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Reeling Parks bureau needs to hear more about off-road cycling

Posted by on July 14th, 2020 at 10:12 am

Portland has the space, resources, and volunteers to create a network of “pump tracks” like this one in Ventura Park that was built in 2012. All that’s missing is political will.

The Portland Parks & Recreation Bureau had severe budget problems long before a viral pandemic dominated the news. Last year rising personnel costs and flat program revenues forced the agency into bruising cuts to staff levels and operations. One year later and COVID-19 has squandered any chance to right the ship.

In this bleak moment, the agency is reaching out for feedback and local off-road cycling advocates say it’s time to speak up.

With widespread closures and no end to the virus crisis in sight, Parks Director Adena Long and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler shared terrible news recently: “It is heartbreaking to write this, but many of the current closures will continue beyond summer 2020, and not because of public health restrictions.” With a broken revenue model and the major hit from COVID-19, Parks plans to put a temporary funding levy on the November 2020 ballot.

With a bike boom underway and the vast mental and physical benefits cycling can bring to a broad and diverse swath of Portlanders, it’s vital that Parks hears from people who love to ride and want more safe and accessible places to do it. As Portland Parks seeks feedback from the public on how to re-imagine their offerings and services, the nonprofit NW Trail Alliance is leading a push to make sure they hear about the strong connection between cycling and parks-owned paths and properties.

“Our society has some serious setbacks when it comes to the outdoors and recreation; not everyone can access the outdoors in our local trails,” NWTA said in a message to members on Monday. “Leaving out a category of users on trails is not equitable.” “All Portlanders, no matter their background, should be able to access trails via two wheels.”

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Graphic from City of Portland Off-Road Cycling Master Plan Discussion Draft published October 2017.

Creating more quality access for off-road cycling in Portland — which has an abysmal amount of places to ride and a sad legacy of disrespectful treatment toward mountain bike riders — has been the focus of NWTA for many years. Five years ago the organization and its members participated in an effort to create the first-ever Off-Road Cycling Master Plan (ORCMP). Two years of meetings have led to nothing but a draft plan that remains unfinished. (This came after a previous planning process for Forest Park ended in controversy and no tangible progress for cycling and a contentious plan for River View Natural Area nearly excluded bicycling entirely.)

Asked one year ago about the status of the ORCMP, Bureau of Planning & Sustainability Project Manager Tom Armstrong said, “I have been working on other priorities (manufactured dwelling parks rezoning, fossil fuel terminal zoning) but will be getting back to finalizing the plan later this year. Asked the same question two months ago, Armstrong said the plan is “paused” due to COVID-19. “While we were hopeful of re-starting work in early 2020… At this time I do not have an update on timing given the scale and demand of other projects and uncertainty around budget and staffing at both BPS and Parks, who will be responsible for implementing many of the recommendations.”

With the ORCMP gathering dust and Parks looking to re-orient themselves and re-imagine their role in our community, the NWTA feels like the time is right to speak up.

Check out the NWTA advocacy alert and take the short Parks survey to share your feedback.

In related news, the Portland Parks Foundation is hosting a forum on Wednesday July 15th with Portland City Council position 2 candidates Loretta Smith and Dan Ryan.

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

For a while I considered allowing myself 10 minutes of ride time on Portland Parks “no bikes” trails for each unleashed dog I saw in an area of a park that required them to be on a leash. My thought was that why should I obey any park laws that restrict my non-motorized bike use when dog owners feel free to break the law in parks with no consequence. I’m a taxpayer in the city. Ultimately I decided to obey the laws but I have a lifetime of time credits to ride on “no bike” trails based on my observations of leash law compliance if I decide to use it!

 
Guest
 

Unleashed dogs are a big problem at parks and on trails in Portland and elsewhere, but two wrongs don’t make a right.

That being said, anyone who is caught on video with an unleashed dog anywhere outside of designated off-leash areas should have to pay a hefty fine, with repeat offenders losing their right to own a pet. Whether I’m running, cycling, or walking, I don’t want a strange dog chasing me, which happens all too often.

Jon
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Jon

A friend of mine broke his collar bone when an unleashed dog ran in front of him while he was riding in a legal to ride path so unleashed dogs are a sore point with me. I find it ironic that I can’t ride a mountain bike (and I have not since it was banned) in Riverview but there are plenty of unleashed dogs there. Evidently some things are more illegal than others.

 
Guest
 

Sorry to hear about your friend and I hope he has healed fully. As I said, I have an incredibly low tolerance towards unleashed dogs as well. However, Riverview is private property and is thus completely irrelevant to this discussion; they have the right to set whatever rules they want.

Jon
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Jon

The undeveloped Riverview property was purchased by the city and they promptly banned bicycles from the area. It was used by bicycles extensively before the city purchased it.

 
Guest
 

Ah, I had assumed you were talking about the Riverview Cemetary, which is private property

EP
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EP

I got knocked off my bike at about 2mph going up the road climb at Sandy Ridge when some dudes bro-pooch ran into my wheel… Landed JUST RIGHT on the ankle I tweaked a couple seasons ago. Thought I’d hurt it, but fortunately the pain went away. Even bikers’ dogs often don’t mix well with other people/bikers. Leave ’em at home or go somewhere with less crowds.

