How Portland won its bike crown: By not spending money

america bike capital optimisticGod knows how the mainstream media narrative that Portland is somehow bankrupting itself with bike infrastructure took hold. Anybody who’s reviewed the numbers knows that compared to every other way to help people get around a city, bikes are cheap.

And so are Portlanders.

That’s the argument I make in my first post for Bikes Belong’s Green Lane Project: a huge share of Portland’s bike success actually stems from our deeply entrenched thrift. We don’t spend much money on bikeways; but we spend almost nothing (compared to other cities, at least) on highways, either.

Even our transit system has been reverse-engineered to maximize the amount of free money the federal government will chip in.

And guess what? When a city full of cheapskates looks for ways to minimize its transportation costs, it winds up riding a lot of bikes.

You can read my full narrative about the history of biking in Portland on the Green Lane Project’s website, a new service that’s intended to help bike-planning professionals and advocates around the country tap the wisdom and expertise we enjoy in Portland and five other target cities.

I’ll be contributing one post every two weeks to the project; thanks to the BTA’s Rob Sadowsky and BikePortland’s Jonathan Maus for encouraging me to put in for it. I don’t expect to link to it from Portland Afoot regularly, so if you’re interested in the lessons being learned by bike planners in Portland, San Francisco, Memphis, Austin, Washington D.C., you can follow the Green Lane Project by web, Twitter or RSS.

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