Esplanade closure begins February 1st

To promote biking on the coast, Travel Oregon looks for alternatives to US 101

Posted by on April 10th, 2015 at 8:44 am

People's Coast Classic Day Five-1

Riding U.S. 101 in North Bend, where bike and auto
traffic often mix without signs or markings.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Department of Transportation has put a fair amount of effort into promoting a bike route near the state’s beautiful coast.

A map of the route along U.S. Highway 101 is one of just three major biking or walking maps the agency publishes. The route has its own special sign. The state has even created a simple graphic showing how average traffic volumes on 101 very widely by month, to help travelers understand what they’re getting into.

The state’s main bike tourism agency, however, doesn’t mention the route on its website and doesn’t expect anyone to ever nominate it for Oregon’s expanding roster of scenic bikeways.

“We don’t really heavily promote it,” said Nastassja Pace, a destination development specialist for Travel Oregon. “It just maybe isn’t always the best experience, we feel, from the tourism perspective.”

It’s not a deliberate snub, Pace explained when I called Travel Oregon to ask about the possibility of the coast route ever being honored. And it’s certainly not because Travel Oregon is unenthusiastic about helping people enjoy the coast on bikes.

On the contrary, the tourism agency is enthusiastic about finding alternatives to biking on 101: fat-tire biking on the state’s public beach, for example, and the long-term vision for a continuous Oregon Coast Pathway being developed by a Portland-based advocate.

The goal of both, Pace said, would be to help people “be more connected with the beach and not with the cars.”


Travel Oregon is developing a campaign to promote fat-bike beach riding, seen as an attractive match between the state’s unique sandy public beaches and the increasingly popular off-road bikes. These two photos, which are next to one another in Travel Oregon’s current slideshow explaining the effort, pretty much say it all:

Which looks like more fun? Hmmmm.

“This could possibly be a cool type of destination for different types of riders,” Pace said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be people who want to ride all the way from border to border.”

The agency is currently gathering information about the coast’s best connected fat-bike routes in hopes of releasing a map that could support the activity.

Meanwhile, Pace is also enthusiastic about a far more ambitious long-term project: an Oregon Coast Pathway concept created by Portlander Dan Kaufman (and first shared by Kaufman as part of our “Big Ideas” contest back in 2010).

“The premise of the Oregon Coast Pathway is that there needs to be a path the entire length of the coast that can be traveled safely with human power by just about anyone regardless of age or ability,” Kaufman writes in his information packet exploring the concept of a continuous route from Astoria the California border.

Cover of Dan Kaufman’s Towards an Oregon Coast Pathway concept plan.
PDF here

Kaufman has created a nonprofit organization for the purpose and has been working since last fall to raise $15,000 for initial promotion of the vision (he’s already completed a 19-page concept plan). Pace said Travel Oregon loves the idea — based in part on the results of its surveys of users of the state’s current Scenic Bikeways.

The Oregon Bicycle Tourism Partnership (an effort hatched and hosted by Travel Oregon) likes the idea so much they’ve made it one of their top five priorities to focus on the next 5-10 years.

“A lot of people said even on the Scenic Bikeways that they didn’t want to be riding with traffic or they didn’t like the traffic,” Pace said. “So we’re definitely looking at more off-road sorts of opportunities for all sorts of riders.”

– Read more about the Oregon Coast Bike Route — including a day-by-day travelouge of Jonathan Maus’s 2013 ride down it — in our archives.

Please support BikePortland.

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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • dan April 10, 2015 at 9:30 am

    I rode 101 down the coast years ago, as a single man with no responsibilities. Now that I’m married, I don’t think I would do it again…too many stretches where there’s no pavement to the right of the fog line, and you have to share the road with motorists who aren’t very interested in that idea.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Paul Souders April 10, 2015 at 10:32 am

      That’s my sentiment too, although when I did so it was about this time of year, good weather & generally little traffic. I did most of my daily riding by noon which is when traffic seemed to tick up.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • matt picio April 10, 2015 at 3:17 pm

      Not to mention seriously frightening facilities with no alternative, like the Arch Cape Tunnel. I’d love to see Travel Oregon and the state focus on improving options for those of us who are touring, or otherwise not on fat tire beach/mountain bikes.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dan April 10, 2015 at 9:39 am

    I had concerns before I rode it, and I found there were areas that were much worse than I expected. Some parts were very nice though. Wouldn’t do it again, no way.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • dan April 10, 2015 at 10:23 am

      Hello other Dan! Sounds like we had pretty consistent experiences; did you have any of the amazing fish and chips on the waterfront in Bandon?

