Portlanders are proud that we are consistently ranked among the three most bicycle friendly cities in the United States. After visiting Amsterdam last month, I don’t feel that we have much to brag about.
If Amsterdam were likened to a bicycle, it would be a comfortable, well-tuned machine that would take you wherever you wanted to go in just a few minutes. By comparison, Portland would be a kid’s bike with training wheels. (We’d be riding along gleefully waving and yelling, “look Ma, no hands.”)
As much as Portland wants to believe it is a bike capital, Amsterdam outdoes it every way: countless miles of cycle tracks, bike roads, and bike directional signs, all of which are interconnected and give cyclists the priority over most other modes of transport.
But more important than facilities, people in the Netherlands make bicycling feel normal; like something you’d prefer to do over getting into a car or even riding a trolley (which ply the city at frequent intervals).
Regular people of all ages ride bikes. They carry things Americans would never think to use a bike to transport.
They move about with a comfort level that makes you imagine that they were born on a bicycle.
In Portland, men on bikes outnumber women on bikes by about two to one. In Amsterdam, things seem pretty balanced.
So, how could Portland take off it’s training wheels? How will we know when we’ve arrived as a true bike city? Over the next few posts I’ll delve into the answer… Stick around.