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League of American Bicyclists President says Forest Park decision "disappointing"

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on September 30th, 2010 at 11:59 am

National Bike Summit 07
League President Andy Clarke.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Reactions are starting to come in from this morning's big announcement by City Commissioner Nick Fish that there are no plans to improve singletrack bicycling opportunities in Forest Park. The President of the League of American Bicyclists, Andy Clarke, has expressed his disappointment in the decision. Here's a statement from Clarke:

"While we are obviously pleased to see the commitment to expanding off-road opportunities throughout the city, Forest Park remains a signature community resource that really deserves better single-track and other off-road experiences. It’s disappointing to see such a hopeful process end this way – at least for now – and stands in contrast to exciting developments in other bike-friendly communities such as Boulder, Colo., Philadelphia, Pa., and Chattanooga, Tenn., where the mountain bike community is working with park agencies to develop first-class riding opportunities in the city."

Clarke is referring to how several major U.S. cities have figured out how to allow off-road cycling in urban parks. A New York Times article in 2007 reported that:

"About 15 major metropolitan areas have legitimized mountain biking in urban parks...including Pittsburgh, Austin, Louisville, Tucson, Salt Lake City, suburban Los Angeles; and Vancouver, British Columbia...The increasing desire to suit up, clip in and ride a mountain bike from home to nearby trails is prompting recreation managers to reassess a sport long outlawed in city parks."

But not in Portland.

The League is the organization that doled out Portland's coveted "Platinum" bike-friendly city status. Back in 2006, the League announced that urban singletrack riding opportunities are an important criteria to achieving and maintaining that status.

In November 2009, in an interview with Commissioner Fish about bicycling in Forest Park, he said:

"... We're a 'Platinum' city, but the one area where we have a weakness is off-road cycling opportunities. It's the area we have been challenged as a city to put more time and resources into developing our system; and it's an area where the mayor has asked the council to be creative. I start with the premise that we're doing really well as a bicycle town but this is an area where we need to do better."

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  • spare_wheel September 30, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    "We're a 'Platinum' city"

    i think *were* a platinum city may be more appropriate.

    i wish i could take back my votes for nick fish.

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  • are September 30, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    why on earth LAB would want to get involved in this

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 30, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    are,

    the League wants to promote bike friendly cities... which means all possible areas of a city where bicycling can and should occur... which means Forest Park.

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  • George Hayduke September 30, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    Wilderness does not exist for people to play in.

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  • Scott September 30, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    Hey Hayduke,
    When did wilderness come into this? Are you under the impression that Forest Park is Wilderness?

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  • Malex September 30, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    Nick Fish's email is nick.fish@ci.Portland.or.us

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  • rwl1176 September 30, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    From the Oregonian:

    "And earlier this month, the Parks Bureau released results from the first of three user surveys. Among its findings: less than 8 percent of visitors to Forest Park ride a bicycle, though there seems to be wide interest in expanded cycling opportunities there."

    This study was flawed from the beginning. Who rides Forest Park on a rainy WEEKEND in May? If it's the weekend, I am going anywhere BUT Forest Park, and certainly not if it is raining. Maybe those who WERE using the park that day for hiking/running were doing more damage than anyone because of the wet weather? I think it shows the bicyclists were doing the RIGHT thing by not riding in the park when it is muddy. THAT is why the 8% number is low.

    And Congrats to Mr. Fish and Zari Santner: You just cost Portland the Platinum Status they achieved from the League of American Bicyclists! Why?

    From Bike Portland, April 28th, 2008:

    League of American Bicyclists' Andy Clarke put it this way,

    "Portland has had the courage to lead, to innovate, and to pursue a vision of their community that emphasizes choice, equity, and quality of life. Platinum status isn't forever. We recognize that compared to other world-class cities for cycling, Portland still has a long way to go."

    And with that, the League offered these recommendations for Portland to maintain its coveted Platinum ranking:

    •Ensure better access to city parks and recreation areas for off-road riding;

    Yep, the FIRST thing he mentioned off-road riding.

    Even within the Platinum application process, Portland tried to take credit for LL Stub Stewart State Park as a 'local riding area'. IT'S A 45 MINUTE DRIVE.

    http://bikeportland.org/2008/04/29/portland-gets-platinum-becomes-first-major-us-city-to-win-the-award-7382

    ...........

    Way to go Fish and Santner!

    LONG LIVE PUMP!

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  • spare_wheel September 30, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    "Wilderness does not exist for people to play in."

    Except for SWPDX manse-owners walking their expensive defecating akc-certified dogs.

    (Its a fraking city park -- not old-growth spotted owl habitat.)

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  • matt picio September 30, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    George (#4) - Forest Park is not Wilderness, it's 2nd growth forest which was logged within the last 70 years. There is little significant difference between Forest Park and other wooded open spaces on and around the Tualatin Mountains. (what many Portlanders call the "Western Hills")

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  • Logan September 30, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Mountain Biking is not a crime.

