Oregon moves up to third in new Bike-Friendly State rankings

Oregon Bicycle Summit
Bike rack in Sisters, Oregon.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The League of American Bicyclists released their annual Bicycle Friendly States rankings today. Oregon came in third place, which is up from fifth place in 2012 and represents a significant improvement over our eighth place ranking in 2011. The top state in the 2013 rankings is our northern neighbor Washington (they were also #1 last year), Colorado came in second, and Minnesota and Delaware rounded out the top five.

The rankings, which first came out in 2008, are determined primarily through a questionnaire sent to each state’s bicycle coordinator (in Oregon that title belongs to Sheila Lyons at the Oregon Department of Transportation). Answers from the questionnaire are then fact-checked by League staff in collaboration with leaders from bike advocacy groups. The League scored each state on how well they performed in five categories: legislation and enforcement; programs and policies; infrastructure; education and encouragement; and evaluation and planning. Among those five categories, Oregon fared poorly in the “infrastructure and funding” category, earning just 20-40% of the total possible points.

Here’s a graphic of the scoring breakdown for the top five states:

When thinking about these rankings, it’s important to keep in mind that the evaluation process is far from comprehensive. As I shared in 2011 in trying to explain our eighth place ranking, even League President Andy Clarke acknowledges that not all of the programs and policies in place in Oregon are captured by the League’s process (like for example, our nation-leading Scenic Bikeways Program). That being said, the League has made it clear that Oregon’s mandatory sidepath law (ORS 814.420) continues to drag down our ranking. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance has said they feel the law is “bad public policy” and they’d like it repealed; but it never came up during this legislative session.

On the bright side, ODOT has just embarked on an update of their 1995 Bike and Pedestrian Plan. They will spend $500,000 on a major update that will not only modernize Oregon’s bike-related policies; but the plan itself will take a significant step up in terms of bureaucratic respect. Once completed, it will put the bike plan at the same level as the freight and highway plans. (“We’re sitting at the big kid’s table now,” is how ODOT Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator Sheila Lyons described it to me recently.)

And there are even deeper institutional changes happening at ODOT that are very exciting for bicycling but that I don’t think are reflected at all in these rankings. Given those changes, along with the new mode plan in the works, it’s not hard to envision us as #1 in the very near future.

Learn more about the League’s Bike Friendly States program here.

UPDATE: The BTA has posted their reaction to the rankings.

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