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Bicycling Mag: Portland no longer America’s top bike city

Posted by on April 6th, 2010 at 11:19 am

“There’s a lot going on in Portland, but there are other cities having more astonishing success at this point.”
— Loren Mooney, Editor-in-Chief Bicycling Magazine

Bicycling Magazine’s annual list of America’s top bicycle cities puts Portland in unfamiliar territory: second place. Since 1995, Portland has consistently been ranked as the #1 biking city, earning the title every year the rankings have been held since 1995 (1999, 2001, 2006 and 2008).

But this year, that honor goes to Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Here’s how the top 10 rankings ended up (great to see Eugene in the 5th spot!):

    1. Minneapolis, Minnesota
    2. Portland, Oregon
    3. Boulder, Colorado
    4. Seattle, Washington
    5. Eugene, Oregon
    6. San Francisco, California
    7. Madison, Wisconsin
    8. New York City, New York
    9. Tucson, Arizona
    10. Chicago, Illinois

I usually don’t make much out of the various rankings that come out, but Bicycling has been doing their’s for longer than anyone else and Portland’s #1 ranking has become a cornerstone of our reputation.

    Top 10 Best Cities:Does this mean the Portland bike magic is starting to wear off? Maybe. But this is more likely a sign that bike-friendliness is on the rise in cities across the country and Portland simply isn’t as far out in front as it once was. I spoke with Bicycling’s editor-in-chief Loren Mooney about the rankings this morning and she echoed that sentiment:

    “I would say that in terms of our list, it’s nothing that Portland has not done right, it’s more that the striking thing that’s happened in the last four years is tremendous improvement from other cities around the country.”

    In straight comparisons of what Mooney calls “boring but important” statistics, Portland would be #1, but Bicycling gave the title to Minneapolis for their intangibles. Mooney said “we’re giving a lot of momentum credit here” and she acknowledged that the way Minneapolis’s community has bonded around the “winter riding spirit” figured largely into their decision.

    Mooney also shared this perspective on Portland:

    “It’s fair to say that, not to be negative to Portland, but there’s also the notion that Portland may not be moving forward at as rapid a pace as some of these other cities at this point. There’s a lot going on in Portland, but there are other cities having more astonishing success at this point.”

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  • todd April 6, 2010 at 11:29 am

    all you need to do is declare portland el numero uno, jonathan. and google news will pick it up, and boom: true! journalists do make news.

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  • Nick V April 6, 2010 at 11:31 am

    In that same issue, they also tout a Trek as the world’s greatest bike, so…..

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  • carlos April 6, 2010 at 11:46 am


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  • BURR April 6, 2010 at 11:58 am

    good, now maybe Adam the doosh from Minneapolis will go back home!

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  • Daniel Ronan April 6, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Personally, I am glad that Portland did not make the top spot. I think we have become somewhat boastful of our accomplishments as a community, instead of continuing to push the pedals as hard as we should.

    Here’s to finding our new focus!

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  • Case April 6, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Seattle is #4? Ridiculous!

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  • Nick V April 6, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Daniel #5 is spot on. We’ve become known for smugly patting ourselves on the back and the magazine most likely noticed.

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  • Patrick V. April 6, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    I can see some truth to this. Portland is a great biking city but I have lived in other cities in the United States that are equal to or better. Nothing will keep us off the list, even if it isn’t the number 1 spot.

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  • chad April 6, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    The editor nailed it, boring stat wise we are still #1.

    Having very recently visited Minneapolis they are still quite a long way “behind” us as far as current bicycle infrastructure goes, but as far as momentum and enthusiasm they are giving us a very good run for our money.

    I can’t help but see this new friendly competition as a good thing for both cities.

    Game on 🙂

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  • eric April 6, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    I am from mpls and moved back to portland a year ago. Both cities have a very strong bike culture, however, portland has much more in place in terms of cycling infrastructure. the article is correct in citing the winter riding. i rode all year round (-20) and it is incredible over the years how the number of riders during the winter has increased.

    i think we should celebrate the fact that cities are striving to catch up to the bar pdx has set.

