Joe Bike

ODOT identifies 35 ‘critical need’ locations on Oregon Coast Bike Route

Posted by on March 4th, 2020 at 1:04 pm

ODOT says a bypass around the dreaded Arch Cape Tunnel is a possibility. Let them know how much you’d like that!
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

All the “critical needs” projects on the map.

As one of the final steps in a two-year planning effort for the Oregon Coast Bike Route, the Oregon Department of Transportation just released an important online open house.

The open house consists of a map highlighting 35 “critical needs” projects they’ve identified (with help of your previous feedback) as the highest priority locations for investment and updates. The projects stretch from Astoria to Brookings and are the scariest places to bike along 340-mile stretch. Many of them have very narrow or non-existing space to ride a bike and/or a history of crashes and documented risk factors.

One of the projects proposes a bypass of the Arch Cape Tunnel (which I highlighted as an “ugly” point of my ride on the route in 2013) in the form of a new bike path that would wind through Oswald West State Park.

Potential solutions for Arch Cape tunnel.


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Changes to make the Yaquina Bay Bridge safer for cycling also made the cut. Among the possible upgrades ODOT proposes include: lower speed limits when new flashing lights are activated, sharrow lane markings; caution signs warning of bicycle riders; and even a possible ferry or shuttle service to avoid riding it altogether.

Road diet through Reedsport is on the table.

When it comes to locations where the route goes through busy towns, ODOT lists adding wider bike lanes and narrowing general purpose lanes as possible changes.

The Oregon Coast Bike Route has never had a comprehensive plan backing it up and it’s been decades since it was last updated. With growth in population in cities along the route and the ever-increasing popularity of the route (an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 people use it each year), ODOT says “the time is right” for this plan.

While the plan won’t set aside any funding, and none of the project proposals released in the online open house are binding, the idea is that this process will help refine and prioritize what’s needed and set the stage for future funding opportunities.

To take part in the open house, check out the online map and click the section you’re interested in. A window will open up where you can view the proposals and then leave comments specific to that section.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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30 Comments
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    Todd Boulanger March 4, 2020 at 2:27 pm

    Wow – this is great news…long time in coming! [I remember my first time struggling as a long distance bike tourer along the Oregon Coast in 1990…after the nice pleasant Washington State section.]

    As part of this planning process – I would strongly recommend everyone to comment that – until these fixes are complete that ODoT + Oregon’s tourism marketing agencies only recommend that RVers drive northbound along this section…to give more room for touring cyclists going predominantly southbound …it will be a more relaxing ride for all PLUS a better view for the RV driver too!

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      Alan 1.0 March 4, 2020 at 2:37 pm

      What makes it a better view for a northbound driver and passenger? (not disagreeing with your ask of ODOT!)

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        Todd Boulanger March 4, 2020 at 4:03 pm

        I guess I was not clear…

        “a better view for the RV [recreational vehicle] driver…”

        If one is driving northbound …with a left hand drive vehicle…then the vehicle operator (aka driver) has a ~90 degree view of the coast line vs. southbound they have more like 35 degrees if there is a passenger on their right. Yes the passenger’s (in navigator / shotgun seat) view is more limited northbound but they can move around and take their time looking at the view vs the driver.

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          Alan 1.0 March 4, 2020 at 5:49 pm

          Aha, got it. I was wondering about sun-at-their-back lighting. I’m afraid that, when I’ve driven 101, I like the view from the southbound lanes better, but I still like your suggestion of encouraging less southbound RV (and commercial, and MV in general) traffic.

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      PTB March 4, 2020 at 3:33 pm

      I’ve done Washington once and Oregon twice and I couldn’t disagree more about your views of the two. Kinda funny how different perspectives can be. It’s not that I find the Oregon stretch to be less sketchy, RV drivers are terrifying, but in Washington we were constantly buzzed by logging trucks. It was really horrible. They just gave no shit that the two of us were on the road at all and to cross the center line was just far, far too much to ask of them. They were much more terrifying than the RVs we mostly encountered in Oregon. (And the anti-Olympia sentiment on pro-logging yard signs was very frustrating. They seem prepared to cut down every tree on the peninsula if given the chance)

      The one way Oregon definitely has Washington beat is once you get to Oregon you’re mostly on the coast as opposed to being mostly away from the coast in Washington.

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      PTB March 4, 2020 at 3:34 pm

      JM, you moderating me or my IP address? What gives?

