Portland bike insiders are wondering how we can go beyond the confines of U.S. standards for bike-friendliness and begin to adopt infrastructure and policies already in use in places like Amsterdam and Copenhagen.
But before Portland can become a world-class bicycling city, we must first have a plan to get there.
A key component of that effort is the City’s Bicycle Master Plan, which is in the midst of it’s first update in over a decade.
The Bicycle Master Plan is an important, guiding document. It creates (but does not enforce) policies and is an essential tool for planners, advocates and city bureaucrats in keeping with the City of Portland’s official goal of, “making the bicycle an integral part of daily life…especially for trips less than five miles.”
When our current plan was adopted in October of 1995 it was considered a seminal document and was modeled by cities across the country.
The current effort — dubbed by Commissioner Sam Adams as the “Platinum” Bicycle Master Plan — is being led by the current and former City of Portland bike coordinators, Roger Geller and Mia Birk. Birk is now a principal at Alta Planning + Design and she has been hired to assist in the new Plan update.
Birk is beyond capable for the task. Since creating Portland’s back in ’95, she has worked on 120 bicycle master plans in cities around country and is currently developing plans for Los Angeles, San Francisco, Bozeman, and others.
Birk recently assembled the Platinum Bicycle Master Plan Steering Committee. The 25-member committee is made up of a broad range of perspectives and includes citizen advocates, politicians, academics, transportation professionals, and business leaders.
From L to R: Mia Birk, Alta Planning; Roger Geller, City of Portland; Elicia Cardenas, Alta Planning
In an email Birk sent to committee members she stated:
“This committee will provide strategic direction, oversight, advice on plan process, content, quality. This committee is intended to be the creative team overseeing all issues and ensuring that we have a thorough, excellent, embraced plan.”
Last month in City Hall she held the committee’s first meeting. At that meeting, Birk said she hopes the Steering Committee will provide the “big picture vision” to take Portland to the next level. She relayed thoughts from Commisser Sam that he wants this committee to be a “momentum builder.”
According to Birk, one of the driving motivations of the new Plan is to create a city wherein the 70% of the population that is currently “interested but concerned” about riding will feel safe enough to get on their bikes.
To get there, Birk described a three-pronged effort that includes this steering committee, an internal PDOT working group (focusing on technical components of the plan), and a large, intra-agency coalition that includes TriMet, Metro, Parks Department, the Bureau of Environmental Services, various counties, and so on.
Birk said she and Geller are working on a 200 page Existing Conditions Report. As part of that, they are identifying 26 different “cycling zones” within the city. These zones will allow them to compare and contrast what has worked, what hasn’t, and why.
Besides official involvement, the public will play a major role in the Master Plan update. Birk said the 1995 effort had a “great public process” and that they engaged any and every community group they could; from Boy Scouts to churches, neighborhoods, and schools.
Roger Geller said one of the main things he hopes to achieve is “a public conversation about bicycling,” which he is on his way to doing with his monthly Bicycle Master Plan rides.
Commissioner Adams’ Chief of Staff Tom Miller spoke up and said bicycle use in Portland is “at a tipping point” and that he thinks land-use policy should be an important part of the puzzle.
This is truly a historical effort that will lay the groundwork of our bicycling future. The committee meets for the second time tomorrow. Stay tuned for more reports and updates as the process moves forward.
UPDATE: To learn more about Portland’s Bicycle Master Plan update, attend PDOT’s upcoming Brown Bag discussion on April 19th. Roger Geller will be the featured presenter. More details here.
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Very exciting. This is where we take it to the next level.
Exciting is right. I can hardly wait to see how this plays out in the coming months and years. Makes me that much prouder to be a cyclist. ^_^
hopefully these plans include opening up some single track in forest park 😉
Sadly, the plan will not even mention singletrack. But Forest Park is freakin huge — why can’t we get more dedicated trail in there?
I would love to see a concerted effort for a section of wildwood to be open one day a week going in one direction for cyclists. I don’t necessarrily want the full run of the park, but it would be nice to at least have a little something fun to ride up there when it is so close (and yes I know all about the firelanes).
or as Attornatus mentions a dedicated trail would be great…
I wouldn’t be so sure about that A_O.
I have a feeling mountain bike trails will be in the plan.
The side story to this plan is how keen Sam Adams remains about Portland becoming the first major U.S. city to be designated “Platinum” by the League of American Bicyclists (that’s why he calls this the “Platinum Bicycle Master Plan”).