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  • CPF April 6, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    “Winter riding spirit?” Please. You live in Minnesota, you know what weather to expect. No extra credit, especially for a seasonal intangible. Compare that to some of the others that are hard work year ’round: hills (Seattle, SF), thin air (Boulder), heat (Tucson), crazies (Chicago, NY).

    I’m fine with Portland being a number other than one. More leverage when pushing legislation.

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  • are April 6, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    why anyone even reads this consumerist rag

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  • Kevin Buchanan April 6, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    MPLS is doing some good work. We’re hoping it’ll rub off on us – the man who was behind the Minneapolis bike push, Don Koski, came to Fort Worth and put together our own ambitious bike plan which was recently passed.

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  • dan April 6, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    I don’t understand how we’re even in the top 10, since we only have what, 1/4 mile of singletrack here?

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  • velo April 6, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    As a form resident of Portland recently transported to Minneapolis/St. Paul I’m not really sure how they did these rankings.

    The Twin Cities are good for cycling and definitely getting better, but Portland they are not.

    For commuting I think Portland still takes the cake, but the Twin Cities have created a lot of recreational infrastructure that I’m sure a lot of people find appealing. MSP has more in the way of off street paths and such. Sometimes they work for commuting, but they seem more targeted at recreational users.

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  • rj April 6, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    As a former Iowan.. I don’t know how anyone in the Twin Cities could bike commute more than 3 months out of the year.

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  • Paul Johnson April 6, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    The Californian factor. If Minnesota had Californian drivers, they wouldn’t be number one, either.

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  • P Finn April 6, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    guess what else is ‘boring but important’ and distinguishes an amateur blog from a professional one: grammar!


    call me if you need a hand with that,

    Picky P

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  • […] nascent rivalry turn into an extended Jay-Z vs. Nas-style intercity beef, that makes two of us. But BikePortland's Jonathan Maus seems to be taking the news in stride, writing that "this is more likely a sign that bike-friendliness is on the rise in cities […]

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  • MIndfulCyclist April 6, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    I was actually very happy to see that my hometown of Billings, MT was #37.

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  • Elliot April 6, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    +1 to Daniel #5. This should be a reminder/source of motivation to pick up the pace a bit and not rest on our laurels. Competition is a good thing.

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  • dan April 6, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    LOL @ Dan #14

    I think that Bicycling magazine is focused on how viable it is to use a bicycle as your primary mode of transportation, rather than a car. Miles of singletrack, DH facilities, and jump parks probably aren’t metrics they track.

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  • Camp Bike Fun April 6, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Davis? Berkeley?

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  • BURR April 6, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    LOL at Dan #21.

    I think bicycling magazine is focused on how much unnecessary ‘gear’ they can sell for their advertisers.

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  • PD April 6, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Can’t wait for Adams to “find” another $20million at BES to help get back to #1…

    We cyclists love sticking it to the taxpaying public for our infrastructure, and getting bumped from #1 will only help our cause…not hurt it.

    I really think this is a good thing!!!

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  • are April 6, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    even if the trolls say so, it is true that bicycling magazine is promoting a view that separate facilities are inherently positive, rather than one that talks about sharing the existing facilities . . .

    which, however, the trolls driving cars refuse to do.

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  • joe adamski April 6, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    For years my response to Portlands #1 status has been that we aren’t all that great,its just the rest of the country has so far to go. So apparently, the rest of the country is waking up. Good on them. I would like to see PDX struggle to be #3 or 10. And that the momentum is starting, nationwide. Distinctions from a magazine mean little. True success is a citys’ residents feeling comfortable and connected to their city, and able to access that cities benefits without the burden of car ownership.

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  • Anonymous April 6, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Let me see if I get this right:
    The objective statistics area Portland would be rank 1, but because of in possible to verify “intangibles”, the editor ranks Minneapolis? Riiight.. sounds like a hack job. Whats the point of computing all the statistics in the first place if you just disregard like a used happy sock.

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  • 007 April 6, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Should get worse if Rex Burkholder is elected Metro president. I see gridlock…

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  • BB April 6, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    I was happy too see The east valley rank 15 and 20. And then Tucson 9. Arizona has 3 spots all within the top 20.

    They have some really exciting things many bigger cities don’t have. Co-ops which rock, trip reduction programs, shower incentives, parking requirements on new infrastructure, and bicycle lawyers.

