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Advocates will ride with policymakers to urge Off-road Cycling Master Plan completion

Posted by on June 19th, 2019 at 1:00 pm

People turned out in large numbers for a 2015 rally to protest the lack of cycling access in River View Natural Area.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

It’s been over four years since the City of Portland embarked on an effort to create a master plan for off-road cycling. The draft of the Off-road Cycling Master Plan came out in November 2017.

“We need the plan to be passed so we have a roadmap for how we can help.”
— Andy Jansky, NW Trail Alliance

Despite all this time, the plan remains unfinished and continues to languish on someone’s desk at the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.

Friday morning, advocates with Northwest Trail Alliance will renew their campaign to get it finished. They’ve spent months planning a ride with local and regional electeds and policymakers that they hope will lead to more urgency around the plan.

“We need the plan to be passed so we have a roadmap for how we can help,” veteran NWTA volunteer Andy Jansky shared with me today. Jansky has been working behind-the-scenes to get agency and city hall staffers to show up for Friday’s ride. He says NWTA has a large and willing community of members who would love to help the City of Portland work toward better off-road cycling access in parks and other greenspaces throughout the city.

People who want more opportunities to ride bikes on singletrack and other types of natural surface trails within city limits have been working on this issue for well over a decade now — and they have very little trail mileage to show for it. The last time a piece of cycling-specific singletrack was built in Forest Park (to cite just one example) was 2006 when advocates helped build less than a mile of trail off of Firelane 5.

Since then, progress has been painfully slow.

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Jansky has been a stalwart advocate for years and remains optimistic that his efforts will soon bear fruit.

Tomorrow will mark the 12th anniversary of the last time mountain bike advocates took electeds and city staffers on a ride to highlight their issues and concerns. Friday’s ride will have the same goal; but hopefully it won’t take another 12 years before we open up new off-road cycling access.

City of Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability Project Manager Tom Armstrong is heading up the Off-road Cycling Master Plan. He’ll be on Friday’s ride. Asked for an update on the plan today, Armstrong said he’s been busy working on other priorities (like manufactured dwelling parks rezoning and fossil fuel terminal zoning), “But will be getting back to finalizing the plan later this year.”

Armstrong says BPS has three large sets of comments to reconcile before moving forward: those from the project’s advisory committee, the Portland Parks Board and the public. Once those comments have been analyzed, he says they’ll make final adjustments to the existing recommendations in order to inform future projects.

“Provide experiences across the city so that all residents can access close-to-home riding opportunities.”
— from the Off-road Cycling Master Plan discussion draft

The draft as it exists today recommends a system of off-road paths and trails with a goal to, “Provide experiences across the city so that all residents can access close-to-home riding opportunities.” The vision is to develop a few large “anchor sites” citywide (like Gateway Green, Forest Park, and so on), mid-sized opportunities at the district level, and smaller facilities in neighborhoods. Once identified, the plan says the projects should create, “A connected system of well-distributed trails and bike parks, accessible by bike and transit, to offer urban experiences and access to nature for all.”

During Friday’s ride, NWTA’s Jansky hopes to share a few of his ideas with decision-makers. Among them are: better integration on trails between Parks and the Bureau of Transportation, an off-road cycling corridor in southwest (the draft plan has nothing for that quadrant), and using undeveloped right-of-way to create connector trails between neighborhoods.

Of course it all comes down to politics. And NWTA’s Jansky says the off-road cycling issue, “Doesn’t appear to be a priority with some people in city hall.” He hopes Friday’s ride — which should have about 45 attendees — will change that. “We’re trying to turn up the heat on this issue a few degrees,” he said.

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

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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

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SERider
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SERider

I mountain bike so much more since I moved out of Portland.

