Bike access possible in Rose City trail project, Commissioner’s office says

Rose City Recreational Trail Proposed Trail Sections for Schematic Design Analysis. (Source: City of Portland)

Turns out cycling access might be a larger part of a major trail project at Rose City Park and Rose City Golf Course than city staff initially let on.

Two weeks ago we shared concerns from off-road cycling advocates that Portland Parks & Recreation had launched the $4 million Rose City Recreational Trail planning process in a way that ignored cycling. The park and golf course bordered by residential areas and 82nd Avenue, was recommended as a location for unpaved cycling access in the city’s Off-road Cycling Master Plan (ORCMP). That plan reflects a top priority of Northwest Trail Alliance, a nonprofit, to give Portlanders more opportunities to ride off-road in the urban context.

But despite the master plan’s recommendation, Portland Parks staff chose to exclude cycling from the current user survey and framed the project at a public launch meeting last month as a walking trail. Half the project funding comes from a Metro grant that clearly includes off-road biking trails as one of the eligible uses of funds. However, a Parks slide made it appear as though a “Metro grant requirement” was that the project result in “pedestrian trails.”

And when asked at the meeting if bikes would be allowed on future trails, a Parks project manager told a member of the public, “We’re not sure yet.”

After a Parks spokesperson stopped answering my emailed questions about how they treated cycling in this project, I reached out to Parks Commissioner Dan Ryan’s office.

Ryan’s Chief of Staff for Parks Kellie Torres got back to me yesterday and said via email the project is still evolving and that, “In fact, there is an upcoming survey and community meeting in which feedback is being sought— which includes questions and opportunities for cycling.”

Then Torres shared a map with four different trail segments (above), two of which she said could be open to bike riders.

Here’s what Torres wrote about the trails: 

Red Trail: Currently does not exist. Looking at a paved ADA accessible Multi-Use paved pathway with soft-surface shoulder(s) potentially for bikers. East-West connector

Green Trail: Currently exists, 3’-4’ Wide Nature Trail. Community feedback was this trail was too narrow for both bikes and pedestrians. We will improve/enhance soft surface trail.

Orange Trail: Currently exists, 6’-8’ gravel shoulder along NE 72nd St.  PP&R worked with PBOT to create a one-way only for cars from the north to the south and bike/pedestrian access in 2 directions.  We will enhance consistency and safety, and potentially provide opportunity for Off-Road Cycling.

Yellow Trail: Currently does not exist, and it presents slope, access, and golf challenges [Which she defined as, “The proximity of fast-paced bikes to errant golf balls.”] We would build soft surface “Nature Trail”.

Red Circles indicate connections and opportunity zones.
Orange Box is exploration of creating “Safe Routes to School” corridor for children walking to Roseway Heights Middle School.

Torres also shared that a second community meeting will be held in mid-late summer and there will be a forthcoming survey to garner feedback on cycling.

I’ve also heard that advocates with NW Trail Alliance are actively engaged in productive discussions with Parks surrounding how this project evolves.

Stay tuned for more opportunities to provide feedback and attend future meetings.

Rose City Recreational Trail project website.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Michael Mann
Michael Mann
21 days ago

Thanks for pushing back on this. It’s necessary to be the “Squeaky Wheel” on these projects.

I’m perplexed/bemused by the comment [Which she defined as, “The proximity of fast-paced bikes to errant golf balls.”] which seems to imply that cyclists are somehow more at risk of being hit by a golf ball than walkers would be? Someone should point out that at least many of the cyclists will be wearing helmets 😉

bjorn
bjorn
21 days ago

If the golfers are endangering other park users then nets or other abatement means should be used.

Chris I
Chris I
21 days ago
Reply to  bjorn

The best abatement would be converting the back 9 into a mountain bike park.

MontyP
MontyP
20 days ago
Reply to  bjorn

I like to think that if the golf ball hazard was indeed that grave, then golfers and the groundskeepers would wear helmets. Or all the people at major tournaments would be required to wear helmets, or be behind nets.

Oh wait, no one wears a helmet while playing, or spectating, golf.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
20 days ago
Reply to  MontyP

Most of the people that are on golf courses for a reason realize the dangers and keep a look out. Those people who don’t even realize Rose City is a golf course (me being one of them) wouldn’t be looking out for flying hard objects as I traverse the area.

MontyP
MontyP
21 days ago
Reply to  Michael Mann

One time I was “Just Riding Along” on my bike, headed East on Tillamook when a golf ball bounced off the road about 50 feet ahead of me. It bounced and went off into the bushes on the South side of the sidewalk. As I rode towards the tee box, I saw a few guys looking at me. I shouted “Nice Shot!” and a couple of the guys started cracking up laughing while their buddy stood there holding his club and made a “shrug” gesture.

