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What about recreational riders?

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on October 19th, 2005 at 3:56 pm

In the push to get Platinum a large part of the cycling community is being left out; recreational riders that don't necessarily ride for transportation, but ride for fun and sport. I'm talking about groups like OBRA (Oregon Bicycle Racing Association), PUMP (Portland United Mountain Pedalers) and the PWTC (Portland Wheelmen Touring Club). Where do they fit into the puzzle? They represent thousands of local cyclists yet seem to operate pretty much on their own, without much help from non-profits, city leaders or millions of dollars from the federal government.

PUMP is one group in particular who could use some help. They're about to entrench for a battle with the parks department and hikers for more access to riding areas in Forest Park.

From what I know about the push for Platinum, it's more about improving conditions for bikes as a transportation option rather than for racing and riding off-road for fun. I also know that in the many meetings and various events I go to in the bike community, OBRA and PUMP are rarely (if ever) mentioned. Should this be different? What place does recreational riding have in Portland's vibrant bike politics and advocacy scene?

Local bike advocates, city employees, and politicians will leave for a trip to Amsterdam next week. They'll be observing innovative bike infrastructure and policies and try to figure out how we can apply those things here in Portland. I know some recreational groups feel this trip won't benefit them at all and they want more attention and money to be spent on their interests.

I hope leaders from the various groups can begin a closer dialogue. We need as many cyclists as possible to join into the conversation; BMXers, freeriders, racers, commuters...we're all on two wheels, so we might as well all be on the same page.

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  • Jessica Roberts October 19, 2005 at 5:57 pm

    I think one of the major challenges is just connecting people to the recreational events that are happening already, as a way to help people bike more, and also to foster that sense of community. I don't mean this in a complaining way, but there's almost too much stuff going on, and I'd really love to see a resource that let me see all the rides and events in one place. I know that if I just wake up some morning and want to go on a ride (as opposed to planning on a specific ride and putting it on my calendar) I don't always know what's going on.

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  • John Climaldi October 19, 2005 at 7:30 pm

    Re:“What about recreational riders?”

    I personally think that any funding to cycling is a good thing, and benefits ALL cyclists by building a stronger cycling community. I have seen friends that ride weekends only take the plunge and commute to work (only after building confidence and getting some time on the bike as a "recreational" cyclist) and thrive. The BTA and other advocacy groups would be surprised how many "recreational" cyclists ride to race events like the OBRA PIR race series or the Mt. Tabor series. Do you count them as "recreational cyclist"? Let's not separate cyclist into groups, but blur the line between the two so more will use the bike for transportation and recreational activities. It's an amazing feeling when your passion is your mode of transportation! You live it every day.

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  • Jonathan Maus October 19, 2005 at 9:05 pm

    Jessica,

    RE: "I’d really love to see a resource that let me see all the rides and events in one place"

    So would I! I've been trying to find a good solution for this for a long time and haven't found what I'm looking for yet. If there are any tech/web gurus out there who can help me make this happen, please let me know.

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  • Peter W October 20, 2005 at 12:39 am

    Jonathan and Jessica,

    I was (and still am) interested in this vision for a giant community calendar system, and would be interested in helping build it.

    I know Shift has a great calendar, but I'm afraid that organizations with a lot of stuff going on don't use it because they don't want to fill it up with stuff people aren't necessarily interested in (like PSU Cycling training rides).

    I haven't looked into it much, but there is something called the Upcoming.org API which lets any website publish their events to any other website (kind of like RSS feeds I think).

    Anyway, using the Upcoming.org API or something like that, my dream for a nifty online cycling collaborative system is the following.

    1) The Shift Calendar system is upgraded. The new system takes two kinds of input. The first is input like it takes now - info about upcoming events submitted by people in the community. The second (and new) kind of info is something like an RSS feed (or Upcoming.org feed) of events published by another cycling organization's website. For example, I could tell the Shift calendar to pull BTA events from bta4bikes.org/events/ and pull PSU Cycling events from cycling.groups.pdx.edu/events/.

    2) Normal people and small organizations use Shift's calendar like they did before, adding things directly at shift2bikes.org. The only difference is the new calendar input will ask what organization is putting on the event and the user might enter something like "Vanilla Bicycles" if Vanilla isn't publishing events itself (see 3).

    3) Big organizations (those with lots of events specifically) would add their events to their own calendar system and they would show up immediately on their own website and then soon on the shift calendar.

