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Mountain bikers just want a place to ride

Posted by on November 3rd, 2005 at 11:08 am

Local mountain bikers want more access to Forest Park and they want to be a bigger part of Portland’s bike-friendly portfolio. Until now, they’ve been relegated to “recreational” status by the powers that be. This means they haven’t had a voice in Portland’s bike advocacy circles to express their needs and concerns. They’re also unfairly portrayed in the media as “rogue” and “extreme” riders hell-bent on running hikers off local trails…which couldn’t be further from the truth.

But change is in the air. MTB’ers have started to join the conversation and representatives from PUMP are actively looking to meet with heads of groups like the BTA and PDOT. This cross-pollination of “recreational” riding advocates and “transportation” riding advocates is exciting and long overdue.

At issue is the fact that MTB’ers must drive an hour away to find good riding despite the largest urban park in the country being just minutes from their front doors. Unfortunately, they can only legally ride 29 out of 110 miles of trails in the 5400 acre Forest Park. And those 29 miles are wide fire roads…not the singletrack they desire.

Despite these unfair restrictions, PUMP has printed and distributed over 2000 Forest Park mountain bike maps (at their own expense) and helped pay for and install the “No Bicycles” signs hikers have accused them of tearing down and vandalizing.

Recognizing these good faith efforts, The City of Portland Parks Department is working with MTB’ers on plans to build new singletrack trails alongside popular Forest Park hiking routes like Wildwood. Plans for a new singletrack trail near Fire Lane 5 are already moving forward.

A separate effort is being made to create a designated MTB Park somewhere near the city. All that’s needed is a strong show of support from the community. Please read about the proposal and sign the petition! Seattle has recently opened an urban MTB “skills park” and there’s no good reason Portland shouldn’t have one too.

I’m glad MTB’ers are starting to make some noise. I’m sure there’s a battle ahead on Forest Park access, but it’s a battle that the MTB’ers will win (and one I’ve fought before). Their right to ride trails in Forest Park should be seen as evolutionary, not revolutionary. Stay tuned…

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Cedar Kyes

Let’s make some noise for Mountain Bikes!!!
It is already obvious to MTB’ers…lets make it obvious to the rest of the Portland population.
We need to evolve!

Carla Zenner
Carla Zenner

We really are a great group of people (mtn bikers), we love the forest, wetlands, trees and surrounding areas. We don’t want to contribute to global warming by drivng so far to have access to trails, we want and will help preserve trails in Forest Park for mountain bike use. We really are not a glum lot and we have a great respect for our precsious Forest Park so please consider hearing our ideas.
Carla Zenner


Thanks for addressing this issue. It has been a frustrating battle to gain access to any singletrack in the area, and I sincerely hope some sort of evolution is about to take shape. When I moved to Portland 4 years ago I went into the “Friends” of Forest Park office and told them I’m a mountain biker and I’d like to offer my help with any trail access, building, or maintaining that I could. I was instantly marked as “one of them”, and got a very negative response from the office. There is obviously a strong opposition from their end towards mountain bikers in Forest Park, so I’m glad to see there’s at least some sort of communication sprouting. I’m sure it will be a laborious process, but we all need to do what we can to gain the access that we need.

Curt Dewees
Curt Dewees

Re: Mountain Bike Trails in Forest Park

I’ve heard of trail systems in the Southeast (Tennessee, North Carolina, etc.) in which land managers, park rangers, and local user groups came together and worked out alternate-day trail sharing to ease conflicts between mtbers and equestrians. Not sure of exact details, but it worked out something like this:
Bikers: Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.
Horses: Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays

(not sure who gets Mondays, in this particular example …)

I think something similar is currently in place on the Willamette River on weekends to ease conflicts between boat fishermen and high-speed boaters (waterskiiers, etc.)

Saturdays: fishermen have right-of-way, all boaters go slow, create no wakes.
Sundays: No fishing allowed; high-speed boaters/waterskiiers have free reign.

Maybe something like this could be put in place as a temporary solution for the Forest Park trails that mtbers are now currently banned from completely. Give us two or three days a week, and have those days posted at all the trail heads, so everyone knows the deal. Bikers caught using the trails on the off-days could be cited and fined.

Let the hiking community know that this is a temporary measure–until bikers get their own trail system built and operational. Then [hopefully] the hikers would get on board the new-trails program and want to support new trails for bikers ASAP. (The sooner the mtbers get their own trails, the sooner the hikers get “their” trails back full-time!)

Just an idea ….

[also posted on PUMP club listserve]

A Friend of Forest Park
A Friend of Forest Park

It’s too bad that you got the feeling from Friends of Forest Park that as a mountain biker you were one of ‘them’. Both the president and executive director of the Friends are also one of ‘them’ and can be found riding their mountain bikes in Forest Park and elsewhere.
FOFP is NOT against mountain bikers. The map that is referred to above was produced by the Friends (in conjunction with PUMP, the Mazamas and Portland Parks) and can be downloaded from the Friends website.


I too wanted to comment on the percieved experience my fellow MTB’r had with FOFP.

I found their relationship with PUMP to be positive. I helped with a user count in FP coordinated by FOFP and found my interaction with them to be positive.

I think it is also important to point out that the petition to develop a MTB park in FP is different than trying to turn the existing ped only trails into rideable trails.


I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to perpetuate any adversarial position between mountain bikers and the Friends of Forest Park. We certainly need to work together to create a working trail system for all users. Unfortunately, right now that is not the situation as mountain bikers are enjoying exactly 0 miles of singletrack within the vast expanse of the park. I’m looking forward to some positive change.

