Cycling up 5% in Portland over last year, city report finds

A person on an e-bike rolls on SE 148th on February 6th, 2024. (Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Biking was up in Portland in 2023 about 17% of riders were on e-bikes. Those are two findings of the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s latest bicycle counts.

PBOT has conducted manual counts of bicycle riders since at least 2000. The annual exercise has become an important and reliable bellwether of cycling’s overall health in the city. The 2022 counts, released last March, revealed a precipitous drop that led to countless headlines and soul-searching among many local policymakers and bike advocates. Last year’s numbers were expected but were nevertheless a difficult pill to swallow.

The 2023 counts were tallied during peak commute times for two-hour intervals at 272 locations citywide. 114 volunteers took part in the process between June and the end of September.

According to a preview of the report that will be made public for the first time at the PBOT Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting tonight, the number of people bicycling in Portland in 2023 was up 5% over last year. That’s still down 32% relative to 2019, but it’s still a notch in the right direction. The Northwest district saw an increase of 15% over 2022 and East Portland was up 12%.

“Biking probably bottomed-out about 2021,” said PBOT Planner Sean Doyle at the BAC meeting tonight. “And then increases to 2022. And now our counts are showing us that it continued to increase into 2023. And I’d expect that the Census data that comes out later this year will will reinforce that.”

The report also tallied electric bike and other micromobility vehicle riders for the first time ever. Counters tallied an average of nearly 17% of all riders on e-bikes last year. Skateboard and electric scooters made up significant portions of the traffic in the East, Northwest, and Central City districts.

PBOT says a full report should be completed by early March. Check out the preview report for yourself here, and refresh this page for updates from the BAC meeting that I’ll make between now and 7:30 pm Tuesday (2/13).

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Todd/Boulanger
2 months ago

On the face of this its “good news”…

Though I was surprised at only a 17% share for e-bikes. As our “dining room” / “kitchen window while washing dishes” ocular survey of the Columbia Street PBL (aka the I-5 Bike Highway) as a 2x to 3x higher proportion of e-bikes. Somedays it seems to be half of the bike traffic.

I wish PBoT set up a station on the south landings of the I-5 bridges as these are easy choke points to capture all who shall pass.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
2 months ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

Maybe a good location for modern 24/7 infrared counters like most jurisdictions now use?

Johnny Bye Carter
Johnny Bye Carter
2 months ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

I was wondering how they’re determining what an e-bike is. Mine doesn’t have a battery sticking out, or a huge wheel hub. So I’m sure the count is actually higher than 17%.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
2 months ago

Several people have asked me how I’m able to conceal a battery on my ebike, even though my bike isn’t an ebike and it has no battery or motor other than my legs, so I’m skeptical that the counters even can tell one from the other without stopping riders to find out. (Apparently my bike looks like an ebike, maybe it’s the large tubing, maybe because I’m big and fat they expect me to use an ebike, or maybe it’s the 8″ rotor on the rear? I don’t know.)

Electric Vehicle Enthusiast
Electric Vehicle Enthusiast
2 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Given how many e-bikes have tiny hub motors and batteries in the frame, the idea that someone random person standing on a street corner could accurately count e-bike use is abaurd.

comment image

Does this look like and e-bike?

(It’s the most popular e-bike being sold by Trek.)

Liz
Liz
2 months ago

That’s a really good point! I volunteer with the bike count and it’s up to the volunteer to distinguish. I definitely rely on seeing a battery or noticing how fast the bike is moving relative to the cars and the incline. If you’re at an incline uphill, it’s pretty easy to spot ebikes. But you have definitely pointed out a reason this may be an undercount.

Alexandar Hull-Richter
Alexandar Hull-Richter
2 months ago

That is an interesting question. A lot of e-bikes have the electric components, not specifically concealed, but very well integrated into the bike, so if you didn’t know how to recognize that was an ebike, you would never know. More high-end bikes like a Specialized Vado, Specialized Levo, or BMC and Cervélo’s e-road-bikes in particular.