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  • Jordan April 6, 2010 at 5:20 pm


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  • Erinne April 6, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Gosh, I remember when I lived in Minneapolis there was only one bike lane I knew of–in the center of Hennepin Avenue for about 10 blocks. I hate to admit, but it was pretty frightening to cross two lanes of cars and buses to get to it.

    I also remember that bike part theft was rampant. I had my seat and rear wheel stolen on separate occasions. I started taking my seat in with me everywhere I went.

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  • Erinne April 6, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    That was about 10 years ago, so Minneapolis must have made some progress since then.

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  • Michael M. April 6, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Putting Minneapolis at #1 ahead of Portland is kinda like the Nobel committee awarding the Peace Prize to Obama before he actually did much to advance the cause of peace. It’s all about the perception, or the momemtum, or the perception of momentum, or something….

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  • Red Five April 6, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    No, Portland ain’t all that. Get away from the downtown or inner NE and SE and come out here to the east side of town where bike infrastructure hardly exists in some places, and where it does it amounts to a gravel and grass strewn mess a couple feet wide.

    There is LOTS of room for improvement.

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  • Marcus Griffith April 6, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    Whats better than being #1 on the list? Not having to live in Minnesota…

    On a serious not, nice that two Oregon cities some-what close together made the list.

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  • Bent Bloke April 6, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    The rankings don’t really matter. Doesn’t change anything on the streets.

    And Red Five, it’s not so bad out here in outer SE. There are plenty of bike routes on nice, quiet streets, but you have to carry a map to find them. No signs! So most people end up on the arterials with bike lanes, which aren’t very inviting, or safe.

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  • EmGee April 6, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Portland has taken a major hit on the “intangibles” side of the ledger with the BTA’s recent problems. Mostly with the way the underlying problems, whatever they might be, are being covered up like painting over dirt.

    Until BTA gets their act more together and wins back the trust of the community, or some other organization steps to the front, Portland’s strong objective showing is going to continue to be tarnished in these kinds of polls.

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  • […] Maus over at BikePortland.org has a story about why Portland dropped to number two and might explain why Tucson is behind cities like New […]

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  • Pete Za April 6, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    C’mon all my latex wearing brothas…let’s “woot woot” for Portland!!! Just a few more raids of public funding, a few mre “suck ups” to Adams, and we’ll be back to number one!!! Angry motorists when you “take the lane”…pee-shaw..let’s show those tax pay’n Portlanders whose boss, and let’s create MORE bike infrastructue at their expense….LETS BE NUMERO UNO….AGAIN.

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  • Blah Blah Blah April 6, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    Maybe Portland droppped to second because the cyclist seem to be focusing on studded tires lately, rather than real issues.

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  • Adam R April 6, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    In my mind, Portland has not been the #1 city for bicycling in a long, long time. Cities like Vancouver BC up in Canada, or Berkeley, California, are shining examples of what we could, but are failing to achieve.

    I think Portland needs to step up its bicycling infrastructure. And not just in terms of quantity, but more in terms of QUALITY.

    Portland seems to “test” things a lot by building one of them, after which it get Streetfilms along to film Mia Birk or Mark Lear or Greg Raisman propped up on top of said new example of infrastructure (be it traffic diverter, traffic circle, bike box etc) to wax lyrical about it. Which would be all find and good, if it then constructed many more of them. But it doesn’t. As an example, the City’s traffic safety division is always going on about how awesome diversion is on our bike boulevards, yet there’s hardly been a single diverter constructed since, like, the 1970s! It’s so wrong. You only need to look at Portland’s, oooh, six or so traffic diverters on the ENTIRE bike blvd network to see this. Six? There needs to be sixty! Or six hundred! I would like Portland to be more bold about putting its money where its mouth is. If your traffic engineers are being filmed in Streetfilms videos talking about how necessary traffic diverters on bike boulevards are, then BUILD MORE OF THEM!!

    This is where Vancouver BC & all the other awesome bike cities collectively kick Portland’s sorry ass. They invest in bike boulevard infrastructure (particularly diversion) that works, and they build lots and lots and lots of it.

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  • Paul Johnson April 6, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    Pete, bicyclists subsidize motorists, not the other way around. Let them eat cake.

