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Updated: 19 weeks 4 days ago

Man says he was ‘hunted’ and harassed by a driver while riding alone on rural road

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 11:24

This is the intersection of NW Skyline and Moreland, where Joe Harris called 911 to report what he calls a “bike stalker”. The suspect was waiting for him in the turnout in the upper left when he summited the climb (from the right).
(Photo: Joe Harris)

Northwest Portland resident Joe Harris says he experienced a nightmare.

“He was slow and methodical, he stared me down, he drove alongside… at other times he drove ahead and waited for me, then simply drifted around incessantly tailing me at about 50 meters.”
— Joe Harris

The way Harris tells it, on Sunday, May 5th, he was riding alone up NW Moreland Road in rural Multnomah County (about 12 miles northwest of the St. Johns Bridge) when he noticed a man in a white, late model Subaru Outback had rolled up behind him. Harris says the driver “hunted” him for a half hour.

“At several points, he drove alongside and attempted to engage in conversation and asked if I needed to stop for water; at other times he drove ahead and waited for me, then simply drifted around incessantly tailing me at about 50 meters,” Harris wrote on his personal Facebook page.

Realizing he was alone and in a place without cell coverage, Harris rode up the hill as fast as he could. When he finally made it to the intersection with Skyline Road, he called 911. As he made the call, he looked up, only to realize that the man in the Subaru had pulled into the turnout to wait for him. Then the man began to drive toward Harris. “He started cutting across the road and straight towards me,” Harris explained. Thankfully he was saved when a woman riding a horse from a nearby ranch emerged onto the road and the man drove away.

It was, Harris recalled later, “Hands down, the scariest lazy Sunday spin I’ve had for decades.”

Map of the alleged incident drawn by Joe Harris.

Two officers from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office responded quickly. Harris said one drove off to look for the suspect and the other escorted him to the (relative) safety of Highway 30. As they made their way to the main highway, Harris said they came up on another rider who said he was also harassed by the same driver.

This man in the Subaru allegedly harassed Harris and used his car as to menace him. To make it even creepier, Harris recalled something like the words, “I fear only Satan” or “Satan is afraid of me” written in red marker on the car’s tailgate.

Reached via phone last week, Harris said the incident has shaken him on many levels. “This guy was on my tail for 30 minutes. He did not give up. He waited for me. And when he passed, he was slow and methodical, he stared me down,” Harris said. The man tried to start conversations with Harris several different times. When he took a swig from his water bottle, the man sped up, drove slowly right beside him, held up a two-liter jug of water and said, “Do you want to stop for some water.”

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Harris, an IT consultant and co-editor of The Outer Line on Velo News, is convinced the man had these interactions planned out beforehand in an effort to expose his vulnerabilities. Harris also thinks the man had a police radio scanner on inside the car so he would know if authorities were onto him. NW Moreland is one of the roads in that area without cell coverage and it has very little traffic — both facts Harris thinks were well-known to the suspect.

The driver is a white male in his 20s to early 30s with closely buzzed hair with a sharp chin and nose and sunken eyes. He’s driving a late-model white Subaru Outback with a smashed right front fender and tailgate.

Portlander Justin Gericke saw Harris’ post on Facebook and it seemed very familiar to him. Gericke was biking on SW Terwilliger last summer when a man with creepy behavior, driving a car with the same description, came up next to him and tried to engage him in conversation. “He appeared to be under the influence of something,” Gericke recalled when I asked him for details. “And he became offensive after I declined to engage him.” Gericke immediately called 911 as the man in the car yelled at him and he only sped away after a long line of other drivers had stacked up behind him.

“I cannot be certain it was the same guy, but the encounter was similar enough to me to think it was,” Gericke shared.

Harris thinks if it was the same man, he’s purposely moved further away from the city to more remote locations. “He’s going further out for isolation for whatever he’s hunting,” is how Harris put it.

I’m still trying to confirm the case with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. I spoke with a deputy today who couldn’t immediately find Harris’ case. The deputy who Harris met out on Skyline isn’t back on duty until Thursday.

Portland-based lawyer and author of Bicycling and the Law, Bob Mionske, has spoken to Harris about the incident. Mionske says bringing a legal case against this driver would be difficult unless there were corroborating witnesses and a positive identification of the driver could be made. “In the meantime,” Mionske shared with me today, “It’s best we all share information about this guy and take precautions until we determine his motivation.”

Please be careful and keep your eyes peeled for the suspect: Harris says the driver is a white male in his 20s to early 30s with closely buzzed hair, a sharp chin and nose and sunken eyes. He’s driving a late-model white Subaru Outback with a smashed right front fender and tailgate. Harris also noticed his front license plate was bent and damaged.

Given the details of this case, we’re concerned that this guy is still out there and poses an imminent threat. Remember, it’s always safer to ride in a group. “Be aware of the roads you’re using when riding alone,” Harris shared, “and try to use routes with more frequent traffic and generally stronger cellular reception for emergencies.”

If you have interacted with this person and/or see him, please call 911 or the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office at 503-988-4300.

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

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Feeling the strength of moms on Mother’s Day

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 09:36

We were all smiles for Mother’s Day.
(Photos: Madi Carlson)

After re-reading my last year’s post On the exhaustion of motherhood and why I want to bike with other families on Mother’s Day I realize this is a tiring time of year for me. Despite the too little sleep and too much stress, thanks to my bike I still feel now as I did back when my kids were little: capable, strong, and free.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

This year, like the last seven years, I celebrated Mother’s Day by organizing a bike ride for CycloFemme, a global collective bike ride born in 2012. Ours was a wonderful three-mile bike ride with a terrific group of attendees: repeat Kidical Mass family bikers, members of the Outdoor Afro Portland Meetup group, a family who came from out of town specifically for this ride, a family with three generations of women, families who heard about the event via their coop preschool, and a dad on an e-scooter (he’d been planning to use bike share, but the scooter was waiting right at the park).

2019 Kidical Mass PDX Mother’s Day CycloFemme ride.

It was the highlight of my day! Granted the rest of my day was spent doing typical mom stuff: propping myself upright with a cold, fever, and pulled back muscle, forgetting to eat breakfast while making the kids waffles, tending to a jammed thumb (therefore that passenger in my lead photo), and forgetting to eat dinner while distracting the kids from a little family crisis. But regardless, it would have been the highlight of any day!

I’m quite feeling this manifesto from CycloFemme after our ride:

“WE BELIEVE: That strong communities are built around strong women. That being on a bike brings us closer to our community, to nature, and to ourself. That from action comes change. That our hope, courage, and strength is amplified when we unite.”

Did you do anything bikey for Mother’s Day? Or do you have a different day (Father’s Day, birthday, Memorial Day, etc…) you like to use as an excuse to get out on two wheels? Let me know in the comments! Thanks for reading.

Remember, we’re always looking for people to profile. Get in touch if it sounds like fun to you. I’d especially like to feature families of color so please get in touch or ask friends of color who bike with their kids if they’re interested in sharing their stories. And as always, feel free ask questions in the comments below or email me your story ideas and insights at madidotcom [at] gmail [dot] com.

