The Worst Day of the Year Ride is February 11th

Commissioner to hold roundtable discussion on off-road biking in Portland parks

Posted by on March 31st, 2009 at 7:39 am

City Council candidate Nick Fish-3.jpg

Commissioner Nick Fish
wants to open up the dialogue
on off-road biking.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Last month, rookie City Commissioner Nick Fish made his opinion of off-road biking clear. He told BikePortland that he was not satisfied with the current status quo of riding in the city and that he would work quickly to learn about the issue and seek more opportunities.

Now comes word from Fish’s office that on Monday of next week (4/6), he will hold an invite-only “informal roundtable discussion about off-road biking opportunities in Portland parks.” (It’s notable on the official invite that it didn’t mention Forest Park specifically, but that will surely be a hot point of conversation).

When asked about the meeting, Fish’s senior policy director Hannah Kuhn told us that, “the time seems right to have a more fundamental conversation” about off-road cycling.

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Kuhn said citizen advocate Frank Selker’s idea to hasten the conversation around bike access in Forest Park led her office to contact the Parks department back in January. According to Kuhn, at that time Parks already had a “placeholder” date for a formal planning process around the issue that was to begin on July 1st (the beginning of the City of Portland’s fiscal year). Kuhn says that once Fish heard about all the public interest on the topic, “he decided rather than wait until the formal planning process, he wanted to open up the dialogue.”

With no formal strategy in place from the Parks Bureau yet, Fish’s office sees this upcoming meeting as an ideal chance to hear from the community and help shape that plan.

Kuhn says Fish is eager to learn more about off-road cycling and “its challenges and opportunities.” “This is an opportunity,” she says, “for him to learn.” One of the “challenges” he is sure to learn about sooner or later is that not everyone is supportive of more bike access in Forest Park (stay tuned for more on that topic soon).

We will attend the meeting and report on what is discussed.

[Note: This story was posted by Elly Blue from notes and reporting by Jonathan Maus.]

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

  • David Anderson March 31, 2009 at 8:02 am

    Bravo Commissioner Fish!
    Thank you very much for initiating this badly needed discussion! People, like myself, who enjoy riding on singletrack, and enjoying nature, look forward to having many more miles of singletrack trails available to us in the City of Portland! We currently have under 3 miles of singletrack trails in Portland City Parks. Thanks Jonathan for covering this story too!

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  • Zaphod March 31, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Thank you Commissioner Fish for getting this started. If Forest Park became a real mountain bike destination this would surely benefit the local businesses.

    I often start my ride with a coffee from Dragonfly. Evening rides no doubt are ended with a locally brewed beer and something to eat along NW 23rd. If I break or wear anything out, I’ll stop by Fat Tire Farm for bike parts.

    The big picture of a real trail network could bring in tourism dollars. Economic impact aside, quality of life for those who enjoy riding is enhanced.

    There are a number of possibilities for access. Pulling from several models around the country, here are a handful:
    -Uphill only singletrack (Middle Green Gulch – Marin California)
    -Even/Odd day access (Lake Tahoe, CA)
    -Bicycle only trails (Fairfax, VA)
    -Shared singletrack trails (Just about everywhere)

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  • chris March 31, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Thank you Commissioner Fish. Portland could easily become a truly bicycle friendly city if there were just a few elected officials interested in learning about the plight of the local trail rider. As Zaphod mentioned, having actual singletrack close by would benefit local businesses and the city as a whole.

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  • mark ginsberg March 31, 2009 at 10:17 am


    Be ready, there are some people and organizations that do not think more bikes in forest park is a good idea. those groups include some people at Audubon Society, who I would guess will be at the meeting.
    So if you are an Audubon society member and you support bikes in forest Park, now would be a great time to let your group know that.

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  • brian March 31, 2009 at 10:40 am

    The Audobon Society has no right to speak against bike trails. They should be ashamed of themselves, and redirect there energies towards the real enemy-developers.

    we are all outdoor conservationists.

