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Bike projects win big with Clackamas County tourism grants

Bike projects win big with Clackamas County tourism grants

Biking on and around Mt. Hood will get even better.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Clackamas County Tourism & Cultural Affairs office has announced 10 projects that will split $200,000 in grant funding and seven of the projects support bicycle-related tourism. This news will surely continue the strong momentum for bike tourism in “Mt. Hood Territory” that we reported on back in July.

These tourism development grants are funded through Clackamas County’s 6% lodging tax which was passed by voters in 1992. It applies to all lodging receipts over $15 per day from county hotels, campgrounds, events, vacation home rentals, and other types of lodgings.

Here’s a look at the exciting, bike-related projects that will get a boost from these grants:

Meldrum Bar Bike Attraction & Events ($7,500)
This project is being worked on by the Oregon City Trail Alliance and it is spearheaded by the owner (Blaine Meier) and staff of of First City Cycles. It will improve and expand a progressive bike jump track at Meldrum Bar Park in Gladstone and a pump track in Oregon City. Total project cost is $68,000 and this grant will be used toward a feasibility study. Check out the video below for more info:

Estacada Cycling / Visitor Plaza ($30,000)
The “Bike Comfort Station” project will build a public plaza in Estacada “designed to attract bikers and other overnight visitors to the City and surrounding area.” The plaza will be adjacent to a public restroom and overnight parking and will include bike racks, an info kiosk, benches and signage. Expected completion in 2014. (Total project cost: $98,325)

Sandy / Boring Corn Cross ($6,000)
The City of Sandy wants to bring people out to a major annual cyclocross event in a rural part of the county. Their goal is to host a national-level championship race. This year’s inaugural Corn Cross event drew 268 visitors. (Total project cost $8,300)

McIver State Park Hiker / Biker Campground Shelter ($19,200)
Milo McIver State park is already a popular bike-camping destination. This Oregon State Parks project will add three “bike-in” shelters that will include a covered picnic table, secure bike stand, solar-powered device charger and a wind block. Bike traffic at Milo McIver is expected to increase after the Cascading Rivers State Scenic Bikeway (which runs from Estacada to Detroit) is adopted. (Total project cost: $40,160)

More trails coming to Sandy Ridge.

Mt. Hood Moderate Lift-Served Mountain Bike Trail ($40,000 split between 2013-14 and 2014-15)
This project will create a new, “lift-served” bike trail in the Upper Mountain area of Mt. Hood Skibowl. Hurricane Racing is the project lead. They say this project will expand Skibowl’s biking options and allow them to open for more days in the season. (Total project cost: $83,500)

Mt. Hood Area Mountain Bike Clinic Series ($8,350)
This award will allow Otto’s Ski Shop to put on a series of weekend clinics that will, “introduce new and seasoned riders to both the Mt. Hood area riding opportunities and to the skills needed to enjoy Mt. Hood’s extensive mountain bike trails.” (Total project cost: $14,350)

Sandy Ridge Trail System Improvements ($30,000)
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will use this money to improve beginner-friendly biking opportunities within the Sandy Ridge Trail System, which has become a premier mountain-biking destination. Sandy Ridge had about 60,000 visitors in 2013 and this project will make the area more attractive to novice riders. (Total project cost: $72,260)

It’s important to note that the bicycle-centric nature of these awards didn’t just happen by accident. As we reported on back in 2011, Travel Oregon held a series of “Bicycle Tourism Studio” workshops with the specific aim to help Clackamas County identify its biking strengths and mold them into real, tangible tourism assets. The projects above are priorities that emerged from that process, showing the value of a strategic, statewide approach to improving bike tourism.

It’s this work by Oregon’s bike tourism staffers, advocates, and volunteers that led to a feature article highlighting its success in the current issue of Adventure Cyclist Magazine:

From Adventure Cyclist Magazine December/January 2013

These grants are great news for Oregon’s economy and for bicycling in our region. Let’s keep the momentum going!

