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Your comments help raise bike access issue in Sunriver

Posted by on January 24th, 2013 at 10:01 am

Bikes made the ‘Scene’ in Sunriver.
(Photo: Tigue Howe)

As often happens here on BikePortland, reader comments bring up unexpected insights into our stories. While Internet comments are the butt of a lot of jokes and criticism, I remain extremely proud of the smart and valuable contributions many of you make to our stories. Case in point…

Back in July I wasn’t shy about my feelings for the riding conditions in Sunriver, the privately-owned resort community nestled in the Deschutes River valley just south of Bend in central Oregon. I deemed Sunriver’s 33 miles of dedicated bike paths, “the best bikeway network in North America.” I still believe that due to the mix of safety, connectivity, and wayfinding Sunriver’s path network provides people of all ages and riding abilities.

While my story had a very positive tone, several commenters pointed out their disappointment that the paths don’t serve their needs and the more direct roads that wind through Sunriver expressly forbid bicycles. While bikes are not allowed on the roadways, the paths are serpentine, subject to low speed limits, and are set up for recreational riding rather than direct access and/or fast riding. Here’s a sampling of your responses:

“Bikesalot” wrote:

“I found Sunriver very frustrating by bike. Being forced onto the paths exclusively meant it took forever to get anywhere – they are NOT designed for speed.”

Ron G. wrote:

“I took off from the Village at Sunriver to ride to Bend along the Deschutes River Trail. I just wanted to get to the trailhead, and the roads would have provided a simple, fast, direct route. I was shocked to find that I wasn’t allowed to do that. Instead, I had to follow a complicated route with about five times as many intersections. Sure, there were kiosks to help me along — and I had to use every damn one of them. It was frustratingly slow.

These paths aren’t there because the developers like bicycles. Rather, they suggest that Sunriver sees bicycles as a problem in search of a solution. If you need evidence that it’s a passive-aggressive approach, try riding on the roads — you’ll experience the aggression quickly.”

And reader Jim Lee wrote that, “Maybe we should put cars on the paths and bikes on the road!”

It was an interesting comment thread.

“Given that road biking is booming in popularity, Sunriver would be wise to consider the impact its bike pathway rules have on this increasingly important visitor demographic.”
— Sunriver Scene newspaper

Fast forward to the January 2013 issue of the Sunriver Scene newspaper and their “Top 10 Stories of 2012.” Among them at number nine was, unexpectedly, “Pathways Named Best Bikeway in North America.” (Thanks to Tigue Howe for bringing this to my attention!). I was surprised they felt our story merited top 10 story status; but what they wrote was an even bigger surprise:

“… The comments boiled down to two categories: 1) The paths are great for casual riders of all ages, but 2) serious riders may want to consider elsewhere to get their fix of high speed distance and/or endurance riding.

Given that road biking is booming in popularity, Sunriver would be wise to consider the impact its bike pathway rules have on this increasingly important visitor demographic.”

Is Sunriver ready to change their rules and allow bicycles on the roadways? There’s no concrete movement yet; but at least your comments helped raise the issue. Thanks! And who knows, we’ll follow-up and let you know if there’s any opportunity to weight in on a real proposal in the future..

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

  • K'Tesh January 24, 2013 at 10:25 am

    That’s So COOL!!! Congrats Jonathan!

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  • A.K. January 24, 2013 at 11:37 am

    I somehow doubt that Sunriver will change allowing bike access on roads, but you never know.

    I personally don’t find Sunriver’s paths to be that bad. I don’t ride on the paths there to get a workout or for quick access, and I try to remember that everyone, including people that don’t normally ride bikes often, will be using them – they don’t need some lycra-clad speed demon making them uncomfortable. You’re on vacation, so it pays to remember to relax a little, slow down, and enjoy the weather!

    If you’re in Sunriver and need a real ride, just ride over to the exit for S. Century Drive(AKA Co. Hhwy 40) near the village. You can ride all the way up to Mt. Bachelor on a decent-sized shoulder, and traffic is pretty light and usually gives you plenty of room. Along the back side of the mountain the shoulder disappears but traffic is still generally light and accommodating.

    A full loop around the mountain and back towards Sunriver along NF-40 gives you a great ~70 mile loop with a few thousand feet of climbing.

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    • John Lascurettes January 24, 2013 at 11:52 am

      Not everyone in Sunriver is a vacationer. There very well might be those commuting by bike (or would want do but don’t) that find the lack of direct connectivity and ability to ride at speed frustrating. That it’s essentially illegal to use the roads can be nothing less than maddening to those commuters.

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      • A.K. January 24, 2013 at 11:59 am

        True enough. As someone who goes there on vacation I forget that some people do live there full-time.

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    • davemess January 24, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      AK, I think most people were talking about their “commute” to do exactly what you describe, bike out on the great roads outside of Sunriver. The problem is getting to and from these roads. I can’t imagine anyone (myself included) in the original comments was talking about just “lycra” riding around Sunriver.

      PS the Lycra comments really annoy me. It’s just clothing, and PLENTY of slower folks wear it too.

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      • A.K. January 24, 2013 at 1:13 pm

        Sorry, the lycra comment was describing myself.

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  • Paulie January 24, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Are there really any “bike paths” in Oregon? Aren’t they all multi-use paths, and therefor not designed expressly for bicycling? It seems to me that Sunriver’s paths are designed more for sightseeing than as transportation paths. Since it’s a resort community, I’m fine with that personally, but they should provide an alternative for those who use their bikes for more than casual riding.