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  • Roger Louton March 31, 2009 at 10:57 am

    I wish I could attend, but I will be out of town. Meanwhile read this interesting bit about mountain bike tourism and it’s positive economic effect on Fruita, CO, read this article:

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  • Pete March 31, 2009 at 11:10 am

    mountain bike park at Tabor!

    I’d be happy for equal (legal) access to Forest Park trails. I know the old people fear anything fast, but we’re not all Mad Max looking body armour, free-riders who’d prefer not to brake – most riders are very polite. Look at Powell Butte – the multi-users seem to get along ok out there and that’s meth coutry!

    Thanks Commisioner Fish!

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  • brian March 31, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Why say no, when it feels so good to say YES.

    Life is about working towards solutions, not saying no to change like a little baby.

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  • buzz March 31, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Thank you Commissioner Fish!

    I have always enjoyed off road biking and still have my old Trek mountain bike and have always wished I could find some off road trails like I had back in Montana.

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  • bahueh March 31, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    well said brian (#5)….this is a long overdue discussion…and opposition groups should feel involved and have to listen to all opposing sides, with concession….

    (sitting here…waiting for chris heaps to say something inflammatory and stupid)

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  • brian March 31, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    everybody wants trails. let us all make sure we are members of the International Mountain Bike Association(IMBA). peace.

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  • Brian March 31, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Thank you very much Nick Fish and other representatives. I think the Forest Park Conservancy Day of Stewardship “Ride to Work Party” that happened recently is a great sign of things to come. In these economic times, Forest Park needs all the dollars and person-power it can get. Having spent hours pulling ivy from one isolated spot in Linnton, and hundreds more hours riding in the park, it is clear that Forest Park needs more support, not continued exclusion.
    A HUGE thanks also to bikeportland for continued coverage on the issue. Without your support I doubt that this would be happening as quickly as it is.

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  • Blah Blah Blah March 31, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    We’ll need the 12 lanes across the Columbia for sure if descent trails ever get built in Forest Park 🙂

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  • Frank April 1, 2009 at 8:47 am

    I learned today that Continental is developing a MTB tire that has shoe-sole patterns so it leaves shoe tracks instead of tire tracks. It can only be used on bikes with large clearances for high-volume tires. It does more trail damage because, unlike the steady 25-50 psi of a bike tire, it has heavier intermittent “footfalls,” more like a pedestrian. But their web site says they expect that some people will accept more trail wear so long as it doesn’t appear bikes share the trail. A version with animal tracks is in the works.

    Frank Selker

    PS. Happy April first

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  • Zaphod April 1, 2009 at 10:03 am

    I heard there’s a strategic relationship between Vibram and Kenda but maybe Continental is beating them to the punch.

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  • Blue Healer
    Blue Healer April 1, 2009 at 11:51 am

    To me the bottom line is we all live here. Hikers, Bikers, other animals and plants. These open / green spaces need to reflect that fact. Trails built properly for bikes will NOT be cause of more damage to the environment. The hiking trails could even be put into better condition if IMBA construction standards were used by builders. Off road bike riders have AS MUCH of a right to use these areas as anyone else. We just need to work together to build the proper infrastructure so the use is not destructive. Volunteers can make it happen. I believe we need to do a great deal to help with wildlife habitat, but the parks surrounded by human population do not need to be the home of a totally diverse wildlife population. That in itself is not NATURAL. Each year I put a great deal of my income into organizations to preserve our environment as well as off road advocacy for bicycles. Non motorized travel and conservancy are not opposed. Fossil fuel power need not apply. I love being aware of nature on my bike.

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  • L-Dub April 1, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    What ever happened to the effort to have a MTB park like the one in Seattle built here? The petition was on the PUMP site for some time but it seems that either I fell out of some loop or it just fizzled out. Any word on possibly resurrecting that idea?

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  • brian April 1, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    trails should be the first priority. bike parks are great. but I fear we will be limited to such sites if we do not address the prejudice against bikes in natural areas first.

    I just watched Klunkerz the movie today. this is the spirit. catch it.

