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Is Portland the Indianapolis of the future? Six questions for Urbanophile Aaron Renn

Posted by on November 7th, 2014 at 10:05 am

Aaron Renn of Urbanophile.com is rarely
dull and didn’t disappoint.
(Photo: Jin Won (James) Park)

For years, people have been convincing Aaron Renn to share his nuanced opinions about Portland. So last week, he finally decided to visit.

Way back in 1998, Renn launched one of the country’s first blogs so he could cover the Chicago Transit Authority. In recent years he’s been based in Indianapolis, running a data analysis startup and sharing thoughts about cities on his website Urbanophile.com and elsewhere.

After Renn returned to Indianapolis, we caught up with him by phone to get his perspectives on the truths and fictions of Portland’s reputation, the ups and downs of our bike infrastructure and his intriguing theory that Portlanders have an existential problem: we might be too similar to each other to have useful disagreements.

We’ve been reading your work for years. What brought you to Portland?

I had a few reasons. One was I’d never been to Portland. It was kind of embarrassing. And I wanted to interview the mayor. And then I had two friends who moved out there. My friend Curt, he got tired of smashing his face against the wall here. And I’m doing a project in southern Indiana — across from Louisville. So I wanted to see Vancouver, Washington. It’s sort of a similar relationship.

So what did you think?

I was impressed. I really liked Portland.

You say that over the course of a few days you stayed near Portland State University, spent some time in Northwest, took a trip down Division and a daytrip exploring the Couv. What surprised you?

I thought the downtown was incredibly dense and bustling. There was a significant amount of major chain retail in downtown — urban Target and those things. That surprised me. I expected Portland to be fairly neighborhood-centric. And I think it’s actually downtown-centric.

I thought that the transit system was better than I thought it would be, to be honest. I knew the MAX was on 15-minute headways. But through the center city there are multiplex lines, so you have effectively 7.5-minute headways. Only once did I not have a bus or train come very quickly.

I was surprised that Uber was banned. Outside of the airport, I didn’t see any taxis, so I’m not sure what they’re protecting.

I was expecting to see a lot more people on bicycles. Maybe I was expecting it to look like Amsterdam. I didn’t see a whole lot of bicyclers, to be candid. I’m not necessarily the biggest bicycler. If I lived there I would probably walk and use transit the whole time.

Oh, and there’s a huge freeway right through downtown!

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Sharrows to Sparrows ride

You mention that you didn’t see a ton of bikes. Some of it is where you were. There’s not much good bike infrastructure on the west side of the river. And on the east side, there’s a terrific neighborhood greenway network on the side streets. It’s definitely more comfortable than painted bike lanes on big streets. So over the last few years lots of people have started using them instead of the bike lanes. That’s part of why you wouldn’t have seen many bikes on Division. Any thoughts?

If the bikes aren’t on the streets where the businesses are, it’s kind of like the idea that pedestrianizing streets didn’t work. I’m sure it’s great if you’re going long-distances, if you’re commuting.

The other thing is that we all have a kind of built-in experience of navigating on streets. If there’s some kind of off-street network, I would be myself less likely to use it because I would be like, How do I find it? Where does it go?

But I’m not opposed. To be honest, when I was biking around Indianapolis, I preferred the side streets. Unless you have the truly protected, separated bike lanes, it can be not-super-pleasant to be on the street. I’d almost rather ride on it without the lane.

Traffic observations- NE Alberta St-12

A sign on NE Alberta encouraging use of side streets.

Let’s talk about your current city, Indianapolis. I was there this spring and the Cultural Trail seems like one of the most important bike facilities in the country.

Jarrett Walker is doing some work here. He said that Indianapolis reminds him of Portland 40 years ago. And it’s easy to see why: The residential fabric is very similar. Worker cottages, narrow side streets.

The Cultural Trail is an absolutely world-class project. What I like about it is it’s not a copy of something anybody else did. Indianapolis, oddly enough, one of the things it does well is occasionally go against the grain. I think the downside of Indianapolis is that a few things, they’re awesome. But everything else is, like, sub-par.

Summer bike traffic-10-10

Another unusual thing about Portland: We’re the whitest major metro area in the country. Did you notice that? Do you think that has anything to do with all this?

It is extraordinarily white there, definitely palpably white in a profound way. The Northwest is a long way from the South, and there wasn’t as much industry as in the Midwest. It was well known as being one of the most racist cities on the West Coast. It wouldn’t have had many black people, and it did its best to keep people from coming.

