“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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