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        9watts March 4, 2020 at 8:47 pm

        Maybe be his filter caught your ‘logging’ trucks. We call them log trucks in Oregon. The logging happens before the trucks come into the picture.

        About the Arch Cape tunnel. Personally I don’t mind the tunnel, and if I were trying to get somewhere I certainly wouldn’t take that very long detour, even though I’m sure it would be very scenic.

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          abomb March 5, 2020 at 6:47 am

          Gotta agree with 9watts. We have a family beach house at the bottom of the tunnel in Arch Cape and if you take the raised sidewalk though the tunnel it is not that bad going up the hill. On the way down its a 40+ mph decent so taking the lane has always seemed safe. The purposed bike path would ruin a very beautiful section of the Oregon Coast Trail single track that is great for hiking, trail running, and mt biking.

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          PTB March 5, 2020 at 9:50 am

          I’ve been in the Portland area since 1979, nearly my whole life, and I was unaware of the distinction in truck names, 9watts. I was under the impression the trucks themselves did the logging! Like Transformers out there, cutting down the trees. Wow! Thanks for the language nitpickin.

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          Jason March 5, 2020 at 11:09 am

          Yeah, I noticed the tight switchbacks and though, “how many miles does *that* add”?

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          Jason March 5, 2020 at 11:14 am

          I can see why people would dislike the tunnel, but shuffling cyclists into the woods robs them of the vista. I can’t evaluate the relative benefits of the proposed route, based on the 2-D drawing. My gut says it will be “safer”, but who rides 101 to be safe? 😀

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    I wear many hats March 4, 2020 at 4:04 pm

    Couldn’t a raised sidewalk in the tunnel be constructed for far cheaper than another asphalt path? I hate to see us pave over our remaining green spaces if other cheaper and safe solutions are to be had.

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      rick March 4, 2020 at 8:44 pm

      raised sidewalks in tunnels sounds like good ideas.

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        9watts March 4, 2020 at 8:47 pm

        It already is raised.

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          rick March 5, 2020 at 7:27 am

          the photo shows a measly bicycle path alongside a sidewalk in the tunnel.

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            9watts March 5, 2020 at 7:49 am

            There are lots of ways we could look at this. For pennies the two (sidewalk and bike path) could be combines, and augmented with a heavy slightly angled protective barrier (heavy plastic sheet) that would offer a substantially improved sense of security to anyone on the wider track. Compared to the path-over-the-mountain this has to cost a fraction, and be a much better fit for those who aren’t into long steep detours.

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              rick March 5, 2020 at 10:39 am

              yes

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              I wear many hats March 5, 2020 at 11:35 am

              Raised / combined bike lane / sidewalk was what I was alluding to. Oswald is a gem. It needs less development, not more.

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    B. Carfree March 4, 2020 at 5:23 pm

    It’s hard to get excited about anything ODOT handles. The representative they sent to Eugene to discuss this insulted everyone in the room and then noted that riding is stupid unless one drives to a trailhead for some off-roading.

    Goodness, look at their depiction of existing conditions. Granted they are proposing to change this, but they show a 13′ travel lane with a motorist and cyclist side-by-side. The motorist is violating the law (no bike lane and speed limit over 35 mph means he must give the cyclist room to fall over when passing). The cyclist is also being depicted inviting this illegally close pass by riding in the gutter. It’s hard to think that anyone at ODOT knows enough about cycling and the law to actually design, put out for bids, and get built anything that is state of the art, or even acceptable.

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      Steve Scarich March 5, 2020 at 8:51 am

      Without the allocation of a lot of money to obtain right-of-way and build real bike lanes, this is just an academic exercise. Won’t happen in our lifetimes.

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    one March 5, 2020 at 9:22 am

    Hey Friends. I’ve brought my kids on the Banks Vernonia, and they’ve ridden to Oxbow (Mostly on the Springwater) and they’ve ridden on trails in Bend and on trails at the state park near Astoria.

    What is the SAFEST (Preferably separated) stretch on the WA or OR coast? How far is this safer stretch?

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      rick March 5, 2020 at 10:41 am

      Tillamook to Pacific City on the side roads that are closest to the Ocean are nice.

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      pburger March 5, 2020 at 11:22 am

      Jeez, I think the only separated path on the coast is between Raymond and South Bend in Washington.

