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In letter to Mayor Hales and commissioners, national orgs ‘object’ to River View decision

Posted by on March 19th, 2015 at 9:58 am

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Three of America’s largest and most influential bicycle advocacy organizations are not happy with Portland’s decision to prohibit bicycle access at River View Natural Area.

International Mountain Bicycling Association President and US Executive Director Michael Van Abel, People for Bikes VP of Government Affairs Jenn Dice, and League of American Bicyclists President Andy Clarke all signed their names to a letter (PDF) dated March 18th that was sent to Mayor Charlie Hales and all four city commissioners.

Here’s the text of the letter (emphases mine):

We are writing to express our concern with the recent decision to prohibit bicycle use in the River View Natural Area. Any decision to exclude bicycles is disappointing to our organizations as we truly believe that bicycles are an amazing tool for progress. They provide efficient and cost effective transportation, a family friendly form of recreation, and in the case of off road bicycling, a valuable connection to the natural environment. Yet despite that passion we know that sometimes other priorities for funding or even land use take precedence and bicycles are not given priority. We can generally accept those decisions. However, when those decisions are made in an arbitrary and capricious manner that cuts off due process, we must object.

The decision to prohibit bicycle access at River View Natural Area was made with little notice while the planning process was still on going. Cutting a public process short dishonors those citizens who have volunteered their time to their community. It undermines the professional input of the technical advisory committee. Most of all, it disregards the spirit of due process that we expect of government at all levels.

Beyond the procedural concerns, this decision shows an inconsistent application of standards and disregard for reliance on scientific evidence. In their response letter dated March 2, 2015 Commissioners Fritz and Fish stated that “PP&R and BES will be limiting activities at RVNA from now on to passive nature-based recreation uses.” (emphasis added) However, in the Forest Park Natural Resources Management Plan bicycling is included as passive recreation and off-road bicycling is also allowed in the Powell Butte Natural Area. Moreover, the offered explanation for the prohibition cited environmental/ecosystem concerns without any scientific evidence that bicycle use has a negative effects also leads us to question the merits of this decision.

As a consolation Commissioners Fish and Fritz advised off-road bicycling advocates to support the budget request for $350,000 to develop a Citywide Off-Road Cycling Plan. That budget request was denied, leaving Portland’s off-road cycling community with a shortage of local trails and no governmental mechanism to improve the situation. This systematic pattern of issue avoidance has repeated itself in Portland for too many years.

We request that Portland Parks and Recreation, Bureau of Environmental Services, and any other city agency that administers public lands collaborate with the North West Trails Alliance and other local off-road bicycling advocates to develop a strategy to address the shortage of off-road bicycling opportunities in the city of Portland. We look forward to Portland living up to its status as a progressive thought leading city that embraces bicycling in all forms.

Sincerely,

Michael Van Abel
President and US Executive Director
International Mountain Bicycling Association

Jenn Dice
Vice President Government Affairs
People for Bikes

Andy Clarke
President
League of American Bicyclists

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The letter only mentions some of the problems and unanswered questions that are still swirling around this decision. It also, unfortunately, got that bit about the budget wrong. As we just explained in a previous post, the budget request for the Off-Road Cycling Master Plan is still alive.

Also worth noting is that the League of American Bicyclists is the organization that has given Portland its much-ballyhooed “Platinum” ranking. Many people in the community feel like Portland should have its platinum status revoked as a result of the River View decision. In 2006 the League made access to singletrack trails a criteria for platinum status and Commissioner Nick Fish had to defend Portland’s ranking after his failed attempt to get more singletrack access in Forest Park in 2010.

It’s worth noting that Portland’s most recent official Bicycle Friendly Community application (submitted in 2013) leaves the questions about singletrack access and mileage completely blank.

platinumapp

Detail of the City of Portland’s application to the League of American Bicyclists for “Platinum” Bicycle Friendly Community status.

Even so, Portland’s platinum status is probably safe for now. It would be a very bold move for the League to revoke it just for this River View decision, especially outside of the renewal application process. Our ranking was renewed in 2013 and won’t be up for renewal again until 2017.

Getting back to the letter… So far we’ve seen one response. It was sent to an IMBA rep Wednesday night from Commissioner Fritz. Here’s what she had to say:

Dear Laurel,

Thank you for your letter. Please pass along to the signatories that it contains inaccuracies. For instance, I included funding the Citywide Off-Road Cycling Master Plan in the Portland Parks & Recreation 2015-16 Proposed Budget, at the NW Trail Alliance’s request. The Council has not yet taken action on the Parks Budget proposal.

