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Guest post: Where we stand on Portland’s Off-road Cycling Master Plan

Posted by on November 22nd, 2017 at 3:50 pm

Where will we ride in the future? It’s time to weigh-in with your comments.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

This post was written by the Northwest Trail Allliance, a Portland-based nonprofit and a BikePortland supporter.

Portland’s Off-road Cycling Master Plan (ORCMP) is now in its final stage of development, the Draft Plan Phase. The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) is asking the public for feedback on the Draft, which will be incorporated into the Proposed Plan presented to City Council for adoption. As an off-road cyclist in Portland, this is an important opportunity for you to tell the City what you think about the Draft. If you want urban trails, now is the time to elevate your voice.

We encourage you to read the overview or full text of the Draft Plan and then submit your comments by December 31 via the ORCMP comment form, interactive map, or at the upcoming ORCMP open houses.

To assist, we’ve distilled the main elements of the Draft Plan as well as suggested areas of improvement that you may wish to include in your feedback to the City.

Key ORCMP Elements – By the Numbers

5.7 miles of natural surface, narrow to mid-width trails are currently open to cycling across the city.

To unilaterally exclude the great majority of trails from consideration, in light of the plan’s recommendation for a comprehensive trail plan, is absurd.

6 potential sites have been identified for new cycling trails. These include the “Dog Bowl” at N. Willamette and N. Jessup, Forest Park, Lesser Park, Loll-Wildwood Natural Area, River View Natural Area, and Washington Park.

35 miles of trail is the plan’s goal for its 15 to 20 year window. Notable cities offer .2 to 1.6 trail miles per 1,000 residents. In achieving this goal, we’d have reached but 7% of the current trail miles per citizen benchmark.

1 million dollars is an approximate cost to construct those 35 miles of trail. This is roughly one percent of Parks’ current annual capital budget. Sharing existing trails that are now off-limits to cycling could significantly reduce this expense, as well as the related environmental impact.

1995 is the year that the Forest Park Natural Resources Management Plan identified users of the park’s Central Unit as “… consisting mostly of mountain bikers …” (p74).

81 percent, or 36.6 miles, of existing Forest Park trail mileage has been preemptively set aside as pedestrian-only. To unilaterally exclude the great majority of trails from consideration, in light of the plan’s recommendation for a comprehensive trail plan, is absurd.

32 miles of trail access in Forest Park — comprehending statewide participation and outing length data — would place cyclists at parity with pedestrians. To meet this without cutting new trail, 72% of all Forest Park trail mileage would need to be multi-use. Cyclists currently enjoy 2% of all trail mileage in Forest Park.

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5 Forest Park trail concepts propose 4 miles of new singletrack plus 4.4 miles of improved firelanes, 2 miles of which would open to cycling. Four disjointed segments, one of which is essentially a dirt sidewalk alongside St Helens Road, is underwhelming. In light of the environmental and economic benefit of trail sharing, or what a proper comprehensive trail plan could produce, these are extravagant misdirections.

9.3 miles of existing Forest Park trails — avoiding Wildwood —can be easily strung together as four cycling loops plus one out-and-back ride. All require re-engineering for sustainability, but that’s the case for virtually all Forest Park trails.

7 to twelve additional bike parks has been set as the citywide goal for the next 15 to 20 years.

13 potential sites identified for new bike parks, including Brentwood Park, Colonel Summers Park, Creston Park, Farragut Park, Fernhill Park, Gabriel Park, Gates Park, Hamilton Park, John Luby Park, Parklane Park or Lynchview Park, Pier Park, Rose City Golf Course or Glenhaven Park, and University Park.

3 urban off-road cycling trail corridors are proposed alongside the I-205 Multi-Use Path, the planned North Portland Greenway, and the Springwater Corridor. This is a welcome sweetener for commuters or mountain bikers riding to their ride.

1 city entity (the Bureau of Environmental Services) is attempting to circumvent established process by dictating a permanent exclusion of cycling from River View Natural Area.

0 dollars allocated, projects initiated, or trails opened to cycling by the process. While none of these potential plan outcomes were intended by the City, they were clearly expected by the cycling community.

NWTA’s Perspective

Off-road Cycling Master Plan meeting-3.jpg

A meeting of the Off-road plan’s advisory committee in March.

Two years have passed producing the Off-Road Cycling Master Plan, and we have gratitude for the resources put forth by the City, the efforts made by members of the Public Advisory Committee, and the engagement of the public in the process.