I had a fear that many in city government would think they could placate mountain bikers with Gateway Green. So far I haven’t seen anything to suggest this isn’t the case (this “plan” being a perfect example). It’s just so frustrating as time and time again mountain bikers have shown up and demonstrated how committed they are to voluntarily building and maintaining their own trails. They just need to okay from the city.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Same here. I mountain bike fairly regularly, but in my 4+ years in the Twin Cities I have driven to mountain bike only once. I have a couple of great trail systems within a 30-40 minute ride of my home, and at least 8 systems (totaling over 50 miles of singletrack) within a 60-80 minute ride.

Too bad Portland’s culture and politics have this systemic aversion to mountain bike trails. It’s not a problem in much of the country.

SERider
Guest
SERider

I still have to drive to ride, but I”m in a much less dense area, and only have a single speed mountain bike right now. That said I have 4 great places to ride within 20 mins. drive.

Alex
Subscriber
Alex

> Since then, progress has been painfully slow.

That’s an overly optimistic statement. I believe we have lost more trail/access than we have gained.

This is just one more avenue where our city is failing to see the green side of cycling. Unfortunately, the people advocating against more off road access are only encouraging more car use and pollution, even though they frame their viewpoint as the one true “green” side of the issue.

I am glad to see more active engagement and would hope to see some movement soon. We are supposedly in a booming economy, if it doesn’t happen now (or soon), it certainly doesn’t seem like it will happen if things go South. Until then, I will just continue to ride my bike and be nice to people where I think it makes sense.

See you on the trail!

Matt F
Guest
Matt F

Same ole sh!t. Ya know that plan cost $300,000. If they were just going to sit on it, they could have used the money for something else. Also, someone should write a history of Portland vs mtb advocacy of the last 20 years…and then get it out to the public/press so a wider audience can see how ridiculous this is.

Bryan
Guest
Bryan

Thanks for covering this Jonathan. I have started taking my young kids into Powell Butte to ride, someday hopefully forest park to, and am not talking fire roads, I can ride those in the Woodstock Neighborhood 🙂 Jansky is Rad (and so are all the other NWTA members and volunteers)

Edward
Guest
Edward

Riverview.

I wear many hats
Guest
I wear many hats

keep riding it!

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

Maybe with fritz out of the picture soon, this could move forward?

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Big hooray.

JeffS
Guest
JeffS

Yea, I’m sure Eudaly and Hardesty will be chomping at the bit to support the white guy with a car hobby.

Alex
Subscriber
Alex

Isn’t the point so we don’t have to use cars and open it up to more people. Promoting not just cycling as utility, but also as sport, doesn’t seem to be a bad things for more people in our community.

JBone
Guest
JBone

Green/sustainability is so 2000’s. These days it’s all about POC/equity as evidenced by the presentation of the ORCMP to the parks board in 2017. Until the MTB community gets this and addresses it, don’t expect any movement from the city/county.

Cyclekrieg
Subscriber
Cyclekrieg

Might I suggest the MTB community make the point that having urban trails creates that diversity. If you look at trail photos and high school teams from cities with urban trails, its the whole rainbow of humanity. Forcing people to drive puts a monetary/time burden on users that basically ensure you get George McWhitey.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Time to stop dumping public funds into the golf courses then.

Gabriel Amadeus
Guest

Great to hear they’re focusing on priorities like “fossil fuel terminal zoning”, which you definitely need when 400,000 metro area residents have to drive an hour to recreate.

The plan is a sham, and lack of leadership on this longstanding issue is an embarrassing stain on our progressive laurels.

Scott Wanhala
Guest
Scott Wanhala

Gab you helped connect a entire trail system across the state of Oregon in a matter of what a year! Can you please share that project blueprint with the City of Portland?

Cyclekrieg
Subscriber
Cyclekrieg

I’m not sure MTBers in Portland actually would want the ORCMP passed in its current form. Here are the most egregious issues: 1) It locks in an abysmal amount of Forest Park access with no ability to increase it; 2) it retains the absolutely horrible (and unsafe) trail alignment in Riverview; 3) besides those locations, the rest of access is blah or goofy and 4) it doesn’t contain the items other cities who do this know you need: user management techniques, real trails designed for sharing, close working relationship with the city, etc.

