Pedal Power: Biking Portland

Cycle your way through one of America’s top bike-friendly cities.

Consistently named one of the top cycling cities in the world, Portland, Ore., has a wealth of bike lanes and a fun bike-friendly culture, making it an ideal family vacation destination for travelers who like to explore on two wheels instead of four.

Portland currently has 171 miles of bike lanes, with plans to expand to 434 miles over the next 15 years as part of the city’s Bicycle Master Plan, which was created with input from more than 2,000 residents to keep Portland a cycling city. Each morning, thousands of bike commuters speed across Portland’s bridges, and on weekends, they take to longer trails through the rolling countryside outside the city. With gas prices still high, there’s never been a better time to get out there and pedal your way through Portland.

Getting in the Saddle

For most visitors, the first step in visiting Portland by bike is finding one to ride. For those who want the total convenience of a bicycle as an included hotel amenity, Portland's centrally located Ace Hotel (1022 SW Stark St.) offers a fleet of Jorg & Olif Dutch city bicycles. These hip cruisers are available to hotel guests at no charge and embody the new hotel's laid-back vibe. [Read more about the Ace and other green properties in our Eco-friendly Hotels article.] 

For those not staying at the artist-inspired Ace Hotel, there are several places to rent a bike throughout the city. Fat Tire Farm (2714 NW Thurman St.), in the Northwest industrial area, rents mountain bikes and hybrids, plus one city cruiser. Helmets are included, but you’ll have to bring your own lock. Rentals range from $40 to $100—for basic bikes to high-end rides—for a 24-hour period.

Clever Cycles (908 SE Hawthorne Blvd.), located in the Hawthorne District, offers a more expansive fleet, from Brompton folding bicycles to Dutch city bikes, as well as Bakfiets, a Dutch bike design with a box cargo space large enough to haul three children in the front. A Bakfiets bike rents for $40 per day or $95 for three days; Bromton bicycles rent for $35 per day or $75 for three days. Rentals include a helmet, lock and bike bag if you need one. If you fall in love with your wheels and end up buying your rental from Clever Cycles, they’ll waive the rental fee.

Centrally located Waterfront Bicycles (10 SW Ash St., #100) offers hybrid and road bikes, city bikes and tandem bikes for an ultimate family experience. Rates are $40 per day for basic cruisers, $65 per day for road bikes and $100 per day for road tandem bikes; rentals include a bike bag, lock and helmet.

Pedaling Around

Portland's downtown area is lined with bike lanes, which makes getting around easier than in most cities. Kids are often seen in bike trailers behind mom or dad as they pedal along. For the purposes of commuting, these downtown bike lanes offer a great service, but the more picturesque spots are where trails split off from the car routes.

Downtown, on both sides of the Willamette River, there are areas to ride along and enjoy the skyline and the river views. The Eastbank Esplanade is more bike-friendly than the western Tom McCall Waterfront Park, which tends to get very crowded with pedestrians. There are rides that go farther out, like a 20-mile loop to Blue Lake and others, that can be found in the handy maps provided by The maps indicate whether streets have bike lanes, steep hills or wide shoulders so that visiting cyclists can gauge their comfort level and pick a route accordingly.

If you're sick of pedaling or want to go longer than you think the kids' legs will last, all is not lost. Portland's Tri-Met transit system allows bikes to be taken on its buses, MAX light rail and Portland streetcars. Between the three of them, you can go just about anywhere in the Portland Metro area. For schedules, fares and routes, visit

Refueling Stops

If there's one thing Portland cyclists love, it's sweet treats. That's why there are some great places to check out on your bike that will make the kids smile and provide a needed break from time to time to take in a little more of the city. The most famous local spot for cyclists is Voodoo Doughnut (22 SW 3rd Ave. and 1501 NE Davis St.). This shop's owners are local bicycle advocates and in their newly launched second location on Davis St., they offer ample bike parking and outside bike-in movies in the summer months. Parents should be aware that some of the donuts at this funky shop are not exactly kid-friendly, from the spicy wasabi donut to some more, shall we say, adult shapes.

Both the Little Red Bike Cafe (4823 N. Lombard St.) and Black Sheep Bakery (833 SE Main St.) have bike-thru windows. Cars are not allowed, and cyclists stop by each morning to grab coffee and scrumptious vegan pastries at the Black Sheep Bakery or pedal by the Little Red Bike Cafe in the afternoon for ice cream and other treats.

Bike Safety

It's important to remember bike safety, especially around cars. Even though motorists are known for their bike tolerance in Portland, cars can always pose a danger to cyclists if either party isn't paying attention. If you should need assistance while seeing Portland by bike, you can contact bicycle advocacy groups like the Bicycle Transportation Alliance at 503-226-0676. In case of an emergency or accident, dial 911. 

Destinations: Portland

Themes: Family Travel, Outdoor Adventures

Activities: Cycling

User Comments

Here's a FREE Family event and a chance to win some cool prizes! (No purchase necessary to enter!) Rediscover your local Kmart stores! Get Your Summer in Gear with Kmart! This Saturday, August 14th , from 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM! Tour the Town! Enter for a chance to WIN a Bicycle Tour! Courtesy of PEDAL BIKE TOURS! (Includes a helmet and bike rental) Free on-site Bike Checks! Courtesy of Pedal Bike Tours at the 3955 S.W. Murray Blvd Beaverton location! Personalize Your Wheels! Kids, decorate your very own mini-license plate for your bike! Kmart and Z100 Dollar Days, Wednesdays at Oaks Amusement Park! (June 23,2010 – September 1, 2010) $1.00 off ride bracelets at the park, Roller skating session included, valid on the day of purchase only. $1.00 ride tickets (retail $2.25, each ride takes one ticket), valid on the day of purchase only. $1.00 cotton candy (retail $2.50) Buy One get One FREE pretzels (retail $2.50) Join the fun at any of these locations: 7655 S.W. Nyberg Road, Tualatin, OR 97062 19003 Beaver Creek Road, Oregon City, OR 97045 12350 N.E. Sandy Blvd, Portland, OR 97230 13750 S.E. Johnson, Milwaukie, OR 97222 440 N.W. Burnside Road, Gresham, OR 97030 3955 S.W. Murray Blvd, Beaverton, OR 97005 Visit, for information on upcoming events and offers!

Take a bike tour! If you're interested to see the city on 2 wheels, I recommend taking a bike tour to get the insider perspective. Pedal Bike Tours offers 2 hour tours (check out the Coffee Crawl) and also has drop-off rentals to hotels if people want to go it alone.