The Draft Plan is simultaneously promising and problematic:

➤ It presents welcome opportunities for off-road cycling within neighborhoods and alongside cycling corridors.

➤ Its approach to Forest Park is hobbled by self-contradictory guidance.

➤ It sets a very low goal for trail mileage in a bicycle-friendly city.

Making a positive impact on the Draft Plan requires every one of us to speak up. Here are our top suggestions of what off-road cycling enthusiasts should be asking for:

➤ Portland should aspire to, in the words of the current Draft Plan, “set a national precedent for integrating off-road cycling into an urban environment.” The plan’s current goals fall far below the off-road cycling reality of many other U.S. cities. Let’s envision a Portland that lives up to its cycling renown when it comes to riding off-road.

➤ The plan should elevate science above fear-mongering. Share, don’t set aside, proper trails in Forest Park, River View, and elsewhere— it’s a proven path that reduces environmental and economic cost. Let’s bring a big dose of experience and cooperation between all users to decide what’s in the best interest of each trail.

➤ The plan should illuminate the current and potential impact of cycling — the second most frequent form of outdoor recreation across all age groups — on the health and well-being of Portland’s citizens, and ultimately the livability of the city.

Submit your comments by December 31 via the ORCMP comment form, interactive map, or at the upcoming ORCMP open houses.

— Northwest Trail Alliance, NW-Trail.org

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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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Buzz
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Buzz

1. Just another way for the city to screw cyclists while professing to love them.

2. The city planning process sucks.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

In the spirit of Mayor Ted Wheelers call for city departments to cut budgets. I think we can solve many of our on and off-road cycling problems by following the nation wide budgeting trend of triaging roads. Instead of grinding up and returning many roads to gravel to save money, we can strategically tear up key sets of roads in Portland and re-landscape them as mountain bike trails.This saves money, solves the problems of cut-throughs and gives us hundreds of miles of urban off-road cycling. Lets face it, Portland can clearly not afford to maintain many of the roads within city limits. Lets just face up to the forces of entropy and return them to nature. Imagine commuting from 82nd and Foster to Downtown on mountain bike trails. Traveling the entire distance in a replanted forest surrounded by nature instead of asphalt and cars.

Roland Klasen
Guest
Roland Klasen

There are already trails at the dog bowl, please just leave it as-is. It won’t cost any money or require any work and you can call it an off-road bike area. Win win.

Alex
Subscriber
Alex

Great to see all this work done. I hope we can finally start seeing some mtb trails open up so the citizens of this city can utilize them. I would love to commute through Forest Park and avoid traffic all together on single-track.

Free Forest Park.

Christopher
Guest

I’ve read the plan. It’s really well thought out. Still, we’re talking about an off-road plan that doesn’t address what Portland Mountain Bikers really needs or wants. Forest Park and Washinton Park could be the North Shore of Oregon. Riverview should just be legalized so the trails can be maintained.

There cutting in a new trail on the Maple Trail right now in Forest Park. I guess it’s cool that they have two machines running all day plowing through the forest so people can enjoy their future hikes there.

My eggs are all in the Gateway Green basket. If the community comes together we could have a great trail system out there by the end of winter.

rick
Guest
rick

More trails !

mark smith
Guest
mark smith

The reality is, those who ride other than roads, aren’t organizing. Until they do, the grey hairs will dominate.

Douglas K
Guest
Douglas K

Portland Parks and Recreation is taking comments on their draft master plan for Washington Park until November 30.

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/70954

So that’s another opportunity to comment on off-road bike paths specifically in Washington Park, as well as bike infrastructure there generally.

dan
Guest
dan

I don’t even ride MTB and I think Portland’s record is pathetic.

Jonathan D
Guest
Jonathan D

Thank you for sharing the information. It’s great to get update with that assessment and summary of what’s in the document. I filled out the comments thanks to you guys.

bukowskiwasright
Guest
bukowskiwasright

Portland sucks. To grovel is humiliating . Nearly three decades of effort by people who care and yet nothing. Why piss up a tree when you are getting pissed on? To hell with this place.

Brian
Guest
Brian

A simple fix to many (all?) of the problems identified is:

*Mountain bikes allowed on most of the trails in Forest Park on Tuesdays, Thursdays, ad Saturdays. Close-in Wildwood and Lower McCleay could be excluded due to user density.
*Mountain bikes are allowed on the trails in RiverView on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Bikes get an extra day there given the close proximity of the mtb-free Tryon Creek.
*A quality, mtb-specific network is built in Washington Park and is open every day.

I think that about solves it.