Golf balls leaving the course is nothing new. It’s SUCH fear-mongering. I’ll take my risks with errant golf balls on an off-road path ANY DAY over the risks of biking on a paint-protected bike lane with distracted drivers speeding by.

MontyP
MontyP
21 days ago

I think it’s key to think of these “isolated” areas as part of a larger system/network of on and off-road paths and trails.

I’ll often ride the red, blue, & green trails on my mountain bike as part of a larger loop around Rocky Butte that takes me on some off road paths and trails, and to Gateway Green. You can ride them on a commuter/gravel bike as well, but the downhill off of Rocky Butte can get a little hairy in the winter with mud and wet leaves. Link up the off-road trails at RCP with some paths at Glenhaven or past the school, then over to the Siskyou pathway, then to the trails on the north and east side of Dharma rain, then up onto Rocky Butte, through the Bible College, down the trails onto the north side of RB, then over 205 and onto the I-205 MUP to Gateway Green.

Of course there are a bunch of ways to shorten/lengthen this loop, but this shows how you can link up 5+ off road trails into one longer ~10 mile ride. “Come on out to the NE 82nd MAX station and try it out!”

RB-loop
Joseph E
Joseph E
21 days ago

There are no signs currently banning bike access on the bluff trail (Green), if I recall. Are they planning to ban us now?
The orange trail is just the current road shoulder. The only point that could be useful is if they improve the connection to the northwest.
Right now this should has cars parked on it almost every afternoon.
The red line is only useful for bikes on the west side where it goes thru Rose City Park, the rest is just parallel to Tillamook bike lanes.

What we really need is the Yellow path, so we can get north to south in this area with out having to use 82nd. PPS unfortunately did not provide access when they rebuild McDaniel High School just east of this line, but Parks should be open to access for everyone.

Jeremiah
Jeremiah
20 days ago
Reply to  Joseph E

I agree! Not having access between the high school and the golf course is a real problem. It’s really wild they didnt build a path when they remodeled the HS. Having to use 82nd is downright dangerous and irresponsible to have a 5 lane highway 100′ from a school w/ students walking, biking and driving every day. There is no N/S path for 10 (!) blocks between 72nd and 82nd, yet a tax payer funded golf course and a taxpayer funded High School are the barriers.

Alan Matullah
Alan Matullah
21 days ago

Volunteers have toiled thousands of hours across almost a decade to restore the rose city bluff to some semblance of a natural area. (The bluff is the steep slope immediately above the green path. The area above the yellow path is mostly unimproved). The volunteer work includes removing tons of blackberry vine and other invasives every year, raising native plants for fall plantings and stabilizing plantable areas with wood chips. Whatever access we grant to bicycles on these trails, please keep them far away from that sloped area and nearby paths. Off-road bikes are vehicles that degrade foot trails or any natural substrate and would be extremely impactful on those slopes.

The other thing that hasn’t been mentioned in this conversation is that the e-bike version of off-road bikes are heavy and resemble motorcycles more than bicycles, both in terms of weight and tork. We certainly should stop thinking of e-bikes as the same class of vehicles as bicycles, especially when talking about impact on natural areas. 

Thanks for this coverage, bikeportland!

bjorn
bjorn
21 days ago
Reply to  Alan Matullah

There is no standard size ebike that is closer in weight to a motorcycle than a bicycle. I have an ebike with dual batteries and it weighs about 20 pounds more than my road bike, the 650cc dualsport motorcycle I used to ride weighed 350 pounds more than my ebike with a full tank of gas. Honestly the safari tank full of gas nearly outweighed the ebike all by itself.

Watts
Watts
21 days ago
Reply to  bjorn

What do you consider a “standard sized” ebike? I’m seeing a lot of SUV grade e-bikes out there that look like they weigh a lot more than 20 lbs more than a road bike.

Chris I
Chris I
21 days ago
Reply to  Alan Matullah

Have you explored Gateway Green and seen the pathways through the woods there? Volunteers have spent thousands of hours restoring native plants and building trails. After years of off-road biking (including e-bikes), the trails are in great shape.

Alan Matullah (b)
Alan Matullah (b)
15 days ago
Reply to  Chris I

I don’t think it’s an apt comparison. The restoration work at RCP is completely volunteer driven and the area itself doesn’t have any natural area designation. The topography is also significantly different. The bicycling area in gateway green is also much more expansive. There’s just not enough area to spread the effects of the bike traffic across in RCP.

And why not just go to Gateway Green if you want to have the off-road bike experience? It’s–what–a mile from RCP?

Mitch
Mitch
11 days ago
Reply to  Chris I

Ebikes aren’t allowed at Gateway Green.

