“The purpose of Memorial Day and a cemetery is for remembrance… for safety reasons we must exclude cyclists.”
— Rachel Essig, River View Cemetery executive director
One of the more interesting quirks in Portland’s vaunted bike network is how reliant it is on a private cemetery.
A crucial, 1.6-mile link in the southern quadrant is wholly owned by River View Cemetery, a non-profit governed by a Board of Directors that has every right to ban bicycling.
River View has been a gracious host for years because its leaders recognize that the public street alternative — Taylors Ferry Road — is so stressful and dangerous that 90% of people would never ride on it, thus creating a major gap between the Sellwood Bridge and numerous southwest Portland destinations. (The fact that the Portland Bureau of Transportation hasn’t created safer cycling conditions on Taylors Ferry or another route is an important but separate conversation.)
Access through the cemetery is a privilege we have for 362 days every year. The one time River View does not allow bicycle riders through the property is Memorial Day Weekend (May 23rd-25th). “The purpose of Memorial Day and a cemetery is for remembrance,” wrote River View Executive Director Rachel Essig in the BikePortland Forums on Wednesday. “We allow people to visit, but for safety reasons on Memorial Day weekend we must exclude cyclists. We have families who come and walk around for the sole purpose to visit their loved ones grave, this means more cars in the cemetery and more people on foot.”
It might come as a shock to most of you, but there is actually a long and sordid history of bicycle riders abusing this privilege. As far back as 14 years ago we reported that someone behaved so inappropriately toward a maintenance worker that the cemetery board threatened to ban bicycling altogether. Advocates and cemetery leadership worked together to resolve the issues a few years later, only to have it pop back up again in 2012 and again in 2017.
Because people are people, it’s likely this issue will never fully go away. As community leaders continue to mitigate impacts from a few bad actors, the least we can all do is observe this Memorial Day closure. And we owe it to Essig and the loved ones of people buried in the cemetery to always ride respectfully on the 362 days it’s open for riding.
If you need a refresher, here are the rules for using River View:
– Follow basic traffic laws
– Adhere to the posted speed limit, which is also in our rules and regulations – 15 MPH
– At the cross “stop” that takes you on the road to the dirt barn, please stop if you see a car coming in that intersection.
– Keep your voices low, this is a place of sanctuary for those who are grieving and for those who have died before you.
– If you see a white van with several cars behind it, that is a funeral procession. Please stop until the procession goes by.
– If you see white vans, the majority of the time they are our employees trying to do their work. Please allow us to do the work we are meant to do and slow down or stop.
– If you see a backhoe, heavy equipment, Kubota’s, mowers and tractors, that’s our employees trying to keep this serene place beautiful. Be careful around them, they can’t hear you and they may not see you, slow down or stop until they have gone by.
– Please do not train on our cemetery grounds, meaning, do not go over 15 MPH.
– If an employee approaches you about your riding or voice levels, please be nice to us, we wouldn’t stop you if we didn’t have a reason. If you are upset, call the cemetery and ask for the Executive Director 503.246.4251 I would be more than happy to talk with you.
Please don’t ride through River View this weekend.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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If you have to bike commute to or from Lake Oswego on memorial day, god help you I guess
Maybe you could walk your bike through the cemetery, think about that.
Nope – they won’t let you. I tried it once. Bikes upset the dead – but more so their families.
A low traffic alternative to the cemetery (going up) from the bottom of Taylors Ferry, take LaView to Corbett & go left to S Custer St then right at Brier then S. Miles to Barbur and a block to Terwilliger. This has some steep pitches but so does the cemetery. It is actually a pretty cool climb with great views.
Respect the private property of that enterprise and the people who visit for peaceful reverence and contemplation.
Terwilliger is super dangerous
What section and what makes it dangerous?
Terwilliger defender has logged on
Hi – I’m the Executive Director. I just had a family member who was visiting her loved ones grave come and complain that she was almost hit while walking across the road and the cyclist yelled at her. So, that’s why it’s dangerous, the visitors on this weekend are mourning, they are part owners of this private cemetery. They do not need to be yelled at or worry about someone hitting them. That’s why I’ve asked for people not to come here, and any other 362 days of the year, follow basic traffic laws.
This would be a great year to test a closure of the right uphill lane on Taylor’s Ferry. Traffic levels are down, and this would create a great 2-way bikeway, a-la Better Naito.
I wish that could happen to coincide with the cemetery road closure for bikes. The cemetery’s allowing people to bike through it is a gift to the city (and City), not just to the people who bike through it. The unfortunate thing is that the cemetery closure only impacts people riding bikes. If a lane were closed on Taylors Ferry, it would bring the issue (that people biking in that area have to rely on the generosity of a private property owner to have a safe route) to the attention of the overall public. It would also be great for people running and walking–Taylors Ferry is almost literally impossible to run or walk on without being in the narrow traffic lanes with speeding vehicles–something else the lane closure would highlight.
Way to thread that needle, JM. Or is it painting a turd? Anyway, you get better at it every year. 🙂
What do you mean?
Excuse River View, did you just call us a name? Are you blaming JM or a private landowner?
If you’d like to speak to the ones allowing cyclists please reach out. JM is being a good citizen and so are the members of the River View Cemetery Association.
