(Photo: Police Bureau/SE Precinct)
On Wednesday nights the paved roads through Mt. Tabor Park in southeast Portland are closed to motor vehicle traffic and due to its urban location and natural beauty, it becomes flooded with many different types of users.
Dog walkers, skateboarders, and pedestrians all compete for space. Throw speeding cyclists into the mix (one was recently clocked going 37mph) and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
The issue of speedy cyclists irking other users first bubbled up last April and in order to stem what SE Precinct police officer Robert Pickett referred to last night as, “a trickle of complaints and emails” about them, city officials got together to discuss what could be done to solve the problem.
Instead of writing tickets, they decided to have a public meeting to spur community dialogue and come up with solutions.
The meeting took place last night amid picnic benches and heaps of free cookies, veggies, and drinks.
Chair of the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee Mark Ginsberg facilitated the discussion and led a panel that included officials from the Parks department, the Police Bureau, and PDOT.
The informal and lively session was helped along by the attendance of 15-20 community members who came out to offer feedback.
Concerns brought up by park users included:
- Mountain bikers and cyclocrossers riding through the off-leash dog area.
- Off-road trail riders startling hikers as they go by.
- Lack of clear understanding of park rules (speed limit, where bikes can and can’t ride).
- Dog owners not keeping their pooches under control outside the off-leash area.
- Cyclists riding too fast on the roads (the speed limit is 15mph.).
Given that the genesis of this issue was rumored to come from neighbors, there was a fear among some cyclists (myself included) that angry local residents would show up clamoring for a crackdown. Fortunately this never came to fruition the meeting was civil and positive.
Much of the discussion revolved around whether or not new signs or pavement markings would help manage the crowds on the roads. City bike coordinator Roger Geller (and others) noted the evolution of how crowds have been dealt with on the Hawthorne Bridge.
In that situation, the city began with standard signs; those didn’t work. Then there was a “punitive” approach with rumble strips to slow down cyclists; those failed and were removed. And finally we now have some innovative pavement markings that have been well-received and very effective.
Would they work on the roads in Mt. Tabor Park?
While signage or new markings might someday be a solution on the roads of Mt. Tabor, the group felt maybe now isn’t the time to push for them. The feeling was that new signage would be “second-tier” solution and that perhaps a more grassroots approach should be tried first.
With that the conversation turned to community outreach and education.
Michelle Poyourow from the BTA suggested that the outreach should focus on the “teachable” segment of the population. She broke down park users into three groups.
- 1) The reasonable people who are already courteous and who “get it”.
2) The “teachable” people who are reasonable but just don’t yet understand how their use might negatively impact others.
3) “Jerks” that will likely never understand.
This assessment rang true with most people in attendance.
Greg Raisman from PDOT then proposed a free lemonade stand and bike bell giveaway to educate park users to be courteous to others. His idea was very well-received.
Next time you’re walking or riding atop Mt. Tabor, don’t be surprised if you’re offered some cold lemonade and a bell for your bike.
In return all you’ve got to do is promise to play nice with others. Seems like a good deal to me.