Splendid Cycles Big Sale

Portland 2nd to Minneapolis in new ‘Bike Score’ rankings

Posted by on May 14th, 2012 at 10:24 am

Walk Score, a group that has earned widespread respect for its walkability rankings of cities and individual addresses across America, have launched Bike Score. The folks at Bike Score have released a ranking of 10 major U.S. cities and Portland came in second behind Minneapolis.

Bike Score calculates the bikeability of a location on a 0-100 point ranking based on a mix of factors including availability of bike lanes, trails, and other types of bike-friendly infrastructure, as well as “hilliness of the area,” connectivity, and the number of people who bike. To get the city ranking, they plug in the Bike Score algorithm block-by-block and weigh the scores with population density. Learn more about the methodology here.

Portland’s Bike Score is a 70, which is 9 points behind Minneapolis and is tied with San Francisco. I haven’t seen the underlying numbers, but my hunch is that Minneapolis scored very high on the bike infrastructure components. They have many more miles of dedicated paths and rail-trails than Portland does. The presence of hills in Portland might have also dragged down our ranking.

UPDATE: Matt Lerner, a former Portland resident who works with Bike Score, says, “The key factor for Minneapolis is their amazing network of dedicated paths (which we weight as 2X the value of an on-street lane or bike friendly street).”

For each city, Bike Score has also produced a Google Map with various layers including the score, presence of bike lanes, hills, and so on.

At this point, Bike Score is only available for the ten cities above. If you want your city ranked, you can vote here.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Andrew Seger
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Andrew Seger

WalkScore is pretty interesting and I really like the idea of BikeScore, but this first iteration definitely has some flaws. I’m really curious to hear how they weight things like bike lanes vs bike paths vs MUPS. As time goes on I’m sure it will get better. Didn’t the first walk score rate Beaverton Transit Center as a 97/100 or something? (As anyone that’s walked around the poor Beaverton TC knows it’s definitely not walk or bike friendly.)

matt picio
Guest

And it seems a little premature to declare it a list of the 10 most bikeable US cities when they haven’t released results for all of them. What if, after applying their methodology, some of the unrated cities unseat the existing list? It isn’t just possible, with dozens of “large” cities, it’s pretty likely.

Mindful Cyclist
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Mindful Cyclist

I am with you on the thought about “hilliness” of the city, Jonathan. I went to college in St. Paul (MN) and that city is very flat. Depending on how much it is factored in, there is little Portland can do to compete with Minneapolis.

Paul Souders
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Hills are fun!

Blake
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Blake

They must not include average winter temperature in their calculations if Minneapolis is so high.

Mike in WI
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Mike in WI

Yes, it is cold in the Twin Cities in winter, however, the weather does not stop the bike enthusiasts!

velo
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velo

I lived in Portland for 7 years and now live in St. Paul/Minneapolis, so I have a few thoughts on this with experience in both places.

1) Portland is still a better commuting city in my mind, at least in the urban core. I say this because of a emphasis on bike facilities for transit. Minneapolis/St. Paul it seems like the focus is partially transit and partially recreation.

2) Minneapolis has many more off street paths than Portland does, or probably ever will. Between the Midtown Greenway that functions as a major bike arterial and the trails around all the lakes Minneapolis has LOTS of off street infrastructure. Some of these off street paths are great transit routes, some are more recreational routes.

3) Portland’s bike facilities generally were more connected. Minneapolis and St. Paul still have a fair number of bike lanes and paths with poor connectivity. This seems to be improving, but new projects still happen with really idiotic choices – for example – bike lanes that feed into multi-lane streets that are just blocks from major trails and bridges with bike lanes.

4) The Minnesota winter isn’t nearly as bad as lots of Portland people thing. They plow the trails and if you want to it’s not that hard to gear up and get used to riding at 15 degrees. Trust me on this one.

