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Letter to the Editor: Trouble in Corbett

Posted by on November 28th, 2011 at 10:46 am

Riding near Corbett is beautiful;
but some locals would rather you didn’t.
(Photo © J. Maus)

A recent reader email shared an important perspective from another front in the battle for bike safety on rural roads. If you thought these issues were limited to Portland’s West Hills, rural Washington County, and Sauvie Island — think again.

Below is the letter, which comes from Troutdale resident Russell K:

Are Bicycle Riders Safe in Corbett? (Or on the Old Columbia River Highway?)

I live in Troutdale, OR. One of best things about life here are the amazing bicycle rides that I can do from my front door. Troutdale being right at the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge has immediate access to rides with stunning scenery and challenging hills.

I have been here for six years. I had a honeymoon on the local rides for the first year or two and then the trouble started. The first hint I got was during a stop for an after ride bite to eat and coffee. I sat next to a man who mentioned he was from Corbett. It was obvious I was a rider as I had my riding gear on and my bike was next to me. In a curious mix of threatening and polite behavior he informed me that I, as a rider, was hated in Corbett. He further indicated that I would be lucky to stay healthy and uninjured if I kept going up the Old Hwy. This was stated calmly and easily but very seriously. I have never forgotten it.

I did not stop riding in that area. I did focus on being the most respectful rider I could possibly be.

I have had folks throw objects out in front of my bike. I have run over tacks [and he's not the only one] on the right side of the white line or shoulder (where I religiously stay). I have been yelled at and pushed to the edges so many times I have lost count (in all areas I ride not just Corbett)

Over the next several years I have met a dozen more individuals that truly hate riders in that area, most in Corbett. Weirdly that number recently dramatically increased as I began to ask folks their opinion about riders when I found they lived in the area. I am sure there are those that understand the sport of bicycle riding and respect the men and women on those roads. I am sure there are riders that live in Corbett. However it is very clear to me that many of those up the Old Hwy truly hate riders.

I have only met a small sample of residents from Corbett and out of that sample more than 80% feel somewhere between hate and keen irritation; I believe this indicates Corbett has some kind of cultural or shared problem with riders. We all know how things go in a very small town…I hope I am wrong.

Is this prevalent in rural Oregon? If I don’t want to wind up being in a ditch or worse should I stop riding? Do those in areas that have a problem with riders want a death? Do all riders realize that they have to ride in such a way to minimize the negative attitude?

Oh yeah…A shout out to riders. Especially on the Old Hwy, please do not ride abreast on these small rural roads. Please pull over if you are blocking traffic. Please find out if the road you want to ride on has a shoulder. Please respect the property of the landowners where you ride (don’t park your bike as an obstruction, don’t litter). Those folks up there are pissed… Something bad is set to happen.

Russell K.
Troutdale, OR

Thanks Russell. Bike safety on rural roads is a problem throughout our region. Now we’ve got to figure out how to improve the situation. A lot of good things came out of a recent meeting up on Skyline Blvd. Perhaps its time to replicate that meeting in Corbett?


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Comments
  • Randall S. November 28, 2011 at 11:09 am

    > Is this prevalent in rural Oregon?

    Yes. Actually, it’s prevalent in rural, suburban, and urban everywhere in the US.

    The US is designed around car culture and personal preference. If you are not driving a motor vehicle at or above the speed the driver behind you wished to personally go, you are viewed as an disruption.

    When you ride a bicycle, no matter where you are doing it, drivers become aware that they have to pay attention to the road, which is apparently undesirable.

    The short of it is: most people want to drive 15MPH over the speed limit to and from their house, Wal-Mart, and their jobs, while talking on their phone. Anything that you do that prevents this makes them angry.

    Bicycle lanes will make you safer, but they won’t make people not hate you/us. Bicycle lanes will be viewed by motorists as money wasted; money wasted that could be spent making something they can drive faster or further on.

    The solution to all of it is to change the culture, and that’s a huge undertaking. It’s also one that will probably not happen in the US in my lifetime.

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    • wsbob November 28, 2011 at 11:53 am

      I don’t think the kind of generalizing you’re doing helps anyone. Bikeportland over the past few years has written about several periods where tacks have apparently been cast on to the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway, and then most recently, out on Williams Ave. For the most part, Oregonians in rural parts of the state don’t seem to be out to get people that bike. There aren’t reports in the news to the contrary. In Beaverton, I’m seeing almost exclusively, co-operation on the road between people in cars and people on bikes.

      Something to note about the people that apparently have some kind of grudge against people riding through Corbett and the gorge, is that they don’t seem to have been willing to come forward and present in a legitimate form, whatever objections they may have to bikes on roads through this area. That they haven’t, suggests they’re aware that what they’re doing is not legal or appropriate, leaving them to do what they choose do as they cower anonymously in dark corners.

