Forest Park open house draws huge crowds

Forest Park Singletrack Cycling Open House-3

People packed the Forest Park open house
last night in Northwest Portland.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Judging by the huge crowds that packed into the Holiday Inn in Northwest Portland last night, it’s obvious that bike access in Forest Park is an issue many people care about.

People from all user groups lined up many rows deep to view maps and a list of proposed actions to improve and expand bike access in the park. They also placed colored dots on a list of “management actions” to help the City assess the relative importance of each one listed (I’ll post a separate story once all the materials from the open house are available in electronic form).

Throughout the hotel, people sat in silence filling out the comment form and survey that was passed out by Portland Parks staff (it reminded me of a college library). Inside the main room, committee members stood near poster boards answering questions and pointing out trails on the maps.

Forest Park Singletrack Cycling Open House-6

Parks staffer Emily Roth answers questions.

The wide range of opinions on this issue were clearly apparent. One man I overheard talking to a parks staffer was incensed that the process was not more transparent and was afraid that not enough Portlanders are even aware the issue is being discussed. He also said the whole process was meaningless because Commissioner Nick Fish had already “promised to give those bikers what they want.”

On written comments, many people advocated for more singletrack trails for bikes and especially for trail-sharing on Maple and Ridge Trails. Other comments said the 1995 Forest Park Natural Resources Management Plan must be updated and the park must have further user studies done before any expanded bike access can occur.

I made my way over to Emily Roth, the natural resources planner with Portland Parks and Recreation. Roth has been the facilitator of the committee process and I asked her about what to expect from here on out. She explained that the committee will review all the comments and surveys that come in and will meet again in May to come up with their final recommendations (they will meet again in June if necessary).

Once the committee agrees on their final package of recommendations (they can only forward things that have consensus support) they will forward them to Parks Director Zari Santner and her boss, Parks Commissioner Nick Fish. Fish and Santner will then review the recommendations, making changes if they choose to, and then forward them to the Bureau of Development Services. BDS will analyze the recommendations and report back to Fish and Santner as to what type of land use reviews will be required to turn the proposals into reality.

Roth made it clear that Parks will only move forward with trail options that require a Type II land use review. This could become an important issue to watch in the coming weeks because there has been no clear determination from BDS yet as to whether trail-sharing — an issue that has divided the committee — would require a Type II or the more involved Type III land use review.

The committee began their work under the assumption that trail-sharing would only require a Type II review, but after BDS was contacted by committee members who are opposed to trail-sharing, BDS said a Type III review would be required.

Last night Roth told me that the Type III determination by BDS is only a “casual interpretation” at this point and a final determination won’t be made until BDS analyzes the final package of proposals.

I spent the open house talking at length with Roth and committee member Les Blaize and didn’t chat much with other attendees. If you were at the event, please chime in with what you heard and how you felt about it in general.

Stay tuned. There’s a lot more to report on this issue. Next up I’ll post the materials from the open house and the link to the online comment form.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Zaphod
14 years ago

From the dangling helmets and ubiquity of showers pass gear it appears that cyclists were well represented at the open house.

RWL1776
RWL1776
14 years ago

All in all it was well attended, the Parks folks were very friendly and very informative. I educated Emily a bit about the entire history of FL 5, especially the top section that alledgedly is NOT open to bikes,as I know of it, and she was very thankful.

Many Thanks to all those that attended. This is exactly how the process is supposed to work.

Marcus Griffith
Marcus Griffith
14 years ago

My only concern for trail sharing is the potential safety issue between foot-based trail users and bike-based trail users. More specifically, the harm that could occur to small children hit by speeding cyclists.

Children should be able to enjoy a trail walk without parents be on high alert for reckless cyclists.

On the other hand, trail riding is a blast and anyone who has never done it, should look into it.

Psyfalcon
Psyfalcon
14 years ago

I’d be much more comfortable about sharing narrow trails than the current firelanes. Much like narrow streets encourage cycling since it slows cars, the narrow trails force cyclists to slow for their own protection. You can’t see around the corners and tend to slow, watching for logs, rocks, or people (such as a cyclist even, headed in the opposite direction).