5) Bike commuting is more generally accepted in Portland. In Portland I never had a work place act confused about my bike commuting. This is not the case in Minneapolis. The mindset here seems to still be one of “bikes are toys” for many people. Many people love to ride, but they don’t ride for transit.

Just a few quick thoughts having now done a lot of riding in both places. Both are great places to ride and I think both cities could probably learn a fair bit from the other on issues of connectivity, creating major facilities and the like.

oskarbaanks
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oskarbaanks

Velo, thanks for sharing a concise personal viewpoint. It is sometimes difficult to stomach the insular remarks Portland peeps so quickly fling towards any mention of other communities having an asset or culture. It reeks of juvenile foppishness at times. I like your former home btw. Cycling there was fun, and Wisconsin too.

GlowBoy
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GlowBoy

Oh, in Portland I’ve definitely had people at work act confused about bike commuting. Admittedly most of these incidents were prior to 2005 when you got here, and now bike commuting is fairly well accepted. But it hasn’t been that way for very long at all, and I’m sure MSP is not far behind.

Examples: I had a project manager repeatedly say “oh look, here’s a bike messenger” whenever I walked in the door wearing my bike gear, because “bike messenger” was his only reference point for an adult on a bicycle. I’ve overheard factory floor workers in a combined office-manufacturing building muttering “get a car!” (even though I owned two cars) along with other unintelligible epithets. This kind of ignorance is not too common in Portland today, but 10 years ago it was closer to the norm.

Champs
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Champs

I don’t think of hills as much of an issue for most of Portland’s population. I can see why hills like Interstate or Mississippi would be intimidating, but that’s why you’ve got Williams.

What Minneapolis does have over Portland is things like direct routes around the city, and easy escapes (to the western countryside, anyway). Portland bike routes zig-zag, and offer nothing in the way of getting out of town without sketchy bridges, miles of heavy car traffic, an undersized MUP like Springwater, or out-of-the-way routes like Marine. In fact, it’s probably a combination.

CaptainKarma
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CaptainKarma

I’ve lived in Minneapolis. It is nice, but I left my lunch out in the car at work, went out to get it at lunch and my orange was frozen like a rock. My car tires used to get frozen flat spots after being parked for a few hours; thump thump thump….. I got to where I could tell the temp by the type of scrunch sound the snow would make underfoot…..

Brad Ross
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All that matters is that we beat Seattle.

K'Tesh
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K'Tesh

but we tied with San Francisco

shirtsoff
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shirtsoff

I have a hard time believing Seattle is as high as it is. I never enjoyed biking from the downtown core to Green Lake and the northside in general. The bridges are atrocious out of the downtown from what I remember. The best options are on the far ends (along the waterfront to the west or across Capital Hill on the roadway into the U-district which puts you at the bottom of significant hills). The result was always a frustrating crossing across the waterway out of downtown. That connectivity issue alone should cost Seattle more points on its Bike Score.

DK
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DK

Minneapolis ranks higher than Portland…ha!

I’ll be riding the hills in town come December, keeping my strength up and enjoying the views that geographic relief offers. Minneapolis can keep their below zero Winter temps, flat landscapes, and winning bikescore.

oskarbaanks
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oskarbaanks

When the ground is flat, you ride a 53×12 into a headwind, Museeuw style. “We don’t need no stinking hills!”

DK
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DK

…But what do you do about the below 0 Winter temps? 😉

Psyfalcon
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Psyfalcon

You put a jacket on!

Lazy Spinner
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Lazy Spinner

A true flahute does not care about the weather.

oskarbaanks
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oskarbaanks

http://www.velominati.com/racing/flahute-the-hardest-of-the-hardmen/
When you click on this link the first photo is of my person fave’ flahute. enjoy.

matt picio
Guest

You get REAL winter clothes, which they don’t generally sell in Portland. I’m originally from Michigan, and I had a real winter jacket when I moved here, but even on the coldest days I had to wear it mostly unzipped to keep from roasting in it. Real cold-weather gear is only available here as “specialty” clothing, and priced accordingly. In Detroit, or Milwaukee, or Minneapolis, you can find reasonably priced cold-weather gear at Target or Wal-Mart or Meijer. And you’ll have a large and varied selection. not so for the PacNW – we just don’t have the same weather here.

