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Work begins on new Oregon Coast Bike Route plan, map update

Posted by on January 30th, 2018 at 3:56 pm

It’s a world famous route that deserves more attention and resources.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Department of Transportation is about to launch a new planning effort that will be the first significant update to the Oregon Coast Bike Route in over ten years.

According to an ODOT spokesperson, the official map will also get an update for the first time since 2010.

An iconic, 370-mile route known by bike tourers worldwide, Oregon’s coastal bikeway is a very mixed bag. It’s a world famous route that should be world class. As I detailed after riding it in 2013, there are sections that warm your heart — and others that make it skip a beat.

After hearing a rumor about a major update, I contacted ODOT spokesman Lou Torres. Torres confirmed the news and said the agency has hired consultant firm CH2M to do the work.

Torres said the route has not kept up with current design standards or with demand from its many admirers in Oregon and beyond.

“With the changes in bicycle infrastructure standards, and the growth of bike tourism destinations and travel options both nationally and along U.S. 101, the time was right to closely examine and identify opportunities to increase safety, accessibility and enjoyment for both local community members and travelers on the Oregon Coast Bike Route,” he shared via email this morning.

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The idea is to develop a plan that identifies needs and potential fixes to trouble spots. At this point there isn’t money for any new infrastructure and the plan won’t come up with detailed conceptual designs.

Here’s what you can expect this update process to focus on:

— Identifying high priority improvement locations
— Defining the route — where does it leave U.S. 101
— Defining project and supportive program investments, and
— Determining how ODOT and local governments will make future investments in the route.

To get feedback from riders and other interested parties, ODOT will hold a series of “sounding board” meetings beginning this April or May. Since they’ll be held on the Coast, all materials will be made available online and people will be able to offer feedback electronically.

Torres says there will also be a survey targeted specifically at people who have ridden multi-day trips on the route.

CH2M will spend about 2-3 years on the project with a deliverable of a new Oregon Coast Bike Route Plan and an update to the map of the route. Once completed, the plan will be adopted by the Oregon Transportation Commission.

If you’ve ever ridden the Coast Route, or ever dreamed of doing it, this is very welcome news! We’ll watch this project closely so stay tuned for a link to the new project website and other updates.

UPDATE, 3/11: ODOT has just released a survey as part of this project. If you’ve ridden the coast — or have wanted to but are too afraid — please take the survey!

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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40 Comments
  • Clicky Freewheel January 30, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    The Oregon Coast Bike Route is a joke. This plan will identify “trouble spots”? The entire thing is a trouble spot, the actual bike route is just signs with bikes on them. You’re still riding on the shoulder of a busy highway for the entire time. At no point are you ever riding on an actual bike path. There is no money for any new infrastructure, so this route will continue to attract only the most XTREME strong riders. Meanwhile those of us who would love to take a weekend trip to the coast for some casual riding are left out of the fun and our tourism dollars remain unspent.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 30, 2018 at 4:24 pm

      hope you’ll copy/paste your feedback when they open the public comment period.

      I share your frustrations, but I know that exactly zero things will change if we just give up on ODOT.

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      • Clicky Freewheel January 30, 2018 at 4:28 pm

        ODOT always seems to find the money for more highways yet when it comes to anything bike related of course there’s no funding. Hard to exactly put my trust in what amounts to a highway division. I mean, even ODOT’s official maps list a 3 foot shoulder as ideal https://theoregoncoast.info/BikeRoute/Map.pdf Do they really need to pay an engineering firm to tell then that no one wants to ride on a three foot highway shoulder?

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        • Stephen Keller January 30, 2018 at 6:26 pm

          Clicky Freewheel
          ODOT always seems to find the money for more highways yet when it comes to anything bike related of course there’s no funding….

          I think the reason for this is that bicycling is viewed in this country primarily as a recreational activity rather than a transportation activity.

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          • meh January 31, 2018 at 7:24 am

            Well, the Oregon coast bike route truly is about recreation.

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            • Kyle Banerjee January 31, 2018 at 12:54 pm

              And the vast majority of people who ride it probably drove to get there. A lot of recreational cycling invariably involves more driving than cycling…

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              • DMSO May 20, 2018 at 8:35 pm

                Actually, that’s why we always take the train and the coast’s excellent bus system. I am fortunate to be able to sneak away for a ride most years in the fall.

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    • Jessica Horning January 30, 2018 at 6:05 pm

      I’m pretty intimidated by most of the Coast Route, but ODOT has completed several new sections of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail over the last couple years (and has even more actively under construction), if you’re looking for a fun weekend family ride in the meantime. There are also plenty of amazing small businesses in the Gorge who will happily accept your tourism dollars! John B. Yeon State Park to Cascade Locks or Mark Hatfield State Park to Mosier are great “ride out, enjoy lunch with a view, ride back” options I’ve done with kiddos. I’m pretty excited about the prospect of a plan and transformation similar to what’s happening in the Gorge happening along the Coast some day!