Unfortunately, mountain biking enthusiasts seem to be putting all effort into protesting the curtailment of cycling at River View, rather than lobbying the five members of Council for approval of the significant $350,000 budget request. I agree completely with the last paragraph in the letter – that is precisely what the Master Plan would accomplish, if funded.

River View is currently an element in a lawsuit regarding appropriate use of ratepayer dollars, so I cannot comment on the merits of the request to mountain bikers to stop using the property pending the Master Plan process. It seemed prudent to Commissioner Fish and me to make the decision without public process, given the lawsuit is still active.

Interestingly, unlike the March 2nd memo that announced the decision, Fritz does not mention conservation goals as the reason biking has been banned in River View. Instead, she claims the decision was based on the 2011 lawsuit, even though a judge ruled in the city’s favor in 2014. (We explained why Fritz might still have reason to worry about the lawsuit in a previous post).

This change in spin from Fritz could be a sign she’s that she has realized it was a mistake to put environmental concerns front-and-center, since — as the letter points out — there’s simply no relevant science or transparent feedback process she can point to that backs up her claims that biking is incompatible with River View’s conservation goals.

We are working on a meeting with Fritz as well as many other angles to this story. Stay tuned.

— Read all our River View coverage here.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Cab
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Cab

The public seems so naive with this issue. The problem is simple. Fritz does not like bikes. Cut through her BS. Look at the record. She is Fritz blocking any and all growth of the bicycle community. Time to get real with her, and that starts when we all realize we are not dealing with someone who is dealing in good faith. I’m not sure she even realizes at this point how anti-bike she is. A lot of passive aggressive erratic behavior. Remove her from the process. The strategy should be to go over her head. Get to Hales. He wont be happy that Fritz is turning us into a bicycle embarrassment. The platinum issue is a good one, not for Fritz, but for Hales. Shame him. She doesn’t seem to care, I think she’d take it as a badge of honor if she kills our Bicycle mojo.

bjorn
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bjorn

Fritz moved to the lawsuit because it allows her to say that she can’t discuss it at all because of the lawsuit. She doesn’t want to talk about it anymore because everything she says when she does talk about it is easily disproved, so she has latched on to the lawsuit in hopes that people will accept that the only thing she has to say about mountain biking in Portland is “no comment”.

bjorn
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bjorn

This paragraph here:

Unfortunately, mountain biking enthusiasts seem to be putting all effort into protesting the curtailment of cycling at River View, rather than lobbying the five members of Council for approval of the significant $350,000 budget request. I agree completely with the last paragraph in the letter – that is precisely what the Master Plan would accomplish, if funded.

shows that she isn’t listening. The Riverview protest wasn’t about her banning of Mountain biking in riverview for no good reason, although it was the catalyst. The protest is about the fact that we have less singletrack now than we did 10 years ago. No way would that many people have showed up if there were a dozen other places to ride in town. We are tired of watching you kick the can down the road Amanda.

wsbob
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wsbob

“…Interestingly, unlike the March 2nd memo that announced the decision, Fritz does not mention conservation goals as the reason biking has been banned in River View. Instead, she claims the decision was based on the 2011 lawsuit, …” maus/bikeportland

Fritz says: “…River View is currently an element in a lawsuit regarding appropriate use of ratepayer dollars, …” fritz/excerpt from letter included in this story.

In other words, despite the judges’ 2014 ruling, Riverview is yet an issue in a lawsuit, that apparently Fritz and Fish both believes obliges the city for the present, to curtail use of the land for mountain biking.

Presumptions made in the letter sent by execs of the advocacy organizations, make them look foolish. They don’t know eveything that’s on Fish and Fritz’s table relative to questions regarding appropriate use of this land. They don’t ask questions, which would signify an interest in learning details of a seemingly complicated situation. Instead, lacking essential information, they pass judgment on how someone else is doing their job.

Continuation of Fritz’s statement, which in part, I posted above:

“…so I cannot comment on the merits of the request to mountain bikers to stop using the property pending the Master Plan process. …” fritz

Note, ‘pending’. Can’t comment either for or against use of the land for mountain biking, pending the Master Plan process. When that process is completed, it sounds as though the commissioners will be able to offer answers to questions people are asking.

davemess
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davemess

Wait, didn’t Fish’s office say that the lawsuit was closed, and that wasn’t a contributing factor to the River View decision?

And now Fritz is saying the exact opposite?

The city that works!

J.F. Bicycle
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J.F. Bicycle

Ask not what your bicycle can do for you, but what you can do for your bicycle.

bb
Guest
bb

Haha, lobbying for the budget request? That’s 5 years figuring out how to get the money, 5 more studying and coming up with a plan that satisfies the neighbors, then another 5 arguing about how to build it. After 15 years we’ll be left with more 8 foot wide gravel roads. Sounds like a plan! Just admit you don’t want real mountain biking close to town, Fritz and the rest of the council.