Brandon Van Buskirk
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Brandon Van Buskirk

It doesn’t seem like Neighborhood Greenways are included in the Bike Lane factoring.

Rol
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Rol

Ooooh, feel the burn! And San Francisco soon to pass us too, even though it’s full of hills & crazy drivers and was held back by a court injunction for years.

Our Karaoke Score is better though, I bet.

Ross Williams
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Ross Williams

I think the question is whether you are a recreational rider or use your bike for transportation. A ride around the lakes, or along the river and greenways in Minneapolis is very pleasant. Their bike trail network is the Springwater Corridor on steroids. If you are looking for a pleasant ride it can’t be beat.

But many of those trails don’t really go anywhere and provide limited access to the surrounding area. Once you do get off the trails, both the infrastructure and the traffic environment is really pretty dicey. Most downtown streets and other arterials feel like Sandy, Powell or Barbur Boulevard, entirely turned over to automobiles. There are a few exceptions mostly around the University of Minnesota.

So if you are a recreational rider. Minneapolis is great. If you use a bike for transportation, Portland wins hands down.

Chris
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Chris

We’ve got the people but not the political will. Everybody, take the lane! They will have to make space, err, share space eventually.

cold worker
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cold worker

Just coming in to back up what others have said; Minneapolis is fine for recreational riding but commuting sucks. It did when I was there anyhow. And the weather is almost always miserable. Hot, humid and mosquitoes like mad in the summer, and oppressively cold in the winter. Biking home from work in sub-zero temps is fun the first time it gets that cold. After that it is absolute b.s.

velo
Guest
velo

Ross Williams
I think the question is whether you are a recreational rider or use your bike for transportation. A ride around the lakes, or along the river and greenways in Minneapolis is very pleasant. Their bike trail network is the Springwater Corridor on steroids. If you are looking for a pleasant ride it can’t be beat.
But many of those trails don’t really go anywhere and provide limited access to the surrounding area. Once you do get off the trails, both the infrastructure and the traffic environment is really pretty dicey. Most downtown streets and other arterials feel like Sandy, Powell or Barbur Boulevard, entirely turned over to automobiles. There are a few exceptions mostly around the University of Minnesota.
So if you are a recreational rider. Minneapolis is great. If you use a bike for transportation, Portland wins hands down.
Recommended 1

Downtown Minneapolis has gotten significantly better over the past few years. If MSP keeps going in the direction it seems to be headed, there should be pretty good connectivity within a couple years. On thing that will always separate Minneapolis/St. Paul from Portland is the size. The Twin Cities metro is ~3.3 million people, Portland area is ~2.2 million including Vancouver WA.

There have been a few higher traffic arterial streets (Franklin, Riverside, Marshall) that have added bike lanes in the past couple years. Through downtown streets like Nicolett Mall allow bikes on a shared bus mall. Now the building just needs to continue and be connected.

The trail network includes trails like the Diagonal Trail, which gets you out in to the suburbs rather quickly, and the Gateway Trail, that you can pick up immediately outside of downtown St. Paul and takes you to Stillwater (think Portland to Sandy for equivalent distance), make for some nice riding options and transit options outside of the core.