We also know that the League has been very clear about their desire for cities to have access to singletrack.
Combine that with the big push to attach tourism dollars to bicycling and the writing is on the wall.
The only thing I see really missing from the singletrack equation in Forest Park is the political maneuvering it will take and the need for solid leadership from advocates pushing for it.
Everyone who wants more mountain bike trails in Forest Park should join PUMP, go their meetings, and make it happen.
It was my understanding the legal, accessible, singletrack was a requirement for the Platinum status. What is happening with that requirement? It does not have to be at forest park, although it would be nice. Cyclists should not have to DRIVE an hour to ride un-paved singletrack trails.
Thanks Jonathan, I look forward to seeing what happens with singletrack access. As a member of PUMP, I strongly encourage mountain bikers to attend our meetings and rides.
Whatever happened to the proposed freeride park in Forest Park?
Hey, that’s good to know. I just got my new mtn bike and so I’ll be in Forest Park a lot more now. I think it’s so big that it should be relatively simple to build new, dedicated singletrack to avoid conflicts with other users.
As a resident of SW Portland, I see huge potential in the West Hills for Single Track riding. There are a number of trails for hiking (SW Trails) through out the area, but none open to biking. It would be great to connect SW PDX to Forest Park via Single Track. Even if it were only open for riding one or two days a week.
Want to know more about the Bike Master Plan? Come to the April 19th Bicycle Brown Bag session, noon – 1pm at the Portland Building. Read all about it here: http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm?c=34816&a=144945
I remember going to the Portland Building and being involved with the original Bike Plan process in 1995. Ten years later, a whole lot of progress has been been on implementing that document… but there are also a lot of planned projects that never got built, for whatever reason.
I think this is great news, and a great opportunity to look at what makes projects happen, what types of projects could actually get constructed, and how we can provide seamless connectivity for all users.
Can we get more “bike freeways” thoughout the region, for instance?
I look forward to this second bike plan update process!!
#1 reason why there is such an uphill battle to have increased access in Forest Park? It’s number and influence. The ‘Friends of Forest Park’ (FoFP) have about 1200 dues paying members, a paid staff and influential folks on their Board of Directors. Please remember, they HELp keep the park in shape, trails cleared, and reduce the amount of tax $ spent in the park, They are our friends! If we want increased access, we must join with them, work with them and come up with solutions and ask that any decisions about the park be based on facts and not preconceived perceptions.
As for the Platinum Status application, here are the facts:
The ‘Bicycle Friendly Community’ Application that the city of Portland
must complete to achieve Platinum Status has 9 very important questions that apply to MTBers directly:
Application Part II, Engineering:
-How many miles of natural surface trails (singletrack) do you have?
What is the total mileage of natural surface trails that are open to
Question 14: What is the estimated acreage of open space and public
lands within the community? Are these areas open to cyclists?
Question 18: Are there other facilities that have been created to promote bicycling in your community? If yes, please describe. (Here’s where the city could include ‘mountain bike skills parks- ZERO)
Question 7: Do you have League of American Bicyclist Instructors in your
(PUMP should, we will investigate having MTB LAB cerified instructors)
Question 5: Are there community road or MTB clubs in your area?
Question 7: Are there bicycling areas or facilities such as BMX tracks,
velodromes or mountain biking centers in your community?
Question 8: Does your trail system have a National Mountain Bike Patrol?
(No, but we SHOULD)
Question 13: Do you publish a map of MTB trails? (We do, does the city?)
Evaluation and Planning:
Question 7: Do you have a trails master plan that addresses mountain
bicycle access, and are there ongoing relations between the MTB
community and the community recreation and planning staff?
This application is available via .pdf. Let me know if you want a copy.
As you can see, WE need to be involved with these kinds of meetings. The
meeting in question will be addressing their wish to achieve Platinum
Status, so more than a few people, more than just PUMP members, need to show up
and offer suggestions and solutions, not just “We want more singletrack!”. I am asking for people who want to help come to up with suggestions and solutions. This is all part of the PUMP re-organization our Board Members are working on right now. More delegation, with well defined responsibilities.
Look to hear more about that soon. And ask yourself “What can I do to
help PUMP move forward and be a bigger part of the Portland cycling
community?” We need your help.