Brian
Guest
Brian

“Unfortunately, mountain biking enthusiasts seem to be putting all effort into protesting the curtailment of cycling at River View, rather than lobbying the five members of Council for approval of the significant $350,000 budget request.”
Of course it’s the fault of “those” mountain bikers. She obviously missed the point. Again. I’m pretty sure she, and others on the Council, have received an email or two about multiple mtb-related issues. Very convenient of her to play the blame game. I guess when your back is to the wall…..

rick
Guest
rick

Please fight back.

Psyfalcon
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Psyfalcon

What do we actually have for singletrack?

.25 Mi in Forest Park.

Powell Butte (Elderberry, dougfir, cedargrove, hawthorne, south and fernwood). 4 miles or so on the west side trails.

Tabor? Green trail is closed. The wide trail from near SE Harrison and SE East Tabor might be the hardest (dirt) climb in the city, pretty steep and loose.

soren
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soren

Platinum!

MNBikeLuv
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MNBikeLuv

In case anyone hasn’t figured this out yet, the city-wide off-road cycling plan is, in the words of Admiral Ackbar, a trap. It will redline certain properties as “no go” zones for mountain biking. This is not some tin-foil hat ramblings. Think about it: why would you need a city wide off-road cycling plan? You can control what features go into what areas with your resource management plan and/or the master plans for properties. Why do a city wide off-road cycling plan, then? Because it lets you claim certain properties are “too controversial” and then list other properties as the place for mountain biking. Then when the argument is made the best places for mountain biking aren’t on the list of “approved properties”, you then get to claim mountain bikers are unsatisfied whiners who are never happy, no matter what you give them. Seriously Portlanders, avoid spending one iota of time or effort working with the City of Portland on such a thing.

Every other city with urban mountain biking has done it one property at a time. That lets them focus time and resources on one area to track outcomes. It also lets them observe and figure out design positives and design negatives and do it better next time. The only city wide off-road cycling plans I know of are after the city has experience with urban mountain biking and their plans for additional off-road cycling literally encompass the whole city, a la Duluth, MN or Knoxville, TN.

DZ
Guest
DZ

The Riverview ban has unraveled the blatant discrimination against mountain bikers in Portland and shown us that there is no basis for outright banning bikes on any trails, so you shouldn’t feel bad about riding trails that are technically illegal, because technically that’s bullshit!

Scott H
Guest
Scott H

Fritz’s hatred is apparent as she wastes everyone’s time and energy making enemies when it would be so easy to make allies instead. So much wasted hot air when you could just. let. us. ride. our. bikes.

JC
Guest
JC

The CBO proposed budget is just that, proposed. That is only thing in this whole debacle that Fritz has said that isn’t controversial. Given the fact that both she and Fish wildly miscalculated here, the prudent move (one of several, actually) is *not* to put the responsibility of getting the master plan funded on the shoulders of ‘Mountain Bike Enthusiasts’ by “lobbying the five members of Council for approval of the significant $350,000 budget request.” but rather use her discretionary funds to outright pay for the study.

We shouldn’t let her off the hook on the study. The city stands to reap almost $31M in extra funds due to improvements in the economy. Out of those funds, $19.6M or so is considered one-time, discretionary funds – a portion of which will be doled out to each commissioner to use as they see fit.

For her to spend $350k on a study is the least she could to in order to show some real leadership.

JC

Extra reading
http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2015/03/portlands_rosy_budget_outlook.html

http://www.portlandoregon.gov/cbo/article/18178?

Background on the General Fund

General Fund
Taxpayer dollars are deposited in the General Fund, along with utility license fees, business license fees, transient lodging taxes, state shared revenues (from cigarette and liquor taxes), interest income, and miscellaneous revenues and beginning cash balances. This portion of the budget is comprised largely of discretionary funds, since the Mayor and City Council can allocate the funds to programs and services in any area. In other words, there are few restrictions on how these resources may be allocated.
General fund dollars are used to support such City services as police, fire and parks, as well as planning, community development and administrative support services.

Dwaine Dibbly
Guest
Dwaine Dibbly

This City looks like a bunch of idiots. I’m going to see what I can do about knocking Portland all the way down to Silver, where it belongs. Maybe that’ll get their attention. Or maybe not. We’ll see.

bb
Guest
bb

The truth is they know the off road master plan will never get passed. Even if miraculously it did, it’s at best a several year process that would end up glorifying 8 foot wide gravel roads, and try to count that as mountain biking. I won’t give up, but have list faith that legitimate mountain biking will ever be available in Portland. We should be a plastic or softwood level bike city at best. Descriminating against a complete population shouldn’t be accepted.