Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Safety concerns may close popular cemetery route

Posted by on April 26th, 2006 at 8:47 am

[Slow down or lose access.]

The tranquil roads inside the Riverview Cemetery (Google map) are a popular daily route for hundreds of Portland cyclists. Commuters prefer the cemetery because alternate routes like Barbur Blvd. and Terwilliger Blvd. are full of high-speed motorists. Recreational cyclists like the scenery and access to the Waterfront Trail and many competitive cyclists use the cemetery’s hilly roads for training sessions.

However, a recent episode between a cyclist and maintenance workers has led to a discussion with the cemetery’s management about safety concerns that may lead to a future prohibition of bikes inside the cemetery.

Local cyclist Jeff Tedder is the one talking with cemetery management and he brought this issue to my attention. Here’s an excerpt from an email Jeff sent to a local email list:

“I had a long talk with David Noble from the head office on Tuesday and there has been talk of stopping the cyclists from riding this route, this would be a blow to hundreds of cyclists that commute and train in the cemetery. There has been several close misses lately he said and they do not want any accidents. So please slow the speed going down through the cemetery, especially around the areas that I talked about. I would hate to see us loose the privledge of using these roads, they are nice enought to allow us access so lets not screw it up.”

Riverview manager David Noble loves that the cemetery is used by cyclists, and doesn’t want to prohibit access, but he’s worried about the danger posed by cyclists riding at unsafe speeds down the many narrow roads with blind corners. He doesn’t want to see cemetery visitors or cyclists get hurt and he is wary that an accident could lead to an ugly lawsuit. Noble has also noticed an increasing amount of complaints from his maintenence crew and from cemetery visitors about cyclists unsafely speeding through the property.

From talking with Jeff, it is clear that David Noble and the Riverview Cemetery are great friends of cycling. They tolerate hundreds of us riding through their private property every day. They have no obligation to be so nice and we owe it them to take it upon ourselves to ride with caution and consideration through their property. Please help spread the word about this situation and hopefully we can show Riverview management our appreciation by riding more safely in the future.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • mr.macadam April 26, 2006 at 9:24 am

    I’m letting as many folks know of these concerns. Thanks (Riverview) for letting us use as part of our route.

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  • anonymous April 26, 2006 at 9:28 am

    I wonder if it would be useful to post a sign stating that bike access is a privilege and not to abuse it by riding too fast. I’m not sure that many riders have even considered it bad etiquette to do so and would happily slow down once they knew better.

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  • Cecil April 26, 2006 at 9:58 am

    I use this route almost every day and would be very sad to see it closed. I am wondering if the cemetery has investigated whether it is entitled to recreational use immunity under Oregon Revised Statute 105.682(1). Based on my reading of that statute and the case law, I would think that the cemetery could find some shelter against liability there – that could alleviate some of their concerns.

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  • john bloss April 26, 2006 at 10:01 am

    Jonathan…thanks for this informative post that alerts cyclists to ride responsibly in the cemetery to ensure its continued use. (I’ve only taken the uphill route on way to Lake O for training ride, but can see where speedy riders could create problems on the reverse leg.)


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  • David Rowe April 26, 2006 at 11:00 am

    I use the route on most of my commute days, and losing it would a huge loss and inconvenience for those of us on the West Side. Could BTA help prepare the signs which, with the cooperation of management at the cemetery, could be posted at the gates?

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  • Jessica Roberts April 26, 2006 at 11:27 am

    I’ll call the cemetery today or tomorrow and see what we can do to help keep this very important route open.

    Jessica (at the BTA)

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  • Trickykill April 26, 2006 at 11:44 am

    Riding through the cemetery on a crisp early morning is without doubt the highlight of my commute from L.O to swan Island.
    I will certainly be following your advice Jonathan and practice a slower pace from now on. I would hate to be forced to tackle Barbur or Highway 43 for the sake of a few mph.

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  • renato April 26, 2006 at 12:14 pm

    what are the main areas of concern?
    So please slow the speed going down through the cemetery, especially around the areas that I talked about.

    the southernmost route (w/gravel road section near the bottom) has big curvy turns that are more friendly on the brakes and eliminate dangerous blind turns. the great east side view is a bonus too. though the unpaved section could pose liabilty issues for the cemetery.

    is taking this route a bad call?

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  • Jessica Roberts April 26, 2006 at 3:02 pm

    I just had a great conversation with David at Riverview Cemetery. He’s an incredibly reasonable guy, and clearly wants to be able to keep the cemetery open to cyclists.

    Their main concerns are that they’ve had a number of really close calls recently with cyclists who are going to fast down the hills nearly hitting pedestrians. He says that they’re particularly concerned with speed at the parking lot and near the maintenance shed. He’s concerned about safety and liability if there is a bad crash.