Roger Louton

As a PUMP member who was directy involved with the Friends of Forest Park to create and distribute the ‘Mountain Biking in Forest Park’ map, and being involved in the planning process to finally open Firelane 5 to bicycles (the first new pathway to be opened to cyclists since 1988), I can personally vouch for the Friends of Forest Park and how bicycle friendly they are. There is a long history to the park and it’s varied users and the pressure put upon the area by all of us recreationalists. Only by working together, as different groups that have the same goal, to preserve the ‘wildness’ of the place, will we be succesful in providing more access for all users.
If you would like to be involved, contact PUMP and/or Friends of Forest Park, say ‘I want to be a part of the solution, not the problem’.
Join both organizatons, show up at a meeting, offer to volunteer in a way you can share your expertise, it will certainly go a long way to help. You may have to sacrifice some saddle time, but it is for a worthy cause.
We value everyone’s participation, and want to work together. And above all, ‘Without Trails, Where Would We Ride?’


When I moved to Portland 4 years ago, I heard all kinds of great things about the local mountain biking. Imagine my disappointment upon discovering that I had to drive an hour to to ride any singletrack. There is a trail system in the Salt Lake City area that allows biking on alternate days–I think that’s a great compromise to allow biking and still give hikers an option to avoid bike traffic, or allow horse use on the off day. I also believe in seasonal closures if necessary to prevent trail destruction by riding in the mud. There are many great ways to open trails to bike use without causing conflict and destruction and I would love to be involved with making this happen!


Forest park is already overcrowded whenever it’s dry and there’s blue sky. Many folks insist on using Leif Erickson for running multiple dogs off leash. Large groups of ‘loose’ children get to walk naturally without ‘watching out for cyclists’ as well. Where else do kids get that experience in Portland? Think of the world we grew up in. Do I need to ruin this sanctuary because it looks like a photo in a MTB magazine? The park is more muddy than dry, and subject to erosion, due to the direction the slope faces. There are cyclocross races at Alpenrose if you insist on riding in mud. The hills are too steep for fun in any direction. I can climb ’em all, that doesn’t make ’em fun. Still, Forest park is too steep. That one singletrack we want to ‘share’ so badly would be ruined by the motorlesscycles available, for rent, just down below. There isn’t even a ‘parking lot’ for the MTB social scene to happen. I parked there once. My car got dented because its already way stupid by that gate. So what is so hard to understand about the fact that MTB use is inappropriate in Forest park? I tried it. It was not fun. Would it make it fun ruining the hiker and doggie walkers time? I did not appreciate Forest Park until I hiked the same trails I had biked many times previously. Try spending a day hiking there, judge me a ‘traitor’ if you would. Forest Park is not an appropriate place to shred singletrack or bomb DH runs. Lose the phat and your fear. Portland is paved. Asphalt is a lot cooler on skinny tires. Isn’t commuting in the rain at 5:30pm ‘technical’ enough? You could imagine yourself busting rapids on a metal river. Or move to a real forest like I did that ones just a PARK.


Head to the park at night and you’ll see cyclists enjoying the forbidden trails.


When I first moved to PDX, I went out for a ride in forest park up around Saltzman and got lost. I ended up on a trail and coasted along being very care full to stop for all the hikers. I know that I was in the wrong but my cycling shoes are not made for miles of hiking. A few people made comments but when I described my situation they were cool unitl one guy came along.

This 40ish guy with his kid comes up to me as I am stopped on the side of the trail, grabs my handle bars and starts yelling at me about 4 inches from my face. After about 5 minuets of this I mentioned to him he was about to get his butt kicked in front of his kid, and he stormed off.

I now ride a lot in the north end of the park on fire road 7, newcomb and the BPA road, and even though I have a right to ride there, I constantly get dirty looks, snide comments and people pulling branches into the middle of the road. I think that this is a minority of people hiking, but this air of righteous indignation indicates that we should all conform to one paradigm.


[…] Roger has been active in negotiations with Portland Parks and Recreation officials about local mountain bike issues, especially bicycle access to Forest Park singletrack trails. I asked Roger a few questions about the Portland mountain biking scene and what he hopes to accomplish at the Conference: What sort of good news will you hope for at the Conference? I am hoping to network with those around the country who run into the same trail access issues that Portland mountain bicyclists have: a severe lack of local legal singletrack trails and bicycle skill parks. Good news will be learning about grant writing and how to convince local land managers (Portland Parks and RECREATION) that hikers and bicyclists CAN co-exist on the same trail systems. […]

Roger Louton

So, you want to know WHY there is so LITTLE singletrack in Portland? Ask the PDX Parks Dept. yourself! Power in numbers, people!

Here’s your chance, it includes a Q&A session!:
Please see the information below about this meeting hosted by Parks.

You are invited to a presentation on the
Strategy for Regional Recreational Trails within Portland.
Thursday, June 1, 2006
6:30 – 8:00 PM
Portland Building – Second Floor, Room C
1120 SW Fifth Avenue
Portland, OR

June 3rd is National Trails Day! What better time to think about
Portland’s trail system?

Toward the end of June, Portland Parks & Recreation will be taking our
Regional Recreational Trails Strategy to City Council.
Regional Trails connect our city to adjacent communities and to
regionally significant features such as rivers and streams.
Portland has 22 existing and planned Regional Trails, totaling 221
miles. Of those, 146 miles (66%) are complete!

Now, working within the context of other regional planning frameworks,
Portland Parks & Recreation has developed a 20 year strategy for
completing Portland’s Regional Recreational Trail System. Please join us
to learn about the strategy and how it will be used to guide future
regional trail development decisions.

This presentation is intended to provide trail advocates and other
interested citizens with an in-depth overview of the draft Strategy and
an opportunity for Q & A and further discussion.

As of May 26th, the document will be posted on the PP&R web site under
“What’s New”.

Please pass this along to others who may be interested.

Thank you.