home

How does bicycling fare in Forest Park Recreational Survey?

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on September 16th, 2010 at 11:16 am

PUMP's Forest Park mountain bike tour
Bicycling in Forest Park.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Portland Parks & Recreation has released results of their 2010 Forest Park Recreation Survey (PDF download). With the fate of bicycling improvements in the 5,000 acre urban park hanging in the balance, I thought I'd take a look at how two-wheeled recreation fared.

The survey was part of five management initiatives launched back in June by Parks Commissioner Nick Fish in response to a City Club report on the park that was highly critical of the City of Portland. (That report was criticized by bicycling advocates for inaccuracies and bias.)

Working with Portland State University to intercept park users, 564 people responded to the City's survey. The survey was done on two separate Saturdays in the months of May and June this past summer. According to Parks, the purpose of the questions asked in the survey was to, "better understand who uses the park, timing of use, where they are coming from, motivations for using the park, perceptions about park quality, and preferences for future improvements."

Here are some of the more interesting (in my opinion) findings:

    — 79.3% of respondents said they drive a car to the park (and 63% of respondents travel four or more miles to get there).

    — 4.5% of respondents ride a bike to the park (13.3% walk)

    — When asked their primary motivation for visiting, 42.4% of people said, "exercise and fitness" while 31.6% said it was to enjoy nature and be outdoors.

    — For this next one, I'll defer to a graph. Here's the breakdown of answers when folks were asked their three top activities they do when visiting Forest Park:

    — When asked to rate the importance of park features (across all Portland natural area parks) on a scale of 1 - 4, trails came out on top with an average rating of 3.89. The next three were forests (3.66), native plants (3.29) and then wildlife (3.28).

    — When asked the open-ended question (in write-in format), "What can be done to improve your experience at Forest Park?", "Improve Trails" and "Increase Bike Trails" were the categories most often cited.

Tom Archer, president of the Northwest Trail Alliance, says the results of this survey boost their position that more bike access and trail improvements are needed. "The number of cyclists compared to other users is relatively small, because there are no amenities for cyclists right now. Many people also commented that they'd like to see an expansion of bike facilities."

This survey — along with the City Club report and a Forest Park Bicycling Survey done last spring — is likely to be used by advocates of both sides of the issue in the ongoing discussion about how best to improve biking in the park. A bruising public process recently concluded and now the ball is in Parks Director Zari Santner and Commissioner Fish's court. They're expected to issue their blueprint for moving forward on the issue — in the form of a list of recommended actions — in the next few weeks.

We'll keep you posted.

Email This Post Email This Post

Possibly related posts


Gravatars make better comments... Get yours here.
Please notify the publisher about offensive comments.
Comments
  • kgb September 16, 2010 at 11:33 am

    The cycling numbers look low to me based on personal experience. This may because we are limited primarily to Leif but it is also appears to be a result of the locations they chose to take surveys from. At least three of the locations provide no access to cyclists so those surveys are going to be skewed in the direction of people on foot. It appears that nearly half the surveys were collected at trailheads that do not allow bikes.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Spiffy September 16, 2010 at 11:35 am

    it's sad that people still feel they need to drive somewhere to exercise... had they walked or biked there they would have been exercised and could have just turned around and come back without even entering the park...

    that said, I love having the park there, even when I used to drive to it...

    I just like having forests close by to immerse myself in...

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • RWL1776 September 16, 2010 at 11:37 am

    At what trailheads were the surveys taken? Only 7.8% were there to go cycling? And the months of May/June were rainy, as usual. Who rides in the rain?
    AND on the weekends most cyclists get in their cars and DRIVE to a better place to ride.

    This cyclist has ridden Forest Park for 15 years, and I'd take a guess that more than 75% of the people on trails open to bikes were on bikes! If they surveyed people at TH's of trails NOT open to bikes, well, I'd expect the number to be really low, like these numbers show.

    The survey should have been conducted in summer, on a weekday afternoon. That is when a majority of park users go there, after work and at a park close to home/work.

    The same kind of survey was conducted by PSU in 2004 or so. Same results because it was done in the spring and at TH's not open to bikes.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Gabriel Amadeus September 16, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Interesting. I wonder how many people will see the low bike numbers correlating with the poor/lack of bike facilities in the park.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Lisa September 16, 2010 at 11:49 am

    These are the trailheads listed in the survey:

    • Thurman Gate • Macleay Park & NW Upshur • NW Saltzman Rd. & Skyline • NW Germantown Rd. & Leif Erickson Trail • NW Germantown Rd. & Wildwood Trail • NW Saltzman Rd. & Highway 30 • NW Newton Rd. & Skyline • NW Springville Rd. & Skyline • NW Newberry Rd. & Wildwood Trail

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Frank Selker September 16, 2010 at 11:55 am

    I'm glad Parks did this but do share the concern that the when and where of the survey may have had a large effect on results.

    But the support for more cycling is consistent across surveys: the survey of over 1,000 citizens conducted by Parks during the committee process found that 91% (!) supported providing more cycling opportunities for cyclists. And
    67% of respondents supported looking further at alternating trail use - includnig about half of non-cyclists.