I feel that creating more recreation opportunities here in Portland is a good thing. Creating mtn bike specific trails would help add to the current recreation opportunities that exist while helping to eliminate user conflicts. Adding single-track trails will help the health of our community and encourage more people to take up the sport. Adding more single-track trails in Portland is healthy for the environment as people will not have to drive and 1 + hours to get to a good trail. As it ha been said, “build it and they will come.”
Thank you –
I would agree with Jonathan that mountain bike trails will be part of the plan. I would like to see them in Forest Park since this is the largest piece of real estate to build in.
I would encourage anyone interested in seeing more single track to join PUMP. They will advocate for more trails and access. It is also an unfortunate reality that governments tend to listen to groups and not individuals. To have your voice heard you need to be part of a group that advocates your same desires.
Every street is a bike route, and they should all be safe to bicycle on, it’s that simple.
Watch the Copenhagen video, check out Eugene and Corvallis and then go the Davis for a capstone course. Then…get the buses off the walker/bike mall. I rarely take 5 steps downtown without huffing diesel fumes from the Trimet buses.
I’m actually very excited by the prospects of expanding mtn biking in Portland in the near future. There are several things coming together – 1) the urban MTB scene is exploding everywhere 2) Portlanders are rolling up their sleeves to update and improve our Bicycle Master Plan (and hopefully realizing the we need to include MTB in a big way), 3) The League of American Bicyclists standard calling out the need for single track and the drive to achieve platinum status. http://www.bicyclefriendlycommunity.org/apply.cfm
As for Forest Park, I’m not clear what form that would/should take. Personally, I think most/all of the perceived conflicts and concerns could be resolved, make most people happy and expand opportinities for true single track in FP, even if in relatively small sections. The existing network of fire roads provide the infrastructure for a great loop system. To me, the area between Saltzman and Germantown road is pprobably the most likely area. The north zone (n. of germantown) seems pretty much off-limits based on my read of the Forest Park plan.
Regardless of what heppens in FP, I think the MTB community needs to get creative and come forward with other options/locations. I’d love to see some skills parks be built. We have some great opportunities here for building really fun places to ride. Any ideas out there about potential locations?
All this talk about Forest Park is great — I’d love to see some dedicated singletrack there — but what about the existing singletrack in Powell Butte? It’s already there, and people use it. Why no discussion of using it as a template for other locations? Is it not technically legal for MTBs?
There are so many greenspaces around Portland, it would be really great to see an entire chapter of the Platinum plan devoted to MTB trails in the region, with a focus on squeezing them into canyons, parks and greenspaces all over. The Springwater corridor is loaded with opportunities for MTB trails. Sullivan’s Gulch could support a trail or two in some locations. How creative are we willing to get?
I think the big drawback of PB is its size. To do a long ride there, you basically have to do laps. That’s fine, and — don’t get me wrong — I’m glad we have PB. But it’s pretty limited compared with other area mtn bike trails and I think offers an experience that is not preferred by most mtn bikers.
The potential of FP is more along the lines of those area trails that are destination rides for mtn bikers. For example, the Lewis River trail is a ~12 mile, all single-track trail. Something like that could easily be built in FP. Although it would not have the old growth lure, it would have a more authentic trail experience to it, since you would be able to ride for many miles without coming back to the same place.
It’s important to recognize that FP is a giant park, with ample ability to absorb a few more trails without any substantial impact to the ecosystem.
And this could be a big deal for promoting biking in PDX. The City/FOFP/PUMP could invite some big names to design two trails, one for beginning to intermediate riders, and one for intermediate to advanced riders, that would offer the total range of experiences mtn bikers are seeking. Then FP could become a destination for mtn bikers, without fears of user conflicts, and the resulting boon to the economy would help everyone. You could even do a slight “toll” on the trails for a year or so to ensure FOFP sees some tangible benefit in support of their mission, which of course mtn bikers and PUMP fully support.
I think this is the kind of thing that stands between us and Platinum.
Powell Butte is almost like doing shuttle runs. Ride down for a couple minutes then spend a bunch of time going back up to do it again.
Also, I know a lot of ppl stopped going up there due to problems with the horse riders. That may/may not be a problem anymore though, to be honest I haven’t ridden PB since the late 80’s.
Forest park is huge and centrally located, there should definitely be more MTB access.
Anyone know about the proposed freeride park? I am guessing the plan has died?