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Face-to-face with Portland’s dream, seven years later

Posted by on May 24th, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Portland on the left, Copenhagen on the right.
(Images © J. Maus/BikePortland and the City of Copenhagen)

Tomorrow at this time I’ll be on a plane flying to Copenhagen. Today I punched “Copenhagen” into a search of all my Front Page stories and the earliest instance I found was over seven years ago. It was a post I published on April 5th, 2006 titled, Copenhagen video shows Portland’s dream.

It’s hard to remember, but way back then there was no such thing as the Cycle Chic Movement. There was no Copenhagenize.com. In fact, very little was known or seen of Copenhagen in U.S. bicycling and bike advocacy circles. At the time, I was interested in the video for how it aligned with Portland’s goal to become a “Platinum” Bicycle Friendly Community — an effort the city launched just a few months prior.

“If you’ve been wondering what the City of Portland means when they talk about “going Platinum”, look no further than this fascinating video,” I wrote in 2006. When I forwarded the video to PBOT Bicycle Coordinator Roger Geller he said he found it “Inspiring, not only in what can be achieved, but in the manner in which it can be achieved: focus, time, priorities.”

Portland’s path to Copenhagen-like status has taken a lot of twists and turns in the past seven years, and we’ve even broken down a few times on the way. But as I leave for this trip — where I’ll visit the top three most bike-friendly cities in the world — I feel like Portland is finally finding its bicycle mojo again (more on that later).

Stay tuned for stories and photos from Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Utrecht. On that note, I want to give a big thanks to Portland-based Pro Photo Supply for providing me with an awesome camera and lenses.

While I’m away, our new News Editor Michael Andersen will be captain of the ship from time to time, so expect to see more from him until I return (I’ll be back in Portland June 10th).

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

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El BicicleroOpus the Poetspare_wheelzedMabsf Recent comment authors
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casey
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casey

Very interesting juxtaposition. Two things instantly noticeable: Copenhagen riders are very civil and orderly. Portland riders pretty much all have helmets, and chaotic. Just some observations, but to me they both show a more mature bicycle culture. Not to say helmets aren’t a good idea here, mature bicycle culture also means more mature auto drivers.

dwainedibbly
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dwainedibbly

Have a safe trip! Bring back lots of photos. (Did I ever tell you that Mrs Dibbly is Danish-American?)

Alli
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Alli

Safe travels and have a wonderful time!

Chris Anderson
Guest

This was my favorite neighborhood on our trip there last year http://www.svrdesign.com/blog/2011/02/street-of-the-week-no-8-copenhagens-potato-rows/

Also as a Portlander you’ll probably enjoy Coffee Collective (and the best butcher in Denmark is in the same market, if that’s your thing).

Todd Boulanger
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Todd Boulanger

Have a great trip Jonathan…it will blow your mind in many small ways (as you know the big ways by now)…I remember my first trip to Amsterdam in 1996…now 15+ trips later things still catch my eye…though now it is seeing streets evolve over two or three striping layouts or other tweeks.

Todd Boulanger
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Todd Boulanger

…and my comment on that original page I still stand by it:

“The questions that our leaders have to seriously ask are …’do we want a society with zero collisions and healthy commuters’ and ‘ if Portland’s ciitizens have as many bicycles per capita as say Copenhagen, then why are they not being used…what policies and investments are being mismanaged…in the sense of missing their objective?'”

Chris Shaffer
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Chris Shaffer

Interesting how few helmets you see in the Copenhagen picture.

Yuri Nashun
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Yuri Nashun

By the looks of the bike traffic, you may never get going fast enough to need one? I have no idea what i’m talking about mind you…i’ve never been there.

spare_wheel
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spare_wheel

when the average trip is about a mile there is no reason to be in a hurry or wear a helmet.

El Biciclero
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El Biciclero

“…average trip is about a mile…”

This is my problem. My shortest trip is about a mile; my most frequent trip is about 13. The times I have been unfortunate enough to find myself on what we call separated infrastructure in the city core, my speed drops by about half. That means that it is taking me literally twice as long to travel however far I am stuck at the average speed of bike traffic in a confined space. Most of the time I find myself avoiding physically separated infrastructure if I can help it. What I fear is increasing hostility from motorists who, having seen cyclists using separated infrastructure, will believe that’s the only place I “belong”.

spare_wheel
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spare_wheel

“Most of the time I find myself avoiding physically separated infrastructure if I can help it.”

You are not the only one, el biciclero. I rode NE Multnomah Sat. and I saw 3 cyclists taking the lane and 1 in the new facility.

Opus the Poet
Guest

What this tells me is that what infrastructure you have is second-rate, sub-standard, inadequate, penny-pinching. Good bicycle infrastructure allows cyclists to go as fast as they desire except in limited locations where topography limits sight lines or lane widths. Dutch cyclists typically are limited more by their bicycles than by their infrastructure.

El Biciclero
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El Biciclero

“Good bicycle infrastructure allows cyclists to go as fast as they desire except in limited locations where topography limits sight lines or lane widths.”

Oh, we have that here, too–it’s called “bike lanes”.

Stan Trujillo
Guest

Regarding helmets in Copenhagen, I’ve lived here for seven years, and while helmet use is slowly increasing, it’s still a minority that wear them. When I moved here it was probably one in thirty. Now it might be closer to one in ten that wears a helmet. Personally that’s one of the things I like about cycling here — it’s an actual choice, and people don’t feel obligated to try and shame you into wearing one. I know how this probably sounds to Americans, unless you cycle here for a while, it’s hard to believe how aware of cyclists the motorists are there. That, combined with the fact that almost every street has a completely separated lane for bike traffic makes it remarkably safe. Sure, there are accidents — more than half the population bikes to work every day — but I’ve seen very few cyclists fall in my time here, even in the winter when the lanes are slick. There are fatalities though. They are generally the result of being run over by a truck or bus making a a right corner — something a helmet would do little to prevent.

Scott Mizée
Guest
Scott Mizée

Have an amazing trip Jonathan. I can’t wait to experience these cities vicariously through your camera lens. Do stop and visit Henry Cutler at Work Cycles while in the Dam. I’m also interested in seeing your documentation of green waves and bike parking facilities. Travel safe!

AndyC of Linnton
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AndyC of Linnton

I’m really looking forward to this coverage, perspective,your photos, and what we should learn from a progressive bicycling city. And now I am also looking forward to, “I feel like Portland is finally finding it’s bicycle mojo again(more on that later)”. Bon voyage.

longgone
Guest
longgone

Nyd en dansk øl til os!

dsaxena
Guest
dsaxena

Have fun! I visited Copenhagen back in November and totally fell in love with the bike friendliness. I’m currently in Vancouver, BC and wondering why we don’t hear about our neighbor to the north when talking about bike-friendly cities. Biking here is simply awesome. Good signage, good separation, drivers that seem pretty respectful of bikes.

Mabsf
Guest
Mabsf

I moved to Portland winter of 2004… While it doesn’t feel hat different to me who always cycled ( no choice!), I see the fuller bike racks. I don’t think we will ever be kopenhagen, but we can be Portland – let’s find out what works for us and people here… So, have fun, J. and bring back ideas…

zed
Guest

I don’t believe we ever will be Copenhagen. Our cities are far too different, our cultures unique. But what we are is the Pedal Party Capital of the World. No one parties to the pedal harder than Portland, Oregon. Copenhagen may have the numbers, the bikes but we have the Pedal Party.

z.