The more I’ve watched this process and the way the city (and commissioners) do the blind monkey routine, the more I’ve wondered if the answer for Portland is for the NWTA to let the ORCMP just die and purchase property to create trails on. Then gift those properties over to Metro. Its done in a lot of other places and given the NWTA’s membership (on paper) the ability to fund raise the needed money would be pretty easy.

Then in a few years when most of those opposed are 6 feet under, come back and push for access at Forest Park, Riverview, Marquam, etc. By you will have a history of stewardship to show off to the city.

Also, don’t forget some other locations: Tyron Creek State park (states are slow, but easy to work with), Iron Mountain & Springbrook in Lake Oswego, Mount Talbert, Tualtin Hills in Beaverton.

Brian
Guest
Brian

I tend to agree at this point. So many options within Portland that could be great, and taken care of by the mtb community, and so much unwillingness to do so it’s almost laughable.

Scott Lane
Guest
Scott Lane

NWTA has completely failed Portland mountain bikers. Gateway Green is very disappointing to most mountain bikers I know and the new plan of multi use green trails in 3 separate areas is either a joke or an insult, but not an attempt to satisfy real mountain bikers.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Just so I’m clear, what is the definition of a real mountain biker these days?

Scott Lane
Guest
Scott Lane

Intermediate or advanced rider but not a beginner.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Does this person ride cross country trails or flow trails?

JBone
Guest
JBone

It’s not about the environment or user conflict anymore, so those folks passing on will have no effect. The equity train is just getting rolling, better get on board if you have any hope for trails.

Eric
Guest
Eric

…Insert same tired comment about Charlie Brown trying to kick a football here…

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

It’s still Lucy holding the ball…

rf
Subscriber
rf

Go Andy!

rf
Subscriber
rf

People in inner portland always say they have to drive an hour to mountain bike. As it stands, if they RODE 45 minutes there are places to mountain bike. But yet, they are unwilling to do that.

Brian
Guest
Brian

That’s because what one can ride to in 45 minutes isn’t even comparable to what one can drive to in a hour.

Cyclekrieg
Subscriber
Cyclekrieg

Where are those places you refer to? Do you mean the itty-bitty Gateway Green ? or Powell Butte, which has its own issues of flow and safety?

Scott Lane
Guest
Scott Lane

Even though it’s small, Gateway Green had tons of potential. They could have had 3 really fun flowy intermediate level downhill trails but instead the built a really lame climbing trail that took up lots of space, the world’s smallest and most worthless pumptrack, stretchy wooden jumps with steep lips, and the sorta decent jump line next to the road. The loop trail on the side has no flow, speed, or fun. Had it been properly designed this could have been a world class city mountain bike park with the good terrain they have there. Volunteers have tried to improve it but it’s just a unappealing design overall, obviously not designed by somebody with a professional history of this. . NWTA has a tendency to just do things without putting alot of critical thought into it, although they did finally help build the first good downhill trail at Sandy Ridge this year.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

No, rf, there aren’t.

I wear many hats
Guest
I wear many hats

The best riding in town is in SW and NW Portland. Riverview, Slavin road, Marquam woods, Council Crest, Washington park, arboretum, Forest Park. Be polite when you’re out there and see you on the trails.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Illegal riding doesn’t count.

Frank Selker
Guest
Frank Selker

Laws reflect power, not always justice.

Frank Selker
Guest
Frank Selker

Unless the plan has changed significantly since I last saw it, this will do more damage than good if passed. For instance, it:

– Excludes virtually all existing trails from consideration for cyclists, with no justification or process.

-Proposes crappy little cycling trails in the distant future and the worst parts of the park in exchange for taking all the good trails out of consideration.

– Claims, with no basis in fact, that alternating use of trails by pedestrians and cyclists on different days won’t work, even though it is a key and successful strategy in many places nationwide.