Bike projects win big with Clackamas County tourism grants

Bike projects win big with Clackamas County tourism grants

Biking on and around Mt. Hood will get even better.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Clackamas County Tourism & Cultural Affairs office has announced 10 projects that will split $200,000 in grant funding and seven of the projects support bicycle-related tourism. This news will surely continue the strong momentum for bike tourism in “Mt. Hood Territory” that we reported on back in July.

These tourism development grants are funded through Clackamas County’s 6% lodging tax which was passed by voters in 1992. It applies to all lodging receipts over $15 per day from county hotels, campgrounds, events, vacation home rentals, and other types of lodgings.

Here’s a look at the exciting, bike-related projects that will get a boost from these grants:

Meldrum Bar Bike Attraction & Events ($7,500)
This project is being worked on by the Oregon City Trail Alliance and it is spearheaded by the owner (Blaine Meier) and staff of of First City Cycles. It will improve and expand a progressive bike jump track at Meldrum Bar Park in Gladstone and a pump track in Oregon City. Total project cost is $68,000 and this grant will be used toward a feasibility study. Check out the video below for more info:

Estacada Cycling / Visitor Plaza ($30,000)
The “Bike Comfort Station” project will build a public plaza in Estacada “designed to attract bikers and other overnight visitors to the City and surrounding area.” The plaza will be adjacent to a public restroom and overnight parking and will include bike racks, an info kiosk, benches and signage. Expected completion in 2014. (Total project cost: $98,325)

Sandy / Boring Corn Cross ($6,000)
The City of Sandy wants to bring people out to a major annual cyclocross event in a rural part of the county. Their goal is to host a national-level championship race. This year’s inaugural Corn Cross event drew 268 visitors. (Total project cost $8,300)

McIver State Park Hiker / Biker Campground Shelter ($19,200)
Milo McIver State park is already a popular bike-camping destination. This Oregon State Parks project will add three “bike-in” shelters that will include a covered picnic table, secure bike stand, solar-powered device charger and a wind block. Bike traffic at Milo McIver is expected to increase after the Cascading Rivers State Scenic Bikeway (which runs from Estacada to Detroit) is adopted. (Total project cost: $40,160)

More trails coming to Sandy Ridge.

Mt. Hood Moderate Lift-Served Mountain Bike Trail ($40,000 split between 2013-14 and 2014-15)
This project will create a new, “lift-served” bike trail in the Upper Mountain area of Mt. Hood Skibowl. Hurricane Racing is the project lead. They say this project will expand Skibowl’s biking options and allow them to open for more days in the season. (Total project cost: $83,500)

Mt. Hood Area Mountain Bike Clinic Series ($8,350)
This award will allow Otto’s Ski Shop to put on a series of weekend clinics that will, “introduce new and seasoned riders to both the Mt. Hood area riding opportunities and to the skills needed to enjoy Mt. Hood’s extensive mountain bike trails.” (Total project cost: $14,350)

Sandy Ridge Trail System Improvements ($30,000)
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will use this money to improve beginner-friendly biking opportunities within the Sandy Ridge Trail System, which has become a premier mountain-biking destination. Sandy Ridge had about 60,000 visitors in 2013 and this project will make the area more attractive to novice riders. (Total project cost: $72,260)

It’s important to note that the bicycle-centric nature of these awards didn’t just happen by accident. As we reported on back in 2011, Travel Oregon held a series of “Bicycle Tourism Studio” workshops with the specific aim to help Clackamas County identify its biking strengths and mold them into real, tangible tourism assets. The projects above are priorities that emerged from that process, showing the value of a strategic, statewide approach to improving bike tourism.

It’s this work by Oregon’s bike tourism staffers, advocates, and volunteers that led to a feature article highlighting its success in the current issue of Adventure Cyclist Magazine:

From Adventure Cyclist Magazine December/January 2013

These grants are great news for Oregon’s economy and for bicycling in our region. Let’s keep the momentum going!