— Madi Carlson, @familyride on Instagram and Twitter

Browse past Family Biking posts here.

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Washington County Sheriffs seek reckless driver who hit and injured bicycle rider

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 08:24

(Video of suspect taken by a witness and released by Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office)

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office needs help finding reckless driver who hit an innocent person, gave them the finger, then fled the scene. The victim was on a bicycle and had stopped on the side of the road to check his map.

The crash happened Saturday (5/11) around 2:00 pm on NW Hillside Road in unincorporated Washington County, southwest of Banks.

Here’s more from the official statement:

“According to witness reports, an unidentified man was driving a newer Mercedes convertible around 2:00 p.m. on NW Hillside Road when he hit a bicyclist stopped on the shoulder. The victim was checking his map when the unidentified driver hit him somewhere near the intersection with NW Clapshaw Hill Road. The victim was knocked to the ground, his clothing torn and was bleeding from the leg. The suspect drove off, making no attempt to stop and check on him, and gave the bicyclist ‘the finger’ as he drove off.”

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The Sheriff’s Office says the suspect was seen by other witnesses driving recklessly, swerving into oncoming lanes of traffic. “A motorcyclist told deputies he was almost run off the road and nearly hit by the same driver on NW Old Clapshaw Hill Road,” the statement reads.

The video above of the suspect vehicle was taken by one of the witnesses.

Please be on the lookout for a white man in his 60 wearing a baseball cap with a thick “Tom Selleck mustache” driving a newer, champagne-colored Mercedes convertible.

Anyone with information about this vehicle or driver is asked to contact the Washington County Sheriff’s Office by calling non-emergency dispatch at 503-629-0111.

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

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The Monday Roundup: Trump’s tariffs, SMILE lanes, language matters, and more

Mon, 05/13/2019 - 08:33

Here are the most notable items we came across in the past seven days…

But first, a word from our sponsor: **This week’s roundup is sponsored by our friends at Treo Bike Tours in eastern Oregon, who encourage you to book your all-inclusive, dream cycling vacation today.**

Thanks, Trump: The trade war with China has begun and that means a 25% increase on imports from China that will include many bicycles and bike parts, a price increase that could “devastate” the industry.

The Economist knows: One of the world’s most respected publications offers a sober look at the massive subsidies propping up Uber/Lyft and private car use, and reveals the reckoning ahead as those subsidies begin to vanish. And what if Uber/Lyft put their weight behind congestion pricing as a way to keep their services price-competitive?

Freeway folly: Years after wasting $1 Billion to widen a freeway in Los Angeles, traffic has gotten… wait for it… worse.

Language matters: Outside magazine takes a dive into a topic near-and-dear to our hearts: How law enforcement and the media influence the public’s perception and understanding of crashes.

Oakland’s freeway fight: Seems like we’ve reached a point where it’s becoming more acceptable for politicians to question the primacy of urban freeways. This is a very good thing.

Cars instead of trees: Instead of removing car storage space, New York City will remove dozens of trees to make room for a new bikeway next to Prospect Park.

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Activism works: A councilmember in D.C. has introduced The Vision Zero Omnibus Act that would make protected bike lanes mandatory, prohibit right-turn-on-red, empower people to enforce bike lane laws, and more.

Revolution is coming: New York City transportation activists are some of the smartest, most dedicated in the country. They’ve done the research and have decided to wholeheartedly embrace e-scooters and the “micromobility revolution” as a key strategy to take back the streets from car drivers.

Scootless (no more) in Seattle: E-scooters are coming to Seattle and city officials recently hosted staff from the Portland Bureau of Transportation to seek advice.

SMILE Lanes: A University of Oregon planning professor asked his students to come up with a new name for “bike lanes” that reflects the need to welcome scooters and other devices into the space. They came up with Shared Micromobility Integration Lane with Emergency access, or SMILE lanes. (LIT Lanes is another one we like.)

Who breaks laws more: A new study from the Danish Cycling Embassy says bicycle riders break traffic laws at a far lower rate than car drivers.

Video of the Week: Author Peter Walker posits that while it’s annoying that some bicycle riders break traffic laws, it’s really more a distraction from much larger road safety problems:

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

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We love bikes and Blazers! Show your support on Rip City Ride day this Sunday

Fri, 05/10/2019 - 13:02

(We love our bikes and we love our Blazers. Photos by J Maus/BikePortland)

A man died last week while cycling alone on a mountain road in West Linn

Fri, 05/10/2019 - 08:52

David Schermer remembered on Lawyer Ride Facebook page.

Cycling was a huge part of 69-year old David Schermer’s life. All the way up until the end.

Schermer died while riding his Giant TCR road bike down Pete’s Mountain Road in West Linn last Friday. According to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office there was no other vehicle or person involved in the crash. Evidence suggests Schermer lost control on the steep downhill portion of the road where it ends at the junction of SW Riverwood Drive and SW Hoffman Road (see photos below). The turn to Hoffman is nearly a right-angle and the turn to Riverwood is quite sharp as well. The last section of Pete’s Mountain Road drops over 100 feet at an average grade of about 7% in just three-tenths of a mile.

Sergeant Dan Krause from the Sheriff’s Office told me yesterday that a crash reconstruction and forensics team responded to the scene last Friday around 1:30 pm. Sgt. Krause said they found no skid marks and no other physical evidence of another bicycle or automobile. “It appeared to be an unfortunate incident,” he said. “We found nothing at the scene that would have caused this crash.” Schermer was found in a ditch about 20-30 feet from the intersection. He died on the scene from head and neck-related injuries.

(Left: Aerial view of the intersection with arrow showing Schermer’s direction of travel. Right: Street view looking downhill (southbound) just before intersection of Pete’s Mountain Road and SW Riverwood/Hoffman.)

Schermer was a lawyer and had an office in downtown West Linn about seven miles northeast of where he crashed. He was likely on one of his usual lunch rides on roads he knew very well.

I first heard about this when acquaintances of his contacted BikePortland looking for details about what happened. There were no news reports and law enforcement didn’t make any public statements about the crash. Then I saw a tribute to him on the Facebook page of the local Lawyer Ride. That tribute was written by Schermer’s friend and riding buddy Dan Rohlf.

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Rohlf remembered David as an energetic adventurer who loved to challenge himself on the bike. “David died as he lived — going for it in the outdoors, whether on a bike, climbing a mountain, on cross-country skis, or hiking for miles,” Rohlf shared on Facebook. “He climbed the Tourmalet like Pantani a few years ago, and ripped passes in the Dolomites. But his idea of a perfect ride was a climb to Council Crest, a few laps on Fairmount and Humphrey/Hewett, then Terwilliger to the Multnomah Lucky Lab for pizza.”

“David was just a wonderful guy; he had a smile for everyone, was a fantastic husband, father, and grandfather, and was loved by his family and friends alike… our community has suffered a profound loss,” Rohlf added.

