something lockable. Literally thousands of bikes hung from everything. Pretty cool.

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  • a.O May 19, 2008 at 9:28 am

    A great introduction to Portland for America\’s next President!

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  • Jerrod May 19, 2008 at 9:37 am

    Also, Congressman Earl Blumenauer wore one of those bright neon-green bicycle pins on his collar before introducing the Senator. That was an exciting proclamation of bike advocacy! Huh, comrads?

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  • Qwendolyn May 19, 2008 at 9:39 am

    I did a kind of a back-of-the-envelope rough estimate on the number of bikes parked down there yesterday and came with the number 8000.

    My method was to count the number of bikes between two railing stone-posts, and extrapolate based on that.

    Anybody else have any estimates?

    In any case it was pretty neat to see.

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  • brewcaster May 19, 2008 at 9:41 am

    I got a little misty eyed a few times yesterday. The mention of bike lanes was one of them, as I look up and see Hawthorne Bridge with stop and go bike traffic. Walking out of the event and seeing bikes attached to everything was amazing. I am actually excited for once about our future.

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  • Moo May 19, 2008 at 10:16 am

    Learn anything Sho?

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  • Spencer May 19, 2008 at 10:28 am

    The man knows how to please his audience. Does he actually ride? At lest with Kerry you would see him in the news on his Titanium hotness rolling around with his Secret Servie Posse.

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  • Daniel (teknotus) Johnson May 19, 2008 at 10:32 am

    Did you count the bikes parked on the east side of the bridge? I found Jim Middaugh unlocking his bike there. There were also people locking bikes up randomly downtown. For example a guy with a recumbant was in line with my, until the line passed a good spot to lock up.

    If there were only 8000 bikes then that calculates to 1 in 9 people got there by bike! Those are numbers any politician should pay attention to.

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  • Russ May 19, 2008 at 10:36 am

    \”Successful candidates, including Republicans, know not to leave Portland without pandering to the bicycle-commuter vote.\”


    I know there\’s a certain amount of a drink the kool-aid vibe with Obama \”movement\” people, but this sounds like the typical politician/rock band stage posturing (We\’re so happy to be here tonight in Deluth, Georgia!)you get at any type of mass \’sales\’ event.

    What actually happens in Washington with the political pros who speechify to us in Portland with be more pragmatic vote and money angling then any kind of inspiration they received from mixing with the kind, hard working, honest, patriotic bicyclists of PORTLAND, OREGON!!! WHOOO!!

    Local politicians and policies luckily are a little less stage managed.

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  • West Cougar May 19, 2008 at 10:39 am

    I\’d be more impressed if he used the \”learn from Portland\” on a non-Portland audience. I\’m not saying he has to take it to Houston or Atlanta, but LA or Chicago would be very meaningful.

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  • Matt Picio May 19, 2008 at 10:41 am

    What a great illustration of just how many cyclists there are in this town. Now if we can just start making some headway in the next tier outward (SW Portland, and from 60th to 122nd on the east side), maybe we can jump those numbers even more.

    Once we have infrastructure all the way out to 162nd on the east side, and to Beaverton on the west side, we\’ll truly have a workable network for new riders, to get them comfortable in and around traffic.

    Hopefully as we slide down the backside of Hubbert\’s Peak, we can start increasing funding of bike infrastructure and decreasing new road construction. If we spend $1 on bike/ped infrastructure for every $5 reduction in new roads, we could get a heckuva lot done. I hope that Obama and the rest of the feds will start waking up and making the hard decisions, and I hope that we the people will help encourage them to do that, and hold their feet to the fire.

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  • peejay May 19, 2008 at 10:46 am

    The bike line in Obama\’s speech brought a tear to my eye – your could feel the swelling of pride in the crowd. Hey, I\’m a sucker for this guy. Please, please, don\’t let me down, Obama! Take our support, and do good with it!

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  • Obama in Portland « blissfully orange May 19, 2008 at 11:01 am

    […] was scarce and bikes were locked up next to just about anything you could get a lock around. BikePortland had a nice little write-up about […]

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  • Todd B May 19, 2008 at 11:14 am

    Roger…did PDOT still have those bike counters on the Hawthorne yesterday?

    Perhaps a PSU student in Dill/Bertini\’s orbit can pull ODOT/PDOT/ security CCTV tape from yesterday to do a post event count. (Any help from our fellow pedallers with the local TV stations…any feed from up in the sky during the event?)

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  • Carl May 19, 2008 at 11:19 am

    Jerrod, I noticed Earl\’s bike pin, too. It distresses me, though, that Obama continues to refuse to wear a bike pin on his lapel.

