New signage, outreach discussed at Mt. Tabor meeting

The panel included Police, Parks and PDOT.
(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.

(Photo: Police Bureau/SE Precinct)

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.

bike parking during bus mall construction

Pavement markings on the Hawthorne Bridge.
Would they work on the roads in Mt. Tabor Park?
(File photo)

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.

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Tomas Quinones
15 years ago

I felt last night was productive, but I felt we should have had more of a cross-section of USERS rather than just officials and advocates.

I\’d like to see another meeting but with more cyclists, runners, dog-walkers and the like so that our officials hear what we have to say.

Laura
Laura
15 years ago

Jonathan – thanks for the great summary! I agree w/Tomas\’ comment. When I walked up to the meeting, I expected to see a lot more folks in the picnic shelter than there were.

Thank you to Parks, PDOT and PPB for hosting the event!

Dabby
Dabby
15 years ago

It appears to me that the real problem here is not being adressed.

As stated above it is the combination of park users that is the problem, not just cyclists.

As in many other parts of Portland, IPOD wearing pedestrians, walking four wide, long leashed dog owners, and extremely rude runners are a major part of the problem, more decidedly so than cyclists.

Until all these problems are put on the table, no changes should be made at all….

Greg Raisman
Greg Raisman
15 years ago

The attendance could have been worse, but I think we would have all liked to have better attendance. I think that the weather hurt our cause there. However, the outreach was quite strong. To name a few places it was announced: BikePortland, PortlandOnline, Shift, neighborhood newsletter, handbills at Mt Tabor events, local bike shop, local retirement homes, etc.

Dabby, I know you didn\’t comment with the benefit of attending the meeting. I would not say your concern would hold true if you had attended. The meeting was very balanced and focussed on how many types of park uses inter-relate and can work better together. I was quite pleased with the cooperative and open nature of the conversation as well as its bredth. Dogs, motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, skate boarders, and others were all discussed.

Hopefully, the free lemonade will lead to lots more dialogue between people in the park about how to make it as nice as possible for everyone. If we have to hold another meeting, I\’m sure we\’re open to it. However, I hold a lot more hope that grass-roots conversation is going to hold the most potential for having impact.

Thanks.
Greg Raisman
Community and School Traffic Safety Partnership
Portland Office of Transportation
(503) 823-1052

Jeff Ong
Jeff Ong
15 years ago

I was there last night as well.

Actually, as far as I can recall, no one brought up \”cyclists going too fast on the roads\” aside from a police officer. Literally no one reported ever having a conflict with a cyclist on the streets there. No one showed up who claimed any of the problems people have been reporting. There was some second-hand discussion of reputed problems (e.g., \”I have been hearing complaints from some people), but no first-person reports from anyone attending. An older woman who walks on Mt. Tabor regularly said she had never had or heard of any conflicts with cyclists.

There was general consensus when I mentioned that Mt. Tabor seemed like a very low-conflict area compared to any of the multi-user paths around town. If anyone has experienced a \”near-miss,\” with a cyclist, or actually had an accident, they didn\’t find it necessary to attend that meeting.

I don\’t see any need for any change, based on the meeting — I appreciate the thought and time that went into the meeting, and the chance to provide my own input, but as far as I can tell, this is one or two squeaky wheels who have already gotten more attention than they deserve. That meeting was the chance to air any major conflicts, and there simply weren\’t any.

My other thought was that 15 mph is an absurd limit for a destination area for recreational riding. That speed limit is not enforced, and is observed by literally no one riding there (I have seen some uber-buff roadies there who break that speed on the UPHILLS).

Thanks again for the forum and including the opinion of all concerned parties!

– Jeff

PeteJacobsen
PeteJacobsen
15 years ago

I did not attend the meeting, or know of it for that matter, but I have witnessed a walker/cyclist accident there.

At about 8am on a Wednesday morning in May, I was walking up the final hill to the top (the section always closed to cars) with four other people, looking at birds. At the time of the accident, the group was mostly on the outside (away from the hill) side of the road, although I was on the hill side. Most were looking down the hillside at a bird, using their binoculars. One woman took a step backward for a better view (she said later) just as a cyclist split our group.

There was no verbal warning or bell from the cyclist. The woman caught a handlebar in the ribs and the cyclist went down. The woman was in pain, and the cyclist was verbally angry. No permanent damage was done, and the cyclist was soon on his way.

I should make it clear that I\’m a cyclist and certainly enjoy coming down that hill (and many others) after struggling up them on my recumbent trike. Still, I have and use a bell, and have always felt I needed to slow dramatically when passing walkers. I do blame the cyclist for that accident, as he had a clear view of where people were and what they were doing and choose not to slow down or announce is intentions. For people who make bad decisions, no speed limit is too slow. I am only glad there was not lasting damage.

Crash N. Burns
Crash N. Burns
15 years ago

That old volcano will eventually teach you to check your speed on its own. Two wheels or four it\’s takin\’ me down, on bike and longboard, hard. And some of them grown up soap box derby crashes? Hurts me just watchin\’ as a drunk spectator. Old Mt. Tabor, she don\’t play when it comes to speed.

