Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on October 10th, 2018 at 9:19 am
It’s a frequent topic of conversation in local advocacy circles that Portland has lost some of its swagger when it comes to being a leader for cycling in America.
Today, Bicycling Magazine released its biennial rankings of America’s best cities for cycling and Portland came out in 5th place — our worst position ever.
“Portland has only built 5.2 miles of protected lanes. Seattle and San Francisco built 15 and 18 miles respectively in in that same period.”
Seattle grabbed the top spot on the list this year, followed by San Francisco, Fort Collins, and Minneapolis in the top five. Eugene nabbed sixth with Chicago, Madison, New York City, and Cambridge rounding out the top ten.
For context, here’s how Portland has fared in these rankings in the past decade:
1st in 2008
2nd in 2010
1st in 2012
4th in 2014
3rd in 2016
5th in 2018
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Here’s the methodology they used:
The Bicycling editorial team reviewed U.S. Census and Department of Transportation data on more than 100 cities, consulted with experts and examined data from organizations including People for Bikes and the League of American Bicyclists. The editors looked at the overall percentage of bike commuters in each city and the rate by which that number is growing. They cataloged the amount and quality of cycling infrastructure in each city—including miles of protected bike lanes, buffered bike lanes, and off-street pathways —and how recently it has been implemented. They accounted for transportation budgets, civic and political commitments, and implementation of data-driven policies that make cities safer for cyclists, like lowering speed limits, narrowing lanes, and revamping problematic intersections. The editors also took historical performance and future projections into account and asked each city to explain its plan for ensuring people of all income levels have equal access to safe streets. Finally, the editors hit the streets and talked to local advocates, officials, and everyday riders in each city on the final list, as well as in those cities that did not make the cut.
The blurb about Portland on Bicycling’s website (and that will appear on newsstands in their November/December issue) cited our lack of high-quality, protected bike lanes as the main reason for our slip to 5th. “Since we last put out this guide two years ago,” it reads, “Portland has only built 5.2 miles of protected lanes. Seattle and San Francisco built 15 and 18 miles respectively in in that same period.” The blurb also features a promise from PBOT that between now and 2020 Portland will build 24.4 miles of protected bike lanes citywide.
If we make good on that promise, I’d fully expect Portland to grab the top spot next time around.
(Note: Please keep in mind these rankings are more art than science. While they’re easy to dismiss, Bicycling remains one of one most wide-reaching cycling media outlets in America and a lot of people will read this. They’ve also been doing these rankings since 1990, so they deserve credit for longevity. For a look at a more technically rigorous ranking, check out how Portland did in a recent comparison of 480 US cities by the nonprofit People for Bikes.)
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