      I have to say that the idea of an Oregon Coast Pathway sounds amazing, but it’s pretty hard for me to imagine that we’d ever generate the needed funds to get it built.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 10, 2015 at 10:56 am

        Hi dan, in response to your comment:

        “I have to say that the idea of an Oregon Coast Pathway sounds amazing, but it’s pretty hard for me to imagine that we’d ever generate the needed funds to get it built.”

        I would encourage you to think big. That’s what folks behind the CRC and other mega-highway projects do. I realize biking has always been marginalized, but we can’t allow that to constrain our confidence in asking for real money where it’s needed.

        I agree with Dan Kaufman that an OR Coast Pathway is way more deserving of $4-6 Billion than a freeway expansion project between OR and WA.

        If we never think big like the adults do, we’ll always eat at the little kids table.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Dan April 10, 2015 at 10:58 am

        Pretty sure we ate Mexican there.

        My favorite stretch was the 104 miles on the last day, getting an awesome tailwind as I rolled by Gold Beach. Less traffic on the south end too.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Seth Woolley April 12, 2015 at 11:26 am

      I loved the entire Oregon coast route and have done most of it twice. I didn’t feel unsafe until I got to Caifornia, where the shoulders got worse and the traffic got more disrespectful. Washington state’s coast route is almost unrideable. The biker hiker campgrounds in Oregon are so well kept and luxurious, too. Though, I would also love to see some alternative trails, too, just to expand access to the incredible beauty that is the Oregon Coast.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • rick April 10, 2015 at 9:50 am

    Pacific City has a detour north of it from 101, but part of it has not much of a shoulder.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • paikiala April 10, 2015 at 9:55 am

    More important than daily traffic is peak hour. this would identify where the allocated space for autos exceeds the need. For instance, is that 5-lane section in the photo needed or not? If not, that curb lane could become a buffered bike lane. Then you would have people biking, and their tourist dollars, right next to the businesses who desire an exchange.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Adam H. April 10, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Good on Travel Oregon for not promoting 101. Sharing a narrow road with aggressive people driving cars is not how tourists visiting our great state should experience it.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Josh G April 10, 2015 at 11:30 am

    Kauai is slowly building a bike-ped alternative to it’s major road around the island. They seem to have a firm grasp on the potential tourism value. I think a lot of the plan is a board walk above sand beach.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • dan April 14, 2015 at 12:45 am

      That’s awesome, but doesn’t seem like it will be something that a touring cyclist could use to lap the island, more a boardwalk for a beach cruiser. That’s important too, but I’d love a separated roadway for cycle tourism.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Thom Batty April 10, 2015 at 11:39 am

    My business is promoting and facilitating bicycle touring, and I get more calls about the Oregon Coast than any other route in the state. If a client is set on that ride (primarily people who do not live in a coastal state) I will make that happen, but I do not promote or recommend it. When I did the route this January I did not find it as bad as some of the commenters above, but a lot of it was not good either. From a road user interaction viewpoint, things got much better south of Newport. Road conditions tended to be poor overall, and most of the bridges really suck to ride on. I like the idea of a fat bike route on the sand, that could have some great opportunities.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Dan April 10, 2015 at 1:34 pm

      The bridges and tunnels are death traps.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • matt picio April 10, 2015 at 3:19 pm