I wear many hats
Guest
I wear many hats

The plan is farce. The city and PAC spent two years handwringing and back clapping to only produce a plan that hobbles any legitimate progress for mountain biking in the city. Perhaps those that ride mountain bikes should show the city what polite mountain biking is.

Ben Guernsey
Guest
Ben Guernsey

Santa Cruz is touted as a mountain bike destination yet most of Campus wasn’t built legally. Food for thought.

JBone
Guest
JBone

Snark: pg. 13 “Existing facilities where off-road cycling is sanctioned are predominantly sited in larger parks at the periphery of the city limits”…Is Sandy Ridge at the peripheral of city limits?

Truth: pg. 34 “It’s almost counter-intuitive, but speed and danger tend to increase when mountain bikers are confined to wide roads. Bored and unchallenged, bicyclists quickly attain speeds that can bring them into direct conflict with other visitors.”

Costs/Funding: pg. 39 – $42k/mile for capital construction?? NWTA, could you comment on that number and what is your commitment to building these trails for much less. Pg.111-120 is interesting; they leave volunteer as the last option for funding. BTW, I’m a member and would work many hours to be apart of this historic effort.

Signage: definitely make this a priority! Often overlooked, it makes the experience much better for all users.

Education: there will soon be a non-profit in Portland dedicated to taking kids mtb’ing w/focus on equity.

Riverview: I addition to the gravity lines recommended, that place needs a long contour trail across the entire property with 4-5 switchbacks near property boundaries. Build bridges over the creeks.

Forest Park. pg. 61 the plan states that the FP Conservancy “works closely with the Portland Parks & Recreation to monitor trail conditions and organize volunteer restoration efforts.” What if a committed group of stewards in NWTA out-volunteered the Conservancy? That place is a loam mine ala Duthie Hill outside of Seattle..where there is a will there is a way!
https://www.evergreenmtb.org/trails/duthie-hill . In addition to dedicated contour trails surely, we can mix in some fun gravity runs, too.

And for North Portlanders: pg 93- St. Johns bridge must be addressed as a “ride-to-ride” route.

North Portland, my neighborhood: pg. 82-83 How about a pump track or dirt jumps in the ghost-townesque horseshoe court at Columbia Annex? Wonder the user data on that facility:) It could serve as a stop along the way from Dog Bowl-University Park-Pier Park corridor. Rebuild New Columbia as skills park, build pump track at University Park, and dirt jumps at Columbia Annex. What a cool choice! Also, what about contour trail along the Willamette bluff? I think it’s too steep, but smarter people than I have told me it’s possible:)

Off to the official comment site; hopefully you don’t have to re-register your info for each subject location like the initial comment site required…it’s like they tried to discourage input.
Cheers!

JBone
Guest
JBone

In fairness and gratitude, the plan is comprehensive and educational, and it seem the group is looking at proven models and expert guidance from IMBA. etc.

But the interactive map sucks. Why can’t you log on and make comments w/o having to re-enter personal info for each site? And the comment field is so small you can’t see what you wrote two sentences ago.

JBone
Guest
JBone

I’m a 40-something white guy. I’m seriously wondering if I’d have a louder voice on the ORCMP comment map if I said I was a younger or older minority.

Cyclekrieg
Subscriber
Cyclekrieg

wsbob
Either way, use of Forest Park’s single width trail for off-road and mountain biking is a wrong use of that extraordinary natural land park, that is contrary to the ethics and values upon which the park was founded, and by which it continues to be held in regard by most likely, a majority of the city’s population….Freedom from the presence of and having to contend with vehicle traffic, I think is one of the primary reasons that residents of cities have long been willing to pay amounts of their money in taxes in order to obtain natural land to be reserved as natural land parks. This being the case, ideas that would introduce vehicle traffic in the form of bikes, allowing use of such lands for mountain biking, makes little sense.

That would be news to the fine people that worked on the 1995 Forest park Management Plan. On Page 21, Goal 2 (you know the one M. Houle & company seem to have amnesia about) that plan states this: “Forest Park should offer the citizens of Portland opportunities for outdoor recreation in keeping with the Park’s resource values. Forms of recreation must be appropriate for Forest Park and must be passive in nature. Examples of passive recreation include walking, running, bicycling, riding horses, walking with pets, and observing fauna, flora, and other natural history features. Opportunities should be created for these activities which implies the need for appropriate facilities as well as controls on the level and location of the allowed uses.

Mountain biking as a use co-exists in many cities with other users in natural parks just fine. So why can’t those uses co-exist in Portland?

DG
Guest
DG