The wide firelanes? That’s Powell. You think you’re fine flying down until someone steps out from behind a bush.

I think the repetition of the small child argument is a bit of a strawman. Small children should be with their parents, and under control for several reasons both people and nature generated. Shady people, dogs, bikes (legal or otherwise) and apparently, elk. Have there been any big cat sightings?

Marcus Griffith
Marcus Griffith
14 years ago

Psyfalcon, I take it your not really familiar with what a “straw man” argument actually means. I also take it you have only a vague idea of what threats “big cats” pose to Forest Park.

Thank you for clarifying your own inability to process logic and associated your name with your opinions.

GlowBoy
GlowBoy
14 years ago

Psyfalcon, what exactly do you mean by “under control”? Do you mean hand in hand? Or under “voice command” like an offleash dog? Or should I just keep my child on a leash like my dog? Do you have any conception whatsoever of what it is like to be around young children?

When I take my preschooler hiking (I also take him biking) in Forest Park, mostly on Saltzman and Maple, I do keep him reasonably close and I’ve taught him to be alert for bikes. But I also let him run and explore. He’s not always within 10 feet of me, that’s for sure. That’s the whole point of exposing kids to nature. Our kids are getting fat (and developing ADD at alarming rates) because they’re over-programmed, over-controlled and not allowed to exercise and explore. Now we have to extend shopping-mall rules to the woods too? GMAFB.

Yes there are (incredibly small) risks like cougars. But we let our paranoia about extravagant dangers overshadow the far greater risks to our children like car crashes and diabetes. My child is 1000x more likely to be killed in a car accident on the way to Forest Park than he is to be taken by a cat, and I don’t let that risk stop me from exposing him to nature.

Because of the few cyclists like you who expect everyone to get out of their way, I personally tend to more often take my child hiking on trails that are either fairly flat or aren’t open to bikes. But fortunately there are PLENTY of those in Forest Park and elsewhere in the West Hills.

Don’t assume I’m taking the side of the anti-bikers here: I’m all for opening up Maple, Ridge and Tolovana to bikes. I just don’t appreciate other people acting like they know how to raise my kids.

Paul in the Couve
Paul in the Couve
14 years ago

Parent, biker, MTBer (rarely) – Just use signs as already in Forest Park – I probably won’t take my kids on a trail shared by MTBs especially if non-shared trails are available and the MTBs are coming down hill.

I have shared trail in some more remote areas like Lewis River both as a hiker and biker, but in Forest Park with the use levels I think parents would be wise to just use other trails with kids, and especially on weekends.

Tony Pereira
14 years ago

If (when) trail sharing happens, it will be on a small fraction of the trails in forest park. There will always be a time and place when there are no bikes allowed. There are 50ish miles of singletrack in forest park. Do you need them all free of bikes at all times to keep the children safe? Aside from that mountain bikers are well schooled in a “share the trail” mantra. When you come across pedestrians or hikers you stop and let them pass. You also don’t go so fast that you run people over around blind corners. I know that some people think we are a bunch of maniacs, but it’s a big misconception.

Marcus Griffith
Marcus Griffith
14 years ago

I would like to keep the shared trail debate from becoming an extreme either or between trail riding and small children. The small child factor is one of several legitimate concerns that need to be addressed. Obviously, it is a factor that I have brought several times (and will keep bringing up) as I think its a point that needs addressed.

Does anyone have an evidence based and logically constructed solution to the small child factor for shared trails?

Tony Pereira
Tony Pereira
14 years ago

Marcus,
I have been mountain biking for about 25 years on shared trails all over the country and I’ve never run over any children nor have ever heard of anyone doing so. Does that count as evidence?

Marcus Griffith
Marcus Griffith
14 years ago

By all means a meaningful discussion on any topic must give due regards to personal and professional experience.

However, one must be cautious not to confuse even the most extensive personal or professional experience as an universal reality. I think the black swan event theory, anecdotal experience and argumentum ad verecundiam fallacies address why personal and professional experience may not be enough to fully support any given position; but I digress.