      I’ve got a feeling the animosity some people in Corbett are said to have against people that bike through the area, are limited to a very small group of residents choosing to express by crude means, grievances they have towards bike traffic, and not the vast majority of Corbett residents. Corbett residents with gripes about how certain people on bikes have been conducting themselves through their town should be bringing those issues out into the open to their council.

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      • Paul Johnson November 28, 2011 at 1:16 pm

        I’m not sure what Beaverton has is mutual cooperation so much as mutual disrespect for the law. Especially on Murray between 26 and Nike, seems to be equal odds on whether or not people are going to obey red lights or even operate on the correct side of the road. Murray in Marlene Village (between Butner and the freeway) seems to have the greatest number of wrong-side operators, and scarily, mostly motorists that pick the wrong side of the road. Not sure what it is (other than perhaps turning left into the Chevron from southbound Murray) that seems to make people think it’s OK to enter oncoming lanes.

        Nike employees also universally ignore the “NO THRU TRAFFIC” signage in the residential area north of Walker, west of Murray in Marlene Village.

        Even if the light’s been green for a long time, still have to keep your eyes peeled because it’s no gaurantee cross traffic isn’t going to enter against the red anyway.

        I grew up in Washington County and I learned to drive in Washington County, and I still hold the locals as a great example of how not to drive or bike.

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        • wsbob November 28, 2011 at 1:45 pm

          “I’m not sure what Beaverton has is mutual cooperation so much as mutual disrespect for the law. Especially on Murray between 26 and Nike, …” Paul Johnson

          Beaverton is just one example of cities across the state where I expect that co-operation on the road between people in cars and people on bikes is the rule rather than the exception.

          Murray between 26 and Nike is one of the areas physically biggest, highest motor vehicle volume thoroughfares. Any major thoroughfare is going to be a more tense travel experience for everyone on the road than are roads carrying less traffic. Certainly more so than on a smaller width road like the original two lane Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway.

          I don’t consider Murray between 26 and Nike to be a great road to ride a bike on, but not because people that drive this road have some sort of special animosity towards people that bike…which I’ve not heard they do.

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          • Paul Johnson November 28, 2011 at 2:23 pm

            Oh, I wasn’t accusing motorists of having animosity. I was positing that Murray is material evidence that motorists and bicyclists alike just don’t care about the rules of the road in the slightest in Washington County.

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          • canuck November 28, 2011 at 2:30 pm

            I find riding in Beaverton quite enjoyable.

            I’d say that at almost every intersection with a 4 way stop I am waved through by drivers whether I have the right of way or not.

            In spent 4.5 years living in rural Wisconsin. The drivers there would give almost an entire lanes clearance when passing me. Actually most rural areas I’ve ridden in the drivers are quite considerate.

            Life riding out there on the road isn’t perfect, but the few issues I’ve had don’t make me get worked up paint every driver as a maniac.

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  • Paul Johnson November 28, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Welcome to Oregon. The attitude improves substantially in rural Oklahoma and Kansas.

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    • noah November 28, 2011 at 11:23 am

      Really? Or is this sarcasm?

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      • Paul Johnson November 28, 2011 at 11:53 am

        Really. Not sarcasm. The midwest’s complete lack of hills and incredibly long sightlines makes for excellent, nearly conflict-free cycling. Kansas also has well over 100 miles of dedicated cycleway mapped (including a truly epic-fun, easy-to-ride, cheap toll cycleway from Bassett to Ottawa) and growing, and certainly hundreds of miles more that haven’t hit the map yet. Wide, clean shoulders and bike-gapped rumble-strips are the norm, especially on the Kansas side of the line. Cyclists are a major (if not the largest) tourism segment in Kansas.

        Oklahoma just got it’s first state cycleway at the start of the month (Oklahoma City to the Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma Bike Route 66, the light-blue solid line under the red dotted line) and is working with Kansas and Missouri to get the US Bike Route 66 started (preliminarily mapped as the red dotted line on the link above).

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        • John Russell (jr98664) November 28, 2011 at 6:34 pm

          Having cycled nearly 500 miles across the breadth of the entire state of Kansas when cycling across the country in 2010, I can tell you that Kansas is not what you make it out to be.

          After having thoroughly enjoyed Colorado, as soon as I reached the state line, I was already disappointed. As soon as I crossed into Kansas,the pavement took a turn for the worse. They may leave gaps between the rumble strips, but they also are quite fond of taking up three quarters of a perfectly good shoulder with wide ones, completely ruining 10′ of otherwise bikeable shoulder.

          Not even 100 miles into the state, I was pulled over twice by state troopers just for cycling on the shoulder of I-70. Despite the fact that there were no parallel paved roads for a stretch of 70 miles (for 20 miles to the north and 35 miles to the south), I was slapped with a ticket for nearly $170 only because I was on a bike, and forced under threat of arrest to travel the the remaining 50 miles on unpaved roads.