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  • wsbob April 1, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    “…the prejudice against bikes in natural areas…” brian

    Hogwash. It’s resistance, rather than prejudice, that exists and stands against use of mountain bikes in Forest Park because even though MBkrs already have access to Forest Park, they insist upon access to single width trails there. The question is whether Commissioner Fish will successfully be persuaded that MBkrs should have that access.

    “Off road bike riders have AS MUCH of a right to use these areas as anyone else.” Blue Healer

    I suppose “anyone else” would be ‘everybody else’. ‘everybody else’ in the park is on foot. MBkrs simply do not have just as much right to take their bikes into natural areas as people on foot do. Whether they should or shouldn’t have that right is one of the questions people are considering.

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  • L-Dub April 2, 2009 at 8:05 am

    Just found this article from 2001. Interesting that the main study is from a guy who, admittedly, does not like bicycles in forests, “but I also don’t like people talking and not knowing (what they’re talking about).”

    Intelligent conversation will be key in Monday’s discussion. Not just the same ol’ “you ruin the trails with your bikes! No we don’t” attitude.

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  • Brian April 2, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    People, if you are not already a member of PUMP please sign up. There is great momentum right now, and we need more people to keep it rolling. I recently joined after having ridden/raced in Oregon for the past 11 years because of the exciting things happening. If you want ST in Forest Park and other areas, please join up. Hope to see some of you on the trails and at the next PUMP meeting. New committees are forming so you can focus your energy where you would like. Be the change…..

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  • Brian April 2, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    “they insist upon access to single width trails there.”

    Of course we do. And so do hikers, birdwatchers, runners, and dog walkers. Imagine hiking only on Leif.
    wsbob-I appreciate your passion on this issue, but you have yet to make a logical argument as to why mtb’er should not be given access to some of the existing trails. Why not hiking only/biking only on certain trails? Others could be multi-use. People can choose how and with whom they recreate.

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  • wsbob April 2, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Brian, the points I’ve raised about bikes on single track in a nature park such as Forest Park are logical, but logic doesn’t seem to be your interest in respect to considerations that should be made about whether to provide single track for mountain bikes in this park. You and certain other MBkrs seem to expect blind compliance to your specific needs when doing so stands to compromise opportunities for park visitors using the primary mode of transportation there, by foot.

    If MBkrs were a bit more clear about what they feel current routes in FP are lacking for them, that might help determine a type of trail that would be better for them yet not exclude or make it less enjoyable for people on foot that would also care to use it.

    Using Leif Ericson for example, if it’s the hard packed, earth/gravel surface MBkrs find lacking, it seems as though a route offering a mainly dirt trail, could be found. If MBkrs really feel the need for a narrower path than Leif or some of the fire roads available to them, something narrower could probably be worked out. It does not seem to me, to be a good idea to allow MBkrs access to trails of a width that will not allow a person on a bike to comfortably pass a person walking without either of the two having to step off trail.

    But again, this is just my own thoughts on the issue. I won’t be in on deciding whether or not mountain bikes get single track in FP, because I’m a Beaverton resident.

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  • M_S April 3, 2009 at 11:04 am

    wsbob, as an avid hiker/backpacker, mountain biker, and trail-builder, your aversion to trails of a width that do not allow passing without one party needing to step off-trail is puzzling.

    Trails of such width are commonplace in nearly every natural area. Though marginally less maneuverable, a person on a bicycle is not much wider than someone on foot. On every narrow trail whether it be hiker-only or mixed use, slower parties step slightly off-tread to yield to those traveling faster. Likewise those travelling dowhill do the same for those going uphill. This is universal, and I am puzzled as to what is different about doing the same only with hiker-biker interactions instead of just hiker-hiker.

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  • Brian April 3, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    “MBkrs simply do not have just as much right to take their bikes into natural areas as people on foot do.”

    This seems to be your (and many others) core belief, which I believe is emotional rather than logical. I find that what you post about this issue is based on assumptions and half-truths, rather than data and logic. Contrary to what you think about me, I am very interested in your logic if you are interested in explaining it.