The primary matter at hand, the bike vs person collision risk on shared trails, really hinges on two main points: What is the likely hood of a bike vs person collision on a shared trail and what is the range of injuries that would result from such a collision.

My specific concern, the risk to small children, only slightly modifies the primary matter.

I hold that, in regards to shared trails at least, small child are more likely to be involved in a bike vs person collision than adults. Based on a small child’s proneness for inattention, small size, budding muscle coordination and undeveloped threat assessment abilities, I am concluding that such a statement is reasonable.

I also hold that a small child is likely to sustain more serious injury in a bike vs person collision than an adult. Based on a small child’s well understood biological vulnerabilities, I am concluding that such a statement is also reasonable.

Based on the previous two statements, I have concluded, and acted upon the conclusion, that the risk to small children in a shared trail scenario is worthy of consideration prior to opening more trails to bikes in the Portland area.

But, the primary point still remains. What is the statistical chance of a bike vs person (or small child) collision and what exaclty are the potential injuries from such a collision? I simply do not know and have not been able to find any research or studies on the subject. I am very interested obtaining any such studies and will continue to seek such data out.

Giving due regards to the fallacy of argumentum ad ignorantiam, I feel it is best seek meaningful assessment of the safety risks associated with shared trails rather than simply conclude there is no risk.

f5
f5
14 years ago

The lengths that people will go to to try and turn this into rocket science boggles the mind.

Anonymous
Anonymous
14 years ago

Managing kids anywhere can be challenging. Out in Beaverton in the nature park on the 7′ wide asphalt path (bikes allowed 7mph), when riding a bike, encountering kids with their minders…parents, family, teachers, and so on, it’s always very interesting how it all works out.

Even when riding very slowly by…even when the kids are being very responsive to instructions, it’s a big deal for the minders to be carefully watching and be prepared for the unexpected lapse of attention or impulsive move on the part of the kids.

Then there’s the kids that are all over the place despite their minders instructions. And also, occasionally some of the people riding seem to leave their brains at home in the sock drawer when they get on the bike to ride.

Even though the person riding the bike past people with kids, (or just adults on their own) may be very agile and skilled on the bike, it’s still a situation that’s likely to have people being passed, instinctively be concerned. People on foot are vulnerable trail users. Being crashed into or swept past by someone riding a bike isn’t good for one’s health.

How might it be possible to get all the people with an itch to ride a bike on shared single width trail/singletrack, to exercise the ideal consideration towards vulnerable trail users that’s often spoken of by off-road bike users seeking access to Forest Parks footpaths?

f5
f5
14 years ago

Anonymous: How might it be possible? Simple: trail rules. Orders of ‘yield’ clearly posted at trailheads. This isn’t rocket science. We’re not reinventing the wheel here.

Bikes yield to all other trail users (horses, hikers, runners, etc.). They won’t be passing you as you walk or hike.

P.S. Just for your information, ‘single width trail’ is made up terminology by one of the forum trolls, it isn’t a real term.

Anonymous
Anonymous
14 years ago

“f5”:

Rules prevent problems? The logic that same logic would say that becasue there are laws against theft, murder, rape and vehicle homicide than such acts must not occur. Clearly, you can not seriously hold that a mere sign eliminates a safety concern? Are even familiary with the number of bicycle related motorvehicle collisions occure on roads marked with “Share the Road” signs?

Single Width Trail refers to a trail designed for a single person (or bike, horse or whatever trail user in question) to go one way, as compared to a double-width trail or extended width trail. I have used the term and heard it used in profesisonal settings for almost 15 years regarding trails. In fact the term “singletrack” for off-road roads made about as wide as a bike (which is narrower than a single-width for a person) is rooted in the term “Single Width Trail”.

The types of questions being asked about trail safety are exactly the points that will need to be addressed in a well prepared argument in favor of shared trails.

I would gladly meet you over coffee to discuss this topic in person, you may contact me at: marcus.griffith@gmail.com.

f5
f5
14 years ago

Marcus, please consider:

• rules and signage don’t prevent murder, rape, vehicular homocide, or any other unrelated acts that are a ridiculous stretches of reason to include. When precedent doesn’t support your argument, perhaps the burdon of proof should be on you.