Matt
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Matt

I was at Sandy recently. Lots of dog sh!t everywhere. So cute.

abomb
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abomb

Jon don’t let a silly ordinance code stop you from riding on the Riverview trails. I rode up through there yesterday on my commute home. I’ve been mountain biking for the last 30 years and I’m done waiting for the city of Portland to grant access to single track. I wont ride in there when its muddy but right now the conditions are super nice.

maxD
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maxD

There is a clearly as big a need for unleashed hiking trails as there is for mountain biking. It is disappointing to see the vitriol at offleash dog walkers when I think they are natural allies! Pacific Spirit Park in Vancouver BC has a huge network of trails though a forest; some allow offleash dogs, some are for mountain bikes, some prohibit dogs- but the key is that there are enough trails for everyone. PP&R is doing a horrible job at meeting the recreational demands of the people of Portland.

rick kappler
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rick kappler

The Portland area has some of the most dog parks per capita in the country.

reskied
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reskied

Portland also has a lot of bike lanes – that doesn’t make it a good city for mountain biking. Many people with dogs want to be able to run with their dogs on trails and not have to drive an hour out of the city to do so. Trail running with your dog on a leash is difficult and often risky for both human and dog. Dog parks are often overcrowded/challenging for dogs that prefer less overstimulating social situations. There is plenty of room in this city for most specific use cases of public spaces, with the right planning.

Granpa
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Granpa

What a warped logic. Because someone breaks rules I am entitled to break different rules.

Jon
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Jon

People tend to pick and choose what laws they decide to obey using their own rational when it comes to misdemeanors. Have you ever jaywalked? Did you ever run a stop sign on a bike before the law that allowed it this year? Have you ever gone even one mile per hour over the speed limit? I’m a good driver so I can drive faster than the limit. I’m a good cyclist so I can run that red light. My dog would never bite anyone so I don’t need a leash. There is nobody else on the hiking trail so I can ride my bike on it. I can throw a bottle at a police officer because I saw a police officer beat up someone on tv. Based on what I’ve seen almost every road user breaks some law every time they go out. Usually it is just a “minor” law and there are no consequences.

mark smith
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mark smith

No, people know what laws have points and which ones are pointless.

qqq
Guest
qqq

Maybe some of the dog walkers have your same philosophy, and are letting their dogs unleashed because they’ve seen other people breaking laws.

mran1984
Guest

Most unleashed dogs handle themselves far better than any unleashed human who can only pay attention to the almighty device. Seriously, most of you believe that others should look out for you as you waddle around the city with your face buried in your phone. BTW, if you really want to ride “off-road” you will need a car.

qqq
Guest
qqq

Who are you aiming this at (“most of you”)? Who are you saying is “waddling around the city”–people riding bikes? People who don’t?

What’s your intent behind saying, “if you really want to ride “off-road” you will need a car”? Are you advocating for more off-road biking places within the city?

Chris I
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Chris I

mran is one of the saltiest commenters on this site and, apparently, believes that distracted walkers are a major public health crisis.

Frank
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Frank

Laws reflect power, and only sometimes reflect justice. I see no legitimacy to current Park rules about bikes. Yep, individuals can and should evaluate the justice of laws. The city strongly favors certain constituents (park neighbors) over all others, and shows no regard for facts on this topic. If a hiker didn’t like seeing tire tracks on “their” trail I’d ask if they want equity among users, and does it bother them that bikes have half a mile of trail while they have 30+? If not, there’s not much to talk about or apologize for regarding riding trails in Portland.

And I sincerely hope the ORCMP is never adopted – it would seal our fate as second class users. The committee compromised away far too much.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I was kind of shocked to learn that many of the trails up on Mt. Tabor are open to bikes. So many, in fact, that the map just indicates trails that are NOT open to bikes.
https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/finder/index.cfm?action=ViewFile&PolPdfsID=1712&/Mt%20Tabor%20Park%20Trail%20Map.pdf

Of course, most of these aren’t really worth your time. You can’t really ride them because they are full of walkers and runners, and most of them have big descents with no runout. I guess it’s good if you want to work on climbing and braking.

Racer X
Guest

Related to this article but at the 30,000 FT elevation…Has anyone (in the public) done a review of the proposed [or pending] staffing and operations “cuts” based on a “Title VII filter’ for any Oregon/ SW WA cities…if one uses the programmatic impact of the Great Recession as a guide then one will likely see the heaviest cuts fall on parks, recreation, ‘small multimodal’, eastside vs. police, fire, paving, ‘big-multimodal’, SW side etc.? Typically many a city TIP plan has a Title VII statement…but sometimes little else in this area.

TE
Guest
TE

Its important to provide context for what is going on here. The city’s general fund has taken a major budget hit due to protests against state racism and police violence against Black ppl. The general fund goes to police, parks, fire, and housing. Instead of covering protests costs from police budget, the mayor is defunding Parks and relying on Portlanders to vote for an operating levy to fund parks. Politically, its an easy solution. Practically, its the exact opposite of what Portlanders have been marching for 6 weeks.

Cyclekrieg
Guest
Cyclekrieg

Protip for the NWTA: abandon the ORCMP push. Its a loss wrapped as a win. Instead, push to have unsafe trail layouts removed from the River View Natural Area, agree to pay to get a trail designer that knows urban shared trail layout and build out RVNA as a pilot project.

Frank
Guest
Frank

100% agree – ORCMP would be a major loss if adopted. It rules out everything good for piss-ant poor future possibilities.