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  • brian April 3, 2009 at 6:32 pm


    you can continue to fight the issue or learn to coexist like we teach our children everyday. I can not figure out why someone would feel comfortable suppressing the rights of others. your soul is dark.

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  • brian April 3, 2009 at 6:37 pm


    using your logic, bicycles should not be allowed on the street, pathways, etc.

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  • wsbob April 4, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    “Though marginally less maneuverable, a person on a bicycle is not much wider than someone on foot.” M_S

    I disagree. A bike’s handlebar and pedal width, plus it’s wheelbase, all represent fixed dimensions that are inflexible in comparison to a human body’s ability to accommodate a narrowing passageway. People can turn their body sideways to reduce the area required when passing another person on foot. Bikes can’t do this.

    Bikes are a potentially much faster mode of transportation than travel by foot is. In a single path situation, that means that access allowed to people on bikes where ‘by foot’ is the standard mode of transportation, makes of that situation, one where bikes are likely to be catching up with and passing people that walk on trail.

    The two disparate modes of transportation do not allow for compatible spacing that is likely to be easily or willingly maintained by MBkrs. I’m inclined to think that people on bikes won’t be happy riding along at an average walking pace or thereabouts to avoid excessive passing of people that walk as their mode of transportation.

    (“MBkrs simply do not have just as much right to take their bikes into natural areas as people on foot do.” me…wsbob

    “This seems to be your (and many others) core belief, which I believe is emotional rather than logical.” Brian)

    Emotional? Logical? Yes, some… what? The simple fact is, MBkrs have no such right. Public trails on public land that preclude the use of mountain bikes on them mean that people have no right to ride their mountain bikes on them. If you think this isn’t fair, you’ll have to work to make the necessary changes to help accomplish what mountain bikers believe their rights should include.

    Simply assuming rights that do not exist or attributing resistance to a permission that mountain bikers would like, that is not being readily granted by the greater public, to emotion and lack of logic, isn’t going to accomplish that.

    No resident or visitor to publicly owned parks and nature areas has the right to do whatever they want with whatever equipment they choose, in those places. There is no inalienable right on the part of human beings to be joined with their mountain bike when they venture into these places. Mountain bikes aren’t vital organs that, separated from their owners or users, stand to cause the death of those owners or users.

    “your soul is dark.” brian

    Nice. Thanks for the luv.

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  • Brian April 4, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    You’re right wsbob, we do not have the right by law to use public trails in some places. No argument there. However, there is no logical reason to exclude them. Regarding the single trail/multiple users issue, mtb’ers always yield the right of way to oncoming horses and hikers. It is our duty and agreement to do so. When approaching hikers from behind (and this has happened to me countles times), I always slow down, greet them kindly, and ask to pass. Never once in my life has a hiker not allowed me to pass. In fact, I have never had a hostile interaction with a hiker ever. Mtb’ers know what to do when they encounter foot traffic, so that is not a logical reason to exclude us as a user group. Your assumptions about this issue are really off base wsbob. Hikers and bikers have great relationships all over this country. I ride on Mt. Hood all the time, and frequently encounter hikers. No problems. Not sure where you get the idea that this is a problem, as I can assure you that it is not. All it takes is a little leaning over by the biker, or for a hiker to take a step to the side.

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  • lil'stink April 5, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Another cyclist in support of Mr Fish. Please don’t let the naysayers detract you on this issue. Challenge their arguments. What is the true motivation for the anti-cycling crowd when it comes to bicycle legal urban singletrack? It is a simple case of the ‘haves’ manipulating the system so that they don’t have to share with the ‘have-nots’.

    I can live if trails like Wildwood stay off-limits to bikes. I just can’t understand why someone would oppose the idea of new trails being built to allow for equal access.

    I agree with Brian. Cyclists aren’t the enemy, although this seems to be a theme advanced by groups like the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club. We should be allies. We simply choose different methods to enjoy our wonderful surroundings. Neither method is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than the other, but one user group (cyclists) has been consistently subjugated to the whims and rules dictated by the other (non-cyclists).

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