      That said, my two cents (but I’ve only been as far as Lincoln City and only after Labor Day). The stretch south from South Bend is quite lovely, particularly in the morning with light traffic. I have yet to make the side trip to Bay Center, but there is an appealingly rundown greasy spoon there.

      The short stretch along the Naselle River is bad (blind corners, no shoulder), but good through the Willapa Refuge. I believe the rest of 101 south on the WA side was good. (Parpala Road to Naselle and down the 401 is a nice alternative too.)

      Strangely, I enjoy biking across the Astoria Bridge, although I can see why folks might find it an unnerving experience.

      The north coast down to Seaside is rather crappy, mainly because of suburban blight. There is a back road (Lewis & Clark) but I almost got plowed into by a truck there.

      Yup, Arch Cape is bad, but if you wait for a break in traffic (and turn on the blinkers) it’s only a minute of terror.

      Tillamook to Netarts on 131 is deadly (search this webpage). There is a back road (Eckloff) but it’s only open on weekends because of logging (and unpaved for a stretch).

      Sandlake Road to Beaver is a nightmare.

      Cape Lookout is a nice climb in the morning when you’re fresh, a slog in the afternoon when you’re tired.

      I’m being terribly self indulgent here. I’m a solo biker and wouldn’t recommend big chunks of the coast as a family ride, but there are (or were) organized rides if you’d like the safely of a group.

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      Alan 1.0 March 5, 2020 at 1:48 pm

      Long Beach (the beach itself) is rideable from Holman on the south to Leadbetter State Park on the north, about 20 miles. Cars are allowed on the beach but the speed limit is 25. Me, my wife, and dog have felt very safe there, and there are lots of other bikes and peds. Start on an ebb tide, as soon as you can ride on the damp sand; dry sand is too soft. Stay above the clam beds at low tide (law). There are more public access points than Google Maps indicates. It’s about 2.5 hours drive from Portland.

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    PATRICK March 5, 2020 at 9:31 am

    Years ago I rode a section of this “bike route” and found it so frightening that I never attempted it again. The highway is full of RVs driven by people who have no concept of where their vehicle’s right-side is. Close passes on narrow shoulders are common and traffic volume is HIGH. Also as a side note the second most dangerous driver I encountered were “young adults on holiday:” absolutely no consideration to safety for any inconvenience of slowing down.

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    Charles Ross March 5, 2020 at 12:02 pm

    I’ve cycled the coast three times. Re: the two problem bridges, the Yaquina and the Bay bridge leading into North Bend. The solution to the danger and stress is easy: walk your bike. There’s really no need to spend 6 figures building extensive detours
    The most dangerous element of riding on the coast route is the sun. On a bright, sunny day cars are moving in and out of shadows, drivers are wearing sunglasses. Bicyclists are invisible to the driver under those conditions. You will be under their wheels as they are realizing you are there!
    What helps? Light your bike up! I run three rear lights on my bike when I’m on tour. One of the best complements I’ve gotten from a driver was that he saw me up ahead of him and he thought I was a police car with the variable blinking lights.

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      Steve Scarich March 6, 2020 at 8:32 am

      I used to ride regularly on Hwy 9 from Boulder Creek to Santa Cruz, California. There were some stretches that I felt a bit nervous, going in and out of forested areas. Then, I drove my car on the same route, and I could literally not make out any detail on the road shoulder for a few seconds every time I entered a shaded area. I realized that I was putting my life in danger every time I rode my bike. That is when I went to having blinky lights on the back of my bike, and have every day in the 12 years since. It is amazing what a good (emphasize powerful) blinky light does.

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    David Cary March 6, 2020 at 10:06 am

    Until these dangerous parts of the “Oregon Coast Bike Route” are satisfactorily addressed, I think it is immoral for the State to in any way promote this route to local and out-of-state visitors. It makes Oregon look bad and exposes innocent people to dangerous biking conditions. How are they to know we are promoting a route that people die on every year? Surely we can do better!

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    mark smith March 6, 2020 at 10:41 am

    Love the photo of the “van lifer” who is practically crowding the bike into the curb. It cracks me up people can’t figure out to cross the yellow to give slower users space. Hey, I am in a car….I can be a jerk!

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      Jason March 6, 2020 at 12:22 pm

      Do you mean the surf van at the top of the article? They are in a tunnel, I wouldn’t expect someone to break double yellow in a tunnel. This is the impasse that the road users face, there is just not enough room in some spots.

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