Dick Schouten addresses the
crowd in Tigard last night.
(Photos © J. Maus)
If the energy and turnout at our Get Together in Tigard last night is any indication, the West Side is poised for big leaps in biking in the coming years — but it won’t come easy.
About 60 people filled the back room at the Fanno Creek Brew Pub on Main Street in downtown Tigard. The turnout was diverse — from Tigard Mayor Craig Dirksen to local bike shop owners, and even a few Portland residents who work in the area.
“I’m so glad you are all here. 10 years ago, there was no attention given to these issues.”
— Tigard Mayor Craig Dirksen
Before things got started, I met Mark McGregor. Mark owns a a construction site recycling business (you might remember him as the guy who got the Street of Dreams organizers to include a “Cycle the Dream” day). Mark’s on a mini-crusade to get the developers he works with in rural Washington County to keep bikeway connectivity in mind at the outset of their projects.
I also met City of Tigard transportation project engineer Mike McCarthy. Mike showed off the brand new Bike Tigard map. 10,000 copies will go to print in the next few days and its completion is an exciting step for biking in Tigard and the West Side.
As per usual, I started things off by introducing the notables in the room. What better way to start than with Craig Dirksen, the Mayor of Tigard! Mayor Dirksen — who also happens to own an electric bike and scooter business — seemed genuinely excited to see such a robust crowd and he kicked things off on an inspiring note:
“I’m so glad you are all here. 10 years ago, there was no attention given to these issues… The challenge has always been getting council and staff to think of our trails, not just as recreation, but as transportation… [Tigard’s work on trails] makes them a logical, practical, convenient alternative to using your car all the time.”
Mike McCarthy from City of Tigard told us he was motivated to develop a new Bike Tigard map because, “There are so many better places to ride than 99W.” The new map is gorgeous and includes tons of information besides just the best routes. McCarthy also pointed out that the map is being printed on “ecostone” which is made from calcium carbonite and is super tear and waterproof. For more info on the map and to request one online, check the City website.
Washington County Commissioner Dick Schouten was up next. After opening with a half-joking, “I highly recommend you vote for me (he’s running for Washington County Chair)”, Schouten shared several of his transportation priorities. He wants to set up an non-motorized transportation advisory board for Washington County, he wants to hire a consulting firm to come up with a “comprehensive bike plan,” and he wants to make sure Washington County has “off the shelf” plans for bike projects so they can respond quickly to federal funding opportunities.
Schouten also said, “We also need to broaden the demographic of bicycling and we’re not going to do that by telling people they have to ride on 99W.”
We also heard from vehicular homicide bill activist Mary O’Donnell, Westside Transportation Alliance director Karen Frost, the BTA’s new statewide advocate Susan Peithman, TriMet bike planner Colin Maher, and Hal Ballard from the Washington County Bicycle Transportation Coalition.
Karen Frost was looking for volunteers to help her organization install bike racks in downtown Tigard. They’ve got a grant to install 35 racks to retail store owners. Frost hopes the racks start going in by March and the project is expected to be completed by early May of this year. The WTA needs volunteers to engage businesses about this program. To help make it happen, contact program manager Pete Collins at (503) 906-7941 or email@example.com.
Hal Ballard spoke up and brought attention to an issue they share with Portland — the closure of trails that provide an important transportation connection are technically closed at night. Even worse, reported Ballard, park rangers have been overtly enforcing the closures on people riding bikes on major trails like the Fanno Creek after hours.
Along with trail closures, Ballard put an exclamation point on one of the key issues facing progress on the West Side — How can progress happen in a place where main bike routes cross through 13 cities, each with their own jurisdictions and governing agencies. Several people shared stories of trying to report issues to various agencies and they would just get the run-around.
Many people in the room were frustrated that a central clearinghouse of information to report things like mud or glass in a trail or bike lane does not exist, which prompted a random offering of phone numbers from all the city officials in the room!
Another issue that bubbled up last night was how to deal with trail user conflicts. I’ve always enjoyed riding on the Fanno Creek Trail, but I’ve never ridden it on a sunny day where you’ve got to dodge frisbees, dogs, and strollers.
The Fanno Creek Trail (and connections it has to residential and commercial areas) is such an important non-motorized transportation artery for many cities on the West Side. It is a jewel… But it also needs a lot of help. I suggested that what’s needed is a non-profit citizens group to help the cities keep it great. How about a Friends of the Fanno Creek Trail group?
The City of Tigard has a lot going on right now: Projects to improve the Fanno Creek Trail and a major reconstruction of Burnham street are already underway; their Transportation System Plan is being updated; they’re envisioning a new downtown; they’ve got a rail-trail project in the works; and much more.
Thanks to everyone who joined us last night and a special thanks to Marvin, Amber and the crew at the Fanno Creek Brew Pub. I hope the event sparked some of the inspiration and information it will take to kick-start a new transportation future in Tigard and the west side.