Here’s a chance to make East County bike touring even better

Here’s a chance to make East County bike touring even better

Policymakers Ride - Gorge Edition-41

The Columbia Gorge is only the first stop for
“destination biking” east of Gresham.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Back in July, we wrote that a big recreational biking upgrade is in the works for east Multnomah County. A pair of public “studio workshops” next month will shape its direction.

People at the free workshops — a seven-hour one Nov. 13 at Troutale’s Edgefield McMenamin’s and a four-hour one Nov. 14 at the Corbett Fire House — will get to “identify assets, opportunities, and barriers to increasing bicycle tourism” in the region.

With a Travel Oregon study estimating that 15 percent of tourism in the Gorge/Mount Hood area is already bike-related, the area’s business leaders see big potential for improving things further.

“The growing interest in destination cycling throughout Oregon and the incredible assets in East Multnomah County demonstrate that we have a compelling opportunity to market bicycle tourism,” Alison Hart, CEO of the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce, said in a news release Thursday.

The chamber and Travel Oregon, the state’s tourism association, are organizing the events under their $169,000 grant-funded Bicycle Tourism Initiative. You can read more about the program on the chamber’s website.

“The East Multnomah County region already attracts a diverse bicycle travel market, including out-of-state visitors looking for must-see Oregon experiences and local and regional visitors who enjoy off-the-beaten-path locales that entice with authenticity,” the chamber’s news release said. “They are novice and casual bicyclists, event spectators, mountain bikers, road bikers, racers, triathletes, visitors staying overnight, and more.”

New brewery in Cascade Locks hopes to bank on bike tourism

New brewery in Cascade Locks hopes to bank on bike tourism

Policymakers Ride - Gorge Edition-72

Thirsty riders head into Cascade Locks after a day
on Columbia River Highway State Trail.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

There’s no amount of research about the huge economic benefits of bike tourism that can compare to seeing a bit of it happen before your eyes.

Years in the planning and opening Saturday, the new Thunder Island Brewing Company in Cascade Locks, Ore. (home of the spectacular Bonneville Dam and the Bridge of the Gods) is a Portland-grown project that’s setting out to serve tourists — especially those enjoying the newly reconnected Historic Columbia River Highway on their bikes.

“I think of the Gorge as a bicyclist heaven… We both want to support and promote as much cycle tourism as we can.”
— Dave Lipps, Thunder Island co-founder

“The opening of our brewery has everything to do with the new trails and also a trails study done by PSU students,” co-founder Dave Lipps wrote in an email to BikePortland last week. “Both Dan and I are huge cycling advocates and have lived car-free lifestyle in Portland for many years. We are hoping with the completion of the new trail cycle touring in the Gorge will boom.”

Lipps and co-founder Dan Hynes describe their company as “an adventure-based small batch brewery” with beers that are “inspired by a love of outdoor adventures, with a nod to local history and with a respect for all that the scenic Columbia River Gorge has to offer.”

Thunder Island also now happens to be the closest brewery to Multnomah Falls, the state’s No. 1 outdoor tourist attraction. The small operation is 44 miles east of Portland, right by the river’s edge and below the historic highway. Lipps noted that they “plan to have extensive, high-quality bike parking,” something he said he learned the importance of while leading bike tours in the Gorge himself.

This venture isn’t worth toasting just because it sounds like a perfect place to kick back after a long ride. It’s a great illustration of how bike tourism (and the thousands of businesses, small and large, that spring up to serve it) doesn’t just happen. It depends on lots of things happening all at once:

— quality destinations (thanks in part to decades of government protection, this stretch of the Gorge must be one of the most beautiful places on the planet)
— a substantial state investment (we’ve been covering the old highway’s $8.1 million renovation since 2007, and many have been at it for far longer)
— private entrepreneurs who understand the bike market (like Lipps and Hynes)

Policymakers Ride - Gorge Edition-71

The bike path leads directly into Cascade Locks.

If Lipps and Hynes’s hunch is right, they’ll be just the first of many new businesses created by this constellation of events.