Reach out to the Executive Director, Rachel Essig. 503-246-4251 or email me directly email@example.com
Portland – we are better than this – calling a representative of an Oregon cemetery a turd. Indeed. This is the issue.
That is not what is happening here
Cars allowed but but no bikes? Weird.
No, cars are not allowed to use the cemetary as a shortcut any time of year. They’re doing us a huge favor by allowing bikes to use the shortcut for 362 days of the year. It’s one weekend when we can’t; get over it.
It just seems like bike infrastructure shouldn’t be reliant on people doling out huge favors.
Also, they close the gates at night, so if you happen to commute during the evening hours god help you!
Exactly. Without the cemetery’s voluntary good will, there’s no safe route for biking, walking or running.
People often mention how that’s wrong for the City to do that to the people who are biking, walking or running. What isn’t brought up often (at all?) is how wrong it is for the City to do that to the cemetery. Nobody should be forced into the position the City has forced the cemetery into.
The City is saying, “Opening your property to people biking and walking is completely voluntary on your part. Granted, if you close, people could get run over and injured or killed, because we haven’t created a safe public route for years, and aren’t planning to. But don’t feel pressured to keep your roads open.”
The temporary pathway through riverview was used as justification for LO city council to block the Willamette river crossing, so honestly it could be doing more harm than good
Really? More harm than good? This is what you think? I’m guessing you have some basis for this opinion but I am pretty sure there were other reasons given for withdrawing their support.
I am guessing you have some basis for this opinion, but I am pretty sure there were other reasons for LO City Council for withdrawing their support.
Thank YOU for generously allowing cyclists to use your private road for the vast majority of the year, necessary since our transportation bureau is utterly incompetent.
It’s been years and PBOT still hasn’t gotten their act together about providing an alternate route to private property. None of this would be an issue if PBOT would just convert one of the uphill lanes of Taylor’s Ferry to a two-way bike/pedestrian path. IIRC the traffic volumes are under 20000 vehicles a day, meaning that two lanes are completely unnecessary. Why they haven’t is completely beyond me…
If the cemetery is not open, I either ride up through the neighborhood just north of Taylors Ferry, or if I was headed to LO, I’d ride 1.5 miles on 43 to Palatine Hill Road, turn off, and navigate the Dunthorpe neighborhood over to the bottom of Terwilliger.
There is always a way to get somewhere…but if you don’t know options then you are stuck.
It is wonderful that Riverview Cemetery accommodates cyclists that utilize it as part of their commute or to get to a particular place. I do not think it is their responsibility to provide the use of their property to those who are out for a recreational ride when there are plenty of other places for people to ride.
We unknowingly bumped into the closure today. There were signs posted at the gate near Sellwood Bridge, but it was a lot of writing to read while biking by, looking like a detailed private parking tow away warning, so I just rode by. Part way up we bumped into a Riverview worker on his way down. He had already talked to several cyclists ahead of us who continued upward. When we got to him he was exasperated. He’d been told to come out to deflect riders because of the closure, but they kept going up. He said we might as well continue up too, but we turned back, wanting to support the guy.
We need to do better, everyone. Perhaps we would do better if there were permanent signs saying that the route was closed to cyclists Memorial Day weekend. Then, perhaps, we’d all get the message in time to not flaunt the brief closure.
I think ‘better’ would be reliable permanent bike infrastructure. You are selling your imagination short here
There is bitterness and negativity in your tone. That is not a way to win allies
Thank you, tone is definitely the most important thing here
Thank you, Rachel Essig
Executive Director, River View Cemetery
Riverview. Next year hit me up, I’ll sit at the bottom or top (if it is just me top makes the most sense to keep speeds low) with a chair, my bike, and a shovel from 9-5 saturday-monday and turn cyclists away, y’all do us a huge favor by keeping Riverview open the other 362 days a year I’m happy to lay down the law for three days – I’m totally serious.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if the Trolley rail line was a MUP instead?
If any of you want to speak to me directly, I would be more than happy to talk this out with you. We voluntarily participate in Portland’s transportation system but as private property owners. River View Cemetery is an association, each grave, niche or crypt purchased here makes the purchaser part owner. We are asking you to refrain from using our property for 3 days of the year.
The people who visit here over Memorial Day weekend are not thinking about you, they are thinking of the life of their loved one who died. The purpose of this place is a sanctuary for remembrance, it’s a place for people to come and cry, laugh and remember, a cemetery protects the deceased.
Again, you may contact me directly if you are upset about not being able to ride through.
Rachel Essig, Executive Director, River View Cemetery
If I wanted to speak to you, it would only be to thank you for being open to share this safe path. With Covid I no longer commute to Wilsonville but when I did the section heading up River View was always the best part of my ride.
My Strava feed says people biked the cemetery this weekend 🙁
Tons of people rode it. I rode by on my way to descend Taylors Ferry, and there were tons of people coming up and going in on Sunday afternoon. There are so many alternative routes it is a shame people can’t just deal with it.
My fellow Americans in all their me-first glory are really getting on my last nerve. Think of others. Think of others. Think of others. I know it’s the polar opposite of our credo in the US, but try.