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  • Seager April 6, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    Yay! Eugene is #5, beating San Francisco at #6! Corvallis is #2 for cities under 100k, also awesome. Lets hear it for Oregon’s little cities!

    Being another midwest transplant (Iowa), I’m amazed that Minneapolis is so high. The weather sucks there.

    Although Mpls (technically Bloomington, a suburb) is the home of Quality Bike Products (http://www.qbp.com/ace_advocacy.html) a giant in the bike industry and advocacy.

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  • are April 6, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    yo pete 41, which is it? angry when i take the lane or more infrastructure? try to sort out your confusions before trolling. no latex here, bro.

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  • Todd Boulanger April 6, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    In reading that Seattle is ranked higher than NYC – I find surprising having ridden frequently through the CBDs of both cities.

    As of last fall – I found it way more relaxing to ride in NYC than downtown Seattle – sharrios are great but separated bike tracks/ bike signals and bike lanes are way better. Perhaps this lower score has as much to say for NYC doing a lot in lower Manhattan and perhaps missing the mark in other places or missing bridge links?

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  • Frank Selker April 6, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    When Portland was first awarded numero uno I didn’t think we were that good, but I was still thrilled: tell a man he is brave, and he will be. Sure enough, we rose to the praise in many ways.

    As others have noted, a big weakness is our lack of off-road cycling. So many towns all over the country find ways to create fun trail riding – just today there was an article about Medford doing this, and a few days ago another set of trails in Seattle. Let’s hope we can sooner or later emulate these success stories.

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  • cold worker April 6, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    i don’t really care about these rankings. i’m gonna ride regardless. i lived for a couple years in mpls, 2002-04. i found it to be a generally miserable place to ride (and live, sometimes), no matter the weather. summer, hot and humid. winter, ridiculous cold and snow. like erinne mentioned, riding on hennepin; terrifying. the trails; maybe if your commute is just right the trails might be handy. the bike lanes that did exist all winter long were the debris lanes. etc. it must be better than it was, i hope so for the cyclists, my friends who still live there.

    i’m glad i don’t live there anymore.

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  • Barney April 7, 2010 at 12:30 am

    Once Portland implements my plan for a cyclist-only habitrail above the city, we can easily reclaim #1.

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  • K'Tesh April 7, 2010 at 2:11 am

    I suspect that in the May issue, there will be the following disclaimer:

    “April Fools”

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  • Pete April 7, 2010 at 7:08 am

    “this is more likely a sign that bike-friendliness is on the rise in cities across the country”…

    Or maybe a sign that more cities have seen what a bike-friendly reputation can do for their economies and creating BACs and assigning volunteers to fill out the extensive form that the LAB requires for its ratings. Perception is everything. Only riders in these places know the truth!

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  • kuando April 7, 2010 at 7:18 am

    Earning the title is nice, but I must give credit where credit is due. Minneapolis may have its fair share of activism but Portland’s advocacy and activism has helped bring up the rest of the nation. So TOTH to Portland!

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  • Rick in Sac April 7, 2010 at 7:38 am

    This may sound like sour grapes, but no Sacramento? At all? We’re fourth in the country in commuter rides, have one of the best (and longest) multi-use trails in the country, have a thriving bike culture, progressive planning, great bike shops, easy-to-ride topography, and–except for about two hot months during the late summer–nearly perfect weather. We host a major professional ride: The Amgen Tour of California; we host the Bicycle Film Festival; I mean, really, not in the top 50? Seriously?

    In addition, Sacramento puts on the “May Is Bike Month” event, not Davis, as the article erroneously mentioned…not that I’m pissed off or anything…

    Thanks for letting me vent…and Portland is the best bike town in America, hands-down.

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  • a.O April 7, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Portland is still #1 in whiney bike-haters, though!

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  • Jon April 7, 2010 at 10:05 am

    Give credit and be happy for these other cities. I am from Minneapolis and live here in Portland and I think its awesome another city got the title- it means biking culture is catching on and Portland led the way. Congrats to Minneapolis and Portland for an awesome job.

