Shuttling back and forth between NYC and Portland, one striking difference is in the strong bike cultures that exist in both cities -- Portland's gotten plenty of fame over the years for its friendliness to the two-wheelers, but New York has put an immense amount of effort into bike-specific infrastructure recently, to the point where normal, non-suicidal commuters are starting to embrace it as a travel option.
Perhaps most glaring, though, is the disparity in helmet use: at least by casual observation, Portlanders are far more likely to wear one. This makes a sort of sense after watching traffic dynamics in the two cities; for all its chaos, New York drivers move pretty slowly, and are keenly aware of their surroundings, while Portlanders enjoy lower density, and therefore higher speeds and a bit less attention, making helmets a more obvious accessory for the well-equipped cyclist.
What's more, the highly bike-oriented hipster culture here in the City of Roses has incorporated many elements of cycling regalia into its style vocabulary, from the messenger cap and bag, to the cycling shoe (as noted on NY Times' On the Runway blog last year), and more recently, the helmet.
It has to have a cunning twist, of course, and so it's not uncommon to see fully kitted-out kids on their fixies here sporting skateboarding or 70's-era motorcycle helmets, often customized with stickers, spikes, and other assorted bling. Into this market opening a few intrepid companies and designers are stepping, including a nifty little concept from recent Emily Carr grad Kyle Ferguson, imagining a helmet for Lacoste (they of the alligator shirts), and some urban-oriented lids by local favorite Nutcase (below left) and venerable Belgain company Lazer (clever new ad campaign, below right).
via Safety is Sexy