Ultimately, the trail network will be helpful transportation infrastructure when it’s more connected to on street facilities, and all indications suggest this is the direction things are headed. Having now lived in both places I do think Portland is easier to ride in, but MSP is doing a fair bit of stuff right at the moment with real promise for the future as projects are completed and connected.

velo
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velo

cold worker
Just coming in to back up what others have said; Minneapolis is fine for recreational riding but commuting sucks. It did when I was there anyhow. And the weather is almost always miserable. Hot, humid and mosquitoes like mad in the summer, and oppressively cold in the winter. Biking home from work in sub-zero temps is fun the first time it gets that cold. After that it is absolute b.s.
Recommended 0

I don’t know about the blanket statements about cold weather riding, I love riding in winter. Get the right gear and it’s just not an issue down to ~0. Below that you have to plan, but I know people here in MSP who ride all winter and can’t fathom dealing with the rain in the Pacific Northwest.

I really don’t think the “commuting sucks” here. Setting aside the issue of winter for the moment I don’t see how MSP is *bad* for commuting the other 8 months of the year. It leaves a bit to be desired in places, but I’ve been commuting year round here for 3 years now and generally my commutes have been rather nice.

cold worker
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cold worker

Everyone has different perspectives of course. I was a 365 biker in Minneapolis. I had the gear (still do, it just never needs use here). I didn’t mind the cold initially, it’s sorta fun. But it just keeps going. I didn’t like biking in the snow. I thought one night biking home to North MPLS into a wind that had it down to just shy of a -40 windchill, I was gonna get frostbite on my right ear (and that’s through all the super tough winter cycling gear I’d picked up at the shop I worked in). That’s ridiculous. I moved back west. There is no need to deal with crap like that. The flip side to that is I couldn’t tolerate the humidity. The f’ing bugs. Sweating buckets going very short distances. The brown outs from everyone blasting their AC units. No thanks.

Maybe a lot has changed in the time since I left. I moved there, from here, 10 years ago. I thought biking around was horrible. I thought the drivers were hostile quite regularly. I thought the coffee was weak. The metal scene was nonexistent. The people I met however were all fantastic. On that front I feel lucky that a lot of the people I became friends with in Minneapolis felt the same about the place as I did and have found themselves here in the NW. I work, now, with 2 former coworkers from MPLS, here in Portland. I can think of 5 others from that same job that are here in Portland (and at least 4-6 in Seattle). That I know so many people here in Portland, from Minneapolis, I don’t feel so bad when I diss the place. If the Twin Cities and upper Midwest is so great I don’t think the youth would flee out west in the numbers that they do. That’s my personal validation. Your story is different. That’s good. We aren’t gonna like the same things. So it goes.

Mindful Cyclist
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Mindful Cyclist

Cold worker is right that it really depends on someone’s perspective. For example, I moved out here from Montana a little less than 8 years ago. It took me a few years to be willing to ride in the rain. However, it was *cold* here, I would have no problem hopping on the bike and getting to where I wanted to go.

GlowBoy
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GlowBoy

I grew up in MSP. Overall I’d say PDX has somewhat better conditions for bike commuting than Minneapolis, but not by that much … and Minneapolis has much more momentum. I go there at least annually, and on every visit I see impressive improvements.

One area where MSP has PDX beat hands-down is when it comes to MUPs, and many of their MUPs are genuinely useful for commuting.

As for terrain, one poster above said that hills aren’t a big deal in Portland, and that’s probably true … as long as you stay on the eastside. Try commuting from Portland over the West Hills to Beaverton, as I do, and you’ll find them to be a rather major impediment.
Personally, all else being equal I’d just as soon commute 12 miles in flat Minneapolis in sunny 5 degree weather as do it over the west hills in pouring rain.

And while we’re talking about west Portland, it’s not reasonable to say Portland is more bike-friendly than Minneapolis while only looking at Portland’s inner eastside, which has received most of the bike infrastructure improvements in recent years. You have to look at the WHOLE city, not just the places shown in GREEN on the map. Including deep orange SW Portland, where 88% of streets lack sidewalks and there are only two sort-of-safe bike routes that go all the way through. And including outer east Portland, too. Both are pretty large areas that can be pretty sh**** for human beings trying to get around without a cage, whether on foot or wheels, and both are worse than most parts of MSP that I can think of.

matt picio
Guest

Well, the methodology they are using is somewhat suspect. The “bikeability” scores in some areas of Portland are, in my opinion, unreasonably low in some areas (Irvington, for instance), and ridiculously high in others. (the I-205 corridor) The I-205 results (especially the “bike lane” results) are obviously skewed by the 205 bike path and the MAX line – but how “bikeable” is it really? Poor connectivity to actual destinations, poor connectivity to downtown *except* via MAX, no shade on the I-205 bike path, very loud traffic noise, etc.