When rallying Mt. Tabor you need to check yourself before you wreck yourself. And watch out for lil\’ kids, neighbor folk and animals too, because if that volcano don\’t take you down, you might take one of them down.

peejay
peejay
15 years ago

Pete:

You have to be kidding! The person was on a multi-use path and not actually walking on that path, and then backed up on that path without looking for traffic? You claim this was the fault of the cyclist?

I believe it\’s a great idea to give audible warnings of your presence, but this kind of irresponsible use of a MUV cannot be anticipated by other users. The lady is very lucky she wasn\’t injured, and should think about what would have happened if she had pulled that stunt on, say, Powell Blvd.

peejay
peejay
15 years ago

I meant MUP!

Michael
Michael
15 years ago

Commenting as a ped and bike user of MT:

Mt Tabor is NOT a velodrome. 15 mph is fine for a mixed use roadway. It was get you where you are going anywhere in the park in minutes. If you need a training ride, MT is not the place for it.

I do have a complaint about too fast bikes. As a ped walking down the road above the soapbox track, minding my own business, enjoying the birds, sky, and companionship, a racing bike zoomed by without warning. I don\’t know the speed, but it was flying. Had I moved into its path, or if a dog or child had crossed its path, there would have a certain and dangerous collision.

The situation with bikes in a park is no different than with motorists in a park. Speeding and recklessness is intolerable. Parks are primarily a space for everyone to enjoy the outdoors in a mutually respectful way. Cars should not speed, and neither should bikes. Any activity in the park that needlessly endangers other users is selfish and unacceptable.

That said, MT is a nearly perfect park where most folks do use respect and care for everyone. (I won\’t comment here about dogs unleashed throughout the entire park.)

SKiDmark
SKiDmark
15 years ago

Sorry, I know this is going to offend…

15 mph down a hill is boring and pointless. You might as well ban bikes from the park altogether. A skateboard will reach that speed with only the assistance of gravity on that hill in about a hundred feet.

I don\’t think it is asking too much to ask pedestrians to look both ways before they cross a paved road, even if it is inside a park. I also think people should keep an eye on their kids and tell them to stay off the street. I understand that kids can get away from you and don\’t always do as they are told, but hopefully this is a rare occurance. Yes, of course bike riders should slow down a little if there are a lot of kids roadside, this is common courtesy and common sense. Dogs should obviously be on a leash, if that is what is required by law.

I think the last thing anyone on a bicycle wants to do is hit a pedestrian, even if it is only for the selfish reasons of not wanting to hurt themselves or damage their bike.

Sometimes when you yell a warning (Bike! Look Out!) people get mad at you and consider you as being rude. If you give no warning at all you are an inconsiderate jerk. So with some people you can\’t win either way. I generally slow way down when approaching a hiker and say \”excuse me\” and go by at about jogging speed. I think this is courteous and sometimes I still get a dirty look like I have no right to be there.

Face it, there are plenty of people with an anti-bike attitude and they will always be pushing to get bikes ousted from parks. This is not fair to cyclists, and their position should not even be considered. I don\’t think if a bunch of cyclists wanted to get hikers banned from parks that anyone would listen, or take them seriously, but somehow when the opposite occurs, people will listen and even consider limiting bike use, before they will ever consider asking hikers and pedestrians to take some responsibility and look around them and turn down their Ipods so they can hear their surroundings.

eli bishop
eli bishop
15 years ago

peajay: are you kidding? it\’s like skiing or snowboarding: those uphill have the responsibility to watch out for those below them. it\’s a public park: people do unpredictable things and you\’re bigger & faster than they are. be kind.

skidmark: people won\’t think you\’re rude for warning them if you don\’t -yell- at them. telling them where you are in relation to them is more helpful, too (e.g., \”on your left.\”)

Jeff Ong
Jeff Ong
15 years ago

After the meeting last week, I took pains to religiously \”on your left\” everyone I passed this morning, while riding on the Tabe. Actually, several people said thank-you, a few nodded, and a few had no response… seemed to work pretty well. I usually do it more selectively, but I\’ll try to be more promiscuous about it.

I do think 15 mph is far too slow, and fortunately no one is expecting cyclists to ride at that speed. I also think we DO need to yield to pedestrians and slower traffic (we\’re moving at six times the speed of most foot traffic there). That includes planning on them being a little unpredictable. Passing a foot behind someone who\’s bird-watching, especially with no warning, is a pretty dumb idea, regardless of whether it\’s dumb to be standing there in the street in the first place.

I just hope it was clear to everyone who attended that meeting that there doesn\’t seem to be much of a problem. A \”trickle\” of anonymous reports doesn\’t seem to warrant major policy changes, particularly if the complainants aren\’t interested in pursuing the issue. This seems to be a courtesy issue more than anything, and hopefully we can play nicely with others.

Tomas Quinones
15 years ago

Wow…seems like some more people have something to say on this matter.

Now, if only these same people would ATTEND THE MEETING.