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  • Chris Sullivan May 19, 2008 at 11:47 am

    Good one, Carl. 🙂

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  • Red Dawn May 19, 2008 at 11:49 am

    saw a dude get popped for crossing the Hawthorne Bridge halfway, then riding down the closed sidewalk. He was putting the ticket in his pocket as we walked down the ramp on the other side… way to save some time there, bud.

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  • […] of course we’re not surprised! What a beautiful, amazing sight. Estimates are 75,000 attendees and 8,000 bikes. And, yes, the sun does shine in […]

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  • Qwendolyn May 19, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    RE: post#8

    My estimate only included bikes on the waterfront. The 8k number is probably conservative.

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  • zilfondel May 19, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    The crowds were intense. I had to take the lane just to get across the Hawthorne bridge…

    first time for a cyclists to do this?


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  • […] Promoting bike lanes in Portland was a smart move since a large percentage of those listening to the senator were cyclists. From the Bike Portland blog: […]

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  • Racer X May 19, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Too bad Bike Republic was not up and running to help park bikes…though it would have taken 4000 barricades and lots of policed tape. 😉

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  • Bicycledave May 19, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    Not the first time zilfondel. We did it at the WNBR last year. I would guess there were other times as well.

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  • BikeBillboards dot blogspot dot com May 19, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    Tip to Obama: It\’s ALL about the BIKES, not the lanes.

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  • martin May 19, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    i was heading back on se ladd at about 12:30pm. and saw a lot lf bikes heading into town, so cool. way to go portland.

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  • Martha S. May 19, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    Mmm, voting is delicious. Yay election day.

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  • Todd Boulanger May 19, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    Good Luck Sam, too!

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  • wsbob May 20, 2008 at 1:03 am

    I\’m glad this rally went so well. Impressive pics of the bikes on the bridge in the lead article. Great pic of Obama amidst a sea of faces on the front page of the O today too.

    Re; comment #15: Poor Obama…gets crap cause he doesn\’t wear a flag pin…now he gets crap here cause he doesn\’t wear a bike pin! Hah!

    Anyone remember Ramblin Rod? (local KPTV kids tv show star). Maybe Obama ought to get himself a jacket and wear everyone\’s favorite pin on it, just so they can all be happy. Isn\’t that the least a presidential candidate should be expected to do?

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  • CrankMyChain.TV May 20, 2008 at 9:31 am

    Here is the video of the bicycle mention:

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  • McAngryPants May 20, 2008 at 9:53 am

    @ wsbob

    Ramblin Rod FTW!!!!!

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  • Jerrod May 20, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Dear #7, John Kerry most likey drove to wherever it was he rode his little bike around, so I don\’t think he has a one-up on Obama in that regard.

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  • Troy May 21, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Well done, Portland! On the bikes and Obama rally.

    – Envious in Denver

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  • […] and drew a crowd of some 75,000 — with an estimated 8,000+ arriving on bicycles. As quoted on, Obama responded with some fairly breathtaking comments on transportation policy. “If we are […]

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  • […] and drew a crowd of some 75,000 — with an estimated 8,000+ arriving on bicycles. As quoted on, Obama responded with some fairly breathtaking comments on transportation […]

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  • Evan May 22, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    You know what I think is the coolest part of all this? Nobody was asked to ride a bike, and it wasn\’t a bike-centric event like the Handmande bike show. It\’s not a bike thing, it\’s a transportation thing. People just rode because it made the most sense. THAT\’S what our so-called leaders need to understand. And that\’s what I think (and I hope) Obama understands a lot better than Clinton and McCain.

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  • MNPundit May 22, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    How do you keep people from making off with dozens of bikes at something like that?

    I used to bike in college but I ended up losing 3-4 bikes to theft before I gave it up. They would either break the locks or remove the wheels.

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  • […] BikePortland via StreetsblogLA: If we are going to solve our energy problems we’ve got to think long term. […]

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  • […] all about it at, and look at the pictures. The number of bikes at the rally is very […]

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  • Bikes Belong « Coastal Sense June 17, 2008 at 11:20 am

    […] see if this materializes, but the Senator from Illinois has been doing a lot of talking about bicycles. A far cry from what some in the other party have said in the last year, Obama seems to get it […]

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  • […] final note: when in Portland, Obama spoke of the importance of alternative forms of transportation such as biking, which plays a […]

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  • […] that regardless of our political leanings, come January, there will be someone in the top office who has spoken in favor of general infrastructure improvement not only to bridges and highways, but …: If we are going to solve our energy problems weve got to think long term. Its time for us […]

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  • ambrown December 4, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    I just relistened to this, and it gave me big time shivers.

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