          In Kansas, it’s illegal to ride on all Interstates, even when it’s the only road between two places. Imagine you want to ride south from Wilsonville? In Oregon you just hop on I-5. In Kansas it’s illegal. I just got done with a ride back from Eugene that wouldn’t have been anywhere near as doable without the shoulders of I-5 and rest stops carrying me along.

          While the Flint Hills and Landon Nature Trails have the potential to rival the thoroughly tourable Katy Trail in nearby Missouri, over 100 miles of their 150-mile length is still undeveloped.

          As a disclaimer, however, the people in Kansas are some of the nicest you’ll meet in the US, with the sole exception of the solitary state trooper. The state itself is sorely in need of a complete overhaul in how it treats bicycles and bicycle-related development before I even think of returning. That said, the people are really hospitable.

          As for the Route 66 bike route, I would love to see some of that some time. I’m currently working on US 99, and I’ve ridden it in one form or another from Northern California to British Columbia. A Route 66 bike route would be awesome.

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          • Paul Johnson November 28, 2011 at 6:42 pm

            Except that the entire state of Kansas has a parallel route to every interstate. The whole state is a 1mi x 1mi grid system. Some of the older routes that haven’t been repaved have the old-style full-width rumble strips, but complaints like yours are why they’re not being replaced when it comes time to repave.

            Oklahoma has opened a segment of old 66 exclusively to bicycles, striped as a four-lane cycleway, complete with full signage, proper guardrails, etc. Speed limit’s 15 on that (or 5 slower than the speed limit in parks such as the Springwater Corridor), which seems kind of slow when you consider that even Granny’s gotta ride the brakes to avoid speeding on a windy day if the limit’s 15; curious on if/how they intend to enforce that.

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            • Paul Johnson November 29, 2011 at 11:09 am

              Now why is that flagged?

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          • sorebore November 28, 2011 at 9:40 pm

            Sorry John, but I have to wonder why you did not do your homework on a states law before pedaling down major Interstates, I- 70 across Kansas is not needed as a touring route, nor desirable.

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      • Paul Johnson November 28, 2011 at 11:54 am

        Not to mention Oregon has rage issues in general, and the midwest is considerably depress(ing/ed) overall.

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        • wsbob November 28, 2011 at 12:43 pm

          Paul Johnson
          Not to mention Oregon has rage issues in general, and the midwest is considerably depress(ing/ed) overall.
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          You’re making broadly general, serious claims with absolutely no example whatsoever provided to support them. In a public forum that seeks to have a constructive discussion, posting such a comment suggests a lack of personal responsibility.

          Both of the claims in your comment seem absurd, and have nothing to do with the issue, that Russel K raises in his letter, about certain Corbett area residents animosity towards people that bike.

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          • Paul Johnson November 28, 2011 at 1:17 pm

            I’m sorry, but I really can’t look at this through rose colored glasses any longer. Truth hurts, I know.

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            • wsbob November 28, 2011 at 2:09 pm

              Put simply, your claims:

              “Not to mention Oregon has rage issues in general, and the midwest is considerably depress(ing/ed) overall.”

              …have no truth, and to try promote unthinking, animosity and paranoia by making the kind of claims you have in a public forum is not responsible.

              Support your claims with some examples, and we’ll see if there is any truth to them.

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              • Paul Johnson November 28, 2011 at 2:24 pm

                I’m afraid this is something you’re just going to have to find for yourself by getting out and experiencing the world beyond Oregon. The differences are visceral but apparent when you have a basis for comparison. People are substantially angrier and less open to anything outside their comfort zone than you find in flyover country.

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              • brian November 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm

                I’m with Paul on this. I travel frequently an have lived other places in the country.

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              • matt picio November 30, 2011 at 1:14 pm

                I’m with wsbob on this, and I just got done with an 11-state bike trip. I’ve noticed that overall, if there’s anything of a shoulder, problems are few – and people’s attitudes towards you largely reflect your attitudes towards them, and what you expect to see. If you expect jerks, you’ll notice jerks. I rode through OR, ID, MT, WY, CO, NE, IA, IL, IN, MI and OH, and kept track of the number of instances where if I hadn’t held my line, I would’ve been struck by a motor vehicle. I also kept track of honks and yells. Oregon and Montana both had fairly frequent honks and yells (meaning 3 of each for each state) – nearly all of those happened in urban areas or small cities: Portland, Eugene, Redmond, Missoula, Ennis. Rural Montana has some FAST drivers, but overall no issues. Wyoming was by far the least problematic, perhaps because it was also least populous. Nebraska had the most skilled and most courteous drivers, until I got close to Lincoln. Colorado had the worst drivers, and where there was no shoulder, there were problems. When there was a shoulder, motorists were well-behaved. A truck tried to deliberately run me off the road in Iowa, and southern Iowa had no shoulders and some of the worst roads of the trip – but the people when not in their cars were fantastic!

