Bus service, advocacy group are latest signs of cycling boom in Mt. Hood area

Bus service, advocacy group are latest signs of cycling boom in Mt. Hood area

Come aboard (with your bike),
they’re expecting you.

The City of Sandy and the Mt. Hood area are in the midst of a transportation revolution and bicycling is playing a major role.

Thanks to the huge success of the Sandy Ridge Trail System, the burgeoning popularity of adventure road riding, and bicycle tourism efforts, cycling has reached a tipping point. The excitement around cycling has spurred investment and attention from government officials, inspired a new bike advocacy group, and has had an economic impact on area businesses. Add to that the Oregon Department of Transportation’s ongoing work on the Mt. Hood Multimodal Transportation Plan and you’ve got the ingredients for change.

Two developments we’re keeping tabs on in this area are the launch of a new, bike-friendly bus service along Highway 26 and the growing energy around the Mt. Hood Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition.

“I feel big things about to happen for the villages of Mt. Hood, Government Camp and Timberline Lodge! I can’t help but feel a certain electrical charge in the air while thinking of all the cycling possibilities.”
— George Wilson, Mt. Hood Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition

In early 2013, the Mt. Hood National Forest partnered with Clackamas County to win a $460,000 grant through the Federal Lands Access Program to improve bus service on the Highway 26 corridor. Now that service, the Mt. Hood Express, is up and running. The service is getting ready for the spring season with new buses, a new schedule, and very welcoming attitude to bike riding customers.

Here’s how the Clackamas County Tourism & Cultural Affairs office announced the new bus service in their newsletter sent out this morning:

Bring the Bike, Ditch the Car: Mt. Hood Express Bus

Biking on Mt. Hood this year? Utilize Mt. Hood Express, a bus service for communities along Highway 26, running from the city of Sandy east to Timberline. New buses are equipped with plenty of bicycle and gear storage. For the price of a cup of coffee, you can ditch your car and hitch a ride to many Mt. Hood National Forest and Skibowl mountain bike trails.

The Mt. Hood Express runs every day (except Christmas and Thanksgiving). The western-most stop is on Highway 26 and 362nd (Forestry Center). From there, the bus travels east about 36 miles to Timberline Lodge and Ski Area with nine stops along the way. If you take the TriMet MAX Blue Line to the Cleveland Ave Station (end of the line) in Gresham, the Mt. Hood Express stop in Sandy is an easy, 10 mile bike ride away (and much of that ride is on the Springwater Corridor!). Fares are $2 one way (have exact change). Check out MtHoodExpress.com for more info.

The other exciting development is the newly formed Mt. Hood Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition. This is a group of volunteers who came together last fall to lobby ODOT and Clackamas County to think twice about chip-sealing Barlow Road — a popular place to ride. Now they are focused on developing a new bicycle and pedestrian master plan for Mt. Hood and surrounding towns.

Sandy Ridge loop-9

There are a lot of great roads to explore between
Sandy and Mt. Hood.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Coalition leader George Wilson has actively pursued partnerships with major political and business leaders in the area including; Oregon State Representative Mark Johnson, Clackamas County Transportation Engineering Manager Mike Bezner, Director of Public Affairs/Timberline Lodge Jon Tullis, the Villages at Mt. Hood Board of Directors, Mt. Hood Skibowl Owner Kirk Hanna (yes that Kirk Hanna), the Executive Director of Clackamas County Tourism & Cultural Affairs Danielle Cowan, and others.

In a recent email to supporters of the Coalition, Wilson wrote:

“I feel big things about to happen for the villages of Mt. Hood, Government Camp and Timberline Lodge! I can’t help but feel a certain electrical charge in the air while thinking of all the cycling possibilities for our Hoodland communities. I’m proud to say there are several major players who are able to see the vision and benefits of becoming a cycling friendly community.”

Here’s a list of the group’s goals:

  • Advocate and seek funding for a Bicycle/Pedestrian a Master Plan, with safety being paramount.
  • Repair and improve our deteriorating roads to restore them to acceptable standards by eliminating pot holes and road defects that have become a danger to vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.
  • Develop partnerships with like-minded organizations that understand the value of cycling tourism.
  • Provide future bike lanes and or bike/ped pathways that connect the villages of Mt. Hood.
  • Support Timberline Lodge, Skibowl and the National Forest Service in their efforts to build a well thought-out plan for an improved Mountain Bike Skills Park.
  • Plan and develop a paved bicycle pathway that parallels Hwy. 26, allowing cyclists to ride from Welches to Government Camp/Timberline Lodge, with the ultimate goal of making the connection to the Spring Water Corridor, connecting Portland to Mt. Hood via bicycle.
  • Improve existing mountain bike trails from Timberline Lodge/Skibowl to Welches.

It’s exciting to see so much momentum for bicycling, walking, and transit access improvements along the Highway 26 corridor in and around Mt. Hood. On January 25th, the Mt. Hood Villages Town Hall meeting will focus on cycling and bicycle tourism. We’re sending BikePortland News Editor Michael Andersen to the meeting and stay tuned for his report.

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