(I say this not as an ebike hater (I just passed 6,000 miles on mine) but as someone who emailed them for clarification.)

Cyclekrieg
20 days ago
Reply to  Alan Matullah

I do trail design and design specifically for hiker/biker trails in urban areas. I wanted to discuss your thoughts, specifically:

Off-road bikes are vehicles that degrade foot trails or any natural substrate and would be extremely impactful on those slopes.

Did you know there has been a LOT of studies on exploring that specific issue? That is, do bikes degrade trails faster/worse than hikers? The answer keeps coming back the same: trail management and maintenance (including construction parameters) have far larger impact on trail degradation than users.

If you would like to know more about this, might I suggest looking at this bibliography: https://tinyurl.com/2n577yvf

Alan Matullah (b)
Alan Matullah (b)
15 days ago
Reply to  Cyclekrieg

None of that means that the bikes themselves don’t have an impact. Furthermore, I don’t see our cash-strapped city putting a lot of money or effort behind management or maintenance if the use is expanded to include off-trail bikes. The budget barely covers the current plan and quite possibly won’t cover it all.

Michael Mann
Michael Mann
20 days ago
Reply to  Alan Matullah

Thank you for your work – as someone who walks and bikes the north trail, I appreciate it.
However, I want to push back on the message – which has especially permeated every discussion of bikes in Forest Park – that these parks are the equivalent of urban wilderness areas, and all machines, including bikes and adaptive vehicles, are destructive and should be banned. I was recently part of the fight against that thinking at Mount Tabor. There seems to be a mentality among residents near these parks that walking is somehow a “purer” form of enjoyment of nature, and cyclists on trails are obviously just out seeking a thrill without regard to others or nature. I’m generalizing, of course, but it’s this nimby-ism that’s stagnated nature riding in Portland, and why, despite our wealth of parks and forests, we lag far behind most comparable cities in availability of off-road riding opportunities.
There’s room for native plants, walkers, and cyclists in Rose City Park. No problem.

Alan Matullah (b)
Alan Matullah (b)
15 days ago
Reply to  Michael Mann

There is nothing wrong with applying wilderness values to a natural reserve like Forest Park, including the exclusion of bicycles and motorized vehicles.

The logic you are using can easily be extended to say that bicycles don’t belong in city planning. Someone could dismiss the pro-bike attitude as NIMBYism arguing that bikes are “purer” forms of transportation than cars. (For the record, I do believe bikes *are* purer forms of transportation!)

Porltanders environmental values matter and we don’t have to be like cities that don’t incorporate them into their decisionmaking.

eawriste
eawriste
21 days ago

I feel like this needs a little perspective so let’s mention the elephant in the room. This is a total area of ~144 acres within the city of Portland that is tax subsidized, and benefits a tiny fraction of the people living here. For perspective, downtown is ~640 acres. But we’re hoping that some trails might allow bikes.

Just ignoring the annual tax revenue lost, what are we doing as a culture? This idea is as perverse to me as our odd behavior of using historic trolly lines for seasonal pleasure rides rather than actual transit.

I don’t find golf inherently distasteful. Putt putt is kind of fun. But all that space could go towards so many different things (e.g., basketball, skatepark, food carts, anything else etc.) serving the greater public. Why do we accept this space as is?

Watts
Watts
21 days ago
Reply to  eawriste

It might be interesting to compare the number of people who use this park, on a per acre basis, with the number who use Forest Park, some of which probably sits atop even more valuable land.

Chris I
Chris I
21 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Only if the conversation is about turning Forest Park into a golf course.

Watts
Watts
20 days ago
Reply to  Chris I

I thought the conversation was about valuable land being used by too few people, something a little data should help illuminate.

Chris I
Chris I
20 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Forest Park is not just a place for recreation. You can’t really compare the chemical-laden mono culture habitat of Rose City Golf course with Forest Park.

Watts
Watts
20 days ago
Reply to  Chris I

I agree, but that was the basis mentioned above, which I was responding to.

Even our “regular” parks (most of them, anyway) are regularly doused with herbicide, sadly.

Nathan
Nathan
16 days ago
Reply to  Chris I

Oh no not the chemicals!?

Also didn’t one of posts above, a bit Nimbyish about keeping bikes out, hype up a bunch of good nature restoration? Thus i didn’t consider this a mono ecological habitat.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
20 days ago
Reply to  Chris I

Or maybe Forest Park should be turned into a wildlife preserve and exclude ALL human activity. Seems like the animals would vote for that if they could.

Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
15 days ago
Reply to  eawriste

basketball, skatepark, food carts, social housing for low-income people

Jeff
Jeff
20 days ago

Cyclists already use the green trail frequently and it sure looks like an old road alignment when I ride on it. It wouldn’t be hard to make it wider to more safely accommodate current users.