                Everything east of the Mississippi was problematic in the rural areas and worse in the urban ones – notable exceptions were Chicago proper (where I was mostly on a multi-use path), and Detroit proper. Rural Michigan was awesome – not a single honk until I got to Jackson, home of the NASCAR speedway and the state prison (coincidence? Also the birthplace of the Republican Party). most of Ohio was ok, except for Oregon, Ohio, a suburb of Toledo. It all varies. But as for Oregon, many of the rural areas have no issue with cyclists. The general rule is that 1 in 60-80 cars and 1 in 40-50 trucks behaved aggressively, passed too close, or otherwise were a pain (that’s a rough guess, I didn’t keep close track). Basically, 2-3% of people are jerks, and that was reasonably consistent from state to state. Your experience may vary, Paul – I don’t know where or how far you rode, in my case, it was 167 days and 4,809 miles through the above states.

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            • sorebore November 28, 2011 at 6:16 pm

              @ wsbob and Paul Johnson. Being from the Mid & deep South and also have spent countless years cycling in Kansas and Oklahoma as well, P.J. is on the mark with his comments. I remember hearing of Corbett folks that hated cyclist’s when I arrived here 9 years ago, but I have had little happen that was unsavory personally out that way.( maybe three in 8 years)
              Much like the the West Side and Skyline, people are dealing with the same issues. The extra bonus is that the roads around the gorge are even narrower than most with the tourist element added in. I never ride out the Scenic Highway on any weekend unless it is VERY early. Wednesday mornings after 9 are awesome though.

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              • wsbob November 29, 2011 at 1:35 am

                “@ wsbob and Paul Johnson. Being from the Mid & deep South and also have spent countless years cycling in Kansas and Oklahoma as well, P.J. is on the mark with his comments. …” sorebore

                Please think about offering an explanation why you think his comments referred to are on the mark and how that applies to the situation in the gorge. He’s got credit due for trying to offer some insight to the situation up in the gorge, but I don’t think observations such as those help to explain or help people understand why what’s been going on up on the Old Columbia Gorge Hwy has been happening.

                “…I remember hearing of Corbett folks that hated cyclist’s when I arrived here 9 years ago, but I have had little happen that was unsavory personally out that way.( maybe three in 8 years)…” sorebore

                Your experience contrasts dramatically with experiences other people say they’ve had out in the Corbett area. There must be reasons for the difference. Figuring out what they are could give some insight into the situation between people that drive and people that ride on the old gorge highway and in the Corbett area.

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              • matt picio November 30, 2011 at 1:21 pm

                I’ve been out to the Gorge through Corbett a number of times, with no issues. One trip with others, two of our folk took tacks in their tires, when that issue flared up again. My understanding is that there is 1 or 2 people out there putting the tacks out, and “everyone” knows who it is, but unless they’re caught doing it, nothing can be done.

                Regardless, Corbett hasn’t been much of a problem. In any case, I think we’ve all seen some poor cyclist behavior on the road, and it would make sense that folks out there would remember the bad and forget the good behavior. Riding abreast on the HCRH (Historic Columbia River Highway) isn’t really smart, and in many places the safest thing to do is take the lane, which always angers those motorists who aren’t aware of why we do that or why it’s safer.

                The only thing we can really do is try not to be jerks to each other out there. Show the behavior you want to see.

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          • Paul Johnson November 28, 2011 at 1:20 pm

            Likewise, the sooner Oregon collectively acknowledges that this is a major problem, the sooner it can work on correcting it.

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          • Greg November 28, 2011 at 8:32 pm

            wsbob, are the “general statement” police?

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        • was carless November 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm

          Someone needs a hug.

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        • q`Tzal November 28, 2011 at 3:46 pm

          Here I wanted to support yours, and my, opinion that the NW US is generally more depressed than the rest of the country.
          Alas the data does not support this:
          CDC Current Depression Among Adults — United States, 2006 and 2008. In TABLE 2. Age-standardized percentage of adults meeting criteria for current depression, by type of depression and state/territory — Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, United States, 2006 and 2008 Oregon ranks 24th on Major depression, 52nd on Other depression and 43rd on Any current depression out of all reporting states and territories.
          I sorted the chart here on separate sheets by those different headings.

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          • Paul Johnson November 29, 2011 at 11:10 am

            Seriously something wrong with the moderation system…

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    • cold worker November 28, 2011 at 5:46 pm

      who wants to ride in oklahoma or kansas? those are 2 miserable places. the beauty of those states do not hold a candle to oregon or most anywhere on the west coast.