It documents our failure to be treated as legitimate users of public land, and acknowledges park neighbors and their allies (Audubon and Forest Park Conservancy) as the de facto Governors of Forest Park.

NWTA had great intentions, but compromises have left us with a document that does more harm than good, and IMO actually sabotages a future in which we actually have good cycling options in Portland.

Cyclekrieg
Subscriber
Cyclekrieg

Actually, it (alternating use) has not been used in new trails for years. It is basically a legacy method for management. For a lot of reasons. Way more information here: http://www.citymtb.org/home/user-management-techniques-part-7-alternating-use

Frank Selker
Guest
Frank Selker

Unless the plan has changed significantly since I last saw it, this will do more damage than good if passed. For instance, it:

– Excludes virtually all existing trails from consideration for cyclists, with no justification or process.

-Proposes crappy little cycling trails in the distant future and the worst parts of the park in exchange for taking all the good trails out of consideration.

– Claims, with no basis in fact, that alternating use of trails by pedestrians and cyclists on different days won’t work, even though it is a key and successful strategy in many places nationwide.

It documents our failure to be treated as legitimate users of public land, and acknowledges park neighbors and their allies (Audubon and Forest Park Conservancy) as the de facto Governors of Forest Park.

NWTA had great intentions, but compromises have left us with a document that does more harm than good, and IMO actually sabotages a future in which we actually have good cycling options in Portland.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Even IF that were true, my kids can only ride about an hour or so before they are wiped out, so we would have to turn around as soon as we arrived at this mystical place.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Yes- echoing Cyclekrieg… where are these magical places I could be riding too??

I’d say Gateway Green is a stretch to call mountain biking. It’s a lovely little practice loop for skill building, although each time I’ve gone it’s pretty busy with families and kiddos. I think that’s AWESOME and am all for getting kids into the sport, but it does means that you have to ride pretty slow and carefully. Which again, great, but I don’t think it’s comparable to what we are commonly referring to as mountain biking.

I wear many hats
Guest
I wear many hats

There are so many miles of trail in Portland. The electeds will only finalize this plan when mountain biking is a problem. At present, its not a problem. Agitate, agitate, agitate ! If every mountain biker in town rode the trails that we did have, the city would have to respond. FYI, Forest Park gets more riding use than hiking use each summer night (and I don’t mean fire roads). Keep up the great work NWTA! I left town to ride mountain bikes now. I couldn’t wait for Fish and Fritz to get run out of office.

Kate
Guest
Kate

And therein lies the conundrum. I want to prove that mountain bikers can be respectful users of shared park space by only sticking to the fire lanes/roads approved for bikes, but then nothing changes and we don’t ever get any additional access and we end up driving somewhere out of town every darn weekend to ride.

Brian
Guest
Brian

So true. The riding in Portland could be vastly improved by adding a flow trail in Tabor, making one trail in Powell Butte downhill-recommended with additional tech, legalizing and improving that “one trail” in River View, adding a trail or two in Washington Park, and opening up the Ridge and Maple trails in Forest Park.

SERider
Guest
SERider

Yeah Brian, it really would take very little effort to massively improve the situation. It’s so silly that so many road blocks have been thrown up to a pretty easy and simple first solution.

I wear many hats
Guest
I wear many hats

How about we all prove how respectful we are by showing the public what riding responsibly looks like? The only people in Portland that know how to coexist with bikes on trails moved here recently. They get it. Everyone needs to know how to yield, be friendly, and share trails. There is no example of good stewardship because we cannot access the trails we have. A smile and slow pass goes a long way into breeding good will.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

More and more I’m starting to think this is the solution. It worked for skateboarding.

Brian
Guest
Brian

Same. Sad, isn’t it?

Scott Wanhala
Guest
Scott Wanhala

Four years this has been sitting idle. Ride now and ask for forgiveness later……..