    Frank

    PS. I wonder if providing trails to cycle on would improve the parking situation on Thurman because more people would choose to bicycle to the park instead of driving and walking.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • GlowBoy September 16, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    There are (by my count) at least 16 entrances to the park that are legally accessible by bike. Bike entry and exit is highly dispersed across these trailheads, whereas other users' access is more concentrated at the Thurman, Germantown and Newton trailheads.

    If the survey were conducted primarily at the busiest trailheads, the results are going to be highly skewed towards non-bicycling use.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • GlowBoy September 16, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    Oops, didn't see Lisa's post (#5) before making my own post. At least the survey was a little more dispersed than I thought.

    Still, at least 3 of the trailheads surveyed are closed to bicycles. Including those in the survey may still bias the results.

    On another note: so when is the first mountain bike hater going to post something inflammatory? Since this is Portland, I expect it to be soon ...

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Anonymous September 16, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    I wonder if the fact that most riders (and runners) are moving faster through the trailhead, skewed results towards walkers/hikers. This has been a problem for other surveys. It would be great to get simple counts of users too. Not only to see how the modes break down, but real data on the level of use at various trail access points.
    But, I also agree with others - I hardly ever ride in Forest Park now because it's simply not a compelling experience. I do run there pretty frequently, however - tons of great trails and few people go past the first couple of miles from Thurman.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • cocofan September 16, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    I have to admit the survey method is not good for picking up bikers but I'm thinking they were more concern about getting current users opinion (ie, hikers). What that said, I hope they take into consideration the opinions of people who would like to use the trails but can't (or weren't using the trail at the time they took the surveys; I have to admit the trails are too muddy for most people in late spring).
    With that said, as strictly a hiker (I don't ride a bike because of health problems) I would like to see them put in bike trails (or widen the trails for bikes). I'd rather see them make the trails safe for both bikers and hikers than having to deal with getting clobbered by bike riders who 'sneak in' because there isn't any trails for them to ride. Probably why most of the people they surveyed wanted improved bike trails even though most of them weren't bike riders.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Larry September 16, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    I have worked in Forest Park and can think of nothing so destructive to that parks as off-road bicyclists, except a fire.

    The park is unique. It is fragile. Walk the paths and leash your dogs. Enjoy it.

    Extending off-road bicycling in the Park is the most insanely anti-green conduct I can imagine. Therefore, Portlanders will extend the off-road trails. Keepin' it weird.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Blah Blah Blah September 16, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Larry#11

    Umm, I can think of something even more destructive to Forest Park...English Ivy, the park is infested with it.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Charley September 16, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    Larry,
    That's funny that you think riding a bike in a public park is "most insanely anti-green conduct I can imagine." Especially given past uses of the land- farming, housing, and clear cutting. Seems like the bike use has had less impact on the "green" than these other uses. Or compared to uses like gold and silver mining, or. . . well, the list of legitimately "anti-green" conducts goes on and on. Riding a bike in a forest isn't really that big a deal now, is it? If you really want to protect mother earth, how about focusing your energy on the REAL threats (like climate change, clearcutting, strip mining, habitat loss and fragmentation due to suburbanization), and simply state that you don't like mountain bikers and don't want to see them. The animosity is probably the real reason most people don't want riders to have access.
    Charley
    PS- I kinda wonder if this comment is actually written by a mountain biker, because the whole "I can't imagine anything worse" sentiment is over the top!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • WOBG September 16, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    What, Larry, you've never seen horse tracks? (Not to mention horse crap, which must be full of worrisome compounds.)

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Eric September 16, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    I rarely got to FP to ride a bike because of the limited number of trails. If there were more/better mountain biking trails then I would ride in FP.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • DK September 16, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Larry @ #11.
    I find your statement nothing shy of hilarious!

    Talk, talk, talk. Over 2 years of talking so far and nothing to show but a few costly surveys. I vote, I pay my friggin' taxes, I volunteer time for trail maintenance. For what? I'll be too old to ride bikes by the time anyone does anything about putting some (legal) singletrack in this city (despite plenty of viable locations). I suppose it's better to b!tch and moan about the evils of bikes, while Forest Park and Gateway Green remain under-utilized weed farms. If our current "bike friendly" politicians won't/can't get anything done, what's next?

    It's a shame. Platinum bike city my a$$!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • DK September 16, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Larry @ #11.
    I find your statement nothing shy of hilarious!

    Talk, talk, talk. Over 2 years of talking so far and nothing to show but a few costly surveys. I vote, I pay my friggin' taxes, I volunteer time for trail maintenance. For what? I'll be too old to ride bikes by the time anyone does anything about putting some (legal) singletrack in this city (despite plenty of viable locations). I suppose it's better to b!tch and moan about the evils of bikes, while Forest Park and Gateway Green remain under-utilized weed farms. If our current "bike friendly" politicians won't/can't get anything done, what's next?

    It's a shame. Platinum bike city my a$$!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Larry September 16, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Perhaps we could just leave a few animals alone as much as possible in an increasingly densly packed city.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • CAPS September 16, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Larry # 19 says...
    "Perhaps we could just leave a few animals alone as much as possible in an increasingly densly packed city."