Racial dynamics explain a lot about Cleveland. White people, if they didn’t physically abandon the city, they psychologically abandoned it. But in Portland, if you’re a white homeowner in 1965, you’re not worried that your neighborhood is going to become a black neighborhood. [If you’re black] you’re so clearly a tiny minority that you’re not going to have the same dynamics. Its urban core retained such affection in the [white] population because it wasn’t associated with black people.

Is Portland really diverse enough to be a truly cosmopolitan city? And not just diverse in terms of race. In terms of ideology. It’s kind of like you get the People’s Judean Front and the People’s Front of Judea, you know? If you don’t have some people with truly different points of view, are you really generating enough conflict to generate innovation? Do you have a diverse enough community, racially, economically and ideologically, to create actual collisions? If you think of the true creative capitals of the world, they are far more diverse. If you want to be a creative capital, I would say that you want to have more diversity.

Qs & As edited for brevity and clarity.

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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

59 Comments
  • tedder November 7, 2014 at 10:31 am

    Disappointed he didn’t notice all the bicyclists. There are a *lot* in the NW district, so it must have been time of day and where he was.

    As I’m typing this I watched a bicyclist roll past.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) November 7, 2014 at 10:59 am

      He also mentioned that he wasn’t out and about much during rush hour. But even in NW, are the good walking/transit streets also the popular biking streets?

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      • tedder November 8, 2014 at 7:06 pm

        I wrote that at 10:30am (not rush hour) and was watching bicycles crossing 23rd on a non-bikeway street (Pettygrove).

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      • Sara F January 8, 2015 at 5:19 am

        Respectfully these flippant half informed comments from Mr. Renn seem to be the norm. I stumbled across some of his blogs and as they relate to Indianapolis, are simple not true. I quickly noticed his routine, pick a city rip it apart then compare it to another city. Next he will babble on and on until you are so sick and confused by his fact less diatribe you begin nodding off. Does he live in Indianapolis or NYC?? He wrote a big fat blog about NOT living in Indy because it’s so lame and antiquated. Then I read that he DOES live here?’ THEN he wrote about a few very specific areas of town and he was frankly all over the place?! He also has some strange obsession with bringing Indianapolis into really everything!! All I know is this, if what he claim to know about Indy is any indication of his vast knowledge my suggestion would be to do some research !!!

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    • Ted Buehler November 7, 2014 at 11:30 am

      I spent 15 mins at the corner of NW 10th and Lovejoy on a sunny August afternoon. I counted bikes. There were 4. One of them almost crashed on the streetcar tracks. I expect if I returned a week later and counted there would only be 3. Pearl District /= Bikeabity.

      Ted Buehler

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      • maccoinnich November 7, 2014 at 12:36 pm

        You picked the corner with the most complicated intersection of streetcar tracks in the entire system. Are we meant to be surprised that you didn’t see more cyclists?

        I’m all for making the Pearl more bike friendly, but let’s be real here. If you had picked Johnson, Marshall or Overton you would have seen a lot more bikes. Speaking from experience, NW Portland (including the Pearl) is a great part of the city to live in without a car.

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        • Ted Buehler November 7, 2014 at 5:50 pm

          mac — clarification — I counted all the bicyclists I saw in the distance as well as the ones that went through the intersection. Including bicyclist on the Lovejoy Viaduct a block away. I was pretty surprised at the low number.

          FWIW,
          Ted Buehler

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          • maccoinnich November 8, 2014 at 12:01 am

            OK, I could believe it if you were only talking about NW 10th & Lovejoy itself, but are you are really trying to say that on a sunny afternoon in August you didn’t even see 5 cyclists in 15 minutes going up or down the ramp onto to the Broadway Bridge? I’m sorry, but that’s just not credible.

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    • GlowBoy November 7, 2014 at 1:09 pm

      If Renn didn’t see very many bicycles he was just looking in the wrong places. Maybe he called us downtown-centric because his visit was probably downtown-centric – the same mistake made by a lot of visitors to Portland.

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      • Jeff November 7, 2014 at 1:26 pm

        Agreed on your comments. He just didn’t get out to see the bustling neighborhoods. A well rounded city has both, and we’ve done a good job of striking the balance. We’re not overly chain heavy for a downtown and our neighborhoods are more local than most cities.

