Bicyclists' behavior in Portland park may lead to new regulations
Do mountain bikers have the right to create their own trails in public parks? Some in Portland think they do.
Monday, November 15, 2010 - 14:13
Forest Park is about 8 miles long, encompasses about 4,000 acres and is just minutes from downtown Portland. The park has long been a favorite of locals who want a pleasant hike through the forested hillside. But the calm of the park has been disrupted by bikers who are carving their own paths through the area. This disruption may lead to regulations and fines for those caught in the act of tearing up the park for their own enjoyment.
A recent show on Oregon Public Broadcasting highlighted the history of the park and the intent of the original city leaders who claimed the land for public use. Within that TV show, and during filming of the piece, the host found a trail being carved into the woods by a biker. Caught red-handed, the biker felt it was his right as a bicyclist to create his own riding paths. These paths have been covered, hidden and generally kept from view to avoid detection. What's more, these trails usually intersect with hiking trails. As bikers speed along the illegally cut paths, they criss-cross walking paths and occasionally run into hikers spending time in the woods.
I had an opportunity to chat with some on the Forest Park Friends of Parks committee. Soon language will be drafted to enact specific regulations to make it a crime to purposely alter the paths within the park. According to some critics, elderly hikers are often frightened by bikers speeding along the intersecting trails. According to some of the bikers, they are entitled to create their own bikeways.
There has been considerable angst between motorists and cyclers around Portland, and the emotions seem to be mounting. Cyclists say they are entitled to ride in-lane on city streets and highways, thereby hampering traffic. Cyclists have been injured by motorists fed up with the overbearing attitudes. There has been at least one death due to road rage on Portland streets. Much more common are cyclists kicking automobiles, spitting on drivers and passengers and becoming generally rowdy. It has been reported that some cyclists with video cameras mounted on their helmets will incite a motorist to behave badly, and then capture the behavior on video for later exposure.
Portland is a relatively friendly place to visit and live. If you do visit, plan on encountering a cyclist. The vast majority of bikers are polite and aware of the difference in mass between a biker and an automobile. The city of Portland is working on a compromise and that may be a concept bikers will abide by. Many residents are not so sure.
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