• I’m not familiar with bike/car collisions that occur on roads with ‘Share the Road’ signs, and I don’t care at the moment as it has no bearing on childrens’ safety and trail-sharing.

• Wikipedia turns up no results for ‘single width trail’, however google and dictionary.com all point to bikeportland.org forum posts for ‘single width trail’, and return no other instances on the web.

• I don’t buy the whole “for the love of god, think of the kids!” angle. Your hyper-intensiveness with this issue just smacks of cyclist opposition moving on to whatever they can latch onto next in hopes of continuing to bar bikes from trails in Forest Park.

• I have a small child, I take her hiking, and I don’t mind sharing with other legitimate trail users. Given the scant and mostly perimeter trails that the committee is recommending cyclists have access to, your concern seems pretty baseless in my opinion.

-f5

Anonymous
Anonymous
14 years ago

It’s easy to make rules. Getting people to follow them is another thing.

It could be said, that for some people, making rules is as easy as…as f5 has shown in his/her comment #14…calling people names when they don’t like what other people say, instead of making an effort to produce an intelligent response that shows some thought behind it.

In all the discussions arising from stories here on bikeportland, about the question of off-road bike access in Forest Park, descriptions of exactly what kind of single track riding is being sought have always been notably vague. Just: single track. On single width trail, of course (not a new ‘made-up’ word…just a simple descriptive phrase that helps to explain what ‘single track’ is).

Based on comments made apparently by off-road bike enthusiasts to bikeportland stories, they’d prefer not to make a rule that would hold them to a particular speed limit on park trails. What do we hear instead? Things like ‘The trail design will keep speeds down to a reasonable limit. Wonderful.

So called “…Orders of ‘yield’…”? Has the Trails Advisory committee even got around to developing any?

Let’s see what that might consist of: off-road biker sees people on foot, 100′ away or some other distance; continues riding towards them…hopefully slowing down… . Some distance from them…say 10’..20′, off-road biker does what? What are some of the possibilities? Remember, this is ‘single-width trail/single track’.

One: off- road biker stays astride bike as far to one side of the path as possible. A tight squeeze in many cases, but… .

Two: off- road biker rides off the single width trail onto the shoulder. Things may be trying to grow there, but…oh well.

Three: off- road biker slows down to say 5mph, and gets off the bike upon seeing people on the trail traveling on foot; lifts the bike to shoulder, fast walks around and 15′ past them, gets on the bike and resumes riding.

Would off-road bike enthusiasts be willing to propose something like number three for their ‘Orders of ‘yield’ ‘, as f5 likes to put it, in order to increase their potential to get access to single track in Forest Park? I’ve fielded this suggestion a few times in the past in comments to bikeportland stories. No response. Doesn’t seem like asking too much to get access to some fine riding in Forest Park.

Something’s been wrong lately with the process of posting comments to some of the stories here on bikeportland. The screen name gets lost and replaced with ‘anonymous’. wsbob

Janet
Janet
14 years ago

I have a 3 year old niece that almost got ran over by a cyclist on a Forrest Park trail earlier this year. I don’t want to think about how bad she would have gotten hurt had she been hit. She was holding my hand and the cyclist came up from behind. I didn’t hear him and he didn’t see her until he was a few feet away.

No one should have to worry about getting hit by cyclists when out for walk in the woods.

Marcus Griffith
Marcus Griffith
14 years ago

There is some decent research out there that could help the shared trail movement gather support…

Marcus Griffith
Marcus Griffith
14 years ago

Good Quote:

“these results suggest that most users of
the multi-use trail appear to be getting along amiably despite the fact that they
pursue different activities and have varying levels of experience and involvement. Such a conclusion should empower practitioners who are considering
developing multi-use trails in their communities. They should be able to
make a strong case that community tax dollars will be spent on a trail
amenity that will be used by a heterogeneous group of constituents.”
From: http://repository.lib.ncsu.edu/publications/bitstream/1840.2/2035/1/moore+6.pdf

Also Good:
Conflicts on Multi-Use Trails
https://scholarsbank.uoregon.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1794/9849/GV_191.67_T7M66_1994.pdf?sequence=1

Anonymous
Anonymous
14 years ago

f5…you’re a hoot! If calling people names makes you feel good, and that’s the best you can do, go ahead and enjoy yourself. I just hope that if you decide to get really mean and nasty…wouldn’t surprise me…Maus will step in and tell you to go read a book…or something that’ll help you get things under control.