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      • dave November 7, 2014 at 1:28 pm

        If we were good at bike infrastructure there wouldn’t be right and wrong places to find bikes.

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      • Ted Buehler November 7, 2014 at 6:37 pm

        glowboy wrote:
        “If Renn didn’t see very many bicycles he was just looking in the wrong places. ”

        Um, or, those of us that think there’s lots of bicycles everywhere spend all of our time on bike routes.

        There’s a shockingly and depressingly small number of bicycles in this town compared to the number of cars.

        Ever counted them?

        In 2013 I did the bike count at Williams and Russell, one of the busiest bike routes in the city. There were a decent number of bikes. About 600 per hour, as I recall. But, there were at least 3x as many cars. And that’s just northbound cars on Williams. Add in northbound cars on Interstate, Mississippi, I-5, and MLK and you have a whole lot of cars.

        Want to be depressed? Next time you have 15 mins free during the day, go to an intersection that somewhat bike-friendly, and count cars and bikes. For Portland Metro, multiply the number of bikes by 10, and the number of cars by 1000.

        Just sayin…

        Ted Buehler

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        • davemess November 8, 2014 at 9:04 am

          Why is this depressing? We all already know bike modeshare to only be ~5-8%. I guess I would expect to see this.

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      • Doug Klotz November 7, 2014 at 7:07 pm

        He got to Division street, which is certainly a bustling neighborhood street at this point. And… it doesn’t have bikes on it because the city does not support that (despite the designation in the bike plan, ignored during the design of the recent streetscape improvements). Heartily agree that if you can’t ride your bike on the main commercial streets, you’re not really able to be an involved resident of the city. You get a second-class experience, socially and economically. Yes, it’s more pleasant to ride on the back street bike boulevards, but you’re separated from the rest of the life of the city. That said, Division is now slow enough because of all the activity that it’s getting easier to take the lane there.

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  • Jerryw November 7, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Hey, I have two bumper stickers on my car, one says “Diversity” and the other says “Coexist”. Not sure what this guy is missing here.

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    • q`Tzal November 7, 2014 at 12:25 pm

      My pasty white countenance is dragging down the city average. Time to go hide like a good Morlock.
      /s

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    • GlowBoy November 7, 2014 at 1:07 pm

      Putting a “Diversity” sticker on your car is nice wishful thinking, but doesn’t change the fact that it is by far the whitest major city in America. If you come here from elsewhere it is really striking how very few black faces you see in most middle class enclaves.

      Every time I’m back in Minneapolis (yes. Minneapolis.) I’m struck by how massively more diverse it is than here. Portland might be trying very hard now, but spent many decades doing its damnedest to keep black people from moving here, and it will take a long time to overcome that.

      I hadn’t really thought about lack of ideological diversity in this way before, but as TonyT pointed out the fluoride debate showed how a lot of Portlanders are so used to consensus that we don’t always know how to avoid insulting each other when we disagree passionately. We’re not used to it. That debate was far uglier and more divisive than it needed to be.

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      • Anthony November 7, 2014 at 1:40 pm

        Uhhh, pretty sure commenter was being sarcastic.

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    • Joseph E November 7, 2014 at 1:47 pm

      I hope this comment is in jest, because I laughed. I’m a little worried that the original post may have been made in earnest.

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      • q`Tzal November 7, 2014 at 2:05 pm

        His comment would have been more at home framed inside the “First World Problems” meme picture.

        As ridiculous as some of those get, and indecipherable as the emojis get, the younger generation has grown up knowing that sarcasm and similar opaque social states don’t translate in text without an extra visual cue.
        Ta-da! silly repetitive pictures.

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  • Andyc of Linnton November 7, 2014 at 10:53 am

    I liked his interview with Hales. Thanks for this interview with Renn. It completes the loop.

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  • TonyT
    TonyT November 7, 2014 at 11:55 am

    “his intriguing theory that Portlanders have an existential problem: we might be too similar to each other to have useful disagreements.”

    I think there’s a lot of truth to that. And then when we do have disagreements, such as fluoride in the water, and recently measure 92 (GMO), we’re so used to agreeing, that we aren’t quite sure how to deal when we don’t. Add to that the “Portland nice” dynamic and we just talk benignly around the edges.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 7, 2014 at 12:27 pm

      I think that’s also part of the reason for our complacency/stagnation when it comes to biking. Most of the biking industrial complex in Portland has been pretty much the same crowd of similar people. We need new voices from outside the echo chamber to come in and shake things up.

