Assessing the Off-Road Cycling Master Plan

Portland’s Off-Road Cycling Master Plan is now in its final stage of development, the Draft Plan Phase. The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) is asking the public for feedback on the Draft, which will be incorporated into the Proposed Plan presented to City Council for adoption. As an off-road cyclist in Portland, this is an important opportunity for you to tell the City what you think about the Draft. If you want urban trails, now is the time to elevate your voice.

We encourage you to read the overview or full text of the Draft Plan and then submit your comments by December 31 via the ORCMP comment form, interactive map, or at the upcoming ORCMP open houses.

To assist, we’ve distilled the main elements of the Draft Plan as well as suggested areas of improvement that you may wish to include in your feedback to the City.

Key ORCMP Elements, by the Numbers

5.7 miles of natural surface, narrow to mid-width trails are currently open to cycling across the city.

6 potential sites have been identified for new cycling trails. These include the “Dog Bowl” at N. Willamette and N. Jessup, Forest Park, Lesser Park, Loll-Wildwood Natural Area, River View Natural Area, and Washington Park.

35 miles of trail is the plan’s goal for its 15 to 20 year window. Notable cities offer .2 to 1.6 trail miles per 1,000 residents. In achieving this goal, we’d have reached but 7% of the current trail miles per citizen benchmark.

1 million dollars is an approximate cost to construct those 35 miles of trail. This is roughly one percent of Parks’ current annual capital budget. Sharing existing trails that are now off-limits to cycling could significantly reduce this expense, as well as the related environmental impact.

1995 is the year that the Forest Park Natural Resources Management Plan identified users of the park’s Central Unit as “… consisting mostly of mountain bikers …” (p74).

81 percent, or 36.6 miles, of existing Forest Park trail mileage has been preemptively set aside as pedestrian-only. To unilaterally exclude the great majority of trail from consideration, in light of the plan’s recommendation for a comprehensive trail plan, is absurd.

32 miles of trail access in Forest Park — comprehending statewide participation and outing length data — would place cyclists at parity with pedestrians. To meet this without cutting new trail, 72% of all Forest Park trail mileage would need to be multi-use. Cyclists currently enjoy 2% of all trail mileage in Forest Park.

5 Forest Park trail concepts propose 4 miles of new singletrack plus 4.4 miles of improved firelanes, 2 miles of which would open to cycling. Four disjointed segments, one of which is essentially a dirt sidewalk alongside St Helens Road, is underwhelming. In light of the environmental and economic benefit of trail sharing, or what a proper comprehensive trail plan could produce, these are extravagant misdirections.

9.3 miles of existing Forest Park trails — avoiding Wildwood — can be easily strung together as four cycling loops plus one out-and-back ride. All require re-engineering for sustainability, but that’s the case for virtually all Forest Park trails.

7 to 12 additional bike parks has been set as the citywide goal for the next 15 to 20 years.

13 potential sites identified for new bike parks, including Brentwood Park, Colonel Summers Park, Creston Park, Farragut Park, Fernhill Park, Gabriel Park, Gates Park, Hamilton Park, John Luby Park, Parklane Park or Lynchview Park, Pier Park, Rose City Golf Course or Glenhaven Park, and University Park.

3 urban off-road cycling trail corridors are proposed alongside the I-205 Multi-Use Path, the planned North Portland Greenway, and the Springwater Corridor. This is a welcome sweetener for commuters or mountain bikers riding to their ride.

1 city entity (the Bureau of Environmental Services) is attempting to circumvent established process by dictating a permanent exclusion of cycling from River View Natural Area.

0 dollars allocated, projects initiated, or trails opened to cycling by the process. While none of these potential plan outcomes were intended by the City, they were clearly expected by the cycling community.

NWTA’s Perspective

Two years have passed producing the Off-Road Cycling Master Plan, and we have gratitude for the resources put forth by the City, the efforts made by members of the Project Advisory Committee, and the engagement of the public in the process.

The Draft Plan is simultaneously promising and problematic:

• It presents welcome opportunities for off-road cycling within neighborhoods and alongside cycling corridors.

• Its approach to Forest Park is hobbled by self-contradictory guidance.

• It sets a very low goal for trail mileage in a bicycle-friendly city.

Making a positive impact on the Draft Plan requires every one of us to speak up. Here are our top suggestions of what off-road cycling enthusiasts should be asking for:

• Portland should aspire to, in the words of the current Draft Plan, “set a national precedent for integrating off-road cycling into an urban environment.” The plan’s current goals fall far below the off-road cycling reality of many other U.S. cities. Let’s envision a Portland that lives up to its cycling renown when it comes to riding off-road.

• The plan should elevate science above fear-mongering. Share, don’t set aside, proper trails in Forest Park, River View, and elsewhere— it’s a proven path that reduces environmental and economic cost. Let’s bring a big dose of experience and cooperation between all users to decide what’s in the best interest of each trail.

• The plan should illuminate the current and potential impact of cycling — the second most frequent form of outdoor recreation across all age groups — on the health and well-being of Portland’s citizens, and ultimately the livability of the city.

Submit your comments by December 31 via the ORCMP comment form, interactive map, or at the upcoming ORCMP open houses.