Thunder Island is opening with a pale ale, a Scotch porter, an IPA, and a Kölsch on tap, with seasonal and specialty beers on the way. It opens this Saturday, Oct. 19, with a party from noon to 11pm featuring music, games, door prizes and craft beer. Pirates Fish and Chips of Hood River will be on site offering food for purchase. Minors aren’t allowed inside the tasting room, but a there’ll be family-friendly covered outdoor seating area.

Starting Sunday, October 20th, beer will be sold in the tasting room Thursday and Friday from 3 pm to 9 pm, Saturday from noon to 10 pm, and Sunday from noon to 8 pm.

“I think of the Gorge as a bicyclist heaven,” Lipps told BikePortland. “We have everything here: great views of the Columbia River and numerous waterfalls, beautiful camping sites, and bike friendly routes with easy climbs. We both want to support and promote as much cycle tourism as we can.”

New brewery in Cascade Locks hopes to bank on bike tourism

New brewery in Cascade Locks hopes to bank on bike tourism

Policymakers Ride - Gorge Edition-72

Thirsty riders head into Cascade Locks after a day
on Columbia River Highway State Trail.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

There’s no amount of research about the huge economic benefits of bike tourism that can compare to seeing a bit of it happen before your eyes.

Years in the planning and opening Saturday, the new Thunder Island Brewing Company in Cascade Locks, Ore. (home of the spectacular Bonneville Dam and the Bridge of the Gods) is a Portland-grown project that’s setting out to serve tourists — especially those enjoying the newly reconnected Historic Columbia River Highway on their bikes.

“I think of the Gorge as a bicyclist heaven… We both want to support and promote as much cycle tourism as we can.”
— Dave Lipps, Thunder Island co-founder

“The opening of our brewery has everything to do with the new trails and also a trails study done by PSU students,” co-founder Dave Lipps wrote in an email to BikePortland last week. “Both Dan and I are huge cycling advocates and have lived car-free lifestyle in Portland for many years. We are hoping with the completion of the new trail cycle touring in the Gorge will boom.”

Lipps and co-founder Dan Hynes describe their company as “an adventure-based small batch brewery” with beers that are “inspired by a love of outdoor adventures, with a nod to local history and with a respect for all that the scenic Columbia River Gorge has to offer.”

Thunder Island also now happens to be the closest brewery to Multnomah Falls, the state’s No. 1 outdoor tourist attraction. The small operation is 44 miles east of Portland, right by the river’s edge and below the historic highway. Lipps noted that they “plan to have extensive, high-quality bike parking,” something he said he learned the importance of while leading bike tours in the Gorge himself.

This venture isn’t worth toasting just because it sounds like a perfect place to kick back after a long ride. It’s a great illustration of how bike tourism (and the thousands of businesses, small and large, that spring up to serve it) doesn’t just happen. It depends on lots of things happening all at once:

— quality destinations (thanks in part to decades of government protection, this stretch of the Gorge must be one of the most beautiful places on the planet)
— a substantial state investment (we’ve been covering the old highway’s $8.1 million renovation since 2007, and many have been at it for far longer)
— private entrepreneurs who understand the bike market (like Lipps and Hynes)

Policymakers Ride - Gorge Edition-71

The bike path leads directly into Cascade Locks.

If Lipps and Hynes’s hunch is right, they’ll be just the first of many new businesses created by this constellation of events.

Thunder Island is opening with a pale ale, a Scotch porter, an IPA, and a Kölsch on tap, with seasonal and specialty beers on the way. It opens this Saturday, Oct. 19, with a party from noon to 11pm featuring music, games, door prizes and craft beer. Pirates Fish and Chips of Hood River will be on site offering food for purchase. Minors aren’t allowed inside the tasting room, but a there’ll be family-friendly covered outdoor seating area.

Starting Sunday, October 20th, beer will be sold in the tasting room Thursday and Friday from 3 pm to 9 pm, Saturday from noon to 10 pm, and Sunday from noon to 8 pm.

“I think of the Gorge as a bicyclist heaven,” Lipps told BikePortland. “We have everything here: great views of the Columbia River and numerous waterfalls, beautiful camping sites, and bike friendly routes with easy climbs. We both want to support and promote as much cycle tourism as we can.”

