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Subscriber Post: The Seven Bicycle Infrastructure Wonders of Portland

Here is my list, in no particular order:

The Steel Bridge lower deck/floating Esplanade. Created thanks to the Bike Bill and Street Trust lawsuit, this is the most spectacular of the crucial bridge and waterfront connections that made Portland’s eye-popping biking boom of the 2000s happen. The floating section of the Esplanade is one of the city’s most wonderful public spaces.

Clinton Street’s traffic diverters. The old one at Chavez improbably turned a busy commercial collector into a bikey commercial street and also created the single most bike-friendly crossing of Chavez; the new ones, created by direct activism in the face of city staff opposition, turned the bikey commercial street into a truly comfortable commercial bikeway.


The dedicated bike signal phases at Broadway & Williams. This happened before my time so I don’t really know the story but the care with which this was done, I think the illegality with which it was done, and the indisputable rightness of it, all make this little detail extraordinary IMO.

The Go By Bike valet at SW Moody and Whitaker. It’s a simple idea that most cities would have drowned in bureaucracy. It’s been growing each year by double digit percentages. It makes acres of parking lots unnecessary, saving OHSU millions. It’s the most visually spectacular testament to the city’s bikeability. It boosts bike use despite not being in any transportation demand management handbook, because nobody has ever bothered to calculate the psychological effect of just seeing other people use bikes and making it stupidly simple to join them.

The 11 mph green wave on downtown streets It’ll never recruit the uninitiated for the same reason it’s so effective: it’s invisible. The traffic signal timing on downtown’s one-way streets makes the entire downtown comfortable for riders who are confident enough to discover it, and without a single moan from anyone in a car. That’s not to mention the fact that it makes most downtown traffic nonlethal, saving countless lives and limbs.

The first 100 bike corrals. This is the only item on this list that might be unique by international standards. The quality of bike parking in central Portland’s streetcar-era commercial districts is, as far as I can tell, unmatched. The program was designed by city bureaucrats who used existing materials creatively for the audacious goal of making bike parking plentiful and convenient. Their successful application strategy of just waiting for businesses to ask for them is almost as audacious.

…And the number of bikes parked around the bottom of the Portland Building. Not the terrible wheel-grabbing parking machines, but the number of them that are used by city employees from every bureau … and, along with it, the number of car parking spaces on site at the Portland Building. (Almost zero.) More than any other single factor, this might be the driving force behind Portland’s relative bike-friendliness.

If I were still writing regularly for the site I would pitch Jonathan on a series where we looked at each of these and told the story of how it happened. Anybody (including Jonathan) want to do that?

And what items are on your list?

— Michael Andersen, @andersem on Twitter.

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