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      • Clicky Freewheel January 31, 2018 at 2:17 pm

        The Columbia River bike path actually looks really fun and is on my list to try out someday. I think it should be used as an example of a well-designed ODOT recreational facility. Unfortunately, getting to the trailhead requires riding on the shoulder of a busy highway and as far as I know, there are no buses to take you out there. Perhaps this is a gap that should be served by ODOT’s Columbia Gorge Express bus?

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        • Mary January 31, 2018 at 2:42 pm

          You can ride the MAX Blue line out to its furthest end and then a quick jog through the edge of Gresham will get you to the Sandy River and the Old Highway with a beautiful climb up to Crowne Point and the rest of the Gorge.

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        • Momo January 31, 2018 at 3:40 pm

          The Columbia Gorge Express takes you to Multnomah Falls, and from there you really only have to ride a very short distance on the Historic Columbia River Highway to get to a low-traffic frontage road, which then takes you to the trail that goes all the way to Cascade Locks. I’ve done it before, and it was a great experience. Hopefully the next iteration of the Gorge Express will go to at least one trailhead with direct trail access.

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    • Kyle Banerjee January 30, 2018 at 10:50 pm

      As much as I enjoy riding virtually everywhere, I think the Oregon Coast route is overrated. Lots of narrow sections with blind corners with plenty of RVs and other large vehicles driven by unskilled people gawking at the view rather than the road. The road is not that interesting overall, though there are a few really good views along the way.

      However, it can be a good experience. Especially on winter mornings when it’s rainy, the scenic sections can be quite enjoyable.

      IMO, the mountains offer much better options. Forest roads that don’t go anywhere typically have very light traffic and there are places where you can go more than an hour without seeing a car.

      I wouldn’t expect meaningful bike infrastructure in the foreseeable future — the cost would be staggering.

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      • Pete S. January 31, 2018 at 3:58 am

        Overrated indeed. I rode the northern section a few years back and was pretty underwhelmed.

        Any safety upgrades are welcome, But with all the fantastic riding in Oregon, I would steer people towards other parts of the state for quiet recreational riding destinations.

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        • Mary January 31, 2018 at 2:45 pm

          The northern section is the most underwhelming part of it. From Cape Foulweather south, and especially south of Newport is when it gets really amazing.

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          • B. Carfree January 31, 2018 at 6:59 pm

            I’ve ridden the section from Reedsport south more times than I can count. It’s got a boatload of issues. Every bridge is a disaster. North Bend/Coos Bay is a gauntlet. The section south of Humbug has you climbing with inadequate/disappearing shoulders.

            MY spouse has over 200,000 miles in the saddle but conditions are bad enough that when she comes with me we do a lot of night riding.

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    • Charles Ross January 31, 2018 at 8:26 am

      I’m in my 60’s. I’ve ridden all or parts of this route several times in recent years. I certainly don’t consider myself to be an “extreme, strong rider”. I’m more of a ‘puss’ rider who avoids the cold and wet : ).
      There are several portions of this route that need attention: The first tunnel on the north end is a problem; maybe lit caution signs in the tunnel to slow traffic down when a cyclist is going through. The second tunnel is ok, but the road leading up to it and beyond puts the cyclist right in the traffic with no protection. It’s a dangerous stretch.
      Also, I think cyclists need more help entering and getting through Lincoln City. It’s sketchy.
      It’s certainly not an off road adventure; the nature of a roadway along the coast prevents that but . . . the stretch between Tillamook and Pacific City, Old Slab Road, 101 south of Coos Bay make the trip, in its entirety, a worthwhile experience.
      Also, don’t ride your bike over the bridge leading into North Bend/Coos Bay. Do this and you will hate the locals, your bike and yourself!!

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    • pdxlady January 31, 2018 at 9:53 am

      I can imagine the project looking at both improvements for thru-riders doing the whole coast, and also identifying shorter segment with more space for higher-quality facilities geared to more family-friendly weekend or day trips. I think helping identify those spots/segments will also be a useful way to provide feedback.

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  • Bjorn January 30, 2018 at 4:43 pm

    I’ve ridden from the Canadian border down to Brookings. The washington portion wasn’t quite as scenic but it felt a lot safer. The Oregon Coast route is beautiful but also quite scary in spots because the shoulder (I don’t think you can really call it a bike lane in many places) is just too narrow to provide a safe distance between you and cars if they choose to not give you any space. I don’t think I would ride it again unless improvements were made.