      This is partly why i’ve tried to stay as independent as possible and why Michael and I are always looking to elevate and spotlight new voices. Disagreements are good! (which is also why I moderate comments the way I do).

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  • pixelgate November 7, 2014 at 11:58 am

    What’s up with that headline? Is being Indianapolis a good thing? I’d much rather Portland be the Portland of the future. I visited Indianapolis once and was thoroughly unimpressed.. please don’t make Portland like that.

    As for the Pearl, I agree that bikeability there is dismal. 90% of instances where I’m nearly doored happens there, and that little stretch on Marshall w/ the bike lanes in the brick/cobbled road is probably the most dangerous place you could ever cycle in Portland apart from that nightmare intersection where Sandy meets Burnside.

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    • Jason November 7, 2014 at 3:53 pm

      I am from Indianapolis, and that headline scared the bajeezus out of me. Thankfully, Portland is very dissimilar from Indianapolis. Indianapolis is like Tigard without the infrastructure and landscaping.

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      • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
        Michael Andersen (News Editor) November 7, 2014 at 4:36 pm

        I think you guys are interpreting it in reverse of the way I meant it. It’s a reference to Renn quoting Jarrett Walker’s observation that the Indianapolis of today is physically similar to the Portland of the 1970s.

        It’s Indy that gets more like PDX in this scenario, not vice versa.

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    • gutterbunnybikes November 8, 2014 at 12:28 am

      Really????? In this age of box box stores and and fast food most cities are more the same than they are different…..that include Portland as well.

      Though not Indy, I have family on the northern side of Indiana, and I can tell you one thing Indiana has. and that it is that its flat. 60+ miles no problem…don”t even break a sweet in August. Lots of great back road highways with low traffic, covered bridges, and old farms. And from personal experience folks that drive you an over hour home when you get flat when you forgot your patch kit.

      Don’t kid yourself, there is lots of amazing biking all across this country, Portland doesn’t have a lock on that activity. Geographically the Midwest north of the Ohio River Valley should be #1 across the country hands down. Lots of small towns (fewer than 5 miles across) every few miles on low traffic state highways and flat as a pancake. Really biking doesn’t get much easier than that part of the country.

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      • davemess November 8, 2014 at 9:08 am

        Except we’re talking about cities. Portland is hands down one of (if not the) safest, most comfortable city in the US to mix it up with traffic downtown on a bike (and I’m talking about biking on just about any street, not just sticking to the designated bike routes). I grew up in Cleveland, and definitely cannot say the same about it.

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  • Jeffrey C November 7, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    When did you last visit Indy? It’s never going to be Portland, but we have an amazing quality of life with ridiculously affordable housing in the primary downtown core with walkable access to almost all of our major museums and sporting venues + a burgeoning foodie scene. Come give us another look.

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    • Andrew N November 7, 2014 at 1:23 pm

      I drove through Indy last year and spent a day there. Seemed like a really cool city to me. Some amazing architecture, beautiful old neighborhoods and retail districts, and way more bikes on the road than I expected.

      Also, I’m not concerned about Portland getting its mojo back. The pendulum always swings. We’re stuck with the last gasp of an older generation of ineffective leaders at the moment, but there are a ton of younger people waiting in the wings to take the reins. It may take 5-10 years but we’ll see visionaries win elected office again.

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    • jeff bernards November 9, 2014 at 10:04 am

      Did you see the election results for the country? Basically I’m not interested in visiting any parts of America– east of the Oregon/California/Washington borders. But, hey glad you like it,enjoy.

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      • davemess November 9, 2014 at 2:19 pm

        This attitude frustrates me so much in PNW. And is likely some of the reason that we have some odd quirks, like our affinity for your hated studded tires.

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  • puddlecycle November 7, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    I’m glad you asked about the homogeneity, it was the first thing that struck me about Portland. Is anyone in government actively encouraging diversity?

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    • rainbike November 7, 2014 at 2:11 pm

      Government is busy filling potholes in streets and removing leaves from bike lanes. I’m not convinced that promoting diversity should be high on the list of essential government functions. That isn’t one of the services I expect in exchange for paying taxes.

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      • spare_wheel November 7, 2014 at 3:23 pm

        It’s one of the things I want our local government to prioritize. Pothole filling, not so much.