    He knows that the majority of cyclists are reasonable and that it’s just the behavior of the few, but he asked for help from the bicycling community in getting the word out that they need cyclists to take it easy and be aware of pedestrians and cars on the downhills.

    Thanks, Jeff and Jonathan, for bringing this to everyone’s attention. Better to prevent a problem than deal with the aftermath!

    Jessica (at the BTA)

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  • David Rowe April 26, 2006 at 7:59 pm

    Thank you, Jessica, for making the call!

    As I rode home through the cemetery tonight I was thinking that a few well placed signs, or messages painted on the blacktop, would serve to remind cyclists that they need to travel slowly and with care.

    I think that most riders I talk to agree that being able to ride in the cemetery is one of the great ‘gifts’ of cycling in this community, and most would do whatever it takes to protect that.

    Thanks, also, to Jonathon for bringing this to our attention. Yet another illustration of just how important bikeportland.org has become.

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  • Android April 27, 2006 at 8:01 am

    It really is a privilege to be able to pass through this piece of private property, especially when compared to the other property access issue recently discussed here.

    While I am not a daily user, I am a regular user. I have noticed this last year that there appear to be more tire tracks in the grass exiting the cemetery on the top side. It seems to me the respectful thing (for the owners, the spirits there, and the people who come to pay respect) to do, if the gate is closed on the top side, is to not ride through the grass at the top (Pallatine Hill) end. Tack on an extra 10 seconds to your trip and *walk* your bike from pavement to pavement (or practice your cross carrying), reducing the pounds per square inch you are leaving there and using the time to remember the generosity the owners have shown letting you pass through.

    A few other comments:
    If you are looking for increased speed and decreased time – Macadam (your legs) and Taylor’s Ferry (gravity) are good options.

    While the “recreational use immunity” clause may protect the owners from recreationalist injury claims, what about injuries the people that are actually there to use the cemetery (uh, the living people, there to visit graves, pay respects) could get from a cyclist collision, or if a cemetery employee were injured? One claim caused by a cyclist would increase the risk from an insurer’s perspective, increasing premiums, et cetera.

    Thanks to Jessica and Hammerin’ Jeff for following up on this.

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  • Jessica Roberts April 27, 2006 at 8:35 am

    I offered to connect David with some pro-bono legal advice from the bicycling community about whether some liability immunity could apply because of longstanding use; he said that wouldn’t be necessary as they have their own counsel, but that he’d ask their lawyer to look into it.

    I also suggested that we could try to find a volunteer designer to make some signs that say something like, “Welcome cyclists! Please be respectful and slow down for safety.” David didn’t feel this was necessary yet, but I suggested that if his concern continues, we could revisit the idea.

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  • Carolyn April 28, 2006 at 11:34 am

    I think one thing I’d like communicated to the cemetery is that it is the only safe connector for commuters going to/from the east side (after crossing the Sellwood Bridge) up to Lewis and Clark College and The Berry Botanic Garden (where I used to work).

    I used to ride up through the cemetery on a daily basis. It is a true treat. Peaceful. Most mornings, it was just me, the squirrels, and a few late-to-work cemetery groundskeepers and maybe one other cyclist.

    If the cemetery option were to be removed, options for going from the east side up to Lewis and Clark would be scary and dangerous:
    hwy 43 southbound where there’s no shoulder and then up Military or Palatine (also no shoulder). Or worse, going up Taylor’s Ferry. Yikes! One of BBG’s interns mistakenly did that and he came in to work really really frazzled. But alive.

    I rarely (if ever) rode home (down) through the cemetery. Those turns/hills+the constant layer of grease and/or leaves/plant debris = a slick way to a fast fall. (I met at least 3 cyclists on the way up in the AMs who admitted to having crashed on the descent; in particular, right near the maintenance shed there is a really steep section with a blind turn; miss it, and you end up off a cliff…and all three of them bit it there. At least there’s a big fluffly pile of leaves to land in.)
    On my way home, I’d take Military or Palatine. Or, if the pavement is dry and the wind isn’t too gusty, Taylor’s Ferry (where I routinely hit 45mph!) is always exciting.

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  • Steve Abeling May 4, 2006 at 4:33 pm

    The simple solution for this problem is to
    just ride in Riverview when going UPHILL.
    I’m a Portland Wheelmen member and we have a Halloween cemetery ride that uses that direction.

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  • Robert Mosko December 13, 2006 at 4:41 pm

    I am working on a similiar project here in Pennsylvania involving a cemetery that is interested in allowing recreational access, cycling being one of them. This site has provided some very good thoughts to ponder.

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