Schermer was an avid mountain climber and member of Portland Mountain Rescue. In a statement on their Facebook page today, PMR wrote, “Willing to hump a big load and quietly competent, David was the rescuer you always wanted on your team. Over his tenure with PMR, he logged almost 1000 hours of training and missions. More important, he was generous with kindness and a cheerful word. David, we always knew you had our backs, we just wish we could have been there to cover yours.”

He had also ridden the Ronde PDX ride several times. This legendary and unsanctioned ride tackles all the big West Hills climbs. This ride is “officially cancelled” but the word on the street is many people are likely to show up tomorrow (Saturday 5/11) to do it anyways (10:00 am from NW 31st and NW Industrial). If you ride it, keep Schermer in your thoughts. Rest in peace David.

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

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Jobs of the Week: Stages Cycling, West End Bikes, Bike Gallery, Go By Bike

Fri, 05/10/2019 - 07:33

There has been a flurry of job opportunities lately. If you want to break into the local cycling industry, or need an occupational upgrade, you’ve come to the right place.

See the freshest listing below…

–> Customer Service Rep – Stages Cycling

–> Weekend Sales Associate – West End Bikes

–> Bike Mechanic wanted – Bike Gallery

–> Go By Bike Manager & Advocate – Go By Bike

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For a complete list of available jobs, click here.

Be the first to know about new job opportunities by signing up for our daily Job Listings email or by following @BikePortland on Twitter.

These are paid listings. And they work! If you’d like to post a job on the Portland region’s “Best Local Blog” two years running, you can purchase a listing online for just $75. Learn more at our Job Listings page.

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

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Weekend Event Guide: Kids, track racing, Sandy Ridge tour, dogs on bikes and more

Fri, 05/10/2019 - 07:18

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Ready? Set. Go!

Check out our picks for the weekend…

Friday, May 10th

***BP Pick!!*** Community Cycling Center 25th Anniversary Gala – 5:30 pm at NW Natural (NW)
We can’t wait to help the CCC celebrate a quarter-century of “broadening access to bicycling”. Join us to toast this beloved nonprofit. More info here.

Your Ad Here

Our Calendar and Event Guide are looking for a new sponsor. Contact our sales manager for details – jonathan@bikeportland.org.

Saturday, May 11th

Cascade Chainbreaker MTB Race – All day in Bend
Bring the family and friends for this spectator-friendly race with a course that includes lava outcrops, open views of the Cascades and flowing singletrack. More info here.

Black Cat Omnium – 10:00 am to 3:00 pm at Alpenrose Velodrome (SW)
Battle Kat Racing invites you to the track for a full slate of sprint and endurance events. More info here.

Bicycling With Kids Workshop – 11:00 am to 1:00 pm at Clever Cycles (SE)
Get ready for the Gorge Pedal ride in July, learn about riding in the Gorge, and hear from family-riding experts at this free event. More info here.

Sandy Ridge Intro Tour – 1:30 to 4:00 pm at Sandy Ridge
Been wanting to discover Sandy Ridge? Let NW Trail Alliance show you the way with this perfect intro ride that will get you familiar with the trails. Everyone is welcome! More info here.

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Women’s Community Ride – 9:00 am to 2:00 pm at Sellwood Cycle Repair (SE)
This newly-announced women’s ride series hosted by Swift Racing will kick off with a 16-20 mile ride at a conversational pace. Newbies welcome and no one will get dropped. More info here.

Kidical Mass CycloFemme Ride – 10:00 am to 1:00 pm at Sewallcrest Park (SE)
A perfect way to celebrate Mother’s Day and join the global CycloFemme movement! This will be an easy, “park-to-park” ride of 2.5 miles, so it’s even doable for tiny pedalers and push-bikers. More info here.

Corvidae Bike Club Pupperpalooza Ride – 2:00 pm at Peninsula Park
Friendly and inclusive local bike club Corvidae wants you to bring your favorite pet along for this ride. They’ll stop at parks to play along the way. More info here.

Willamette River Welcome Ride – 9:30 am at Sellwood Park (SE)
A Portland Bicycling Club ride leader will take you on a 27-mile jaunt of classic Portland paths and neighborhoods. Expect to meet nice people and at least one stop for snacks and drinks. More info here.

Have fun out there! And make sure share your adventures by tagging @bikeportland on social media.

Stay plugged into all the bike and transportation-related events around the region via our comprehensive event calendar.

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

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Photo gallery and recap of the Oregon Coast Gravel Epic

Thu, 05/09/2019 - 17:06

Riders concentrate one one of several roaring descents at the Coast Gravel Epic last Saturday.
(Photos: Harry Apelbaum/Apelbaum Studios)

Before we jump off into another weekend of great riding, how about some inspiration from the last one?

Last weekend I had the great fortune to do the Oregon Coast Gravel Epic. This event was the kickoff of the Oregon Triple Crown, a series organized by Mudslinger Events (a family-run business with decades of experience) of three races/rides throughout our state that challenge riders who want fully-supported, challenging routes and aren’t afraid of bumpy, gravel-strewn backroads.

The Epic, along with its sibling events the Sasquatch Duro in Oakridge May 18th and the Oregon Gran Fondo in Cottage Grove June 1st, tap into the skyrocketing popularity of mass-start rides with big courses where at least some of the miles are on unpaved roads. In case of the Coast Epic and the Duro, half the miles are dirt. One of the things that drew me to this series were the locations themselves. I love an excuse to spend time in these classic, small Oregon adventure towns defined by their jaw-droppingly beautiful natural features.

(Photos: Harry Apelbaum/Apelbaum Studios)

At the convivial start in the parking lot of the Waldport Community Center, I got a chance to check out some of the bikes people chose for the day’s course: either 37 or 60 miles with ample amounts of climbing. As you can see below, there was a wide range of bikes and riders. That’s what I love about the gravel scene: It draws everything from serious roadies to Sunday ramblers.

(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

I opted for the big “Abomination” route which ended up being about 56 miles with over 7,000 feet of elevation gain. What a route! Even though none of the roads were closed, I think I only saw 2-3 drivers all day. It felt like we had the entire Siuslaw National Forest to ourselves. I was happy to not have any distractions because the terrain was tough. Beyond what felt like climbs that never ended, there was a section of timber had been freshly harvested. It left behind soft dirt and fresh, sharp gravel. It was hard to stay upright.

What I’ll remember most were the descents and bucolic scenes riding along the Alsea River.

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(Photos: Harry Apelbaum/Apelbaum Studios)

Unlike last year when I did this ride with my brother and took a more chill approach, this time around I wanted to see how fast I could go. I was on a brand new bike (more on that later), so I was still “moving in” so-to-speak and didn’t feel 100% right. I also had a tubeless tire blowout (total mystery why it happened, maybe too much air pressure?). Thankfully I had a spare tube and threw it in without much hassle. In the end, I did fine; but I know I could do much better. Can’t wait to try again next year!