    You must mean the homeless camps right off of Leif Erickson....

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Charley September 16, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Larry,
    Animals live in Forest Park. People ride in Forest Park, and people also hike all over the park. Scientists researching animal response to both hikers and equestrians finds the impacts are about the same (though different for each animal). And yet the animals are still there. Both users have an impact, no?

    SO . . . unless you're interested in closing down trails to hikers, you're really just interesting in not sharing any part of the trail pie with riders. Or maybe kicking every one out of the park is what you mean by "as much as possible." If so, your'e probably on Portlandhikers.org, encouraging hikers to contact their council members and make hiking in Forest Park illegal. Only, I read that site every day, and haven't heard this idea yet.

    Which brings me right back to the animosity some hikers have for riders. Most are too polite to really speak about it the way they feel, and of course they realize that "I don't want to share" is a pretty unconvincing argument. As a result, they express their animosity in fake-scientific terms of environmental impact. That's a farce.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • GlowBoy September 16, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Larry, thanks for fulfilling my prophecy, but you still need to explain yourself. In what manner is offroad biking in FP destructive?

    The only real singletrack where bikes are allowed is a short section of Firelane 5, and I think PUMP did a good job of minimizing any erosion problems from that.

    Other than that, the 27 miles open to bikes are ROADS. How in the world is it environmentally destructive to ride a bicycle on a dirt road? That's a pretty serious perversion of environmental thinking.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • wsbob September 16, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Portlandhikers.org ...they discussed mountain bikes in Forest Park last November. Nothing discussed on that subject more recently that I managed to find. Charlie's comments are there. Here's a link to that discussion topic over on Portlandhikers.org:


    Portlandhikers.org/Expansion of mountain biking on hiking trails in Forest Park

    Also, a link for one particular comment in that thread posted by a forum member going by the blog name of 'anna in boots'. She had some first hand experience to relate about use of foot trail by mountain bikers.

    Forum member 'anna in boots': "...Here's how the devolution works. ..."

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • beth h September 17, 2010 at 10:20 am

    @ Spiffy (#2):

    The shame is that lots of folks live in Portland, don't own cars, and must depend on bikes and/or transit to get to a park that is fairly far away from where many of us live.

    The shame is that TriMet recently slashed bus service -- routes, days and frequency -- to many parts of Northwest Portland, limiting access to the park even further for those who live car-free AND far from the park.

    I'd LOVE to take my singlespeed mountain bike for a ride in Forest Park, but it's far enough from where I live that I automatically consider other options first.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • John September 17, 2010 at 11:37 am

    "trails came out on top with an average rating of 3.89. The next three were forests (3.66), native plants (3.29) and then wildlife (3.28)."

    This shows the danger of park management via public opinion polls! What exactly is the point of a trail if plants & animals aren't given higher priority than the trail itself? You might as well sprinkle a snaking line of dirt around a parking lot.

    I'm not for or against any activity, but in an area in which we hope to maintain some level of "wild", work must be guided by nature science. Leave the court of public opinion for built up areas.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • jocko September 17, 2010 at 11:40 am

    On a recent ride up leif ericson I counted 11 discarded dog-poop bags on the side of the trail(from thurman to FL5) and Every single person with their dog in the park was walking it off leash. So first and foremost I feel dog owners are the biggest offenders in forest park. Secondly this dispute is caused by the wealthy landowners who in feigning to "protect" the "pristine" wildlife habitat (was mostly clear-cut in the last 80 years) have stacked the advisory committee are trying to keep public land they consider their backyard hostage. Lets get some equity in forest park starting with a NEW mountain bike only trail.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • wsbob September 17, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    jocko...you're right about dog owners failing to take their dog-poop bags home with them, or at least to the trail head trash bins, instead of dropping them on the side of Leif. That they do that, should not be an acceptable rationalization supporting expanded access for off-road bikes to single width trail in Forest Park...not that you were implying it should.

    Do you have something to support this claim you've made?:

    "... Secondly this dispute is caused by the wealthy landowners ..." jocko

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • a0 September 19, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    i bike to work but drive to the park to run. Would gladly pay a user fee for secure car parking(cameras or security) at a mtb oriented trailhead(bike wash/restrooms) at the base of firelane 1 or?? that lead to singletrack style riding like that found at Sandy Ridge.
    Wildlife? not really much of that other than coyotes and birds and slugs.HWY 30 access is minimal and an eyesore at this pt.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • a0 September 19, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    what is up with the bagged dog crap left behind? ive been wondering that for a few yrs now. isn't better to just kick it off the trail? or i don't know grab a stick and fling it off the trail than bag it and leave it? are they planning on getting it on the way back?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

- Daily bike news since 2005 -
BikePortland.org is a production of
PedalTown Media Inc.
321 SW 4th Ave, Ste. 401
Portland, OR 97204

Powered by WordPress. Theme by Clemens Orth.
Subscribe to RSS feed


Original images and content owned by Pedaltown Media, Inc. - Not to be used without permission.