        The tunnels, yes. Almost universally. Not all the bridges are bad, though I’ll grant that many are. And the whole Lincoln City stretch is pretty awful.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • rachel b April 10, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    I’ve only ever ridden the 101 section between Gleneden Beach and the Otter Crest Loop. The Loop to the Devil’s Punch Bowl and back is such an enjoyable ride (with dedicated bike lane). I’ve been sufficiently inspired to endure the awful 101 ride to get there and home more than once, but always in the company of at least one other rider. At that little bridge dip just south of Fogarty Creek State Park, the shoulder disappears entirely! And there are so many blind spots, so many big trucks and inattentive, sea-gawking drivers, aghh. It’s scary. Haven’t done it in over a year, come to think of it. A real, honest-to-goodness off-road Oregon Coast Pathway would be a dream come true.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • rachel b April 10, 2015 at 8:39 pm

      …over Fogarty Creek, I mean.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Electric Mayhem April 10, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    Idaho has a great trail system. If they can do it, we can.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • eli bishop April 10, 2015 at 11:48 pm

    How do we throw money at Dan’s fundraising efforts? I want to see a Coast Pathway!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Dan Kaufman April 11, 2015 at 1:06 pm

      Thanks for asking Eli and thank you BikePortland for covering our project.

      Eli, you can write a check made out to Umbrella ( ) with Oregon Coast Pathway in the memo and get it to me or Charley Gee Attorney at Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton. My email is dan @ pdxk dot c0m. Your donation is tax deductible!

      We are also looking for proponents and champions who can helps us build grassroots support. Please contact me if you can assist in any way.

      We believe that the project could actually be built in ten years if we could get a legislative referral or citizen’s initiative to the Oregon voters that includes a solid funding mechanism. Of course, there is some important groundwork needed before we can get to that stage. We need the seed money to get it started. Most important, we will need strong support and enthusiasm from our coastal communities.

      I would like to make one note about the Coast Scenic Bike Route. If you are an avid road rider, it should most definitely be on your bucket list. It is as safe as most any other road route you would find in the Americas and an amazing adventure.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dave Cary April 11, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    I believe it is irresponsible for the State to promote the Oregon Coast Bike Route until there are at least minimum shoulders for the entire route, but a separate bike route would be fabulous. Note how many who have done this current route would never consider doing it again? What does that tell you?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Mike Sanders April 11, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    I like the idea of a continuous path off the US-101 mainline along the entire coast, starting from the Columbia River Trail in Astoria to the CA line near Brookings. The bridge over Arch Cape Cr. in Arch Cape is in such bad shape they don’t let cars cross over it. The locals there have been screaming for a replacement there for years. A portion of the OCT runs along the beach just south of that bridge. The street along the beachfront and the bridge there are signposted with OCT signs, because it’s a block west of 101 and therefore has no auto traffic to deal with. Rebuilding that bridge as part of this project would get a lot of support there!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Mike Sanders April 11, 2015 at 6:37 pm

    By the way, boardwalks along the beach as part of the trail, with bridges over the river and bay mouths (D River in Lincoln City, for example) would be a great idea!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Tomas April 13, 2015 at 10:40 am

      Unfortunately, structures like that don’t last through the first winter storm.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Pat April 11, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    A dedicated path would probably reap more than its cost in tourism revenue.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jeff Bernards April 12, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    I was just in Berlin at the world tourism trade and convention show. I visited the Oregon booth and not a mention of cycling in Oregon. I asked them where the bicycling information was? They said they didn’t bring any. If your hoping Travel Oregon is going to help bring in cycling tourist dollars, think again. Sorry, but what a loser organization.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Chris May 6, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    I’ve rode the Oregon Coast in September of 2013 and plan to ride again this September. My first experience was quite enjoyable. Traffic was light and not many tourist. I try to finish cycling before the commute hour. Some shoulder sections of the highway were rough. I tried to avoid the 101 as much as possible by taking roads that paralleled to the 101. I was fortunate enough to team up with 2 other couples who had a Sag while going through the tunnels. The noise in the tunnels from traffic was loud, even though I have a 40% hearing loss in both ears. Too bad Travel Oregon doesn’t do more to promote this beautiful ride.

    Recommended Thumb up 0