The Klatch and I will be spending a lot of time together this summer.
(Photo: Ayleen Crotty)

One of the perks of doing Triple Crown events is they are shot by a top-notch photographer. Harry Apelbaum of Apelbaum Studios does excellent work. I’ve shared just a selection of his images from the Epic in this post. See them all here.

If you’re curious about my new bike, you’ll be hearing more about it in the weeks and months to come. It’s a special, Oregon Triple Crown edition Co-Motion Klatch. Made in Eugene and outfitted with Rolf Prima Hyalite wheels (also made in Eugene!), this bike was designed with gravel racing in mind. We tried to make it a perfect blend of efficiency on the road and durability/fun off-road. We’re still in the early stages of our courtship; but so far, I feel like the relationship has serious potential.

Stay tuned for more coverage of gravel riding in Oregon. And thanks to Co-Motion, Rolf Prima Wheels, and Ride With GPS for helping me get out there.

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

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New piece of 40-Mile Loop path is paved and protected on NE Marine Drive

Thu, 05/09/2019 - 12:48

Sure beats a gravel-strewn bike lane next to fast big-rigs!
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Multnomah County and Metro recently worked together to construct a nice new piece of the 40-Mile Loop on NE Marine Drive in Troutdale. And it’s not the only sign of progress for riding in this area — which happens to be a popular gateway to the Historic Columbia River Highway.

Short but sweet.

The new path is about a half-mile long. It starts at NW Eastwind Drive and ends at NW Dunbar. The path connects to an existing section of the off-street path that begins in Blue Lake Park about two miles to the west.

I noticed the new path while on a ride last weekend. Before it was put in, this section of Marine Drive bothered me. It’s in a corner where people drive very fast and there are a lot of big trucks around (see before photo below). The bike lane was always strewn with gravel due to a big turnout space adjacent to the road shoulder. Now it’s clean and smooth and separated from drivers via a planted median.

Before the path was put in.

Multnomah County says the project was triggered by a nearby industrial construction project that required the developer to help fund the path.

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Port of Portland graphic showing two new path segments to be built next year.

If you ride in this area, we’ve also got an update on another project that will add several miles of new paths that will allow for a much lower-stress connection between Blue Lake Park and the Sandy River/Historic Highway.

Remember in 2015 when I shared a few unpaved connections between Marine Drive and the Sandy River Delta area that connected directly to the new bike path over the Sandy River? A Port of Portland project to formalize these connections (that I first reported on in August 2016) has moved forward and is scheduled for construction next year.

(Harlow Road Segment as it exists today on the left, and the currently unpaved levee between Blue Lake Park and Sundial Road on the right. Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Harlow Road segment.

According to a presentation at the recent Metro Quarterly Trails Forum, the Port of Portland is currently in design phase for the “Fairview Gap” project. They plan to construct a 1.7 mile path that will connect to Marine Drive at Blue Lake Park. They will install a flashing beacon west of NE 223rd Avenue and the new path will follow a currently unpaved levee crossing to Sundial Road. A separate segment will pave 1/3 of a mile north-south along the Sandy River to fill a gap between the existing Reynolds Trail and NE Harlow Road.

Construction on these two segments will start next year.

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

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Columbia County to develop 40 miles of unpaved roads and trails near St. Helens

Thu, 05/09/2019 - 09:56

Approximate location of future roads/trails. St. Helens and Columbia River are in lower right.

Columbia County will get another bicycling boost thanks to Travel Oregon and the City of St. Helens.

“We are considered to be part of the Portland region, but we don’t get as much attention as things around Portland. So this is really refreshing and a very good thing for us.”
— Karen Kane, Columbia County

In the hills just west of St. Helens about 37 miles north of downtown Portland, the county plans to develop about 30-40 miles of new unpaved roads for recreational use.

According to a statement from the County, the trails would be built on a 2,400 acre parcel (about half the size of Forest Park) of city-owned timber property known as the St. Helens Tree Farm. The parcels are located around Salmonberry Lake, a city-owned reservoir about seven miles west of Highway 30 on Pittsburgh Road. The vision for the land is to use half the property for motorized vehicles and the remainder for hiking, cycling, and horseback riding. The city also wants to develop a campground.

The cycling trails would be built by Christopher Bernhardt of Portland-based C2 Recreation Consulting, the same firm that has worked on many other sites in the region including Gateway Green and Sandy Ridge.

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(Map: Columbia County)

Columbia County has long sought the attention of Oregon’s statewide tourism board, but local leaders say they’ve often been overlooked. Now that’s beginning to change. Columbia County Director of Communications Karen Kane says, “Travel Oregon has really been focusing on this county. It’s been tough because we are considered to be part of the Portland region, but we don’t get as much attention as things around Portland. So this is really refreshing and a very good thing for us.”

BikePortland readers know that cycling in Columbia County is some of the best in the region. We’ve shared great rides in the past from the Crown-Zellerbach Trail, Bacona Road, Vernonia and well beyond.

So far there’s $20,000 available (thanks to Travel Oregon grants) for planning and development. The Columbia County Economic Team, a group looking to boost the County’s tourism appeal, plans to apply for larger grants through the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to further flesh out the project.

A Stakeholders Forum will be held Tuesday, May 14th at the Columbia County Courthouse in St. Helens. This will be the first step in the creation of a comprehensive plan for the site.

Comments from groups and individuals are encouraged. Send them to Columbia County Parks Director Casey Garrett at casey.garrett@columbiacountyor.gov.

If you love riding in Columbia County as much as I do, and want to discover new roads and meet cool people, consider signing up for the Columbia Century Challenge. It starts and ends in Clatskanie on June 15th.

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

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On SW Corridor light rail line, $100 million could go to garages – or to better options

Wed, 05/08/2019 - 12:43

Huge park-and-rides, like this one at the end of the Orange Line south of Milwaukie, convince a few hundred cars to pull off the freeway sooner. But homes and bikeways near rail would make car ownership optional. (Photo: TriMet)

Editor’s note: This piece by former BikePortland news editor Michael Andersen is cross-posted from Sightline Institute. If you’d like to get involved in shifting tens of millions of dollars from parking garages to other ideas like protected bike lanes, affordable housing or bus improvements, there’s an important 15-minute public comment period coming up Monday, 9:10 a.m. at Tigard City Hall.

The people planning the Portland area’s next light-rail line seem to be steering away from a scenario where taxpayers pour $100 million of precious public-transit funding into a series of giant parking garages.

But unless the public speaks up in the next month, it’s possible that a handful of elected officials will push to build the garages along the “Southwest Corridor” through Southwest Portland, Tigard and Tualatin anyway—despite a mountain of evidence that spending the money on bus service, infrastructure for walking and biking, and transit-oriented affordable housing would do far more to improve mobility, reduce auto dependence and cut pollution.

“If we want to maximize transit ridership, park-and-rides are far less effective than other options… The answer is to make transit an efficient and attractive option without requiring auto use in the first place.”
— Madeline Kovacs from Sightline Institute, during a presentation to the project committee last week.