    BTW Minneapolis’ Mayor said last year that they would be number 1 and committed the city to that goal. This year Minneapolis is adding 1,000 bikes to a bikeshare program (starting this Spring) and this summer are adding roughly 40 miles of on street biking paths. I am proud of my hometown but they still have some work to catch up to Portland.

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  • Paul Johnson April 7, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    How did Salem Oregon get on the list at all? Has anybody from Bicycling Magazine ever even been to Salem?

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  • […] Minneapolis, Mn 2. Portland, OR 3. Boulder, CO 4. Seattle, WA 5. Eugene, OR 6. San Fransisco, CA 7. Madison, WI 8. New York City, […]

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  • matt picio April 7, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Adam R (#42) – Ankeny at SE 20th, Clinton at 39th and Harrison at 20th are all post-1970s, as is NE Williams north of Killingsworth and NE 16th & Tillamook (though the original diverter was much older, and citizen-initiated).

    The real trick is finding diverters that are post-2000. Just because our diverters are all less than 30 years old is no reason for celebrating.

    EmGee (#38) – You can’t lay this at the feet of the BTA. First of all, many organizations have accounting errors, and many have high turnover. The BTA is in a rebuilding phase, and once they get done, they will likely emerge as a stronger organization with a clear sense of purpose. The real problem in Portland is that in the post-Vera Katz era, there hasn’t been a lot of political follow-through from the city, specifically the city council. PBOT has lots of great ideas, people and energy, but they can’t do anything with it without clear leadership from the mayor and the council, and the money to pay for it. And the biking “community” by and large isn’t doing anything to prod them into it. The BTA is *not* the bike community, nor should they be expected to be the end-all, be-all of biking in Portland or in the state. They are an important part of that community, and of steering the discussion and the agenda at the city, state and federal levels, but they are only PART of that – we as individuals, organizations and agencies have to shoulder our share of the responsibilities and push the agenda on many fronts, rather than expecting a single group to do it for us.

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  • tom April 7, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    If they get points for cold we get points for topography. MN is flat.

    But if this causes PDX to be more creative and more committed great.

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  • […] I’ll say this- I feel better after my little rant, and getting all of this off my chest. I might even see you at the next group ride at Forest Park. My cold and sluggish winter legs need to get out and pedal more already. For another spin on the subject, check out BikePortland’s post. […]

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  • BURR April 8, 2010 at 1:00 am

    matt #58 – Vera Katz did exactly squat for bicyclists, things got done in spite of her, and not because of her.

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  • […] the wake of Portland being humiliated by a national magazine and losing the #1 ranking we’ve had since 1995, I’ve been thinking about what […]

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  • Ian B April 8, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    It is nice to see Portland get so bristled and defensive when it comes to these rankings. We don’t deserve it now and we wont get it in the next ranking either. Portland is so progressively slow. The process takes so long to get anything done here. We had great foresight to start being bike friendly many years ago, now we just paint streets green and divert funds from overpriced water and sewer projects to pay for future bike infrastructure. We will be passed up by other cities with grand bike plans that actually execute them. And to add insult to injury there is no single track in Portland, no legal dirtjumps, and no mt bike skills park. If you don’t have a 700c wheel in this town, it appears you don’t have a voice.

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  • crank-e April 9, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Maybe PDX is dropping off the bike friendliness radar due to the piss poor attitude towards other cycling options.

    They embrace skinny tire commuting & 10″ handlbars, but then criminalize fat tire riders, which, in case ya’ll ain’t following, is a HUGE mass of people & we’re getting pissed off.

    I sense tides changing soon though.

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  • Good May 12, 2010 at 10:54 am

    I’m glad Portland didn’t win this year and I hope they don’t win again until something is done for the riders that prefer dirt to pavement. Not a single foot of trail has been put in for xc or dh riders here in Portland, but hey if i want to ride a fixie with while wearing what looks for be my girlfriend’s jeans there are plenty of bike lanes and places to chain my bike up. Guess I’ll have to stick to filling up my SUV every weekend with fuel and making the hour drive to get to any decent riding. Here’s a big (expletive deleted) to Portland!

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  • Maurice Tierney July 30, 2010 at 11:58 am

    MPLS Rules! It’s friggin COLD up there! No offense to lovely Portland, but good to see another city get a chance.

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