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Hyperlink to BICYCLING Magazine website.

The Best Cycling Cities

Meet 10 urban places that do cycling right—population, sprawl and congestion be damned!

Best Overall - #1 Portland, OR

by Alan Coté and Sean Coffey
© Bicycling magazine, November 2001

Why It's Our Top Pick: Bike policies that are years—or even decades—ahead of most other cities. Regional anti-sprawl measures that don't imprison city cyclists within strip-mall suburbs. Lots of non-cyclists who ride bikes.

Space for Us: The stats are beyond impressive: Portland has added 56 miles of bikeways in the past three years, bringing its totals to 142 miles of bike lanes, 26 miles of bike boulevards and 53 miles of paths. Another 58 miles is funded and in the works.

While other places are trying to get a few stripes painted on roads, Portland is optimizing bike routes. Recent bikeway additions were targeted to provide new access into North Portland (a large, primarily residential area), and into three commercial areas of the city. Each year, $100,000 is spent for "missing links"—connecting the bike network in places that were too difficult to implement when a project was installed. Example: a new, 2-mile section that connects existing paths between the central city and the Sellwood neighborhood. Portland now has so many bikeways that it's starting a signing/mapping project to help riders navigate the system (based on Vancouver's system).

Best Newbie Sighting: Led by bike planners like Roger Geller, the city's bicycle coordinator, more than 40 traffic engineers, planners and managers have ridden the streets during their workday to get firsthand impressions. They rode three-speed bikes that are part of Portland's vehicle fleet. Then there are the Summer Cycle rides—spandex-free rides that tour the city four times a week and are aimed towards teaching those new to cycling how to get around Portland by bike.

Non-Bike Development That We Love: How's this for progressive transportation policy: Some downtown streets were designated as skating/skateboard routes. "It reflects the city council's attitude that the streets are for everyone," says Geller. Police opposed the plan, but enough citizens were using those little, hard wheels to get around to convince the decision makers.

Biggest Chunk of Change for Bikes: $34 million for the new Eastside Esplanade. It includes a cantilevered bike/pedestrian path hanging off the lower deck of the Steel Bridge—previously, cyclists had to either elbow cars on the narrow roadway or elbow walkers on the narrow sidewalk.

Smart Growth: The area is growing, but the land around the city issn't being turned into suburban strip-mall hell by unbridled real estate developers. There's an extensive land use planning system that results in compact, dense communities surrounded by open space. Cyclists can slip out of the city and be in quiet farmland in a matter of a few miles.

(Note: BICYCLING magazine first identified America's Best Cycling Cities in 1990 and updated its listings in 1995 and again in 1999. The magazine did not post this story from pages 32-39 of the November, 2001 issue on its www.bicycling.com website.)

Bicycling magazine identified these cities as the continent's best and worst in November, 2001.

Best Cycling Cities - 2001

Best Overall — Portland, OR

Population: 200,000-500,000
#1 Denver, CO
#2 Madison, WI
#3 Tuscon, AZ

Population 500,000 to 1 million
#1 Seattle, WA
#2 Austin, TX
#3 San Francisco, CA

Population: 1 million+
#1 Montreal, Quebec, Canada
#2 Chicago, IL
#3 San Diego, CA

Honorable Mentions:
Philadelphiia, PA
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Minneapolis, MN

Worst Cycling Cities:
Houston, TX
Atlanta, GA
Boston, MA

© Bicycling magazine, November 2001

Portland, Oregon has earned its reputation as one of America's most bike-friendly big cities by developing a network of more than 185 miles of bike lanes and off-road paths, including the 4,800-acre Forest Park overlooking the Willamette River with its hiking, biking and equestrian trail systems.  Image from detail of downtown Portland Bicycle Commuter Map pdf.

Hyperlink to 1897 U.S. Geological Survey map of Portland from the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection at the University of Texas at Austin.
City of Portland Bicycle Maps

1897 - Portland, Oregon - USGS 1:62,500
2001 - Portland, Oregon - BikeMap.pdf

Oregon Cycling

Albany Bicycle Info & Maps
Bear Creek Greenway
Bear Creek Greenway Foundation
Bicycle Transportation Alliance
Center for Appropriate Transport
Central Oregon Trail Alliance
Coos Regional Trails Partnership
Corvallis Bike/Pedestrian Information
Critical Mass - Portland
Cycling Marys Peak Trails
Dolan v. City of Tigard
Eugene, City of Bicycles!
Eugene and Springfield Bikeways Maps
Lithia Park Woodland Trail
Metro - Bike There!
Metro - Parks & Greenspaces
Bicycling in Portland
City of Portland Bicycle Resources
Portland Parks & Recreation
Forest Park
40-Mile Loop [140 miles and growing]
Springwater Corridor
Oregon Bicycle Statutes (ORS 814.400)
ODOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Program
OSU McDonald-Dunn Research Forest
Willamette Restoration Initiative
Willamette River Corridor Project
See links for more Oregon cycling information.

Mountain Bike magazine searched for Dirtopolis and writer John Thompson profiled the The 10 Best U.S. Cities For Mountain Bikers in June, 2001.

  1) Boise, ID
  2) Asherville, NC
  3) Austin, TX
  4) Minneapolis, MN
  5) Denver, CO
  6) Portland, OR
  7) Bellingham, WA
  8) Charlottesville, VA
  9) Eugene, OR
10) Burlington, VT

© Mountain Bike magazine, June 2001

1895: Bike Cops
Next: 1896

See 19th Century Bicycle News for a selected bibliography and historical resources online, or use the links to find other sites of interest.

Copyright © 2001  Dennis Cowals
All rights reserved.