TriMet staffers seem to be looking to “update their approach” to park-and-rides based on a closer look at the factors that actually drive transit ridership, said Ramtin Rahmani, a volunteer on the community advisory committee for the Southwest Corridor Light Rail Project.

Rahmani (speaking only for himself) said last week that instead of pushing multi-level garages at several stations along the new rail line through Portland, Tigard, and Tualatin, TriMet’s staff members are making the case for surface lots, except at the end of the line near Bridgeport Mall. Their theory is that transit funding is better spent elsewhere and the surface lots would preserve the option of adding housing later.

This proposal isn’t perfect. TriMet has indeed redeveloped a few park-and-ride lots over the years, but it’s rarely removed parking spaces when doing so. That said, as I argued in November, surface lots are less bad than free parking garages. Here’s a slightly updated version of what my Sightline colleague Madeline Kovacs told the rail line’s community advisory committee when it met last week:

At $52,000 per stall, free park-and-ride garages are among the least effective ways taxpayers can spend money on public transit.

TriMet records show that 38 percent of MAX park-and-ride stalls sit empty on a typical weekday. But even if we generously assume a vacancy rate of just 20 percent for Southwest Corridor garages and a 45-year lifespan, then taxpayers are spending about $7 for every weekday a space will be used. The region’s taxpayers would be essentially buying more than the equivalent of a free transit pass for anyone who shows up at a garage, on one condition: that they show up in a car.

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If we want to maximize transit ridership, park-and-rides are far less effective than other options. A 2016 King County Metro analysis found that capital investments to improve bus speed and reliability created more than three times as many riders per dollar as free park-and-rides. TriMet’s own analysis projected that even if several new garages are built for the Southwest Corridor, 85 percent of future trips will come from foot, bike or transfer traffic, not park-and-rides.

If we want to minimize congestion and pollution, the meaningful answer is not to convince 200, 300 or 500 cars—out of the 300,000 that drive to jobs in Portland each day—to pull off I-5 a few miles farther south. The answer is to make transit an efficient and attractive option without requiring auto use in the first place.

This can mean improvements to bus, walk and bike connections to rail. $100 million would be enough to install networks of low-stress protected bike lanes for miles in every direction around all 13 Southwest Corridor stops. It can also mean creating mixed-use, mixed-income developments within walking distance of rail stops—something that becomes much harder if you already dedicated the prime land near your rail stop to parking lots and garages. $100 million would be enough to create or preserve 600 more affordable homes along the corridor.

If we want to improve mobility for lower-income people, the solution is not to offer free parking to several hundred car-owning downtown workers in the hope that some of them might be poor. The solution is to spend the money on things we know disproportionately benefit low-income residents: better bus transit and affordable housing near transit. Both of these also boost overall transit use, creating a self-reinforcing cycle that helps improve the system for everyone.

The huge cost of new rail lines can sometimes make park-and-ride garages seem cheap by comparison. They are not. The cost of building something great, like a new public rail line used by tens of thousands of Oregonians, shouldn’t be allowed to conceal the boondoggle of free garages. Our region desperately needs to spend this money on things that will matter more.

Happily, TriMet staffers made some of the same points themselves to the advisory committee Thursday night. Take a look at this section of their slideshow. (Slide 41, for example: “Parking is expensive.” TrIMet puts it at $52,000 per garage space and $18,000 per surface lot space, plus $1 per space per day to operate.)

TriMet’s staffers also shared this image comparing greenhouse gas pollution for driving alone, for driving alone to a park-and-ride, and for taking bus or bike to a rail station:

Shifting a trip from car to bus-plus-rail is 67 percent better at cutting carbon pollution than shifting it from car to park-and-ride. (Image: Los Angeles Metro. Data from Chester et al, Infrastructure and automobile shifts: positioning transit to reduce life-cycle environmental impacts for urban sustainability goals.

But it’s not TriMet staffers who have de facto power over what ends up in the light-rail plan. The Southwest Corridor Steering Committee, which consists mostly of elected officials from suburban jurisdictions, will effectively decide how many transit dollars and how much transit-adjacent real estate to dedicate to park-and-rides, even within the City of Portland.

The agency could scrap its garage plans and solicit proposals from outside the agency for mixed-income housing developments. If a new building (probably with some shared parking on-site) can generate more transit riders than a parking lot alone, it could be allowed on the site instead.

Another option: The regional 2020 ballot issue that’s expected to fund this rail line could give cities money to install networks of protected bike lanes around each stop. That, along with relatively dense suburban station areas, can be the “secret weapon” of suburban transit ridership.

TriMet’s steering committee will briefly take up this issue at a meeting next week, and will go into depth at its next meeting on June 10.

Free park-and-rides might seem great for transit use. But look closely. They’re not: They soak up money that would be better used making transit better and easier to access. Yes, garages are visible. But that visibility is just a monument to our failure to make transit more attractive than driving in any way but one: free parking.

— Michael Andersen: (503) 333-7824, @andersem on Twitter and michael@sightline.org.

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Traffic Division officers star in new PPB ‘Talking Beat’ podcast

Wed, 05/08/2019 - 12:05

Traffic Division Sgt. Ty Engstrom is featured in the new podcast.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Everyone’s podcasting these days… including your local police officers.

The Portland Police Bureau launched a new podcast today. The ‘Talking Beat’ aims to provide, “Thoughtful conversations that… will inform and provide you with a small glimpse of the work performed by Portland police officers as well as issues affecting public safety in our city.” Among the first three episodes unveiled today included a discussion about transportation issues.

Traffic Division Sgt. Ty Engstrom and Ofc. Chris Johnson joined the host for a wide-ranging chat that included topics like distracted driving, visibility of walkers (or lack thereof), why people are allowed to speed without being cited, and more. (You might recall that Sgt. Engstrom was recently featured in our story about stop sign enforcement at Ladd Circle.)

Below are a few salient excerpts:

“Everybody’s driving over the speed limit. And so the majority of traffic officers give quite a bit of leeway when it comes to speeding.”

On people not being visible enough when outside of a car…

Host: I think people wear all black, they have the choice to wear all black, but then they dart across the street. And they may have the walk signal and they may have the right to wear all black, but the bottom line is, I can’t see you. So I guess you can be right, but you can also be dead right.

Ofc. Johnson:.. my feeling is pedestrians need to have a role of making themselves more visible because the driver as they’re driving, what they’re picking up on is going to be movement or some sort of visibility, being able to identify something out there in the road. And they’re scanning and sometimes the wipers are going, it’s raining, it’s dark. Sometimes the dash lights are there so they can’t see as well as a pedestrian often thinks they’re being seen.

On distracted driving…

Host: What’s the top worst behavior you see?

Sgt. Engstrom: I think there is quite a bit of distracted driving out there. Our current laws talk about electronic device use that is specifically prohibited. However, there’s a lot of other distractions out there. It’s not just those things. Maybe those are the ones that are specifically included in the laws… So I think distractions play a large role and then also speed. Many studies have gone to look at speed and that’s a high contributor to crashes. And if we reduce the speeds, the amount of safety that is a result of that is exponential.

