Build it (bike lanes, that is) and they will come!
Stand on the Hawthorne Bridge linking east and west Portland and you can see lots of cyclists every day. Last summer, with a grant from Cycle Oregon, the City put up a fancy bike counter that tallies every cyclist crossing the bridge. Over 200,000 trips were counted in the first month (August 2012). Follow it live here.
Cool stuff but not really representative of bicycle travel throughout the region. A statistically valid look at travel behavior requires more rigor, and just in time for the launch of Getting to 2100, Metro, the regional government in charge of transportation and land use planning, just released a broad study of the travel habits of 6500 residents in the 4-county metropolitan area. The Oregon Household Activity Survey was last conducted in 1994, when Portland’s investment in bikes was just starting, triggered by a successful lawsuit by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.
Breaking national trends, people are driving less, going shorter distances by car and using non-auto modes more and more, even in the auto-oriented suburban parts of the region. (Clark County, Washington is a sad exception. With much laxer land use regulation and a huge number of road projects underway using borrowed money, car travel continues to climb there.)
A few highlights: in the areas of the city with the densest network of streets and most connected bike network, cycling increased over 4 times to 13% of all trips. In the whole region, bike commuting also quadrupled, but from a smaller base. This may reflect Portland’s investment on Safe Routes to School programs encouraging students to walk and bike to school.
Household Travel Survey data: Portland OR metro region