Portland’s bike-friendly cemetery

Portland’s bike-friendly cemetery

River View Cemetery-5

Through this gate is a somber and spiritual place — that
also happens to be a very popular and important bike route.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

River View Cemetery, perched in lush green hills above the Willamette River just south of downtown Portland, is just like any other cemetery in America except for one major difference: it’s bike-friendly. Even though it’s owned and operated as a private business, River View’s board of directors and management have gone out of their way to accomodate people who ride through their 350 acre property on bicycles.

It’s been almost three years since River View installed bike-specific pavement markings and route signs through their property. I rode through the cemetery myself a few days ago and figured it was time to check in with David Noble, the executive director of the River View Cemetery Association.

Before sharing some thoughts from Noble, here are some photos of how the cemetery accommodates people riding bikes…

This sign greets riders at both entrances:

River View Cemetery-1

These pavement markings (which will be re-painted in a few weeks) give turn-by-turn directions through the cemetery…

River View Cemetery-4

River View Cemetery-2

And these signs make it clear where you are not allowed to ride:

River View Cemetery-3

Noble has been instrumental in working with bike advocates and his board of directors to maintain bike access even as tensions have flared over the years. For those who aren’t familiar with the area, the roads through the cemetery (which are not open to through auto traffic) provide an excellent cut-through route for bicycle traffic that is much safer and more pleasant than other options. The roads are used by many students and staffers from nearby Lewis & Clark College; but they’re also very popular for training rides and weekend warriors just out for fun.

I asked Noble to share his impressions on how things are going since the new signs and markings have gone up:

“Since stipulating a specific route through the cemetery, along with informational signs at each gate, virtually all of the problems that we had been having with bicyclists have disappeared. I was admittedly skeptical whether riders would stay with the selected route, since it’s not the shortest, nor was it the “favorite” of many riders. But I’m happy to be wrong in this case, because very close to 100% of riders follow the route religiously. That percentage drops slightly in the evenings and on weekends, but not to a point of concern.”

Noble says the biggest concern they have these days are the lycra-clad folks, the “trainers” he calls them, who “ride up and down and up and down and up and down.” These more serious riders are the ones who don’t always follow the 15 mph rule. “But fortunately,” he says, “they mostly ride on weekends.”

(Please spread the word that there’s absolutely no excuse for riding fast through River View Cemetery. It is extremely uncool on many levels.)

Noble also wants to share a huge note of caution about the Sellwood Bridge project which has brought heavy construction activity to the lower gate (on Highway 43). This means you should expect delays and use extra caution when coming down the hill to avoid large trucks and all the gravel and dirt that’s on the road. The construction will last for several more years as the bridge is built, so keep your head up and slow down. (When it’s all done, Noble says “the mechanism for bicyclists to access the bridge from the cemetery will be much enhanced,” so that’s great news.)

Do you right through River View Cemetery? What has been your experience?

Learn more about this issue in the archives.

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