Host: We focus on the texting and the talking on our phones, but I’ve seen people shaving, reading their paper, eating a hamburger. You can cite them for that too?

Sgt. Engstrom: Not under that particular law, but we have other laws that can take into account those types of behaviors. Careless driving is a pretty all-encompassing type of law where if they’re doing anything that can put other people in danger, then depending on the level of that danger and the level of their actions, it could either be a violation of careless driving or it can be a crime of reckless driving, which a crime they can actually go to jail for.

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On vulnerable road users…

Host: We focus a lot on driving behavior, but there’s also the vulnerable road users. There’s bicyclists, there’s scooters, there’s pedestrians. And last year we had a significant number that were either injured or killed. They play a role as well. What can they do to stay safe?

Sgt. Engstrom: So anybody that’s not in a car, they’re not protected by that steel and metal all wrapped around them, and airbags and such. So they’re pretty vulnerable. I’m not going to say that it’s all the car’s fault, all the bicyclist’s fault, all the pedestrian’s fault. It’s everybody together. Everyone needs to take an effort and take a step towards making our roads more safe, and everyone needs to take their safety into their hands as well.

On officers’ discretion on when to cite…

Host: How do you decide whether to give a citation versus a warning?

Sgt. Engstrom: I can’t speak for all officers, but I will say that the majority of traffic officers probably feel the same way as me, that we give a lot of leeway. If we wanted to go out and write tickets for a five miles an hour over the speed limit, we could do that all day long. Everybody’s driving over the speed limit. And so the majority of traffic officers give quite a bit of leeway when it comes to speeding. I’m not going to say a specific number because I don’t want to give a magic number out to everybody and say, “Oh, it’s okay to go this fast because you’re not going to get a ticket.” But we give a lot of leeway. So if we stop you, that means you’ve pushed it real far.

And same thing with a lot of violations. Running red lights or things like that, I have a certain guideline for myself when the light turns red, where the position of the car is kind of a thing, and we give people a lot of leeway.

My goal is not to punish people and impact their lives and their livelihood with a bunch of fines and things like that.

What do you think? Full episode below:

You can learn more about the podcast on their website. If you have feedback or suggestions for future shows, call and leave a message at (971) 339-8868 or email talkingbeat@portlandoregon.gov.

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

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PBOT opts for new signal, crosswalks at notorious Multnomah/Garden Home intersection

Wed, 05/08/2019 - 08:48

Future design of SW Multnomah at Garden Home. View is looking northeast. (Graphic: PBOT)

A notoriously high-stress intersection in southwest Portland with a dubious crash history will get a $2.1 million update that will include new traffic signals, crosswalks, bike lanes and medians.

As we reported back in December, the Portland Bureau of Transportation had two options on the table at SW Multnomah and Garden Home: a roundabout or traffic signals. The intersection sees 17,000 drivers a day and had 33 reported crashes between 2006 and 2015 — including one that killed 77-year-old bicycle rider Andrzej Kurkowski PBOT’s aim for the project was to reduce crashes by improving sight lines, “address queuing issues” (which I assume means to reduce congestion), and create safer spaces for walking and biking.

Here’s another shot of the design:

Based on comments to our previous stories on this project (see in related posts below), readers were split between the roundabout and signal. Both options seemed to have advantages and drawbacks. PBOT asked for users feedback and received over 900 responses to an online survey. In the end, PBOT said the higher cost and longer construction time of the roundabout made the signal a better option.

Here’s how they explained their decision:

“While more members of the community supported the roundabout option, there were concerns about the design not creating a clear separation for people walking and biking. There was also overwhelming consensus for PBOT to build this important safety improvement in a timely manner. With a significant cost difference between the roundabout design and a traffic signal – estimates for a roundabout were approximately $6M versus $4M for a signalized intersection – the bureau determined the best course of action was to proceed with the traffic signal option as securing additional funding for the roundabout design could put the project on hold indefinitely.”

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(Existing conditions)

Also based on feedback, PBOT says they’ll maintain vehicle access to SW 69th Avenue and The Old Market Pub by moving the intersection slightly to the east.

While the project is designed and engineered, PBOT says they’ve already changed the speed limit signs on this section of SW Multnomah from 35 to 30 mph.

Southwest Portland resident Eric Wilhelm told us he’s happy for the immediate speed limit reductions, but it’s not enough. “Just changing the speed limit doesn’t bring the street up to standards for bike lane separation given vehicle speeds,” he said. And with construction of the new signal and bike lanes not scheduled to begin until 2021 (after what PBOT says will be a one year design phase), Wilhelm adds, “In the meantime, this intersection should be an all-way stop and that stretch of Multnomah should have a 25mph speed zone.”

Wilhelm (like many others in our community) is tired of waiting years for fixes to intersections that are well-known to pose imminent hazards for bicycle users. “It’s been nearly three years since Kurkowski was killed here, with no changes. The recent fatal hit-and-run on 45th just south of Multnomah is yet another instance of unrestricted cut-through traffic on incomplete streets which shouldn’t be posted for such high speeds or striped like highways,” he says. “We continue to prioritize moving cars over people or safety and this design is no exception. We need PBOT to take swift and bold actions to connect and complete the networks for people instead of maintaining redundant connectivity for high-speed, high-volume car traffic.”

Funding for this project will come from Washington County ($1 million) and City of Portland Transportation System Development Charges ($1.15 million). Construction is estimated to begin in summer 2021. Sign up for project updates and learn more on PBOT’s website.

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

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You have until Thursday to comment on ODOT Director job description

Tue, 05/07/2019 - 12:46

What would you like to see in the leader of ODOT?
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Department of Transportation is in desperate need of new leadership. Thankfully, the Oregon Transportation Commission is moving full steam ahead in their search for a new director.

The OTC’s search committee — led by Vice Chair Bob Van Brocklin, a lawyer with Stoel Rives LLP — has published a draft version of the job description and will accept public comment on it until this Thursday, May 9th. Below are a few salient excerpts from the description:

The OTC seeks a new chief executive that will manage ODOT through significant change…

The next Director will work effectively with a wide range of people, interests, and viewpoints to achieve an agenda that promotes a stronger economy, a cleaner environment, and a safer network of transportation facilities to serve all of Oregon…

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The selected candidate will support increasing the availability throughout the state of accessible, convenient,
and affordable mass transit, continuing to invest in existing and new facilities that strengthen Oregon’s diverse economies, and advocate for and take actions that result in reduced greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle emissions.

Oregon Transportation Commission Vice-Chair Bob Van Brocklin leads the search committee.
(Photo courtesy Stoel Rives)

Qualifications will include:

– A track record of solving access and mobility needs with holistic, equitable, multimodal investments.

– Demonstrated ability to align transportation investments with environmental, environmental justice, and public health objectives, including but not limited to meeting the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.