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      • sorebore November 28, 2011 at 6:32 pm

        Apples and oranges my narrow minded friend, I have been on rides in the Rockies and been sickened by miles of rock four inches of my shoulder for miles. The Flint hills of Kansas are awesome, and Oklahoma has beauty you cant see from an airplane or from the seat of a car on I-35 . sorry. oh yeah, Oregon is pretty too.

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        • cold worker November 29, 2011 at 9:26 am

          my mom lives just south of okc, i’ve been visiting oklahoma for years. i’m well familiar with that part of the country beyond flying over or passing through on the interstate.

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  • noah November 28, 2011 at 11:30 am

    In a curious mix of threatening and polite behavior he informed me that I, as a rider, was hated in Corbett. He further indicated that I would be lucky to stay healthy and uninjured if I kept going up the Old Hwy.

    Though I can’t otherwise fault Russell’s very practical attitude, I can never let such a veiled threat go unmet. I would respond with an equally obfuscated threat, like, “Anyone who would make me unhealthy or injured in Corbett would be lucky not to spend a good chunk of the rest of their lives in prison.”

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    • q`Tzal November 28, 2011 at 11:48 am

      It seems as if this “friendly” citizen of Corbett is one of those who is socially pressured to conform to the norm in his town of hating cyclists.

      While looking for the proper terminology I stumbled on this:

      Psychopathology of hate groups
      According to a 2003 FBI Law Enforcement bulletin, a hate group, if unimpeded, passes through seven successive stages.In the first four stages, hate groups vocalize their beliefs and in the last three stages, they act on their beliefs. The report points to a transition period that exists between verbal violence and acting that violence out, separating hardcore haters from rhetorical haters. Thus, hate speech is seen as a prerequisite of hate crimes, and as a condition of their possibility.

      (emphasis mine)

      Sounds like Corbet is on the edge of stage 4 in to stage 5.
      This warning person is likely “on the fence” considering actual acts of violence. In general the commission of an act of violence usually pushes a person to either fully accept or reject a hate group; this person was portrayed as dispassionate.
      I would say that it is very likely that this individual has not done anything to cyclists but has very likely directly witnessed friends or family doing so.

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      • matt picio November 30, 2011 at 1:27 pm

        But is it? Has anyone read any of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s reports to see if incidents are on the rise?

        If anyone has concerns/questions/grievances about Corbett and cyclists, a good place to address them would be at one of the Multnomah County Bike/Ped meetings – especially because the county can’t do anything about it unless they’re made aware – and the BPCAC (Citizen’s Advisory Committee) is the venue by which to do that.

        http://web.multco.us/transportation-planning/bicycle-and-pedestrian-citizen-advisory-committee

        And, hey – if you’re reading this and a Corbett resident, and YOU’RE concerned, how about considering sitting on that committee? The committee has a shortage of east county residents and is actively looking to fill that gap.

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    • Ryan Good November 28, 2011 at 2:50 pm

      Except that that’s not usually the case. All a driver would have to do is say it was an accident and they’d probably get off clean.

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  • SilkySlim November 28, 2011 at 11:50 am

    A good chunk of this anger from drivers stems from their perception of sharing a road they are using for utility with someone using it for sport.

    Over the past 5 years I have toured through a lot of Oregon, and only got friendly waves and wide passes. I think a lot of it had to my very obvious panniers and camping gear. I was just another person travelling on the road to a destination, versus a weekend lycra warrior getting in some miles.

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    • Rollie November 28, 2011 at 12:28 pm

      Even though this is clearly called out as a “perception,” and even though I rarely ride for “sport” myself, and even though nobody from Corbett is reading this, I feel compelled to state explicitly that…
      1) Plenty of miles are driven in cars for non-utilitarian reasons. Certainly through Corbett.
      2) You can drive a bigger car than necessary for non-utilitarian reasons (e.g. comfort, poseuring), exacting a proportionately larger toll on road surfaces, the public safety, the environment and the public coffers. Is that “utility” or “sport?” Oh yeah, it’s sport-utility!
      3) Regardless, a person’s purpose in using the roads their taxes paid for is no one’s business, not relevant to any interpretation of any law I’m aware of, and no one’s place to judge. Unless/until the govt. and the rule of law collapses.

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  • Ben Guernsey November 28, 2011 at 11:53 am

    I think small towns near metropolitan areas may be the worst. As they get the influx of the cities bikers who flee for some time on quieter roads where you don’t have to stop every minute or so at a light. Areas much further away from the city cyclists are more like a side show oddity. At least that is how I feel when I am on a tour. But closer to populated areas I feel the prevalent outlook on cyclists is that they are a nuance or an obstacle. Maybe even a pest to be dealt with.

    On a positive note if you look at the map posted a couple days ago there are no cycling deaths out on the old historic highway (at least between ’01–’09).

