Sunday, February 19, 2012

Portland - bike riding up 6%

Bicycle traffic in Portland, OR, increased by 6 percent in 2011 over the previous year. Story HERE.

Portland, of course, has a well-established culture of bike friendliness. They also have their share of non-believers. Wherever there are lots of cyclists, there are also some "bad apple" cyclists... you know, the ones who ignore traffic laws, scare the daylights out of motorists, etc.

Let's compare Portland and Boise as "bicycle cities."

What we share in common:
- somewhat hilly, but not dauntingly steep, terrain
- a big river bisecting the city, with a limited number of crossings
- expensive and getting-more-expensive gas

Portland has the advantage in "acceptance." Bicycling as transportation is "officially" embraced, and the city will boldly install bicycle infrastructure even if the perception could possibly be that it impedes motor traffic. Improved bike infrastructure means more people will venture out on their bikes. More people means more infrastructure. Portland is a few years ahead of us on that cycle. ("Cycle" - get it?)

Boise has the advantage in climate. The Portlanders obviously deal with precipitation; it's part of life over there. How blessed we are in Boise to have awesome bike weather. Sure, we have a few cold months, and a few 100-degree days, but I contend it's easier to ride year-round in Boise than it would be in Portland, and if you're not "up" for those cold days, you can park the bike for 2 months each year.

My casual observations make me believe cycling is up several percentage points in Boise, too. I know the bike parking gets downright crowded any more, 8 or 9 months of the year. The economy and expensive gas is probably the main factor - but I think we're looking at the future. It will never get cheaper to operate a motor vehicle, and people are trying to find ways of economizing. And many of the folks who are "forced" onto a bike by $4 gas will discover that bicycle transportation is not only cheap, but far more enjoyable than bumper-to-bumper rush hour every day.

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