ODOT in hot seat for dangerous Highway 101 repaving job

ODOT in hot seat for dangerous Highway 101 repaving job

ODOT failed to extend a new layer of pavement
into the bicycle riding area of a long
stretch of Highway 101.
(Photo: Jeff Smith)

A recent repaving job by the Oregon Department of Transportation on the popular Oregon Coast Bike Route on Highway 101 between Yachats and Florence has raised eyebrows among veteran bike tourers, transportation department staffers, and national bicycle advocacy organizations.

It all started with an email sent yesterday from Jeff Smith, a veteran Portland Bureau of Transportation employee and a bike touring enthusiast, to ODOT’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Sheila Lyons. Smith — who sent the message from his personal email account and not as a PBOT employee — included a photo and a detailed description of what he called an “extremely annoying at best and dangerous at worst” section of repaving.

According to Smith, a 25-mile section of the popular Oregon Coast Bike Route from Yachats south to Florence has been re-constructed with a new layer of pavement that abruptly ends just a few feet past the fog line. Here’s more from Smith’s email:

“This represents a condition that, I’m very sorry to say, was the rule rather than the exception. Where there was a 3′ to 4′ shoulder the new paving went to about 1.5′ to 2′ over the fog line, leaving an edge that was very inconveniently in the middle of the shoulder. To make matters worse the edge between the new and old asphalt often appeared to be abrupt enough that I didn’t want to ride over it, or anywhere near it. Again, this was not an isolated occurrence; it went on intermittently for many miles.”

Here’s a larger photo:

(Photo: Jeff Smith)

This is a huge issue because the Oregon Coast Bike Route is one of the premier bicycle touring destinations in the world. Last month the Adventure Cycling Association reported on a new bike-friendly camping area at the Port of Siuslaw campground in Florence. According to ACA, 5,000 people ride bicycles through Florence each year.

Smith’s email went on to express his extreme dismay that ODOT crews would so blatantly disregard bicycle safety during this project. “I am gobsmacked by how unutterably inept this paving work is on the part of ODoT,” he wrote, “This is not a low traffic, low cyclist use roadway. This is the Oregon Coast Highway; it has heavy summer traffic, and many people come from all around the U.S. and the world to bicycle along it. Travel Oregon promotes it a premier cycling destination. The Oregon State Parks are some of the finest anywhere, with excellent hiker/biker campsites. The magical reputation of bicycling the Oregon Coast Highway precedes it, but after experiencing this I wonder how many riders come away with the feeling that it’s been completely over-hyped and under-served.”

With decades of experience in the transportation field, Smith’s email went out to some key movers-and-shakers across the state, including ODOT personnel, and the response was almost immediate.

Ken Dennis, the Chairman of the Newport and Lincoln County Bicycle and Pedestrian Committees and President of the Yaquina Wheels Bike Club said what ODOT did with this paving project, “could almost be construed as illegal because it’s taken something away from an existing roadway and has indeed made it a very unsafe place to ride a bicycle.” “Imagine, if you will,” Dennis continued in a “reply all” email, “a bicycle tourist with a fully loaded bike having to negotiate this shoulder. I think it puts them in a perilous position that could easily cause a loss of control that could send them into approaching traffic.”

Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists, was also cc’d on Smith’s email. He responded by writing, “Let me know if there is anything we need to be doing from a national level…this is a major [inter]national resource after all.”

A spokesperson from the Adventure Cycling Association also responded by saying she’d loop in the organization’s Travel Initiatives Director Ginny Sullivan.

Eight hours after Smith’s email was sent, ODOT’s Northwest Region Manager Sonny Chickering responded. “I want to thank you for bringing this paving issue to my attention so that it can be reviewed, discussed and addressed.” Chickering said he’s scheduled a conference call for today to discuss the issue with his district managers and said we can expect an update from ODOT about how they intend to address the situation by the middle of next week, “with further updates as warranted until the issue is resolved.”