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        • rainbike November 7, 2014 at 4:37 pm

          There you have it, puddlecycle, diversity.

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  • matt November 7, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    Who is this guy and why is he supposed to be interesting?

    Opinions are like buttholes, and this guy has a ton of them…

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  • davemess November 7, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    “I expected Portland to be fairly neighborhood-centric. And I think it’s actually downtown-centric.”

    When you mostly visit downtown (let’s be honest much of NW is pretty much downtown), it’s not surprising that you would have this view.

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    • Alan 1.0 November 8, 2014 at 10:32 am

      When I read Renn’s take on “downtown-centric,” my thoughts were, “oh yeah, that’s what the outer neighborhoods have been saying for years, and here he picked up on that right away.” To me, his observation gives cred to those neighborhood voices.

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      • davemess November 8, 2014 at 10:33 pm

        I live in an outer neighborhood and I don’t feel that way. I think many of the complaints you are referencing are more oriented to towards transit and bike infrastructure focused on going downtown (and that the majority of spending in this city goes towards the central city), and not necessarily neighborhood to neighborhood.

        I feel somewhat confident that the comments made in this article aren’t referencing these kind of issues. He also commented how “dense” downtown is, while people on here for years have been deriding downtown for having too many 2 story properties.

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  • davemess November 7, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Interestingly I don’t see a lot of people flocking to outer NE and SE and East Portland for the diversity.

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  • Justin Gast November 7, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    I love when out of towners come into Portland and make statement like “where are all the cyclists?” What’s his name from D.C. did the same thing when he visited PDX during the summer time.

    Park your car down by OMSI and walk up to the Eastside off-ramp from Hawthorne and tell me how many cyclists you “don’t see.”

    Grab a bite or drink anywhere on Williams, NE 28th, Interstate, Broadway, Clinton, etc., and tell me how many cyclists you don’t see.

    You want to see cyclists in NW? Sit in the corner at World Cup Coffee and watch how many cyclists go thrown the intersections of 18th and NW Glisan and 19th and NW Glisan.

    This doesn’t even count the other busy neighborhood streets around PDX, such as NE/N Rosa Parks/Willamette, Ladd’s, etc.

    Out of towners want to see Division because it was rated one of the top 5 up and coming streets in the U.S. These same folks also want to experience the Pearl, because they read all the New York Times articles about the Pearl and think the Pearl defines Portland. Unfortunately, in my opinion, cycling in these two areas is probably the worst in the inner city.

    If I’m in SE, I fly up Belmont. If I’m in NW, I’ll stay on Natio till Thurman, then hitting 19th from there.

    You just got to know where to go.

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    • Daniel L November 10, 2014 at 2:10 pm

      When I visited D.C. recently I didn’t have to go out of my way to find the bicycles. They are a frequent site on literally every street in all of the neighborhoods that I visited.

      I would ask where would you expect there to be cyclists if you don’t see them downtown? Downtown is where the majority of our hotels are located. It is the largest employment hub, it has a huge daytime population surge. Why would you not see lots of bicycles downtown in a city where bicycles are popular?

      Portland does great at bike commute numbers, and if you look during rush hour there are plenty of bikes in some place. Portland remains lousy at overall bikeability though, we segregate bikes onto a handful of specific routes that are usually away from commercial streets for one thing. That makes casual bicycle use next to impossible. For another the vast majority of the biking is happening in only a couple neighborhoods in close-in SE and N/NE. Anywhere outside of those neighborhoods and bikes are no more common than almost anywhere else in the country.

      In short your statement “you have to know where to go” is exactly the problem. You should just be able to ride your bike somewhere, you shouldn’t have to know the secret route to get there.

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  • Matt November 7, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    Portland is the Portland of the future.

    Indianapolis? I have been traveling there for nearly 20 years for business. If anything, Indianapolis could learn a lot from Portland.

    These cities couldn’t be farther apart culturally, or from an infrastructure perspective.

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    • bendite November 7, 2014 at 9:21 pm

      Indy has more racial diversity than Portland, but like many midwest cities, it’s awfully segregated. Many white people’s interactions with blacks are often limited to driving through black neighborhoods. This segregation can often negate what racial diversity there is in a city as a whole.

