Video: Don’t miss the quiet calm of carfree NW Cornell Road

Posted by on October 8th, 2021 at 9:17 am

Consider this a friendly reminder to get on your bike, lace up your shoes, click open your e-scooter or Biketown app, and get up to Northwest Cornell Road in the West Hills. This beautiful road has always been a favorite for Portlanders seeking a quick escape from the city, and now the City of Portland has made a big chunk of it carfree.

As we shared back in August, repairs to the two tunnels on the section of Cornell between the Portland Audubon Society and NW 30th (where the houses end) mean that work crews need full access to the main road. But in a serendipitous cycling twist, the paved paths that go around the tunnels mean the road can remain open for non-drivers.

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I finally got a chance to head up there on Thursday and it was wonderful. The lush forests around Macleay Park are have been renewed with recent rains and leaves are beginning to turn. I didn’t fully appreciate the carfree closure until I got off my bike on the section between the tunnels and just sat in the road and soaked in the silence. Here are a few pics…

It’s silly that weeks after the closure began, PBOT still hasn’t put up “Except Bicycles” signs at the main access point of NW 25th and Lovejoy. This is the point where some people will assume it’s impossible to get through even if you want to walk or ride:

The paths around the work zones are narrow so plan accordingly:

If not for these old paths around the tunnels, we wouldn’t have this opportunity!

Go ahead, take up as much space as you want:

I highly recommend going up there and feel free to linger and loiter. Take your time! Bring a picnic and a speaker and enjoy this space.

Be mindful that the work zones near the tunnels have created a pretty narrow path that’s shared by all users — people going up and down — so be nice and go slow. To access this area from downtown, get yourself to NW Lovejoy and 25th (I prefer the bikeway streets of Flanders, Johnson, and 24th), then start heading up the hill. Just ignore the “Road Closed” sign that doesn’t mention bikers and walkers are still allowed (come on PBOT!).

According to the city, the work and the closures will be happening through spring 2022.

Have fun!

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

Please don’t bring a speaker.

Al
Guest
Al

Just rode this and it’s anything but relaxing. I watched a car drive right through the “Road Closed” sign/barriers and try to drive through the construction area until they were stopped by a fence. Once you get to the construction area, 10-15 construction workers are all standing across the narrow path and their machines are so deafening you basically have to yell to ask them to pay attention and let you through. Not worth it imo. Also please don’t bring a speaker.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Weird. I’ve ridden this a dozen times since the closure, and haven’t encountered any of what you describe. I think you just got unlucky with your timing.

TakeTheLane
Guest
TakeTheLane

Thanks for the reminder! I used to ride up Cornell to Thompson to Skyline frequently, before the Forest Park development really got going in the 1990s. Now I avoid it (and ascending westbound Germantown Rd.) like the plague (pandemic?). I still say that the developers should have been forced to improve the road with wide bike lanes on Cornell and Skyline. They were popular bike routes even back then.

EP
Guest
EP

Are they working on this on weekends? If not, maybe that’s the golden time to head out there.

Bike Guy Ty
Guest
Bike Guy Ty

I was up there around ~5pm today. Didn’t see anyone working.

Michael Kinsley
Guest
Michael Kinsley

Hey Bikeportland — I’ll just throw this out there: my wife and I just moved to Portland. She fell in love with a house on Deschutes, so that is where we will be living. I’m used to riding my bike everywhere, but the traffic out there is more than slightly intimidating. Any advice on rides and routes? Don’t really want to become one of those people who puts their bike in the car in order to go for a bike ride.

Lisa Caballero (Southwest Correspondent)
Editor

OK, it’s been a long week, so I’ll just throw this back out to you: are you THE Michael Kinsley? Journalist, editor …? I mean, you used both an em dash and a colon in your first sentence.

Michael Kinsley
Guest
Michael Kinsley

Sorry Lisa, I’ve met my namesake, but I’m just a retired high school teacher…not an acclaimed journalist.

Lisa Caballero (Southwest Correspondent)
Editor

I bet you were the best high school teacher, I can tell.

BikePortland has 16 years of content that is searchable with the little magnifying glass below the banner. Search with “ride” and your location and see what comes up. At the least you might get organizations that put together rides in your area.

Rick S
Guest
Rick S

Michael, check out the app ‘Ride With GPS’. Based in Portland. they have a handy feature called Heatmap. It shows public rides where most cyclists have created routes or gone on rides. Doesn’t assure you of quieter roads but a place to start exploring. I use RWGPS for all rides and route planning.

https://ridewithgps.com/heatmap

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

I was curious I pass through this area often, but this post convinced me not to visit. A whopping two mile stretch which serves as an attractive nuisance for people wanting to ride like they’re the only ones out there?

That the road is wide and transpo is human powered does not eliminate the need to be mindful of others who may be out there (especially those going the opposite way). I hope those who must subject others to what they consider entertainment by blasting amplified racket will consider the car-free waterfront which is a better fit for that sort of activity.

I look forward to the completion of this project as this closure as it will push significant traffic through much better places to ride.

Merlin
Guest
Merlin

My buddies and I have been there twice since Cornell has been closed. Our rides there have been on Wednesday. I will certainly go back on a dry day as long as this section stays closed.
Just made a route coming back east over Ned Flanders crossing and will soon make a route over the new Blumenaur Bridge.

X
Guest
X

Well, the shoulder of I-84 E of the Sandy River is available as pretty much everything that a closed stretch of pavement into the W hills is not.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I’ve really been enjoying this closure the past month or so. Cornell to Thompson to Skyline, down Germantown, and back via St. Johns and Willamette has been a regular loop. I typically don’t encounter any cars during the climb on Cornell or Thompson.

For those who don’t want to mix it up with cars on Skyline or Germantown, consider climbing up Cornell/Thompson, then looping back to Cornell on NW 53rd.