Speed is not always an indication, as some riders are relatively fast without a motor. I’ve definitely gotten a confidence boost from being able to drop class 1 bikes on mild climbs and I don’t use a motor.

Surly Ogre
Joe Bicycles
2 months ago

This is welcome and good news. Yay for Portland !

prioritarian
prioritarian
2 months ago

5% of 3% is 3.15%.

The boosterism in this blog post is off putting and shows a lack of urgency.

It’s not clear whether small change is simply noise and secondly even if it were significant it would be nothing to celebrate. For example, at a 5% rate of increase it would take almost 50 years for Portland to achieve its cycling mode share goal.

Granpa
Granpa
2 months ago
Reply to  prioritarian

I don’t mind a positive spin on the news, but the picture of a can man on his way to the bottle drop does not exactly display an optimistic picture of a thriving Portland

Fred
Fred
2 months ago
Reply to  Granpa

The photo resonated with me also. I thought, Gosh – things are really tough out there. But maybe can-man is doing okay b/c he has an e-bike, which isn’t cheap.

I’m not sure what image would be truly representative of people cycling in Portland: moms with kids on cargo bikes? MAMILs? People who cycle are diverse and the photo captures that diversity.

Leann
Leann
2 months ago
Reply to  Granpa

I was just going to ride my cargo bike over to the nearest bottle drop with about as many bags as in this photo. Are people going to assume I’m in dire financial straits or to be looked down upon? Possibly. But I’m still going to do it because: 1. It costs me zero for fuel. 2. I get to pull right up to the bottle drop without trying to find parking. 3. It makes this errand fun. 4. I get some exercise. 5. I don’t pollute the air. 6. It’s one fewer car clogging up the roads. Just call me “can woman”. As a side note: I have several different bikes: road, road rain bike with fenders, and a cargo bike. I’ve never had so many drivers and pedestrians ask questions, smile, wave hello, and give me the thumbs up as when I ride the cargo bike. Many people seem genuinely curious about it. And I don’t encounter as much road rage either.

Granpa
Granpa
2 months ago
Reply to  Leann

I welcome the day when my first impression of a can-man/woman is of an upwardly mobile, environmentally responsible recycler.

Chris I
Chris I
2 months ago
Reply to  Granpa

Since everyone just uses the blue bins for everything now, it seems like an end to the Bottle Bill would mean no one would need to use a chinese-made lithium battery and take time out of their day to just recycle a few cans.

Fred
Fred
2 months ago
Reply to  Leann

Me too, Leann! I know that when I haul my green bags, some people will think “There goes another vagrant who can’t afford a car.” But I don’t care what people think. I do it for all of the same reasons you do, and I wish more people would do the same.

If you’re riding a cargo bike, you must have a decent job to be able to afford it.

Jeff Rockshoxworthy
Jeff Rockshoxworthy
2 months ago
Reply to  Granpa

If anything it’s a good representation of how the Bottle Bill turned from progressive to regressive in the blink of an eye. We all have to do this chore now– schlepping containers to the redemption center– unless we resign ourselves to letting someone else skim hundreds of our dollars away every year.

As angry as I am at OBRC for lobbying for these changes, it also underlines how willingly oblivious Oregon (and particularly Portland) voters are to important stuff like details, accountability and un-anticipated side effects.

I doubt the censors here will let me point out how the Bottle Bill is directly funding our current drug crisis, but if you’ve ever spent 20 minutes at the 122nd & Glisan redemption center, you’d agree.

Pkjb
Pkjb
2 months ago

There are redemption windows at Fred Meyer and other grocery stores around Portland where bottles can easily be redeemed using the green bag system. You don’t need to go to centralized bottle drop redemption centers, but you can, if you want to.

If you don’t like the idea of other people profiting off your cans, redeem them yourself.

It blows my mind that conservatives get all bent out of shape over Oregon’s bottle redemption system. It works great.

el_timito
el_timito
2 months ago

Oh for the good old days when stolen tv’s were the funding for the drug crisis.