    Maybe I’m just cranky, but I hate it when people refer to MUPs as bike paths. Springwater seems to have as many pedestrians as cyclists.

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    • Spiffy January 24, 2013 at 12:16 pm

      the only one I would (barely) consider a bike path is the Cully track… it’s separate from the road via a (slight) curb and for bikes only…

      I can’t think of any other bike-only areas that aren’t on the same road surface as the motor-vehicles… except in a few places downtown where the bike lane jumps up onto the sidewalk to go around a transit stop…

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  • chucklehead January 24, 2013 at 11:53 am

    is there anything that some cyclists will not complain about?

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  • GlowBoy January 24, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    “serious riders may want to consider elsewhere to get their fix of high speed distance and/or endurance riding.”

    So, in other words … put your bike on top of your car, drive to the edge of Sunriver, and ride from there? Because, apparently, cycling for transportation is not acceptable in Sunriver.

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  • Spiffy January 24, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    if bikes aren’t allowed on the street then are they at least allowed on the sidewalk? otherwise I don’t see how you’d be able to go to many businesses since they’re usually not on separated recreational trails…

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  • Jim January 24, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    We live in Sunriver about half time (other half in Portland) and have owned a house there for more than 10 years. Yes the multiuse path is serpentine and slow. Getting out of SR (to ride on the above mentioned, really terrific, Cascade Lakes loop) is slow since in the summer months the path is swarming with kids and families on bikes. Total chaos near the village. The path is perfectly suited to getting around SR and commuting, but not at more than 10-15 mph. Also, as a long-time resident, I would not want the typical Sunriver cyclist riding on the roads. I am all for full access to road riding in general, but believe me, the typical bicycle rider there may be on a bike only one weekend a year, and for only a couple hours. The roads are also narrow and winding, and even with the low speed limit, the typical Sunriver visitor-driver is inattentive, entitled, sometimes drunk (read the SR paper’s police report!), and in my experience more dangerous than even drivers in the Portland suburbs.

    I would love to ride on the road there when we have to get out of SR – we sometimes do when we are on the tandem or early morning. But I would bet a change in policy NEVER happens. Very conservative place and as an example, they don’t even allow roller blades or skateboards on the paths (scooters only if they have brakes).

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  • Brad Ross January 25, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Way back in 1989 I did a MTB race from Inn of the 7th Mtn. to Sunriver and back. We raced through Sunriver on those paths. It was a total blast.

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  • SloJoe January 25, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    Just moved to Sunriver and I love having 31 miles of MUPs to ride without any car worries. I can “toodle” so I don’t mind the laid back pace. SR plows the MUPs during the winter and with a FAT BIKE cruising over crusty snow is no problem.

    I’ll be joining the “Bike Patrol” and getting involved with the cycling powers at SR. I’m curious if all roads are restricted as only the two main roads (Cascade and Abbot)have no cycling or walking on the road signs. And as another noted and how true it is: You can please some of the cyclist some of the time; you can’t please all the cyclists all the time; and there are some cyclists that no matter what you do are going to complain. :o)

    As one post noted: There are plenty of roads right outside SR for when I want a long steady pace ride.

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  • Chainwhipped January 26, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Being from Central Oregon, I just have to weigh in.

    The first time I ever rode a bike for several hours in a single day, it was on Sunriver’s bike paths on my Huffy 24-inch “mountain bike”. I had a great time and it was perfectly safe and I had no idea this was such a unique experience. I was 10 years old.

    Four years later, as a developing Junior, I found myself on a training ride attempting to cut through Sunriver to head up to Cascade Lakes Hwy. I found the “best bikeway network in north america” unable to get me to any sort of destination whatsoever. It really had nothing to do with speed. Sunriver’s populace rides around 15mph and that would’ve been plenty fast, if I could’ve taken a route that was the least bit direct. I instead was forced to take close to 30 minutes of what can only be described as Detours to get to where I could’ve been in about 10 minutes if I’d been allowed to use the road.

    Never mind getting a “fix of high-speed and/or endurance riding” (is 20mph really ‘high speed’?), this “separate but equal” network is utterly useless as a transportation utility.

    Sunriver Scene misses the point entirely. They seem to think that the only people who could use an efficient route by bike are “serious” cyclists – whatever that means. Contrary to the idea that these paths are “great for casual riders of all ages”, the reality is that they’re really only great for people with nothing to do and nowhere to go.

    I’ve ridden through Sunriver plenty since then. I’ve had training partners who refused to ride on the paths and we’d get pulled over by the Sunriver rent-a-cops on occasion.

    This network does not exist to cater to daily bike riders of any kind. It’s a way of keeping us off of actual roads that were intentionally built to be incomplete. It’s bad for drivers, too. If you have some sort of car issue, you’ll be unable to pull off of the road as there is no shoulder in most places. Apart from that, the generally unpleasant experience of trying to commute by bike in that place likely keeps a lot of people from riding and adds to the congestion of a road network built entirely of narrow two-lane roads.

    Sunriver is an excellent example of roadways that are built only for Cars, which we all know are far more important than people.

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  • Rol January 26, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    It’s sort of encouraging that they now recognize two categories of bicycling – “casual” riding and “high-speed and/or endurance riding” (which apparently is sufficiently addictive that one needs a “fix”). But they still fail to grasp that some of us are just taking advantage of the bicycle as a practical device that can take you places. The probable reason bikes were invented.

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    • Rol January 26, 2013 at 8:51 pm

      In other words, I’m just looking for a “fix” to the problem of getting from A to B…

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