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  • Dwaine Dibbly November 7, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    How was the weather when he was here? We know that commuting falls off by close to 50% when it’s bad (from the Hawthorne Bridge bike counter) and October has twice the usual rainfall. Perhaps that’s why he didn’t see as many bikes as he expected. Come back in August!

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  • Curtis Ailes November 7, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    As the “Curt” from the story above, I can support most of what Aaron says. My family has lived here since February (from Indy) and there is a lot of truth about cycling that doesn’t seem as it should.

    I agree that there is a great deal of echo chamber going on here. But there is also a tremendous amount of potential as well.

    As an outsider (and someone who came with big expectations) Portland has left a lot to be desired from the cycling experience. Does that mean I do not ride? I ride every day.

    But the attitude exuded outside of Portland builds an expectation for visitors and newcomers alike.

    As a lifetime PDX’r, I can see how Renn’s comments could be taken as a jab. But as a newcomer, I can support a lot of what he says.

    My wife and I have chatted with Michael about this a little bit, and maybe it will be the topic of a future bikeportland post.

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    • davemess November 8, 2014 at 9:15 am

      Sure, no one is denying that Portland has (perhaps unfairly) been hyped to an unattainable level.

      But to say that Portland is downtown-centric and not neighborhood-oriented is just silly. Esp. when the author appears to have not really spent much time in many places besides downtown. (and I say this not as a lifetimer (I’ve only been here for over 4 years).

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    • Tim Davis November 14, 2014 at 9:00 pm

      Welcome, Curt!! I don’t know if you read the “Minneapolis is no Portland” article, but it was FULL of Portlanders absolutely ripping on Portland’s cycling infrastructure. Believe me, we’re unbelievably hard on ourselves, but it’s all in an effort to wake up our civic leaders and get some progress made after several years or more of major disappointments. And we VERY much welcome your criticism and aid in our efforts! 🙂

      By the way, I checked out the Indianapolis Cultural Trail in January; it really is absolutely phenomenal!! There truly is nothing else quite like it. The heavenly car-free network seems to hit every cool neighborhood surrounding and including downtown Indy. LOVE it! It’ll only get more popular with time, as well.

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    • Steve Raye September 11, 2018 at 1:10 pm

      You and Renn think alike because you’re both from Indy, a city that rewards conformity of thought like no other place on the planet. I’ve cycled in Indianapolis…a lot. It’s awful. And this constant touting of the Cultural Trail has to stop. It’s a tourist toy, not bicycle infrastructure.
      Sorry Portland has disappointed you. If you moved there for cycling, you should have checked out Minneapolis first. Prettier, more Midwestern, cheaper and closer to home… Also the best cycling city in North America with the possible exception of Montreal.

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  • gutterbunnybikes November 8, 2014 at 10:00 am

    ehhhh…a road shoulder is a road shoulder. Doesn’t matter if you got little stick men riding bikes painted on them or not. And honestly, those of us that grew up riding in lanes with traffic still prefer that to bike shoulders for many reasons.

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    • gutterbunnybikes November 8, 2014 at 10:01 am

      this was a response to my comment above…Sorry about that

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  • Adron @ Transit Sleuth November 8, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    It’s funny when people are always expecting bikes to show up, I always look for people riding bikes. It seems they show up a lot more when people are riding on the bike versus when they just miraculously fall out of the sky.

    ..all pedantic joking aside. I totally get where he is coming from with a lot of those comments. Unless you’re in the east side neighborhoods and have been here for a while, newcomers generally don’t notice the vibrancy and lifestyle of the Portland east side… and just as east of the river to about 39th doesn’t see how 40th-60th or 61st-82nd lives either… each section really is its own thing and they all kind of interoperate without an externally visible view – in other words, there was no way for him to really see a lot of east side life if he’s sitting around downtown or visiting Division Street (which really isn’t representative now, nor was it in the past).

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  • John Liu
    John Liu November 9, 2014 at 8:04 am

    Wait – so this guy has been writing lots of sage editorials and blogging his pronouncements about Portland for how long, and he’d never actually set foot in this city until just now?

    I suppose now he’ll be the “ultimate” authority on Portland, after spending two days here.

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  • Tyler November 9, 2014 at 8:44 am

    Interesting. We have some Spanish bike tourists staying with us this week, and they made some similar observations.
    I think its good to get outside POV, so we don’t rest too long on our laurels.

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  • kittens November 10, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    Gotta love these “experts” who parachute in and size up the situation from the window of a downtown hotel.

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