Their “bike commuters” results are far more reflective of the actual bikeability of Portland, although they don’t take into account the features that really matter inside 82nd Avenue, like the Alameda Ridge, or the ridgeline running south between 26th and 39th to Harney, or the hills around Laurelhurst.

Looking at it again, I’d say a lot of the skew is due to too much emphasis on bike lanes. Irvington has very few, but the large grid of quiet residential streets, tree-lined and away from major arterials, makes it one of the most bikeable areas in NE. This is a great start, but “Bike Score” will be a lot more valuable after they refine their algorithm a bit.

kittens
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kittens

The cool thing about Portland is that it is a cultural movement. Put all the MUP trails you want, but that does not a great city make.

velo
Guest
velo

GlowBoy
Oh, in Portland I’ve definitely had people at work act confused about bike commuting. Admittedly most of these incidents were prior to 2005 when you got here, and now bike commuting is fairly well accepted. But it hasn’t been that way for very long at all, and I’m sure MSP is not far behind.
Examples: I had a project manager repeatedly say “oh look, here’s a bike messenger” whenever I walked in the door wearing my bike gear, because “bike messenger” was his only reference point for an adult on a bicycle. I’ve overheard factory floor workers in a combined office-manufacturing building muttering “get a car!” (even though I owned two cars) along with other unintelligible epithets. This kind of ignorance is not too common in Portland today, but 10 years ago it was closer to the norm.
Recommended 0

Your experiences 10 years ago in Portland sounds a lot like my current experience in MSP. I think this stuff just takes time and you have to reach a critical level of enough people in enough different types of work riding. I hope MSP gets better on this count as time goes on, I suspect it will. That said, there is some great bike culture in Minnesota.

Scott
Guest
Scott

Having just recently ridden a bike in both cities, it is great to hear so much analysis from so many folks that have lived both places. Thanks for sharing!

Randall
Guest

Here’s my take after three years car-free in Minneapolis and a visit to Portland for a few weeks in October ’11.

It’s not hard to ride in Minneapolis when it’s 15 degree out if you invest in gear, but a large percentage stop commuting when it’s less than 50 for overnight low. If the afternoon high is over 50 there will be some people out and if it’s over 70 the trails get really crowded after 2pm. If there’s above a 40% chance of rain the trails are dead all day. I’ve never seen a queue of commuters at a stoplight headed into downtown like I did when I visited Portland last October.

Bottom line is that Minneapolis has a heavy lean towards recreation and seasonal commuting (May-October).

Average daily trips on the Midtown Greenway:
4107 in July
104 in January

See this doc for the monthly #s.
http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/www/groups/public/@publicworks/documents/images/wcms1p-087662.pdf

and this one to see trail usage by time of day.

http://www.cts.umn.edu/events/conference/2011/documents/presentations/24-hoff.pdf

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I don’t see how they can rank #1 with numbers like that. The methodology needs to include a factor for seasonal changes. Portland still has a high number of commuters through the winter.

cold worker
Guest
cold worker

Do you work for Peace Coffee? Do you know Sara Lidstrom? I worked with her at Calhoun Cycle.

Joe Adamski
Guest
Joe Adamski

When Portland was getting props for being the “Most Bikeable City in the USA” from somebody or another, almost weekly, I noted that its not that we are so good, its just the rest of the country sucks worse than we do.
In some folks opinion, Portland sucks slightly less than Minneapolis.
Keeping things in perspective.

