When Bicycling magazine announced in April that Minneapolis had dethroned Portland as the most bike-friendly city in the country, the news wasn’t just shocking, it was a splash of ice water in the face for local cyclephiles. We had worn the crown of top cycling city in America for so long15 yearsthat it had become a cliché, on par with coffee, beards, and patchouli.
But somewhere amid the cacophony of grinding teeth and gnashing gears, there lies the murmur of change. Bicycling pointed out that Portland’s second-place status had more to do with the rest of the country catching up to our spoke-centric ways than to any failing on our part; little do they know that plans are already afoot to break away and, once again, leave the competition in the dust.
After all, there’s no need to settle for being merely the best biking city in the country when you can become the best cycling regionin the world.
From bike taxis ferrying tourists through downtown Portland to beguiling, pedal-powered trips through Willamette Valley wine country and even a planned cycling mega-path to Mount Hood, the next step is to merge bicycling with tourism and economic development.
“People are realizing that the best way to experience the kind of beauty we have in this region is not from behind the windshield,” says Alex Phillips, bicycle recreation coordinator for Oregon’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
Already home to the 132-mile Willamette Valley Scenic Bikewaythe only such regional beauty ride in the countryOregon is currently mulling over seven additional bikeways that would potentially cover another 900 miles, Phillips says. Among them is a proposed 240-mile loop centered around Bend, a town that, according to a study by professor Kreg Lindberg at Oregon State University, raked in an estimated $1.44 million in tourist dollars from one major cycling event last year.
“Oregon is low-hanging fruit,” says Jerry Norquist, executive director of Cycle Oregon, a 23-year-old, 500-mile ride through Oregon’s rural areas that earned $125,000 for local businesses last year. “It’s the perfect place to promote the type of cycling and agro-tourism that’s on par with the world-class rides in Italy and France.”