Chris I
Chris I
2 months ago
Reply to  el_timito

Does Seattle have higher property crime rates than Portland? They don’t have bottle redemption…

I just don’t know if “keep the bottle bill around so Fent addicts don’t steal your property” is a winning argument.

jakeco969
jakeco969
2 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

Did I miss el_timito’s earlier comment?

Jeff Rockshoxworthy
Jeff Rockshoxworthy
2 months ago
Reply to  el_timito

If people steal to support drug habits, arrest them for theft. Pretty sure that’s how our laws already work.

I refused to be held hostage by hypotheticals like this. It does nothing to help victims or the victimizers, it only exists to preserve the status quo. Which, last time I checked, was a massive drug crisis with record overdose deaths.

Is this acceptable to you?

jakeco969
jakeco969
2 months ago

What are you and Chris seeing in your feeds? Why are you both responding to a one sentence throwaway statement from el_timito?

Chris I
Chris I
2 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

The implication of the comment is that the cans provide a steady income stream for drugs, and that the addicts will turn to petty crime if the stream is cut off. I’ve seen this sentiment shared in other places (like the Portland sub on Reddit) more directly whenever the topic of phasing out the Bottle Bill is brought up.

jakeco969
jakeco969
2 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

Gotcha, thanks for the reply! I don’t follow other sites so didn’t catch the implied reference, I honestly thought it was a joke statement.

jakeco969
jakeco969
2 months ago
Reply to  el_timito

TVs fell victim to inflation much the same way the ridiculous trucks have, the tv’s are just too big to easily carry out a window anymore.

Johnny Bye Carter
Johnny Bye Carter
2 months ago
Reply to  Granpa

The “can man” in the photo doesn’t appear to have cans. They’re hauling 2-liter bottles. So they’ve likely been drinking these, or there was a party.

Pkjb
Pkjb
2 months ago
Reply to  prioritarian

Jonathan said this year’s count was a “notch in the right direction.” I agree that the small rate of increase could easily just be due to noise in the signal. But it didn’t sound to me that this blog was claiming that it is a major victory.

prioritarian
prioritarian
2 months ago
Reply to  Pkjb

I remember when (in the late 2010s) a statistically-significant ~17% drop in census ACS cycling mode share was repeatedly described as “stagnation” by BP. To see such a minuscule change being described as “a notch in the right direction” is misleading and smacks of motivated thinking.

Jeff Rockshoxworthy
Jeff Rockshoxworthy
2 months ago
Reply to  Pkjb

up 5% from last year means a whole lot less when it’s down 40% from 2019.

Pkjb
Pkjb
2 months ago

I appreciate the math lesson! Thanks for highlighting the bad news for me! Have you got any other negative information or republican talking points to post about today?

Aaron
2 months ago

I recall last year there was talk of including e-scooters and e-unicycles in the bike count when they were previously not included. Does this increase account for that? I see a lot of those around and I would think if we just lumped them into the bike count with no other change I could easily see it resulting in the appearance of a 5% increase when it was actually just a change in what’s included in the count.

Daniel Reimer
2 months ago
Reply to  Aaron

It was a separate tally for e-scooters and one-wheels for 2023 so they weren’t lumped in with the bike count. You can see how they were tallied here https://www.portland.gov/transportation/walking-biking-transit-safety/documents/2023-bike-count-instructions/download

prioritarian
prioritarian
2 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Reimer

DO INCLUDE people riding on the sidewalks …

This seems to be designed to lower cycling counts in areas with poor cycling infrastructure. Shame on PDX.

curly
curly
2 months ago

Interesting that Telecommute numbers were missing. I’ve always seen transportation numbers include telecommuting in past studies. Does PBOT not want to include those numbers, or they simply don’t want to track them because it vastly diminishes the number of people commuting to the central city.

Pkjb
Pkjb
2 months ago
Reply to  curly

It’s in the small print at the bottom of the slide. They say telecommute is up 300%. But it’s not shown on the graph because all of the other changes in commute patterns would be rendered as blips.

curly
curly
2 months ago
Reply to  Pkjb

Ahhh… The fine print.
Does this number in itself invalidate the CCIM because we no longer have the amount of people returning to the central city? All data collected for the CCIM were pre-covid numbers. Should we not be investing more transportation dollars to the plans which were developed for particular neighborhoods? The neighborhoods seem to be doing vastly better than the central city.