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  • adventure! November 28, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    I agree with what both Silky and Ben said above. I’ve toured through Eastern Oregon and had no problems there. There is barely any traffic–or people–for that matter. Even on US 26, one of the main highways through that area. When I rode that road last year, every vehicle that passed me fully used the other lane, and they never honked. But the small towns on the fringes of metropolitan areas is where I’ve encountered angry drivers and passive-aggressive behavior.

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  • Serena November 28, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    I think some of this may be about class resentment, since many country folk in Oregon are un/underemployed, and speaking as someone who grew up in Boring, the small town schools are not generally very good, nor do they offer opportunities for class advancement. Bicycling, despite the fact that it is mad cheap, can be associated both with a liesure that the poor cannot afford, and with a culture that Oregon’s rural inhabitants cannot relate to.

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  • wsbob November 28, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    “…Over the next several years I have met a dozen more individuals that truly hate riders in that area, most in Corbett. Weirdly that number recently dramatically increased as I began to ask folks their opinion about riders when I found they lived in the area.

    I am sure there are those that understand the sport of bicycle riding and respect the men and women on those roads. I am sure there are riders that live in Corbett. However it is very clear to me that many of those up the Old Hwy truly hate riders.

    I have only met a small sample of residents from Corbett and out of that sample more than 80% feel somewhere between hate and keen irritation; I believe this indicates Corbett has some kind of cultural or shared problem with riders. …” Russel K

    I appreciate Russel K’s effort to engage Corbett residents about their feelings and opinions regarding people that bike in the area, but wonder why he’s not relating much about the opinions they’ve expressed to him, beyond that which would support his conclusion that many people up the Old Hwy hate people that bike.

    If Corbett area residents are truly having issues with people on bikes abusing their use of the road, let’s hear about what those issues are.

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    • Paul Johnson November 28, 2011 at 2:26 pm

      I’m not sure this animosity is reserved just for cyclists, given the number of times I’ve been passed on double-yellows in hairpin curves on Larch Mountain Road or the old highway while doing the speed limit uphill in my car.

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  • drew November 28, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Living in Portland for 8 years, I have ridden the old highway and up Larch mt road at least a dozen times a year. Usually I stop at the Corbett store and sit down for something to eat, where I always feel welcome.
    I have had only one negative encounter… on Larch mt road. Oncoming driver slows down (brakes hard) so that motorist behind me (who is about to pass) arrives at the same time. He purposefully arranges it so that 2 cars and a bike pass each other at the same time. And leans on his horn. I am riding to the right of the fog line as usual; it was not a close call. Another angry motorist; big deal. So there is at least one angry man in an old truck who drives Larch Mt, who will go out of his way to create conflict.
    I think Corbett should hold a public meeting to let people vent and try think of solutions to the problem, but I don’t think anybody should be scared to ride up there.

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  • Rachel November 28, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Gosh… and here I am, a bicyclist from Corbett. I grew up living along popular Corbett bicycling route, and I have generally found people bicycling through the town to be courteous folks.

    The area presents a challenge for people both in and out of cars; there are steep climbs, serpentine roads, precipitous drop-offs, and often little to no shoulder. There’s not a whole lot of road space to share, and this definitely contributes to some tension.

    It’s unfortunate that there are few separate walking/biking paths through such a beautiful area; I’ve wondered countless times what it would take to get a bicycle lane put in along the historic highway and other frequently-traveled bicycle corridors.

    Perhaps a community discussion would help provide some perspective to all parties.

    And to those of you who are generalizing on the subject of rural residents/areas, do stop to consider how generalizations about bicyclists fuel the same sort of nasty antagonism that Russell K has experienced firsthand.

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  • Tom M November 28, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    I suspect that the problem is Corbett residents look at bicyclists as “city” folk ruining their rural town feel.

    Bicyclists are an easy target on which to vent people’s frustrations. It is easier to blame others than oneself. The old “the world would a lot better if” scenario. Just saying.

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  • Steve B November 28, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    In my experience, this is standard behavior on our roadways throughout the United States. We are markedly better at how we treat cyclists on our roadways in Oregon, but there is much work to be done.

    Sadly, there is little accountability for violent behavior on the part of road users and without it, these aggressive tactics will continue.

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    • Paul Johnson November 28, 2011 at 2:28 pm

      Never been hit headon or had batteries thrown at me in Oklahoma. But I have in Oregon.

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      • cold worker November 28, 2011 at 5:53 pm

        dude, so move back to ok. you clearly love it and it is a wonderful state. oregon is inferior, please leave.

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  • Jason Skelton November 28, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Corbett may be a special case. A few years ago while on a July 4 ride, I was caught up in Corbett’s July 4th parade (which is a fantastic parade). I was told to walk my bike along the side of the road during the parade.

    Once the parade was done, a local police officer told me years ago a cyclist did not walk his bike and hit a child, breaking his leg. Of course, the cyclist was a jerk about it–apparently yelling at the child for getting in his way–and the locals nearly beat the tar out of the guy. I do remember getting very dirty looks the few times I slowly coasted (with one foot off the pedal) along the parade route. Anyhoo, this may explain Corbett’s behavior.