I, and I think a lot of other people as well, would be interested in hearing off-road bike enthusiasts clearly describe the type of riding they seek on single track in Forest Park and other nature parks. To date, they have not done so for readers of stories on this subject on bikeportland.

The description f5 provides for ‘yield’ in his second paragraph of comment #20 describes a procedure that often will not adequately allow enough room for a person astride a bike to pass a person on foot where both are on single width trail.

Pulling over and stepping aside, to the extent that it involves stepping off trail…damages trailside vegetation. No trail user should do it.

How might people find out what off-road bike enthusiasts could be seeking in terms of singletrack riding experience in FP? Books, news stories, asking questions, and so on.

Or take a look at writer Kronda Adair’s article ‘Going off-road on the new Sandy Ridge Trail System’, just recently published here on bikeportland. I think that people having concerns about the possible increase in access to single width trail in Forest Park will be wondering just how much of the trail types and the types of riding characterizing Sandy Ridge, will be sought at FP.

Going off-road on the new Sandy Ridge Trail System/Kronda Adair/bikeportland

wsbob
wsbob
14 years ago

Correction: In comment #22, I jokingly encouraged the person commenting as ‘f5’ to go on calling people names if it made him/her feel good. That was wrong, and I take it back. Calling people names is bullying, intimidation behavior that doesn’t belong here. It’s not civil behavior and doesn’t promote good discussion.

If I were moderating this site, I would have deleted the name-calling content from the offending commenters post, and that would have been the end of it. The last time this issue came up in comments made by a different commenter/different thread, after complaints were made to J.Maus/editor bikeportland, he explained that due to his heavy workload, it was difficult for him to follow up comments to every story to make sure people weren’t doing this sort of thing.

I can understand this…writing stories for the blog, running it, helping to raise a family. Especially on the weekend. So it goes.

Tony Pereira
14 years ago

Marcus,
You make it sound like this is the first time anyone has ever considered trail sharing. It works (as you have now pointed out). And, I repeat, no one is proposing sharing ALL THE TRAILS, ALL THE TIME. There will be many, many more miles of trails closed to bikes than trails open to them. You can take little Marcus Jr out and not worry about bikes being on the trails because they will be on the trails where they are allowed.

Again, there are 50ish miles of singletrack in forest park. If, say, the most optimistic trail sharing allowed bikes on half of those trails on odd-numbered calendar days (an unlikely, but fair compromise IMO) there would still be, on any given day of the year, 25 miles of trails for you to go hiking with the kids. How far can a 3 year old walk? A mile? Three?

This has been done for years and years all over the world and the concerns you raise are not at all valid. Sorry to do that to you, but think about it for two seconds and you ought to be able to come to the same conclusion. I don’t mean to belittle you, but wtf? Listen to what you are saying. f5 is right, this isn’t rocket science. It’s trees and dirt and birds and bees stuff. Simple, simple, simple!

Tony Pereira
14 years ago

Regarding what cyclists want from their trails in Forest Park, I can only speak for myself and other like-minded riders. I am hoping for trails like Wildwood and Maple. Contour trails for cross-country riding. Cross country riding is analogous to cross-country skiing. Flowing through the terrain, covering longer distances (I like my xc mountain bike rides in the 20-40 mile range) and enjoying being outdoors. The trails at sandy ridge are designed for a slightly different style of riding. There are a few different names for this style of riding, but you might call it downhill* and it is more analogous to downhill skiing. Personally, I love riding fast, but there is a time and place for that. Mountain bikers know that. It is part of the sport. If you are on a crowded shared-use trail you slow it down. You are careful around blind turns. You are looking out for others. If you aren’t doing this you are doing it wrong and other riders will let you know. It works. It’s a strong tradition of sharing that we cyclists hope to bring to Forest Park.