To offer feedback on the job description, fill out this form on ODOT’s website.

According to their published timeline, the OTC plans to confirm the new director via the Senate in September.

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

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Momentum builds as Portland preps bid for UCI Road World Championships

Tue, 05/07/2019 - 11:44

(Graphic: Kevin Hyland)

For the past 12 months Portland resident Kevin Hyland has worked 40 hours a week on a big dream: He wants to bring the UCI Road World Championships to Portland in 2026.

Big crowds lined streets around the North Park Blocks for the 2011 Twilight Criterium race.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

This major event is a jewel in professional cycling’s “Triple Crown” along with the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia. It has been held every year since 1921 (except for a pause during World War II) and has only been on United States soil twice: in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1986 and in Richmond, Virginia in 2015.

“I’m not a racer, I’m just a guy who loves riding his bike,” Hyland shared with me during a recent conversation. He said he was inspired to embark on this quest during a ride with a friend who recently moved here from The Netherlands. “We live in such a beautiful place and we’re lucky to be able to ride,” Hyland recalls his friend saying. “I’m surprised we don’t have a major international bike race.”

Since that light bulb went off, Hyland has met with dozens of people. He has shared his vision with advocacy and nonprofit leaders, elected officials, government agency and tourism staffers, business owners, investors, and more. He’s gotten a long list of endorsements from notable Oregonians and bike racers. He’s assembled a team and has put together a 501c3 nonprofit organization that will run the event — and dole out proceeds to grassroots cycling programs statewide.

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“I’m convinced that the greater Portland area has the resources, know-how and passion for cycling, to successfully host the Cycling World Championships.”

While new to race organizing Hyland is a seasoned professional who knows his way around our city. A 50-year Portland resident, Hyland spent 35 years in sporting goods sales for companies like Nike, Gatorade, and Adidas.

Here’s his pitch: “I’m convinced that the greater Portland area has the resources, know-how and passion for cycling, to successfully host the Cycling World Championships. I also believe that this amazing event will bring the community together, re-energize the bike movement in the region, provide a lasting economic boost, and create global exposure for Portland and Oregon tourism, business development, and future athletic events.”

Hyland points to the success in Richmond. When they hosted the event in 2015, over 642,000 spectators from 29 countries took part in the 10 days of events and competitions and the event pumped $161 million into the regional economy.

It all sounds promising; but there’s still a lot of work to do. Hyland estimates he’d need thousands of volunteers to pull off the event. And then there’s the Local Organizing Committee (LOC), a group of experts that can handle the finances, legal issues, media relations, IT, and so on.

If Portland is chosen as host, the event would consist of 12 competitive races: Six road races and six individual time trials (where racers go against the clock). Course routes and start locations are still being ironed out (Hyland has met with leaders of the Portland police, transportation and and fire bureaus); but we know the road race would be about 80-140 miles long and would include the West Hills. Time trials would be on the east side and could be held on a major arterial. All events would finish on NW Naito Parkway.

In addition to the races, there would be ancillary events like live entertainment, festivals, and expos. The largest pro cycling teams from around the world would bring their team vehicles, superstar riders and devoted fans — all of which would add to the excitement.

Suffice it to say, Hyland and his team have a lot of work ahead of them.

Right now they’re putting together an initial bid that’s due January of next year. If the UCI accepts that, they’ll visit Portland to meet the Local Organizing Committee to see if we’re World Championship material. If they like what they see, a formal bid is due in July. The UCI will decide on the 2026 host city at their annual conference in September 2020.

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

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Grab the kiddos and get ready for the Gorge Pedal

Tue, 05/07/2019 - 07:11

Biking with kids in the Columbia River Gorge.
(Photos: Madi Carlson)

As much as I love Portland proper and could happily spend all my days right here, I adore visiting the Columbia River Gorge — the waterfalls, the mighty Columbia, the trees, the flowers, the expansive views!

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

My next visit to this gorgeous region will be on July 20th for the Gorge Pedal 11-mile Family Ride. On that note, I want to give you a heads-up an informational session for Gorge-curious family bikers that’s happening this weekend:

Doing the Gorge with Kids on Bikes
Clever Cycles (900 SE Hawthorne Blvd)
Saturday, May 11, 2019
11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
BikePortland Calendar listing

The views are beautiful, including those of the areas bouncing back from the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire.

There will be cookies and juice! And answers to any and all questions you might have about biking with kids for an event of this length in the Gorge. Gorge Pedal organizer A J Zelada will answer all your questions about the event (route, parking, safety, post-ride celebration) and I’ll answer family-biking-specific questions (gear, supplies, snacks, kid corralling).

Our previous trips to the Gorge have been via tour van with Cordilleran Tours.

If you’re at all interested in the July event, come to the informational session, no need to have registered — kids 14 and under are free and adults are $29 for the Family Ride (and $40 for the 40-mile Gorge Climb Ride).

Traveling through the Gorge on bikes is simply the best!

The 11-mile ride is a 5.5-mile out and back along the car-free portion of the Historic Columbia River Trail starting at Cascade Locks with turn-around stop at Bonneville Dam and Herman the Sturgeon! There are additional educational stops along the way and a big after-party at Cascade Locks at the end.

Check out the Ride Advice and FAQ for even more information.

Thanks for reading and I hope to see you on Saturday!

Remember, we’re always looking for people to profile. Get in touch if it sounds like fun to you. I’d especially like to feature families of color so please get in touch or ask friends of color who bike with their kids if they’re interested in sharing their stories. And as always, feel free ask questions in the comments below or email me your story ideas and insights at madidotcom [at] gmail [dot] com.

— Madi Carlson, @familyride on Instagram and Twitter

Browse past Family Biking posts here.

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No paint, no problem: Oregon passes bike lane clarification bill

Mon, 05/06/2019 - 15:28

This language will now exist in Oregon law.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

“The rules of the road just got clearer today.”

That’s the statement from The Street Trust Executive Director Jillian Detweiler upon hearing House Bill 2682 passed the Senate today by a vote of 20-0 (with 8 absent and 2 excused), clearing its last hurdle before being signed into law by Governor Kate Brown.

The bill adds language to Oregon’s definition of a bicycle lane (ORS 801.155) to clarify that a lane still legally exists in an intersection even when the paint striping does not. It sounds like a no-brainer right? After all, no one would assume intersections are a legal free-for-all for other road users just because there’s no lane striping.

“When I read that a cyclist was killed and the driver citation was thrown out under this ridiculous line of reasoning, I knew something had to be done.”
— Ted Light, member of The Street Trust

Unfortunately, when bicycle users are involved, people often lose their minds. That’s what happened with two Oregon judges who ruled in separate cases that a motor vehicle driver could not be guilty of failure-to-yield to a rider in a bicycle lane (ORS 811.050) because the rider was in an intersection and there was no lane striping (thus no bicycle lane, thus no right-of-way).