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    • Velogirl November 29, 2011 at 10:45 am

      I, too, have ridden through Corbett on 4th of July. It was before the parade started and when my friends and I asked the police officer if we should continue riding or walk our bikes, she said the parade had not started, be careful but go ahead and continue. We did and had more more candy thrown at us and abusive yelling than I ever want to hear in a lifetime. I remember have a father grab the candy out of his son’s hand to throw at my head. Really dad? We eventually sprinted outta there and vowed to never go back. At any time.

      When I visit places on my bike I try to stop and make purchases, eat, whatever to help with the town’s economy. Not there. Not anymore.

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      • Paul Johnson November 29, 2011 at 11:11 am

        I would have gone back to the cop, explained what happened, and insisted on charges for all involved.

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  • dan November 28, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Hmm, Craigslist shows an 80-acre lot in Corbett for $450k. Maybe some Portland cyclists should get together to buy it, build some MTB trails, and show Corbett that bikes can bring money into the community.

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    • Chris I November 28, 2011 at 3:12 pm

      Where is our Phil Knight?

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      • dan November 28, 2011 at 3:34 pm

        Just need 450 people to put up $1k each, or $500 from each of 900 people…way less than the price of an MTB! Not bad for lifetime access to trails.

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        • sorebore November 28, 2011 at 6:41 pm

          I belonged to a private riding club in the past that had acreage for off road motorcycling. If any one here could formulate this into a plan for a mountain bike specific riding spot, I would by a five year membership in advance!!!

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    • Rachel November 28, 2011 at 3:40 pm

      I’ve visited the property before. It’s gorgeous land with a lot to explore.

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    • sorebore November 28, 2011 at 4:04 pm

      I’m in, lets do it !!!

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    • wsbob November 28, 2011 at 4:32 pm

      Now you’re talking. I wonder if something like that is doable. If the idea were to open the property to recreational access…public, private, whatever, all kinds of questions about appropriate use and implications of use would be raised. Approval procedures, permits and whatnot.

      How to keep the effort from becoming overwhelmingly complicated and expensive could become far more challenging than raising the $450 thou. Definitely a reason to be making efforts to be on good terms with the locals. The area needs income opportunities though…jobs. And something better than ‘gaming’. Off-road biking on carefully managed land sounds like a great idea.

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  • steve popp November 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    I’m a regular rider out in that area and would strongly agree with the story. I have been run off the road to many times to count,shouted out and have even been threatned with physical harm. This is over the last five or so years of riding out there 1-2 per week.

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    • wsbob November 29, 2011 at 1:42 am

      steve popp
      I’m a regular rider out in that area and would strongly agree with the story. I have been run off the road to many times to count,shouted out and have even been threatned with physical harm. This is over the last five or so years of riding out there 1-2 per week.
      Recommended 0

      Have you considered that these incidents you’ve experienced may not be the work of Corbett residents, but people from for example…Portland? For years the old gorge highway and Larch Mtn have been a destination for people outside of the Corbett area, looking for places away from where they live to get drunk, high, drive crazy and get into various other kinds of trouble.

      Russel K’s story seems to describe a small percentage of people that may have an axe to grind, rather than the general viewpoint of people in town or the area in general.

      Jason Skelton’s story about being caught up in the town’s 4th of July parade, and the reaction he got from police and a few people is a good example of a situation that can be remedied fairly easily. http://bikeportland.org/2011/11/28/letter-to-the-editor-trouble-in-corbett-62679#comment-2223614

      If Corbett area residents have been finding that somebody, or groups of people on bikes ride in the Corbett area in negligent ways that result in kids and other people being threatened or harmed, this would be something that most people whether they ride bikes or not, would want to set right. Common ground.

      Serena’s comment, about hard to make ends meet and unemployed rural people perhaps feeling a bit resentful about people they see as having the luxury to ride around on their bikes, may have some truth to it:

      http://bikeportland.org/2011/11/28/letter-to-the-editor-trouble-in-corbett-62679#comment-2223395

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  • Lenny Anderson November 28, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Some of this conflict may be due to the way ODOT signs and manages the Historic Columbia River Highway. I have driven that stretch many times, and see few if any signs indicating that HCR is for all vehicles, human and petrol fueled alike. Thanks to all of you who bike it and help keep motor vehicle speeds down…it is a scenic route afterall.

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    • matt picio November 30, 2011 at 1:36 pm

      That’s not ODOT’s fault. Getting a new sign approved for installation is virtually impossible due to the historic character of the road and the restrictions caused by the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area. The CGNSA has at least 20 different stakeholders, and making any kind of change requires cooperation from multiple stakeholders, even for something as simple as signs.