Jake
Guest

Portland is a great city to ride in. Mnpls is great too, their greenway is nice. And Seattle is great too! Alki, ballard to Redmond on a trail, lake Washington loop mostly on trail or lakeside!

matt picio
Guest

Another comment – it’s fine to have a rating on hills, but there’s nothing expressing “connectivity”, especially in regards to hills. For example, when riding into the Foster/Powell or Woodstock areas, there are really only 2 routes – 42nd, or 50th/52nd when crossing Powell. The connectivity across Powell from 26th to 52nd is very limited due to large impassable fenced areas like the high school, the Jesuit compound, Creston Park, etc. And there are a number of hills in the area, many short but very steep. If you look at the 39th & Powell area, it actually shows as “greener” (higher score) than the surrounding blocks. If you actually think that area is “more bikeable”, try riding it. I can almost guarantee you won’t repeat the experience. All of my biking excursions through the Caesar Chavez/Powell intersection have been between 1am and 5am, when I want a direct route and there is almost no traffic. There should be a pronounced “greenish” tint along the 42nd Avenue designated bike route, which has bike lanes in many spots and is a Bike Boulevard in others. It doesn’t show up at all under “bike lanes”, so clearly the algorithms they are using don’t reflect Portland’s actual transportation system.

Terry D
Guest
Terry D

To get to south Portland, take SE 33rd south from Ankeny to Morrison then cut to 34th and take that south to Clinton then back to 33rd south past the high school. I have found using this bike activated lower-volume light is the best way to cross Powell. It is mostly flat, runs past the high school, is a signed 1996 quality bike route with bike activated lights and connects to Raymond really well (crossing Holgate/52nd can be a challenge but is not too bad). This gets you to SE 67th and points south. They do need to create a distinction as this route has been constructed to the level of Salmon/Davis-Everett and could easily be included if it only had sharrows. These older residential routes have no consistency since they have not had consistent standards.

As far as over all bike ability, long term cities like Minneapolis could blow us out of the water since they already have an extensive multi-use path system, like the American River system in Sacramento which I was blown away by the other week, if they just road dieted their surface streets and improved residential conductivity. The advantage of having many rivers with protected frontage, and lots of large freeways with land, is that you can build multi-use paths….which are expensive… while road diets are not. We just do not have the open corridors of space like these spread out cities do. Once they figure out that reconfiguring arterial space for bikes is good, and properly invest in it, then they could easily create a magnificent system. Where long term, outside of our suburbs as the “Intertwine” is trying to do, we just do not have the open land to build the path network even if we do properly fund it someday. The best we can do for now is well constructed residential greenways and work on short multi-use path connections in the cul-de-sac type outer neighborhoods. This, combined with up-hill shoulder widening/ bike lanes in the west hills, could create an acceptable outer neighborhood system, but of course any widening of an road is massively expensive there because of retaining walls.

Biking in cold and snow is an experience as I commuted in Madison for close to a decade, but you get used to it. Just like I got used to the rain. Different beasts, but you adjust.

Unit
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Unit

Well, if they are giving points for bike lanes but not bike boulevards, and arbitrarily weight MUPs as a factor of 2, their methodology is a bit questionable. But, it’s a good start and hopefully they will refine it going forward.

Barbara
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Barbara

The map shows very well that biking might be great on the east side of Portland between the Willamette and 205, but it’s very limited in SW Portland or outer SE. Sure, hills play a role in that as a limiting factors. They definitely limit the radius of kids, elderly or the 60% “interested but concerned”. Even more important there is no way for bike boulevards because neighborhood streets don’t go through. But even worse is the lack of sidewalks or continuous bikelanes. I think when Portland is touted as this great bike city they mainly think about the eastside and downtown.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

This survey needs to include off street/trail riding as well (mountain biking). In this case Portland would be lower than 50.