Portland, Gateway to Copenhagen, Amsterdam…

…Gronningen, Greifswald, Lund, Assen, Münster, Utrecht, Västerås, Ferrara, Malmö, Linköping, Odense, Basel, Osaka, Bremen, Bologna, Oulu, Munich, Florence, Rotterdam, Berne, Tübingen, Aarhus, Tokyo, Salzburg, Venice, Pardubice, York, Dresden, Basel, Ghent, Parma, Bern, Cambridge, Graz, Berlin, Strasbourg, Turku, Stockholm.

Stockholm

Stockholm

All cities that have 10%-55% biking mode share and it’s growing. They all have vibrant music scenes, from heavy metal to jazz to classical. They all have extensive art, museums and places of learning. They all have exceptional standards of living, and livability that’s off the charts.

Getting around in Copenhagen. Not many cars stuck in traffic, but lots of people getting to where they need to and enjoying the heck out of life doing so.

Getting around in Copenhagen. Not many cars stuck in traffic, but lots of people getting to where they need to and enjoying the heck out of life doing so.

All of these places are destination cities for expats that regularly go through Portland first. People in the United States that are sick of the absurd auto-dependency often have a very familiar and growing pattern of travel. They leave whatever place they were born in the United States and head to Portland, Oregon. It is after all one of the most travelled to and moved to cities in the United States. It’s the only city in the United States that has managed a net gain of immigrating American resident versus San Francisco (which means more people immigrate from San Francisco to Portland than from Portland to San Francisco, every other city loses residents to San Francisco nationally).

A recurring theme. Cities with high livability and exceptionally high happiness scores all are rooted in active populations. Making scenes like this small parking lot of bikes (several hundred are here) a common site.

A recurring theme. Cities with high livability and exceptionally high happiness scores all are rooted in active populations. Making scenes like this small parking lot of bikes (several hundred are here) a common site.

The flow, at this point in history, then stops for the most part. However there is a steady trickle of people turning into expats in the aforementioned cities. Because of biking. Because of art. Because of belonging. Because of lifestyle and access to amenities. Because of standard of life and actually living a full life. Because of not being stuck in a lifeless American suburb. That all leads me to the next point…

Stand up Portland, Competitive Yes?

That’s nice that we, as a city of neighborhoods and communities with a huge community involvement over the US in general, have created a better than normal standard of life than the rest of the US. But we pale in comparison to the cities mentioned above. Copenhagen is world class in every regard, so is Amsterdam, neither are exponentially bigger or have any reason – other than they’ve worked together to create what they have as a people, as a city – than Portland does. Any city in the US for that matter.

But we need to look at what spiral we’re in as a city. We need to keep pushing not just for biking. We need to build focus on art, music and more. We need to allow these things to expand with arbitrary invisible brick walls stopping people from enjoying them. Is there any reason a 15 year old shouldn’t have reasonable performance options for their music? Should we actually be stymied by absurd lack of art and music funding in schools? Why do we hold on to our auto-dependency like the crutch that it is toward better lives?

Portland has a lot of room to improve, it has a lot of things on the plate. I made a decision a few months back after visiting Scandinavia that I’d give Portland a few years – and I’d bust my ass trying to organize, advocate, activate, and otherwise build this city to something more. We need to work as a city to prevent it from merely being a gateway to places that truly are so far ahead of our dear city in so many ways. We can have leadership in design, excel in opportunities, enjoy and create music and art, and get around without killing each other too, but we’ve really got to step up.

Simply, I’d love to live in Copenhagen or Amsterdam, but I was born in the US and I’d like to give it my all to make Portland a worldwide leader, not just a US leader in livability and lifestyle options. That’s not enough for me, and shouldn’t be for any American.

Things that drag this city down... we're still paying for the sprawling mess of yesteryear's plan of highway development. Desecrated business, clumps of car lots and dependency on a completely unsustainable system

Things that drag this city down… we’re still paying for the sprawling mess of yesteryear’s plan of highway development. Desecrated business, clumps of car lots and dependency on a completely unsustainable system

…all that said, I’m off to do some advocating and activism organizing. Keep up the fight Portland, we’ve got a long way to go and a lot of things to get done to get there. I’d love to say one day, see the immigration in and out of the city of Portland and not see a single expat to one of those wonderful cities, knowing their happily staying here in Portland helping to build the city into something more. Being able to know that we share much with those cities, but stand as a peer with respect then merely as a follower of the grand cities.

With that, off to do that advocating now… cheers!

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