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  • Lynne November 28, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    I have been riding through Corbett, several times a year, off and on for the last 20 years. Most fun descent ever from Women’s Forum down to the bottom. I personally have had only ONE negative encounter that entire time. I wouldn’t generalize to the whole population.

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    • A.K. November 29, 2011 at 8:50 am

      I dunno… if you go a bit further up to the top of Larch Mountain and bomb down that 3000′ until you meet up with the Historic Highway again, I’d consider that the best descent I’ve ever had. No cross traffic, 30 mins of downhill in the drops with very little pedaling required – awesome awesome.

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  • jenn November 28, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    I doubt a meeting like what happened at the Skyline Grange would solve this issue. Like Russell points out this is an issue with how people feel towards cyclists, not a misunderstanding of the law. The focus of the Skyline meeting (which I attended) was intended to answer questions people had about right-of-way and laws regarding bikes on the road.

    A meeting where people are truly able to be heard regarding their frustrations is a lot more likely to make a difference here, not a meeting where a sheriff and a lawyer offer interpretations of the law.

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    • wsbob November 29, 2011 at 10:21 am

      jenn
      I doubt a meeting like what happened at the Skyline Grange would solve this issue. Like Russell points out this is an issue with how people feel towards cyclists, not a misunderstanding of the law. The focus of the Skyline meeting (which I attended) was intended to answer questions people had about right-of-way and laws regarding bikes on the road.
      A meeting where people are truly able to be heard regarding their frustrations is a lot more likely to make a difference here, not a meeting where a sheriff and a lawyer offer interpretations of the law.
      Recommended 0

      Russel K.’s account suggests that “…how people feel towards cyclists…” may be part of the reason he’s come away from informal conversations with people in the Corbett area, feeling that people living there “…hate…” people that bike.

      His account just touches the surface, and doesn’t go any further to explain possible reasons for the why and the wherefore of this “…hate…”.

      With the possible exception of Jason Skelton’s story, neither do any of the other accounts posted to this thread, of people describing various experiences of being threatened on the road by people passing them in motor vehicles.

      Notice that there’s a great tendency in all of these comments to assume Corbett area residents are the people doing the threatening, while a substantial sentiment by people living in this area against people that bike, hasn’t really been determined to even exist.

      If Corbett area residents were interested, a community meeting could help bring to light answers about the relationship between people that live there and use the road for utilitarian purposes, and the people from outside the community that come to the Corbett area with their bikes for recreation.

      A community meeting addressing the issue seems likely to be more constructive than passing around word of mouth allegations that seem to have gradually built to a kind of rural community legend.

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  • Straybike November 28, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Im pissed at the motor homes running me into the ditches and pickup trucks grazing my elbow at 60mph. Other than that its a nice ride and everyone needs to be respectful all around. The author has a point, but it does go both ways. Just because Im a bicyclist does not give anyone the right to make it unsafe.

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  • David Thomson November 28, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Much ado about (almost) nothing. The biggest threat to cyclists in Oregon is reading all the exaggerated “I was almost run over 5 times in 3 blocks” comments on BikePortland. Just go out and ride – no one is out to get you.

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  • nuovorecord November 29, 2011 at 9:24 am

    I’ve ridden through Corbett as well as the entire length of the Gorge highway many, many times. I’ve been honked at maybe twice, and truly felt at risk only once. But I can say the same thing for practically anywhere I ride. Jerks are everywhere; I just try not to be one of them. I don’t think there’s any conspiracy brewing against cyclists out in Corbett, despite what one yokel might be trying to insinuate. The last paragraph of Russell’s letter would be a good one to implement, if you’re not already doing so.

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  • Dan Forester November 29, 2011 at 9:42 am

    In the past couple of years I’ve done a bunch of rides up old Highway 30 and on the backroads in the area around Corbett (larch mtn, crown point, bull run, etc). I’ve only encountered courteous and careful drivers out there thus far, knock on wood. This area has a lot of great cycling to offer – strenuous climbs, fun descents, beautiful surroundings – and it’d be a shame if anyone was deterred from heading out there because of this article and the comments here.

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  • John Lascurettes November 29, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Is this prevalent in rural Oregon?

    The guys from Real Geeks Ride (the guys that rode from NJ to Seaside) said their absolute worst experiences with auto traffic aggression was in Oregon east of the Cascades; worse than Montana, worse than Idaho, worse than any little town east of the Rockies.

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    • matt picio November 30, 2011 at 1:38 pm

      Oregon east of the Cascades is a massive area, bigger than most states. Can you be a bit more specific? I had few problems along the TransAmerica route (mostly along the US-26 corridor, until nearing Sumpter)

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  • dwainedibbly November 29, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    There are nice people everywhere and there are nasty people everywhere. What I can’t quite figure out is why the presence of bicycles using the roadway can make some otherwise nice people behave nastily.

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