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  • Oliver September 30, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    I'm with Mr Scott.

    Hayduke, assuming you are not a troll, please explain yourself.

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  • Noel September 30, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    The few times I have tried singletrack riding, the first thing I did when I got home was hug my road bikes. Kudos to you singletrackers out there, from a road rider that supports you.

    Hiking and biking can and should coexist in the same park. I will be writing to Mr. Fish and telling him so.

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  • rl September 30, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    George is right- its for future subdivisions and highways. We should exploit all we can and have nothing left to enjoy.

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  • ecohuman September 30, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Mountain Biking is not a crime.

    Neither is its absence in the park.

    Hiking and biking can and should coexist in the same park.

    They already do. Just not as extensively as you'd like.

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  • Daily Bike Commuter September 30, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Email Nick Fish:
    nick.fish@ci.Portland.or.us

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  • Mike on Bike September 30, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    #14
    When one recreation mode (hiking) has over 70 miles available and the other (singletrack mtb) has 1/3rd mile - that is not coexisting. That is being shut out.

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  • Sasquatch September 30, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    I'm an American bicyclist and the LAB doesn't speak for me.

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  • J2 September 30, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    I don't own a MTB anymore so I suppose this doesn't directly affect me, but it is still bothersome. Back when the platinum status was awarded I thought it was a little odd being that city seems so far behind in the MTB arena. I didn't realize that in fact it was an area of improvement needed to keep the platinum status. I guess we really don't deserve it after all?

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  • rider September 30, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Wow, there's only a 1/3 of a mile? As I don't mountain bike I had no idea. That does seem beyond ridiculous for a so called bike town. Guess that explains why I see hundreds of road bikes going to Germantown but only a handful of mountain bikes.

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  • Leslie September 30, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Logan (#10) We all ought to be ordering these
    to sport on our various 4- and 2-wheeled vehicles.

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  • toowacky September 30, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    History of natural surface trails criteria for Platinum status:

    http://bikeportland.org/2006/06/26/new-criteria-for-platinum-singletrack-1564

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  • Joe September 30, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    #10 so true.

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  • KWW September 30, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    don't expect another 'platinum' until there is more single track...

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  • are September 30, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    why anyone cares what LAB says is platinum or some other metal

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  • voline September 30, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    Yeah, Forest Park isn't a Wilderness Area. But that's exactly the same talk that the Forest Service and timber companies use to justify logging Mt Hood.

    I don't share the priorities of the League of American Wheelmen.

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  • Sasquatch September 30, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    Forest Park may not be a wilderness area, but it is a unique wildlife corridor. "There are over 112 species of birds and mammals. This assemblage of species ... is very similar to that noted by William Clark in 1806." More info at:
    http://forestparkconservancy.org/forest-park/portland-landscape.html
    I care more about what's good for the park, not what's good for bicycling in it.

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  • Bjorn September 30, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    @sasquatch, how is an unleashed dog chasing wildlife more hazardous than a cyclist. They should have just taken a couple of the trails and made them bike only a couple days a week, problem solved.

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  • are September 30, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    be okay with me if they banned unleashed dogs

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  • EmGee September 30, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    George (#4),
    Matt (#9):

    Much of Forest Park is mostly an infestation of english ivy that is killing its trees, damaging the natural undergrowth that protects the hills from landslides, and-- through birds carrying seed-- spreading to other forests. What Forest Park should be is a combined day time recreation area and night time transit corridor for critters moving between Smith-Bybee and West Hayden Island and the west slope. Think deer, raccoon, coyote, and others large and small. But the ivy and other invasive species are screwing up this night time use by choking out greenery that provide cover and forage. There is a reason why parts of Forest Park are called "ivy deserts": nothing else lives there.

    There is certainly more room for trails, including bike paths, but until the invasives are under better control, it is understandable that further trail development of any kind should be postponed. Data that should have been collected 20 years ago is needed, and planning for invasive control that should have been done 10 years ago has to be done.

    From a long term management point of view, one very good approach would be to close down ALL recreational use until there is a planned approach to the invasives that includes appropriate monitoring of progress and mechanisms to keep it on track. But closing existing recreational use is not politically possible.

    There are opportunities to volunteer to pull ivy from time to time, which is the only good way to control the stuff. If biking groups could demonstrate that they are contributing to the park's health, that would certainly magnify their political power.

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  • Larry September 30, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Will you listen to yourselves? Just leave the park alone.

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  • Charlie B September 30, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    The only thing banned is building new trails. What was taken off the table previously is trail sharing. Sure I get it: to build more trails there needs to be studies and money. To open existing trails (not all of them) to mountain bike access, on a limited basis is a discretionary act. That this did not happen is simply a matter of the dominant group unwilling to share.

