When the Oregon State Scenic Bikeways Committee meets on November 9th, there will be a lot of introductions needed. That’s because it’s been about 43 months since the last time it convened.
There are currently 17 officially designated Scenic Bikeways throughout the state, all created with an eye toward the economic development boost that comes with bike tourism. But progress on development of the network has been largely on pause since 2019. A Covid hiring freeze and the tourism slowdown during the pandemic didn’t help matters. But in March of this year we saw the first ray of light when Oregon Parks and Recreation Department awarded a contract to Cycle Oregon, a nonprofit based in Portland, to administer the program.
Cycle Oregon has built a stellar reputation for their week-long “Classic” ride that has hosted thousands of paying customers on the best routes throughout the state since it was first held in 1988. Cycle Oregon also has many working relationships with small-town business owners and advocates — just the type of people who can dream up and implement new scenic bikeways.
The Cycle Oregon staffer responsible for the program is Clint Culpepper, a former active transportation coordinator at Portland State University and owner of the Portland Trophy Cup race series. He shared recently that Oregon State Parks has been very receptive to adding new routes.
The first new route up for consideration — one that will traverse 65 miles of riverfront forest roads between Oakridge and the town of Rainbow along Aufderheide Memorial Drive — is on the agenda of the Scenic Bikeway Committee’s first meeting since March 2019 that will take place November 9th from 1:00 to 4:00 pm via Zoom.
Also on the agenda of next month’s meeting will be a discussion of how to recruit two new members of the committee. If Oregon is going to create more scenic bikeways, we’ll need a capable team to plan and vet the routes. If that sounds like fun to you, hit that link and apply for the positions.
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I applied 🙂
Maybe a dumb question but are bikeways protected and/or car-free? Is there a list of family-friendly routes (like Banks/Vernonia) which are safe for all ages?
They are certainly not protected nor car-free. In fact one of them in Salem is about one of the worst roads you can ride in town on as far as safety is concerned. It’s scenic for sure, but most people only ever ride it if they have to (or the Ironman uses it for their route).
A long term goal of mine is to compile and publish a map/list of the best routes for different activity types (best routes for commuting, getting to school, training, etc) for at least the Mid-Willamette Valley for starters. Other than having map and bike skills and opinions, I’m not sure how to even get that started.
You’re definitely right about the segment in and near Salem. I’ve begun to explore options that would be safer and more enjoyable.
Currently, there are only two segments within the program that are car-free; the multi-use path segment of the Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway and Banks-Vernonia as part of the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway.
One topic that we will be exploring is the creation of family friendly/accessible/beginner routes and how they might fit into the Scenic Bikeways program. It’s something that I’d certainly like to see.
Thank you so much for coming in here to answer mperham’s question! That is so appreciated. (I actually started to, then deleted it, thinking, ‘This is something Clint should answer’)
I’m so glad you are in that position.
I lived and cycled in and around Oakridge/Westfir for over 10 years. The Aufderheide actually runs from West Fir to Rainbow. I have wanted to ride with cycle Oregon for a long time…. BUT because of age and physical disabilities have no interest or ability to climb 5366 ft in less than 26 miles some of it 10%+ grade….
The Willamette Valley Scenic Bike way is doable except the hill south of Brownsville…when there is a more scenic flat route that bypasses it and is actually a historic wagon road!
Tim – Rerouting Scenic Bikeways is always a possibility. I’m currently looking at a few potential reroutes of the Willamette Scenic Bikeway but I’m not sure that we would look at rerouting to avoid hills as that is often what brings folks to the routes. That being said, would you mind sending me the route that you mention? I’d love to take a look at it.