    4) The Shift calendar would let users specify what they are interested in, so they could for example filter out (or in) events based on organization or tag (i.e. "training ride", "race", "education", "volunteering" , or "bikefun").

    Note that I'm just using the shift calendar as an example because it is already as close to a mega-collaborative calendar as we have. Note also that this requires orgs like the PWTC to publish each individual event online in addition to in their ride calendar in PDF format.

    Anyway thats my dream for what we'll do to cope with the huge increase in bike events we'll see in the coming years. ;)

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  • Don O October 20, 2005 at 8:33 am

    I am a triathlete and spend many miles on the streets in and around Portland. Most of the rides I engage in include hills and flats hitting some quick paces. One thing I believe would nice it to have some of the more popular recreational areas cleaned more frequently. I get numerous flats due to window glass and tacks or nails in the bike lane. If we could get that much done, I would be a happier camper. Though it hasn’t happened yet, I believe there will come a time when I am going down Larch and I get a front flat.

    Areas this is noticeable include, but are not limited to, Larch Mountain, Marine Drive and Highway 30. The bike community is great.

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  • Dan Porter October 20, 2005 at 12:31 pm

    "What about recreational riders?”

    John,

    You hit the nail on the head. Most of my racing friends are also at least part time commuters. I started racing, and gradually moved to commuting so that I could get more saddle time, especially as family & work commitments took up more and more of my free time. Now commuting is in my blood and I am 'year round". And you are right, many of us do ride out to races like PIR & Tabor as well as some of the close cross races. If I were to quit racing now, I would NOT quit commuting.

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  • patrick October 21, 2005 at 2:17 pm

    Bravo!!!!

    Well put. I am an example of a recreational rider, turned racer, turned commuter. Recreational riders will always find a place to ride and race, it would be great if there were more options closer to town, but I would not want the push for more recreational opportunities to overshadow or interfere with what the BTA is doing.

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  • Aaron Tarfman October 22, 2005 at 9:35 pm

    At the Burnside Couplet neighborhood meeting I mentioned to Sam Adams that my suggestion for getting us to Platinum status was to complete the Sullivan's Gulch path. This would fulfill BTA's goal of completing gaps in the network, it would create the 40 mile loop throughout Portland, and it would provide recreational riding for nervous outer Northeast residents.
    Another suggestion would be more bicycle blvds.

    Finally a question:
    Do people here think that we can gain Platinum status without addressing the western hills? These areas are dangerous to bike, but the terrain makes them uncomfortable anyway and it may not be worth spending as much effort. Maybe we can designate downtown/east Portland as Platinum and Western Portland as simply gold. :-)

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  • Cate October 23, 2005 at 10:54 am

    Aaron,

    I doubt the west side would qualify for gold status any time soon. It's too risky for bicyclists and too few people ride. There's a lot the City could do, but so far they haven't shown much interest. The focus historically has been on the east side. Granted there are more people on the east side and it's easier to ride there, but the west side has still been neglected.

    I don't see any reason the west side shouldn't be held to the same standards as the east side. There are other cities that have high rates of bicycle riding that have hills (in the US and Europe). The question is whether the City will decide to put more resources into making the west side a safe place to ride.

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  • Jonathan Maus October 24, 2005 at 9:22 am

    Don,

    You said, "I believe would nice it to have some of the more popular recreational areas cleaned more frequently."

    PDOT has a great phone line set-up just for this purpose. It's (503) 823-CYCL. I just added this and several other useful phone numbers to my Bike Safety Page.

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  • [...] Southeast also has all the cool, experimental bike infrastructure and is home to the vast majority of the City’s bike advocates and activists (someone once told me that the last 3 heads of the BTA have lived in the same SE neighborhood!). However, as you head North and West to neighborhoods like Kenton, St. Johns, and Beaverton you see not only a lot less bikers, but also less bike infrastructure and attention given to existing facilities. Judging from what I’ve heard, there is a growing feeling that some areas are definitely not feeling the love. A friend of mine from Hillsboro recently said, “if Portland is a bike oasis, Hillsboro is the desert!”. I also heard some emotional discussion about the lack of maintenance and facilities in North Portland during the Bike Safety Workshop I attended. Then, there was this comment to a recent post on this site: “I doubt the west side would qualify for gold status any time soon. It’s too risky for bicyclists and too few people ride. There’s a lot the City could do, but so far they haven’t shown much interest. The focus historically has been on the east side. Granted there are more people on the east side and it’s easier to ride there, but the west side has still been neglected. [...]

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