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Oregon’s first urban State Scenic Bikeway could be coming to Portland

Posted by on January 29th, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Cherry blossoms in Waterfront Park-19-18

This could be part of Oregon’s first urban State Scenic Bikeway.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

We’ve covered Oregon’s innovative State Scenic Bikeway program since its inception back in 2008. The program has flourished since the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway opened for business in 2009. With the economic boost that comes with opening up to bicycle tourism, public and private agencies across Oregon are clamoring to have a route designated in their town.

Today there are nine official State Scenic Bikeways and they are all focused on rural areas. Now a group of Portland advocates is promoting the idea of an urban route that could turn the program in a new direction.

The route, which one of its backers shared with me yesterday, would simple be the tried and true Steel Bridge to Hawthorne Bridge loop via the Eastbank Esplanade and Waterfront Park multi-use paths. Almost anyone that has ridden in Portland has been on some portion of this route.

Backers of the Portland Scenic Bikeway (not the official name) say the route is full of interesting vistas and is especially great for families and kids — something that can’t be said of many of the existing routes. “Scenery doesn’t just mean streams and trees,” is how the project backer explained it to me (he’d like to remain anonymous until an official route proposal is made).

If chosen, a State Scenic Bikeway in the heart of Portland’s bikeway system could have awesome potential. What if the route was ultimately expanded down the Springwater to Oaks Park and/or onto surface streets downtown or on the central eastside? It’s important to remember that there is no capital construction element to the Scenic Bikeway program. Beyond a few wayfinding signs, the routes are strictly honorary designations. But what it would do is provide greater marketing and promotion of the route, it would be a way to find business partners along the route that would assist in the accompanying route management plan, and it could give a small amount of leverage to advocates pushing for improvements. For example, it could give urgency to closing the “Springwater Gap” between OMSI and the Ross Island Bridge, and it might give advocates more reason to call for expansions to the existing path in waterfront park.

This route has not been officially proposed yet because Oregon State Parks (the agency that oversees the program) isn’t open to new applications at the moment. The next open call for routes is expected this spring. We’ll keep you posted as this idea progresses. In the meantime, it would be great to hear your feedback.

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  • Andrew K January 29, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    Two thoughts…

    1) This is interesting.
    2) I can’t wait to see the trees bloom again.

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  • Spiffy January 29, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    they shouldn’t use the term Bikeway for a multi-use path…

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    • Kris January 29, 2013 at 6:03 pm

      Especially in the case of the Waterfront Bike Trail, which despite its name is so packed with pedestrians on nice days that it’s hard to even use a bike on it. Even so, most of our scenic bikeways are along ordinary roads, which are hardly more appropriate, and the route is already something of a de facto scenic bikeway.

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  • encephalopath January 29, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    Will that turn the path into a transportation corridor that Portland Parks can’t close at night?

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  • Timur Ender January 29, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    how do i get involved in seeing this through?!

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  • John Landolfe January 29, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    I’ve certainly floated the idea at bike tourism summits before (and I’m hardly the first or the only one). I’m certainly curious who the anonymous backer is. Not to be patient, but to me it makes sense to consider waiting until 2015 when the Springwater Corridor will connect to the nation’s longest car-free bridge. We’ll also have bike share by then.

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  • Ted Buehler January 29, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    Designation may bring improvements.
    Designation will help first-time users.
    Two thumbs up to a state designation for any routes in Portland.
    Ted Buehler

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  • oliver January 31, 2013 at 9:32 am

    They should include the North Portland Greenway in this proposal. Bring statewide leverage to bear in the discussion about the cement road.

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  • nuovorecord January 31, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    When I was a kid, I remember seeing blue “Portland Scenic Drive” signs up, that led drivers on a loop around town, touching Mt. Tabor, Council Crest, Rocky Butte, the Rose Garden, etc. Those are long gone, but I’ve always thought the idea should be reinvented for bicycling. Sounds like it’s happening. YAY!

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