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In the mid-1990s the City of Portland adopted a 20-year Bicycle Master Plan for improvements that encourage more bicycles. Thanks to this plan, locals and travelers alike can take advantage of Portland's bicycle-friendliness. There are now more than 315 miles of developed bikeways. Add to that thorough, accessible maps, specialized tours, and parking capacity (including lockers and racks downtown), and bicycling becomes not only a feasible but a sought-after mode of transportation. It's no wonder Portland is one of only three U.S. cities to have earned the platinum-level Bicycle Friendly Community designation from the League of American Bicyclists. Educators, advocates, riding groups, and businesses, along with the government, are working toward making Portland even more bike-friendly and safe. According to TriMet, whose entire bus fleet is equipped with bicycle racks, more than 80,000 bicycles are taken on MAX or bus each year.
For more on bicycle transportation resources and information, visit www.portlandonline.com/transportation.
With all this encouragement, cyclists in Portland have gotten creative: not only does cycling provide an excellent form of transportation around here, it also has evolved into a medium of progressive politics and public service. Riders gather at least once every month on the last Friday to ride together through the streets of the city. The event, called Critical Mass (www.rosecitycriticalmass.org), is meant to publicize bike riding as a powerful alternative to cars, and members have also been known to gather together for political protest. In addition, several bike co-ops in the city are devoted to providing used bikes at decent prices to members of the community, as well as to teaching bike maintenance and the economic and environmental benefits of becoming a commuter on two wheels.
Sipping a pint of local brew is one of Oregon's favorite pastimes, but Portlanders have taken this a step further with so-called pub theaters—movie theaters showing second-run, classic, or cult films for $3 or so that let you can buy a pitcher of good locally brewed beer and a slice of pizza to enjoy while watching. The McMenamin brothers are largely to thank for this phenomenon, being the masterminds behind such popular spots as the Bagdad Theatre, the Mission Theatre, and the St. John's Pub. In addition, unaffiliated establishments like the Laurelhurst Theatre and Cinema 21 have managed to get in on the action as well.
With a river running through the center of the city, Portland has one of the most interesting urban landscapes in the country, due in no small part to the several unique bridges that span the width of the Willamette River. Five of the city's 10 bridges are drawbridges that must be raised to let barges go through, and there's something awe-inspiring and anachronistic in watching a portion of a city's traffic and hubbub stand still for several minutes as a slow-moving vessel floats through still water. Each bridge is beautiful and different: the St. John's Bridge has elegant 400-foot towers, the Broadway Bridge is a rich red hue, the arches of the huge two-level Fremont Bridge span the river gracefully, and the Steel Bridge has a pedestrian walkway just 30 feet above the water, allowing walkers and bikers to get a fabulous view of the river.
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