Pkjb
Pkjb
2 months ago
Reply to  curly

The Central City is still the economic engine of Portland. Most commute trips are still into and out of the Central City, not the neighborhood centers. It is the hub of the city, and it provides vital connections between neighborhoods, even if a trip destination isn’t necessarily to the Central City.

I think you’re (intentionally?) misinterpreting the first slide. It’s talking about the relative year over year percentage change in different commute modes, not the absolute number of people utilizing the different modes. The proportion of Portland workers who work from home is still smaller than the percentages of Portland workers who commute to a physical location. But the work from home percentage had a big relative increase compared to other modes in 2020. It went from low single digits to high double digits overnight. It has declined a lot since then… But this is a story that anyone that has been alive in recent years understands. It’s not something that needs to be shown on the graph.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
2 months ago
Reply to  Pkjb

If we learned anything from the years of riots and the failure of our elected officials, having all our eggs in one basket (downtown) just hurts our economy in the long run.
It is way past time for the “economic engine” to be spread out around Portland. A legal office in your neighborhood, a City Bureau in mine, that restaurant in theirs’s, etc.
You’d be surprised how many employees that work downtown would prefer to go to offices in other areas. Afterall why is downtown the only area to benefit by workers going to lunch? It should be spread around as much as possible.

And yes, I’m one of those unfortunate working slobs that is forced to work downtown because according to our CEO (a friend of the mayor’s) “employees need to save downtown”. Yeah, like it’s up to us.

Pkjb
Pkjb
2 months ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

Okay, fine. Spread those offices around. But the CCIM plan still makes sense.

Why do I get the feeling that SolarEclipse, curly, Jeff Rockshocksworthy, and proritarian are all sock puppet accounts that are part of a coordinated political campaign?

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Pkjb

BikePortland is kind of a hybrid, it takes place virtually, online, but also, a lot of people know each other personally. Soooo, I can vouch for a couple of people on your list. They exist in real life. The other two have personalities that are pretty consistent. None of them are flat, the way fake accounts are.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
2 months ago
Reply to  Pkjb

Why do I get the feeling that SolarEclipse, curly, Jeff Rockshocksworthy, and proritarian are all sock puppet accounts that are part of a coordinated political campaign?

A new take on an old theme of discrediting commenters rather than debating ideas, right up there with propaganda machines, fake news, agents provocateur, false fronts, and other indirect forms of bullying. What’s next, accusing commenters of being A.I.-generated or being bots?

Pkjb
Pkjb
2 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

It just felt like I was being double teamed by several different accounts in different threads who were all taking a vary contrarian anti city government stance. I can now see they are all coming from very different places with their criticism, but to see so many disparate views unite in a seemingly unified anti pbot chorus was surprising.

And the nitpicking and angry attacks questioning the validity of statistics and the spin that the blog is putting on the stats seemed more like the type of thing you see in unmoderated conservative safe spaces, like Twitter or Willamette week comments. But now that I look more closely and recognize the pattern of the writing in those comments, it makes more sense to me.

curly
curly
2 months ago
Reply to  Pkjb

Yes the CCIM plan makes sense. No argument there, but do we continue to ignore the other neighborhood plans at their expense to spiff up the most walkable city in the U.S.? (they obviously didn’t move out of the central city to make that recommendation).
The news that east Portland’s cycling numbers are up is fantastic considering we just got low stress bikeways within the last five years (still not completed), and having to deal with the issues we’ve had on the MUP’s (I205, I84, Springwater) for 10+ years.
The EPIM plan was passed by council in 2012. A five year plan. As of 2022 only 20% of the plan was completed. I think this is an indication of why east Portland is considered “underserved”. The central city is the economic engine of Portland, but is the most expensive to maintain. My opinion is to let the CCIM wait to be funded until other plans are completed.
That the remote work numbers are too big to put in the chart only strengthens my position. A progressive city would be certain to look at the Work From Home numbers and adjust the plan accordingly.
The central city has a 25-30% vacancy rate for commercial properties. We all look to see how we can be most effective in using our transportation dollars. Also, the central city represents only 4% of the city’s population and is dependent on workers to commute to the central city to sustain small businesses. It’s kind of like a ghost town last time I visited.

