Comment of the Week: Bike trail advocates should take a lesson from dog parks

Comment of the Week: Bike trail advocates should take a lesson from dog parks

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No leash in Normandale Park, no problem – now.
(Photo: Michael Lin)

“When everyone breaks the rules, the rules bend.”

That was the hesitant declaration of BikePortland reader axoplasm, responding Friday morning to Thursday’s report about the organized resistance to mountain biking trails by people whose private property abuts the public land where they’d be built.

Axoplasm isn’t so much responding to this latest twist in Portland’s quest for singletrack, but more to the seeming futility of the quest itself. (As another reader, Charley, put it, “We’re not trying to build a lego tower to the moon, just open some trails to people who ride bikes.”)







Here’s the comment:

MTBers are some of the most play-by-the-rules types you will ever meet. In places with less cronyish local politics that works in our favor. But in Portland we’ve been playing by the rules for 25years and our reward is ever less singletrack.

I will return as I always to my analogy with dog owners (I am one). There is no Northwest Dog Alliance or advocacy group. We have no unified voice in demanding essentially unlimited access for dogs to every park, playground, school, and natural area within 100mi of Portland. We just take our dogs there and do whatever we please. So many people do it, so blithely and with such entitlement, that the government response has been to try to lure dog owners & our pets into abundant, well-supplied, well-distributed public dog recreation zones.

I’m one of those play-by-the-rules types so this is hard for me to say. But somehow I don’t feel conflicted letting my dog off-leash at the baseball diamond. When everyone breaks the rules, the rules bend.

Mountain biking is a legitimate recreation activity with demonstrated demand. If our public officials can’t get it together to designate some public spaces to accommodate that demand, we should not feel conflicted to use those spaces anyway. If enough of us do it, we might find ourselves actually winning these battles for a change.

Here at BikePortland, we don’t advocate rule-breaking. But axoplasm’s analogy to dog parks is worth thinking about, and not just in the context of mountain-bike singletrack.

Yes, we pay for good comments. This regular feature is sponsored by readers who’ve become BikePortland subscribers to keep our site and our community strong. We’ll be sending $5 and a little goodie bag to axoplasm in thanks for this great addition. Watch your email!

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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