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City releases Forest Park cycling actions: No new bike access

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

Riding in Forest Park.
(Photo © J. Maus)

As we hinted at yesterday, City Commissioner Nick Fish and Portland Parks and Recreation Director Zari Santner have released their much-anticipated set of actions they’ll take to address off-road cycling in Forest Park.

The decision includes no new or improved access to existing singletrack trails and no commitment to build new ones.

In their announcement today, Commissioner Fish and Director Santner wrote, “Further restoration and maintenance work is needed in the park before recreational use can be expanded.” With that being said, they have committed to move forward with the following within the next year:

“My interest is not in studying this to death, it’s seeing what we can actually do… I am committed to finding ways to significantly expand our current inventory of single track trails.”
— Commissioner Nick Fish in February 2010

Within the next two years, Portland Parks will:

Missing from these lists are shared or outright access to existing singletrack trails or construction of new ones — which is something Commissioner Fish promised to off-road cycling advocates at the outset of this process one year ago. Fish told OPB today that Portland is “not ready” for new bike trails in Forest Park. That statement comes despite the fact that two recent surveys show that a majority of people want new trails and improved bike access.

The “actions” announced by Commissioner Fish put the completion of studies front and center. These decisions are in stark contrast to what Fish said back in February:

“My interest is not in studying this to death, it’s seeing what we can actually do… I am committed to finding ways to significantly expand our current inventory of single track trails.”

In a prepared statement in today’s announcement, Commissioner Fish said:

“We recognize that off-road cycling is a popular recreational sport. People who enjoy singletrack riding also care about the environment and are committed to being good stewards of our natural areas… The decisions we reached are based upon what we agreed is best for Portland’s largest natural area.”

“We agree” actually means what Commissioner Fish, Director Santner, and those who opposed improved bicycling in the park agreed to. There are many people in Portland who understand that it is possible to improve bike access by sharing existing trails and creating new ones, without harming the ecology of the park.

In an effort to make this disappointing news a bit easier to swallow, today’s announcement also included “a commitment to expanding off-road cycling access throughout the Portland metropolitan area.” Here’s a list of those commitments as expressed by Parks Director Zari Santner (emphasis mine):

These other efforts are certainly appreciated, but this entire process was based around improving bicycling opportunities in Forest Park. There is currently only 1/3 of a mile of singletrack trail that is open to bikes in the entire, 5,000 acre park.

I’ll have more on this story, including an interview with Commissioner Fish, later today.

For more background on this issue, browse our extensive coverage here.