Pkjb
Pkjb
2 months ago
Reply to  curly

Yes, I go downtown to work. It feels pretty empty down there compared to four years ago. But it is much more lively than two years ago, which, like the modest increase in biking, is really nothing to crow about.

It’s hard to imagine downtown office spaces filling up in the near future. That being said, the Portland work from home rate has been on the decline. It was 28% in 2021, and 23% in 2022. Those are both well up from the 8% pre COVID numbers, but I don’t think it’s safe to make long term bets about where people are going to be working down the road. Maybe the change is more due to remote workers moving away from Portland than it is a sign of a return to office culture? I don’t know.

The underfunding of EPIM is part and parcel of how pbot has funded all of the quadrant based active transport plans. SWIM has been underfunded, CCIM has been underfunded, they just installed and then removed one of the bike facilities that was added by the Columbia/Lombard plan… They all need more resources to be completed.

It’s just awful and perverse that we’re left to fight over pittances to try to build out the bike network over decades, meanwhile the freight industry and highway lobby seem to be colluding to paint active transportation facilities as the Boogeyman that is taking all the money away from the big, important freeway widening projects.

prioritarian
prioritarian
2 months ago
Reply to  Pkjb

…we’re left to fight over pittances to try to build out the bike network over decades

Up-thread you were complaining about “republican” anti-PBOT sentiment. Perhaps being anti-PBOT is a valid left-of-center reaction to decades of institutional resistance to safe streets.

As for being critical of the “cup 1/20th full tone” of this blogpost, I think that the unwillingness of many alternative-transportation enthusiasts to acknowledge the decline in cycling from 2014-2019 was a major setback when it came to advocating for safer streets.

Pkjb
Pkjb
2 months ago
Reply to  prioritarian

Yes, pbot is stodgy and car first, despite employing many people who claim to want to make big gains in safety and modal choices. I don’t know if it’s due to pressure from outside preventing staff from doing the right thing, or if it’s just a pbot problem.

But I don’t see how you can ever build a complete Portland bike network without CCIM. Many of the projects are just critical, backbone level things that will be needed no matter what, such as the Broadway/fourth couplet.

I also agree that the long term decline in active transportation rates hurts safe streets advocacy. The numbers would suggest that Portland residents no longer see cycling as a defining characteristic.

As for the republican jab, well most conservatives I’ve talked to are dead set against bike lanes on major arterial streets and anywhere in the central city. Any time I hear someone bashing a downtown bike lane, it’s like they’re carrying water for those that harbor anti bicycle sentiments, who are typically republicans.

prioritarian
prioritarian
2 months ago
Reply to  Pkjb

But I don’t see how you can ever build a complete Portland bike network without CCIM.

That was someone else’s comment. I’m unreservedly pro CCIM and annoyed at PBOT for their delay, obfuscation, and poor-stewardship of tax dollars.

Jeff Rockshoxworthy
Jeff Rockshoxworthy
2 months ago

Driving an ebike to the bottle redemption center… I can’t think of a better snapshot of Portland cycling circa 2024

stephan
stephan
2 months ago

This is a positive, albeit small change, and consistent with my perception. I’ve been wondering lately whether ridership has gone up, it seems that there are a bit more people out and about on bikes. My guess / hope is that we see further improvements in bike counts in the future that will be a bit more substantial.

Alexandar Hull-Richter
Alexandar Hull-Richter
2 months ago

The last time I looked into this, it appeared to have a direct correlation between the drop in the number of cyclists since 2014, and the rise in traffic fatalities in the same period (all traffic fatalities, including car occupants).

I wonder how those two correlate now. Is the increase in bicycle traffic and indication that roads are generally safer, or is it more that people are just getting used to the increased danger from drivers being increasingly nuts?