    The fact of the matter is that mountain bikes are legitimate park users and have a precedent for riding singletrack (Firelane 5). Trail sharing on multi-use paths is successful in many communities; it is proven. Say the words out loud: "We just don't want to share." Quit making excuses and perpetrating stereotypes and being sacrosanct. Say the words so I know what you are and I will ride away from YOUR park.

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  • Lents guy September 30, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    Disappointing to say the least. I'll continue taking Portland Parks and Preservation department's message to heart, that people who ride mountain bikes can leave town to enjoy their sport. I've heard that several times from them. So, I'll take their message to heart and continue to leave town and let another jurisdiction get my gas tax money because I'm driving on roads somewhere else, those roads might as well benefit from my gas tax dollars. I'll also put in my volunteer time on trails where I am welcomed. That time benefits not only mountain bikers, but it benefits hikers, hunters and sometimes even horseback riders who share the trails.

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  • George Hayduke October 1, 2010 at 1:19 am

    Maybe the selfish cyclists who would rather ride and cause erosion than not ride and preserve the park could possible think, THINK, for one dang second about the ways in which water and gravity effect naked soil, and then maybe, possibly consider why they are not being allowed more damaging trails, then perhaps this silly debate will come to a logical conclusion.

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  • George Hayduke October 1, 2010 at 1:21 am

    Does a fake award from an organization mean more than preserving the greatest city park in the world? Please tell me it doesn't to you.

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  • Supercourse October 1, 2010 at 6:27 am

    Does it seem to anyone else that the Nation is blowing by Portland like we're standing still?....could it be that we are ? Maybe the self love thing has made us stupid.

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  • Charlie B October 1, 2010 at 7:17 am

    George, I don't think Buzzard Ed would agree with you. And since you seem to advocate civil disobedience. vis a vis Monkey-wrenching, I am sure you are sympathetic with those calling for poaching or a critical mass demonstration.

    Selfish cyclists? We only hoped to gain access to a small portion of the many miles of trails. Who is being selfish? The hiker groups and homeowners ringing the park are the ones being selfish.

    I thought about what you wrote and understand that water and gravity cause erosion--not bicycles.

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  • Au Naturel October 1, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Seems to me Forest Park is a natural area and the collective vision and wisdom of Portland's 500,000 plus citizens is to keep it that way. Walking and running are natural. High speed, mechanically driven machines are not.

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  • Outahere October 1, 2010 at 9:47 am

    > Unique wildlife corridor

    Out-of control off-leash dogs, diarrhea-infested horses, homeless camps, gun-toting hunters, and the occasional dead squirrel. I agree, that's pretty unique wildlife.

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  • BURR October 1, 2010 at 11:00 am

    I'm surprised that someone with the screen name George Hayduke would be opposed to human powered transportation or recreation, particularly since Forest Park is not by any definition of the word, wilderness

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  • Bjorn October 1, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    @#37 I agree it is natural to run, but shoes are not natural, so I think it is fine to hike/run there but people need to check their nikes at the gate. Maybe we can build some sort of a rack and people can stick a ulock through their laces.

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  • ninjacougar October 1, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    Forest Park is not a wilderness, but it's a city park and I pay taxes and I want trails. Since I can't get that I'm taking my dollars, my votes and my bikes somewhere where mountain bikers aren't discriminated against because it's a decisive priority in my life. This council's decision is basically just the door hitting my *** on the way out.

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  • RayO October 1, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Re Hayduke: Hasn't anyone on this list
    Read "The Monkeywrench Gang" ?

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  • GlowBoy October 6, 2010 at 9:26 am

    Hayduke et al, GMAFB. Bikes aren't any more environmentally damaging than hiking boots.

    I'll grant that although FP isn't wilderness it is a unique wildlife corridor, a small finger of the Coast Range ecosystem extending 100 miles or so inland. It is worthy of protection. What hasn't been shown is that increased bicycle access will threaten it in any way.

    1. Even if it were shown (and it has not been) that cycling is worse than hiking in terms of wildlife impact, there are far worse impacts that need to be addressed first: off leash dogs, invasive plant species and homeless encampments are causing far more harm, and I don't see much effort directed to deal with those.

    2. The relatively small mileage of new trail would be in areas of the park already rated as "heavily impacted" -- NOT in semi-pristine areas where there might actually be significant wildlife impacts.

    3. The other big anti-bike argument being advanced is from those who claim they want to take their little kids hiking on bike-free trails (and, frankly, that often includes ME). But it's a BS argument because only a couple of trails have been proposed for trail sharing, and even the most generous proposal would leave more than sixty miles of bike-free trail in FP.

    And that last point leads me to this: This is not an environmental issue, folks. It's a user conflict. For hiking clubs who are used to facing down developers, those are usually one and the same. But their history has left the hiking groups apparently unable to tell the difference between environmental advocacy and user advocacy.

    Likening bicycles to clearcuts and developers? You guys are just embarrassing the legitimate environmental movement now.

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