cross the North Steel Bridge, the oldest
vertical-lift bridge in North America with views of
the Willamette River, during a bike tour with Cycle
Portland bike tour company in Portland, Ore., on
June 8, 2014. The company offers a casual ride
through downtown Portland on its signature
"Essential Bike Tour," which is an ideal
Ore. ó Portlandia is pridefully weird, with its love of
beards, bikes and crazy junk food. After a couple of
high-calorie days here, I want to put the fetching little
city on my handlebars and ride.
Portland Bike Toursí basic ride-around starts downtown
about a mile from the cityís core. During the two-hour
ride, guide Sam Appelbaum huddles up the 10 of us at
various pit stops around town for breezy accounts of the
cityís history. Itís an engaging way to get a feel for
the cityís layout and some of its conventional and
our first stop along the waterfront, we learn how former
Gov. Tom McCall led the effort to turn the strip of
freeway hugging the Willamette River into green space,
changing the face and feel of downtown.
there, we head across the river, down curling bike paths
to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, better known
as OMSI, where Appelbaum deftly explains how Portland is
working to enhance and encourage micro-neighborhoods to
cut down on crosstown traffic.
across the river we go, and up to the Portland State
campus, another cool oasis in this leafy city. What makes
the 12-mile bike tour so pleasant is the relatively flat
terrain, combined with plenty of shade.
hours later, weíre in the Pearl, the renovated warehouse
district thatís been reborn as an arts, retail and
dining destination, and is home to the Portland Bike Tours
shop where we began.
the fine overview of the city, the tour offers insight
into how much Portlanders worship their two-wheelers. The
U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2008 that 6 percent of the
workforce commutes primarily by bike each day.
cycling is integrated into the lifestyle, with bike boxes,
racks and traffic lanes a constant presence. Thatís not
to say there arenít the typical tensions between
motorists and riders. But Portland is further along than
instance, workplaces feature "bike rooms" where
commuters can stash their rides during the day. Perhaps
most telling is the Pedalpalooza bike festival each June
that features nearly 300 inventive and inspiring rides and
activities include a playful Dr. Seuss ride, unicycle polo
matches and all-night rides that lead to a sunrise over
the Columbia Gorge. Some rides are difficult, some merely
social, some bizarre (a bridal ride in wedding gowns and
several naked bike rides).
sampling of the events at Pedalpalooza:
Little Lebowski Urban Achievers Ride, featuring
participants in their favorite "Big Lebowski"
costumes and occasional re-enactments of scenes from the
movie ("I mean, say what you want about the tenets of
national socialism, Dude, at least itís an ethos.")
Solstice Ride, in which participants pedal off at 9 p.m.
and ride all night in honor of the first day of summer to
a view spot looking out over the Columbia River.
Naked Bike Ride, in which Portland police escort 9,000
naked and semi-naked cyclists through the city. It ends in
a giant party. Its point is to show how vulnerable
cyclists feel on the streets. At least, thatís one of
Zoobomb, a lighthearted tradition down a hill near the zoo
that draws mostly young adults aboard all sorts of
Wars" versus "Star Trek," pretty much what
youíd think, with participants dressed as favorite
Tot Tour, a moderate overnight camping trip, 30 miles each
way, in which participants refuel on one of the staples of
the Portland diet.
more info on biking Portland and the annual Pedalpalooza
festival (June 4-27, 2015), go to