Bikes in Portland
Portland, Oregon has a rich bicycle history. After a long regression in bicycle usage in the middle of the 20th century, common across all cities in the USA, the city of Portland adopted a bike plan in 1973, laying the groundwork for 190 miles of bicycle infrastructure. These investments and local advocacy have paid off as about 6.3% of Portlanders commute to work by bike, the largest percentage for a city with more than 300,000 residents. Portland has a well-earned bicycle-friendly reputation, which Tom Martin is happily a part of.
Tom Martin: Q&A
We reached out to Tom Martin, longtime Monkey Light dealer and industry veteran, to ask a few questions about his relatively new bike shop in Southeast Portland in the Brooklyn neighborhood, called TomCat Bikes. Tom focuses on somewhat quirky used bikes, commuter bikes, playa bikes for Burning Man, and custom builds.
MonkeyLectric: You’ve been in the bike world for quite some time, what are some interesting things that you’ve witnessed or been a part of?
Tom: I suppose that’s a long long story. The arc of my career has seen the death and rebirth of so many trends. Vintage everything, BMX, lugged steel, mountain bikes, fixed gear, cruisers, all have had ascendance and low points, only to be given attention once again. I am very happy to see the bike industry embrace commuting and every day riding, rather than racing as the only reason to invest in research and development. It’s a fun and functional way to get around.
MonkeyLectric: You took over a shop named WTF bikes, are you doing pretty much the same as what the previous shop did, or have you changed directions a bit?
Tom: In November of 2018, I purchased WTF Bikes and renamed it TomCat Bikes (my name is Tom, and I like cats). It made sense, since the Keep Portland Weird era of PDX has kinda sunset. As a commuter shop, I want to sell to family, friends, as well as the freaks that make Portland, Portland. I continue the amazing work that WTF has done; repair and sales of used bikes with quality new bikes that are under $500. If there is a new direction, it will be embracing bikes that no other shop will work on: freakbikes, older Schwinns, vintage mountain bikes and dads old ten speed from college. I also fully embrace playa bikes, those craptastic conveyances that go to Burning Man for a week at a time. The dust and grease and PB blaster evoke memories of Point 3 at sunrise. Bring em! Bring them to me!
Tom: Pedalpalooza is a month long celebration of the bicycle. Community members organize rides with themes, costumes, routes, destinations and more bikefun. They are as unique as the community members who put them on. Some examples: the Bike Shop ride, where Armando went to 15 shops and interviewed the owners; Loud and Lit, the brightest loudest bike party in Portland, that ends at an undisclosed location for a dance party until dawn; World Naked Bike Ride, that ends in a party at an undisclosed location. The annual Pedalpalooza banner is now something Portland Bike Funnists collect each year. More info and a calendar is here: https://www.shift2bikes.org/pages/pedalpalooza/
Monkeylectric: Bike infrastructure is what makes Portland relatively bike friendly. Many other cities in the States are starting to catch up with the rest of the world. Are you seeing some changes in Portland?
Tom: Portland has been on the leading edge for active transportation infrastructure development for almost 20 years. I see a lot of good incremental changes in Portland with Neighborhood Greenways, the Tillicum bridge transit and bike/ped crossing, protected bike paths with bollards, etc, There is so much more we can do for traffic calming and to prioritize safe passage for people who bike, walk, scoot and use mobility devices such as wheelchairs. There are plans for a Green Loop to go through the heart of downtown Portland. This will feature protected bike lanes and a new crossing over i-84.
Thanks for chatting, Tom! Tom runs a full-service bike shop and specializes in commuter and freak bikes: used bikes, custom builds, and new Civia bikes. And of course, TomCat carries Monkey Lights.
Visit TomCat Bikes in SE Portland:
Other interesting links:
- What is your city’s bicycle mode share? The League of American Bicyclists knows.
- Jonathan Maus from Bike Portland dives deep into Portland’s bicycling history.
- The Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation has a neat overview of the history of bicycling in Portland
Do you run a shop, have a favorite shop, or a story to tell? Contact us and we’d be happy to run a feature!