Number of cyclists in Portland down to mid-2000s levels, study says

Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 9:49 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - It’s a report that strikes at the heart of Portland’s biking culture.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation’s 2022 Bike Count Study found the number of cyclists on the road dropped to levels not seen since the mid-2000s. According to the bureau, between 2019 and 2022 the number of cyclists on the streets dropped by 37 percent to around 17,500 cyclists. The last time the number was that low was in 2006 when Portland’s population was about 100,000 less than it is today. The report didn’t outline why there was such a dramatic drop, but for a city that’s known for cyclists peddling down city streets and pathways, this report is an eye-opener to some.

Dylan Burke-Allmon has been street cycling for ten years and said he is surprised the number dropped so low. He said Portland is an ideal place to bike to your destination.

“In terms of the weather, it’s not the Midwest, it’s not the east coast, there’s not snow on the ground, you can bike year-round,” Burke-Allmon said.

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PBOT set up 184 locations throughout the city to count cyclists through the city. The study found the lowest ridership was in areas east of I-205. Most of the cycling occurs west of the interstate.

FOX 12 caught up with Eric Iverson, a veteran cyclist and well-known in the cycling community as he rode his bike through the Central Eastside. He said this report is not good news for the community,

“It’s a bit of a bummer, quite disappointing,” Iverson said.

Iverson has been biking Portland’s roads since 2010. He said he doesn’t know what’s contributing to this decline, but said safety is definitely one factor.

“I think there is a general consensus that the roads just feel more dangerous now,” Iverson said. “When I talk to friends who cycle now, they’re a little bit more scared. There are fewer of us on the roads and drivers feel more obligated to own the road.”

For the last decade, the city has been working to improve its biking infrastructure. In 2010, the city council passed ‘Portland Bicycle Plan 2030.’ The goal is to invest in the infrastructure to get at least 25% of trips in the city on a bike. Recently, in 2022 PBOT completed the Blumenauer Pedestrian Bridge in the Central Eastside as part of the Green Loop Project.

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Even with these initiatives, Iverson said the infrastructure still isn’t there to encourage people to choose two wheels over four.

“I think the biggest thing that can be done is making driving more inconvenient,” Iverson said. “As long as driving is the most convenient form of transport, that’s going to be the one people take.”

FOX 12 also reached out to Congressman Earl Blumenauer’s office for comment, since he’s a big advocate for the cycling community. A spokesperson said they’re still reviewing PBOT’s report and they will send a response after.