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Sidewalk in Tigard shows potential for suburban cycle tracks

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

Is this a cycle track?
Not quite.
(Photos: Will Vanlue)

You may not think the city of Tigard (about 10 miles southwest of Portland) has anything in common with Amsterdam or Copenhagen.

The latter two cities are world-renowned for their bicycle facilities while Tigard is known mostly for its freeways and shopping malls.

But there is one thing Tigard has in common with Amsterdam and Copehnahgen: a paved, grade-separated path next to a sidewalk, which you might even call a “cycle track”.

If you’ve ridden your bicycle along Durham Road between SW 85th and 92nd Avenues you may have seen a double sidewalk, of sorts, in front of Tigard High School. One half is cement, the other half is asphalt.

Although neither is a dedicated bikeway, the asphalt path bears a striking resemblance to a traditional cycle track: it’s separated from the street and motor vehicle traffic, it continues at an even grade (without dipping or rising) across driveways, and it is a few inches below the level of the sidewalk.

Autumn leaves cover the sidewalk outside Tigard High School.

This small section of pseudo-cycle track highlights both the potential for world-class bicycle facilities in the suburbs, as well as the coordination needed when dealing with areas controlled by different government agencies.

“Although this path isn’t technically a “cycle track” it does spark the imagination as to what could be possible with a little creativity and coordination.”

In much of Washington County it’s very difficult to get from A to B without traveling along a major arterial road or freeway. The alternative is to ride on off-street trails and multi-use paths (MUPs). These trails usually wind through parks in a serpentine fashion and are far less direct than the straight lines of major arterial roads. Paths aren’t installed along the same routes as major arterials, in part, because of a perceived lack of space.

Clearly, though, there is plenty of space for the additional asphalt path along Durham Road.

Cars leaving Tigard High School block the sidewalk and asphalt path.

There are no markings at driveway crossings along the path outside Tigard High School and cars frequently enter and exit the school’s parking lot. Some paint on the pavement could turn a simple path into a safe facility for students and residents traveling on bicycles through the area.

I wanted to learn more about why this separated sidewalk was installed along Durham Road but I ran into one small problem: nobody remembers.

No one I contacted at Tigard High School, Tigard-Tualatin School District, or the City of Tigard could tell me for sure when the asphalt path was installed, nor why it was installed a few inches lower than the sidewalk.

Two Senior Engineering Technicians with the City of Tigard helped me confirm the path was installed sometime between 1960 and 1989. They explained that the asphalt path crosses between property controlled by the City and the school’s grounds and that it could have been installed by the City when they repaved Durham Road, by the Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District (or another agency) during the renovation of the swim center next to the high school, when the school’s parking lot was repaved.

The path also could have been a product of more than one of those projects, evolving and growing over the 30-year gap between available maps and detailed records.

A woman rides her bicycle along the asphalt path
in front of the Tigard Swim Center

Although this path isn’t technically a “cycle track” it does spark the imagination as to what could be possible with a little creativity and coordination. Perhaps one day this humble double-sidewalk will be seen as the godfather of a network of suburban cycle tracks. A guy can dream can’t he?