Too cool: As snowy Portland wimps out, Minneapolis claims #1 bike city

In the last 24 hours, Minneapolis moved into position to claim the prize as America’s Best Bike City, and it didn’t have to lift a foot to do it.

You may recall Bicycling Magazine gave Minneapolis a bit of snub in 2012 when it named Portland, Ore., the best bike city, knocking Minneapolis to number 2.

Minneapolis? Please. Let’s ride—along the Willamette now, on the paved Springwater Corridor, where, off to the east, great blue herons and snowy egrets pick about in the reeds and the mud of Oaks Bottom. Three miles on, amid the grain silos and rail yards of north Portland, you can feel the industrial heft of the city, built a hundred-odd years ago on shipping and logging.

In Forest Park—which, at 5,000 acres, is the nation’s largest urban preserve—there is a growing network of singletrack on the slopes of Portland’s west hills. But me, I like to take my road bike higher in those same hills, past gracious manses built by long-ago timber barons, until I am up on Skyline Boulevard with its horse pastures and country-road dips and turns. It is cooler up there—sometimes in winter snow whitens the bows of the evergreens.

But it is the locals’ bike zeal that is most dear. Once, when I called the city’s Transportation Options office to ask about airport bike parking, a guy there responded 45 minutes later via e-mail, with a 500-word personal treatise. (“There is a specific bike parking area,” he began, before discussing option B, the bike lockers, and riffing on the bike-guarding aplomb of Homeland Security.)

Another time, when I found myself stooped by the roadside, muttering cuss words over a broken chain, a random savior materialized to offer assistance gratis. “I’m a professional bike mechanic,” he proclaimed, superhero-like. “What can I do?”

About that “zeal” thing: Organizers of the 2014 Worst Day of the Year Ride in Portland have canceled Sunday’s 46-mile ride, apparently because it will actually be the worst weather of the year, according to Willamette Week.

We remind you that Minneapolis claims to be the best biking city in America, that their best day of February is worse than our worst and that they are all going to laugh at us.

Now, if you’ll excuse us, we have to get home before it gets dark because our office is officially closed and Portland’s streets really are scary when it snows.

Portland organizers were quick to note that only the the 46 mile course will be closed and that the much smaller “urban route” is still a go.

OK, but it’s clear those Portland folks are a little worked up that their reputation might take a hit. No irony allowed!

You can hardly blame Portland bikers for wanting to stay inside. It’ll only be 39 degrees on Sunday, according to the forecast.

Who’d go out riding a bicycle in that kind of weather (Pssst: Answer here)?

(h/t: Patrick Stephenson)

  • TomR

    I moved to Portland from Minneapolis 3.5 years ago. I must say that to me it is not close. Portland is far ahead in terms of bike-friendliness for an average biker. There were many times in Minneapolis I felt quite unsafe commuting to work since there wasn’t a bike lane. Portland has a bike lane option coming from nearly every direction. There is a culture of using bikes whenever possible that is embraced by a seemingly larger percent of the population here (I hang out with similar people in Portland as I did in Minneapolis). And of course, these are just one person’s impressions.

    That said, I am not familiar with everything that Minneapolis has done since I left and I have a lot of respect for the year-round commuters in MN.

  • boB from WA

    Hey, we’re geared (pun intended) for rain, not snow or freezing rain. So gloat all you want, PDX still ranks #1.

    • Onan

      For the record: It rains in Minneapolis as well. Minnesota cyclists are “geared” for all types of weather, not just for that “liquid” variety of precipitation.

  • Trixie

    I saw a biker walking his bike on W. River Pkwy. yesterday near the Guthrie in downtown Mpls. He was enjoying ice cream in a waffle cone. Meanwhile the temperature hovered near zero with negative wind chills. Nice!

  • ForrestalMN

    The reason Portland gets all the credit probably has a lot to do with that goofy-looking Earl Blumenaur who shows up on TV with his bow-tie and enormous bicycle lapel pin. I rode a bike for awhile, but it gathers dust in the shed now. The whole activity seems Too Damned Wholesome.

  • GlowBoy

    As a native Minnesotan who lives in Portland, I need to clarify the “worst day” conditions on Sunday. The Worst Day ride was *not* cancelled because of snow. It was because of ice. If the ride had been scheduled for Saturday, when we had 5″ of snow on the ground, I believe it would have gone on as planned. But Saturday evening we had steady freezing rain, which coated everything in 1/3″ of ice and then froze hard overnight. Since we have little snowplowing ability, all the streets were filled with a thick ice crust over several inches of wet, mushy snow, unrideable by anyone without a fatbike and sketchy even then. Yes the irony is delicious, but cancelling the WDOTYR was the right thing to do.

    • Onan

      Cheap studded tires can be made by using duct tape and machine screws.

      Just letting you PDX folks know about that.