Does that help explain the type of riding “we” are looking for in Forest Park?

*I know that Sandy ridge is not a “downhill” trail in the mountain biking parlance. Just using the term for purposes of the analogy.

Marcus Griffith
Marcus Griffith
14 years ago

Adult women killed earlier this month when hit by a cyclist on a shared trail in King County.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/theblotter/2011667870_pedestrian_killed_when_hit_by.html?prmid=obnetwork

Tony Pereira
14 years ago

Marcus,
That is absolutely terrible. It is also a completely different type of trail. The Cedar River Trail is more like our Springwater Corridor trail. I’m sure the speeds were much higher and it sounds to me like the cyclist was being careless. Very sad.

Marcus Griffith
Marcus Griffith
14 years ago

Tony:

I am not comparing the trails so much as posting a recent incident that does highlight the potential safety risks on multi-use trails. Due to a shortage of available research, I can not state any statistical frequency of such collisions.

I have concerns about opening up more trails to cyclists at Forest Park. However, I have also spent the time to find the on-topic research and even posted it to this discussion.

I am more than willing to meet with the pro-multi-trail-use group and put together a letter of support.

Evidence based decisions requires letting the evidence, and not personal dogma, make the decision. It also requires taking the time to investigate the topic.

Frank Selker
Frank Selker
14 years ago

Note that when I talk about shared use, it should really be called alternating use, because I don’t envision both users groups on the trails at the same time – it works in many places to share trails, but better yet to be separated in either time or space so there are no surprises to anyone and the experiences aren’t reduced for users that don’t want to encounter other types of users. It doesn’t mean pedestrians need to be excluded, but that they should know that it’s a bike place or time, so they may want to pick another trail or they are making that concious choice and are alert.

RWL1776
RWL1776
14 years ago

f5 #16: as for your single width trail question, and what KIND of riding a certain segment of the MTB crowd prefers, how about this information. I was the Western OR IMBA Rep for 5 years, and during that time I found all kinds of information and studies. I wrote the following paragraph for a writing class at WPC:

“Mountain bicycling is a low impact, silent sport enjoyed by people of all ages. It is considered passive recreation, which is defined as “Recreational uses that are conducted almost wholly outdoors and do not require a developed site. Passive outdoor recreation uses include, but are not limited to, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and bird watching.” (Santa Clara County 2003). Most mountain bicyclists prefer riding on what is called a singletrack trail. In 1997 the Sierra Club invented the modern definition: “A single-track trail is one where users must generally travel in single file.” Trail users want to experience a close connection to
nature, and singletrack provides this better than the wide gravel pathways we are allowed access to here locally. Singletrack blends into the surrounding environment, disturbs much less ground, and is easier to maintain. Trees and shrubs may envelop you in a tunnel of green, tall flowers may reach eye level and higher, and the curve of the land guides the direction of your travel along the trail.”

Does that answer some of your questions? I have a ton more information if anyone wants it, or simply refer to http://www.IMBA.com and their ‘Resources’ tab.

Have fun and share the trails!

f5
f5
14 years ago

Hi RWL1776-

Thanks — although I wasn’t really asking about single-width trail or what type of riding cyclists like.

I am a mountain biker who was questioning where the term ‘single-width’ came from, which I maintain that it was essentially created by hiker(s) who don’t want to even use terminology related to bikes to describe trails, opting for creating their own terminology instead.

t’is neither here nor there.

Marcus Griffith
Marcus Griffith
14 years ago

As much as I enjoy a good etymology adventure, f5’s passion is a bit misplaced.
While in highschool in the mid-90’s, I worked on trail maintenance for BLM and a few logging companies in SW Oregon. The terms “Single Width Trail” and “Double Width Trail” were used to describe the general width of the trial, abbreviated SWT, DWT.

f5
f5
14 years ago

Marcus — I stand corrected, thanks.

wsbob
wsbob
14 years ago

Marcus…I thank you also for that verification!

As I understand it there are actually some significant differences between single width footpath and singletrack for bikes…which as far as I know, haven’t yet been discussed in comments to stories here on bikeportland(it might be a good idea to do that)…yet both are basically single-width trail.