To stop this madness, The Street Trust and Portland-based lawyer Ray Thomas put forward a bill to make it crystal clear: “A bicycle lane exists in an intersection if the bicycle lane is marked on opposite sides of the intersection in the same direction of travel,” reads the text of the new language that will be added to Oregon’s definition of a bike lane.

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Despite what seems like a common sense housekeeping bill, Detweiler says she faced opposition from lawmakers in Salem. “13 state representatives voted against the bill,” Detweiler shared in a statement today. To make sure it passed, Detweiler and The Street Trust Advocacy Director Richa Poudyal testified before a House committee and met with electeds to explain the bill and build support. “The effort demonstrates the need to build elected leadership who support alternative transportation and to have dedicated advocates like The Street Trust to protect the rights of cyclists, pedestrians and transit riders.”

The bill’s chief sponsor was House Rep. Rob Nosse, a democrat who represents southeast Portland. Impetus for the bill came from Ted Light, a Street Trust member who lives in Rep. Nosse’s district.

“When I read that a cyclist was killed and the driver citation was thrown out under this ridiculous line of reasoning, I knew something had to be done,” Light said. “It was great that Representative Nosse and The Street Trust put their shoulder to the wheel to make this bill happen.”

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

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New diverters aim to rescue Arbor Lodge residents from cut-through drivers

Mon, 05/06/2019 - 12:01

*New diverters on North Jessup and Willamette (right). Click to enlarge. (Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

There was a mix of chaos and contentment in the neighborhoods around the bluffs of North Willamette Blvd this morning. Residents seemed thrilled that the City of Portland had finally done something significant to end the scourge of cut-through drivers; while many drivers were befuddled and beside themselves at their newfound inability to use small neighborhood streets as shortcuts on their way to work.

(Graphic: PBOT)

Over the weekend the City of Portland began installing diverters at two intersections as part of their North Willamette Neighborhood Greenway project. In an attempt to create low-stress conditions for walkers and rollers and encourage drivers to stay off residential streets, PBOT has prohibited some turning movements from drivers at N Villard and Willamette and N Jessup and Atlantic. Both diverters are meant to keep drivers on Rosa Parks Way and Greeley.

When I rolled up on the new Villard diverter this morning crews were still putting on the finishing touches.

For the steady stream of drivers coming southbound from Rosa Parks, the inability to turn left (eastbound) at Willamette threw some for a loop. People tried to turn around on the narrow street as soon as they realized they couldn’t go left (because driving around the block would have been too hard?). Others sped away angrily. One man rolled down his window and shouted at me: “This is just going to make people mad! We’re just trying to get to work!”

Chaos!

It’s very tight when both lanes are being used by drivers.

The morning march of cut-through drivers on Villard about to discover the diverter.

Outside the cars however, it was a nice morning and neighbors were out talking to one another and walking their dogs. I met Hazel (a dog) and her owner Dave. We stood in the street (you can do that when drivers aren’t allowed to have their way) and he was clearly happy about the change.

“It’s just so irritating how people use this street to fly through. We call it the ‘flyway’ because drivers have no regard for people with kids or pets,” Dave shared. “Yes, it will affect us too, but we’re willing to make the quote-unquote ‘sacrifice,'” he added.

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PBOT rendering of N Willamette at Villard.

PBOT rendering of N Atlantic and Jessup.

I also overheard two women on the sidewalk: “I just hope they [the drivers] all find a different way to get to work,” one said. “They will, eventually,” replied the other.

As you can see in the final design rendering, the new diverter on Willamette prohibits left turns from Villard. It also forces drivers going east on Willamette from continuing south toward Jessup or Killingsworth. Bicycling access is maintained in all directions and there will be a bike-only lane striped for southbound Willamette.

One design issue PBOT might need to address is that people turning left from Willamette (northbound) onto Villard don’t have much room when someone is also turning right onto Willamette (westbound). It’s very tight. Perhaps forthcoming lane striping will help. Or perhaps it’s fine because

PBOT took this step after a traffic analysis showed unacceptable volumes and speeds of drivers. Two blocks north of the new diverter at Willamette and Villard, 69% of drivers were going over the posted 20 mph speed limit. You might recall Villard was the street where someone ripped down and defaced “20 is Plenty” signs one year ago.

Another diverter has been installed just a few blocks away at N Atlantic and Jessup. Drivers try to avoid congestion on Greeley Avenue by taking Atlantic to Killingsworth. A couple who lives near that corner today was eager to share their approval of the diverter. “This would usually be all backed up by now,” said a man walking his dog as he pointed to Atlantic.

Instead of people in cars idling bumper-to-bumper on small, residential streets, people were out on foot enjoying the sunny morning.

Signs, education, and threats of enforcement can only do so much. Concrete and physical barriers are what it takes to force behavior changes and reduce the harmful impacts of driving.

Let’s do more of this! And when our larger, collector streets become too crowded maybe we’ll finally get the political and public will necessary to dedicate more space to cycling and transit.

UPDATE, 5/7: PBOT has completed the installation. Here’s what it looks like as of today:

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

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The Monday Roundup: Law-breaking philosophy, WePark, Baltimore blues, and more

Mon, 05/06/2019 - 10:04

This week’s Monday Roundup is brought to you by the Community Cycling Center, who invites you to their 25th anniversary Momentum Gathering this Friday May 10th!

Here are the most noteworthy items we came across in the past seven days…

Safely breaking the law: This excellent piece from David Alpert at Greater Greater Washington says that not all traffic laws are equal and pretending it’s safer for bicycle users to follow them is spurious.

Car storage is too cheap: WePark is a new initiative that aims to highlight the value of curbside real estate (a.k.a. on-street parking) and how absurd it is to give it away so cheaply to private car storage.

Bad Baltimore: When a politician says bicycling infrastructure must “work for all,” you know you’re about to get shafted. RIP Baltimore protected bike lane.

Welcome, scooter comrades: Chicago’s Active Transportation Alliance is welcoming e-scooters with open arms in hopes the new two-wheelers can join their fight against auto users for more dedicated roadway space.

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L.A.’s new bikeway: Los Angeles has opened up a two-way protected bike lane on a major downtown street.

Mode shift goals are no longer enough: The world’s most iconic cycling city has announced plans to completely ban diesel and gas-powered vehicles by 2030.

Racing’s “Unicorn Prince”: Noted sportswriter Jason Gay has written a profile of the greatest bicycle racer of the current era: The incomparable Mathieu van der Poel.

Traffic injustice: A methodology that connected police data on traffic crashes to hospital records showed that older, lower-income, and people with black/brown skin are more often victims of traffic violence in San Francisco.

Protection matters: Not sure if we’ve shared this yet; but it bears repeating: New research shows the importance of physical protection (not parked cars, not paint) when it comes to bikeways.

Typical selfishness: Authorities in Germany have seized 120 high-end supercars that were allegedly racing on open roads at speeds up to 155 mph.

E-bikes for the win: I would love to see what would happen on our streets if we had access to high-performance, dockless electric bikes that could go 30 mph. How about a pilot of these PBOT?

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

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