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    • dan January 30, 2018 at 7:40 pm

      I rode from Astoria to Los Angeles in 2002 as a young bachelor. As a middle-aged married man, I wouldn’t ride it again – in Oregon or in CA because as Bjorn suggested, there are too many spots where there’s essentially no shoulder at all: 6 inches of asphalt past the fog line. Too many RVs with drivers who are uncertain of their vehicle’s exact width…

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      • Dan A January 30, 2018 at 8:08 pm

        I’m sure they need a special license to drive those things. What, they don’t??

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  • GlowBoy January 30, 2018 at 5:37 pm

    I appreciate the importance of getting feedback from people who’ve actually ridden the route, but I’m hoping they will also consider the opinions of people like myself who’ve avoided riding it because it’s so dangerous. The set of people who’ve done it is heavily skewed towards S&F riders. Once when I expressed my reservations about riding the coast to someone who had done it, he replied, “you just need to have confidence.” Right, like confidence is going to save me from the rental-RV driver starting at a cellphone who plasters me against their grille.

    I have ridden from Cannon Beach to Arch Cape and back, where the shoulder isn’t too bad, and the Reach the Beach route into Pacific City … aaaaaand that’s it. Too many dangerous spots, too many stretches with minimal shoulder. Not worth it.

    Oregon is pretty substandard compared to other states I’ve lived in (WA, MN) when it comes to installing shoulders along major 2-lane highways, but there are plenty of places in Oregon I can get comparable scenery for less danger.

    Come to that, I think I’ve ridden more miles of the Oregon coast (on the actual beach) than I have of the Oregon Coast highway.

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    • John Lascurettes January 30, 2018 at 6:06 pm

      That sounds like actual experience to me. In that you have ridden some of it and that you’ve avoided most of it because of that experience.

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    • Stephen Keller January 30, 2018 at 6:42 pm

      I’ve ride the the Astoria to Seaside section more-or-less annually. We have a loop we take from Ft. Stevens down to Seaside, back up to East Astoria (via Lewis and Clark) and then back over the Ft. Stevens. Along 101, even where the shoulders are ample, the ride is not pleasant. The traffic is noisy and stinky and road-way is rubble-filled. One feels pressed in and beset on all sides. We get off of 101 as often as possible.

      If Oregon really wants to attract cycle-tourism dollars to the Oregon Coast, it should build alternate low-stress or bike-only routes away from 101. Something like Washington’s Olympic Discovery Trail would be spectacular.

      Stph

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  • rick January 30, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    101 between Gold Beach and Port Orford has limited car traffic but it has many passing lane segments and the roadway is uneve with possible slides. Why not limit the passing lane segments and make wider bike lanes / shoulders there ?

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  • Mark smith January 30, 2018 at 8:41 pm

    Honestly, this seems a way to distract from the fact that odor throws pennies at bike infra while throwing bags of cash at minor car inconveniences.

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  • N-1 January 31, 2018 at 8:27 am

    I would vote to use the money to close the highway to motor vehicles 1-3 days a month (consecutibe would be best, followed by weekday – of course allow local access, etc). I think the cost of widening, securing and safety proofing the entire stretch is going to be cost prohobitive to make it a truly world class cycling route – then we get second best (which will reduce the number of fatalities but not increase overall ridership). I have never ridden it because I don’t feel comfortable on that highway on a bike (or any other highways).

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  • joe Fortino January 31, 2018 at 11:48 am

    yes close it and allow ppl tour and not feel worry about the metal beast.

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  • Scott Wanhala January 31, 2018 at 12:48 pm

    Lets close all highways around the world so that bike touring folks can joyfully enjoy them at their own leisure. Thats not really possible. Its great that they are looking to, “optimize,” the Oregon Coast Bike Route. So its safer and signed better for education to motorists.

    Better question is the ACA being involved with planning and strategy for this as they have ridden, mapped, and worked on this route for years from a bike touring POV.

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  • Todd Boulanger January 31, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    As with any effective planning process…in cases of too much demand for limited resources (such as paved roadway space along a coastal highway)…I would strongly recommend that ODoT and CH2H include in this effort:
    1) a marketing plan and signage that directed the majority of RV tourist traffic to go northbound on the 101 route in the summer so as to not conflict with the predominately southbound cycle tourist traffic flow (perhaps an RV map that has a recommended regional “loop” would make it easier…and notify Tom Tom/ Google / Waze of these issues);
    2) lower summer time speed limits for sections without bike lanes/ wide shoulders;
    3) pilot striping plan that has low speed (15 to 25 mph) bi-directional motor vehicle lane with dashed advisory bike lanes in areas without room for bike lanes/wide shoulders…such as some bridges and other heritage/ legacy sections that cannot be upgraded; and
    4) the Astoria-Megler 101 Bridge needs better signage and treatment ( more than just 1 bikes on roadway sign in each direction) and a modest week to the striping on the bridge hump (shift the centreline to allow a wider climbing lane with a sharrow downhill lane…this would move the downhill fog line back to its “historical” location) [I just drove across it yesterday]; and etc.

    …this would make for much safer and relaxing travel for both RV and cycle tourists in the interim.

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    • rick March 12, 2018 at 1:26 pm

      101 should be no more than 45 mph

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  • Huey Lewis January 31, 2018 at 1:59 pm

    I’ve done the Oregon coast fully. Twice. And isolated sections of it more than a few times. I love it. There are a few horrible spots for sure. Parts of the coast ride need help but all in all it’s pretty ok by me. I’m clearly in the minority here though. The great thing about the Oregon section of the route is you’re almost entirely on the coast. In Washington you’re seldom on the coast and in addition to RVs there were waaaay more logging trucks (at least when we did Washington). And they were awful. Awful! You get to California and with private ownership of beach front property and no access to it, I felt like I was missing tons of beautiful stuff. Are people not aware they are going to be riding on Hwy 101 when they do this?

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  • Al January 31, 2018 at 2:39 pm

    Thought I might find mention of the Salmonberry Trail here. Ultimately, a bike path TO the coast and coastal biking opportunities would be the best of both worlds for this Portland metro resident.

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    • Scott Wanhala January 31, 2018 at 3:52 pm

      Thats going to be so dreamy. CZ Trail to Salmon Berry Trail!

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  • J_R January 31, 2018 at 3:23 pm

    I’ve ridden most of the Coast Bike Route. It does need improvements, but I don’t think a major planning effort is required to identify those.

    I find it surprising that there are still sections with inadequate shoulders. They’ve been working on it for 40 years. Every time there’s a paving project, it should include wider shoulders. In fact, I thought that was required by ORS 366.514.

    When riding on the highways, I found 10 percent of motorists go out of their way to give a bicyclist plenty of room, including moving into the on-coming lane. Sixty percent move a bit closer to the centerline, but don’t think they are permitted to go out of their lane. Twenty-nine percent stay exactly in the center of the motor vehicle lane regardless of whether there a bicyclist at the fog line or in a narrow shoulder. That leaves one percent who think it is their duty to remind bicyclists that “it’s their lane, that bicyclists don’t pay any taxes, bicyclists are freeloaders and a hazard, and it’s their duty to clear the path for motorists behind them.”

    I’d like to see it publicized that motorist have an obligation to provide clearance and I’d like to see enforcement against the motorists who intentionally make it dangerous for cyclists.

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    • mark smith February 1, 2018 at 6:48 pm

      It sure is…except with this exception wide enough to drive a Nissan Armada through. ) Footpaths and trails are not required to be established under subsection (1) of this section:

      (a) Where the establishment of such paths and trails would be contrary to public safety;

      (b) If the cost of establishing such paths and trails would be excessively disproportionate to the need or probable use; or

      (c) Where sparsity of population, other available ways or other factors indicate an absence of any need for such paths and trails.

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  • IanC January 31, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    I’m a skilled, veteran rider of the Inner Portland Daily Commuting Mosh Pit, but riding on the coast route seems dangerous in so many ways. I’ll wait to pedal to the coast until the SALMONBERRY TRAIL is completed. Separated infrastructure is the ONLY way to go.

    I would suggest that, as a cycling community, we put our efforts into making that project a reality.

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  • joe Fortino February 1, 2018 at 9:59 am

    IanC
    I’m a skilled, veteran rider of the Inner Portland Daily Commuting Mosh Pit, but riding on the coast route seems dangerous in so many ways. I’ll wait to pedal to the coast until the SALMONBERRY TRAIL is completed. Separated infrastructure is the ONLY way to go.I would suggest that, as a cycling community, we put our efforts into making that project a reality.Recommended 2

    most pit love it!

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    • joe Fortino February 1, 2018 at 10:00 am

      mosh sorry typo 😉

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  • Lyndell Wilken February 5, 2018 at 9:05 am

    I have toured along the Oregon coast 8 times over the years. The section between Astoria and Florence became to stressfull given the traffic and narrow shoulders so I stopped doing that part of the coast. I continue to ride the coast between Gardiner, Oregon and San Francisco, the last time being in 2016. From Gardiner to the Oregon border was enjoyable with less traffic and stretches that take you away fron Hwy 1. More attention and study needs to be given to shoulder construction and maintenance. If bicyclists safety is a priority then shoulders should be given a smooth and edge free surface with at least a 5 foot width.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 12, 2018 at 10:54 am

    UPDATE, 3/11: ODOT has just released a survey as part of this project. If you’ve ridden the coast — or have wanted to but are too afraid — please take the survey!

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