We’re glad to see quick attention to this issue from ODOT — especially since hundreds of people will be riding on it in a few weeks as part of the Amgen People’s Coast Classic Ride. In a larger context, we’ve had the poor cycling conditions on the Coast Route on our radar for many years. For being such an important and famous road for bicycle touring, it’s shocking how many safety issues exist on it. This repaving work also comes from an agency that has attempted to paint itself as much more sensitive to biking and walking in recent years.

I was already planning to do the People’s Coast Classic Ride next month and I look forward to taking a first-hand look at these issues. Stay tuned.

ODOT in hot seat for dangerous Highway 101 repaving job

ODOT in hot seat for dangerous Highway 101 repaving job

ODOT failed to extend a new layer of pavement
into the bicycle riding area of a long
stretch of Highway 101.
(Photo: Jeff Smith)

A recent repaving job by the Oregon Department of Transportation on the popular Oregon Coast Bike Route on Highway 101 between Yachats and Florence has raised eyebrows among veteran bike tourers, transportation department staffers, and national bicycle advocacy organizations.

It all started with an email sent yesterday from Jeff Smith, a veteran Portland Bureau of Transportation employee and a bike touring enthusiast, to ODOT’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Sheila Lyons. Smith — who sent the message from his personal email account and not as a PBOT employee — included a photo and a detailed description of what he called an “extremely annoying at best and dangerous at worst” section of repaving.

According to Smith, a 25-mile section of the popular Oregon Coast Bike Route from Yachats south to Florence has been re-constructed with a new layer of pavement that abruptly ends just a few feet past the fog line. Here’s more from Smith’s email:

“This represents a condition that, I’m very sorry to say, was the rule rather than the exception. Where there was a 3′ to 4′ shoulder the new paving went to about 1.5′ to 2′ over the fog line, leaving an edge that was very inconveniently in the middle of the shoulder. To make matters worse the edge between the new and old asphalt often appeared to be abrupt enough that I didn’t want to ride over it, or anywhere near it. Again, this was not an isolated occurrence; it went on intermittently for many miles.”

Here’s a larger photo:

(Photo: Jeff Smith)

This is a huge issue because the Oregon Coast Bike Route is one of the premier bicycle touring destinations in the world. Last month the Adventure Cycling Association reported on a new bike-friendly camping area at the Port of Siuslaw campground in Florence. According to ACA, 5,000 people ride bicycles through Florence each year.

Smith’s email went on to express his extreme dismay that ODOT crews would so blatantly disregard bicycle safety during this project. “I am gobsmacked by how unutterably inept this paving work is on the part of ODoT,” he wrote, “This is not a low traffic, low cyclist use roadway. This is the Oregon Coast Highway; it has heavy summer traffic, and many people come from all around the U.S. and the world to bicycle along it. Travel Oregon promotes it a premier cycling destination. The Oregon State Parks are some of the finest anywhere, with excellent hiker/biker campsites. The magical reputation of bicycling the Oregon Coast Highway precedes it, but after experiencing this I wonder how many riders come away with the feeling that it’s been completely over-hyped and under-served.”

With decades of experience in the transportation field, Smith’s email went out to some key movers-and-shakers across the state, including ODOT personnel, and the response was almost immediate.

Ken Dennis, the Chairman of the Newport and Lincoln County Bicycle and Pedestrian Committees and President of the Yaquina Wheels Bike Club said what ODOT did with this paving project, “could almost be construed as illegal because it’s taken something away from an existing roadway and has indeed made it a very unsafe place to ride a bicycle.” “Imagine, if you will,” Dennis continued in a “reply all” email, “a bicycle tourist with a fully loaded bike having to negotiate this shoulder. I think it puts them in a perilous position that could easily cause a loss of control that could send them into approaching traffic.”

Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists, was also cc’d on Smith’s email. He responded by writing, “Let me know if there is anything we need to be doing from a national level…this is a major [inter]national resource after all.”

A spokesperson from the Adventure Cycling Association also responded by saying she’d loop in the organization’s Travel Initiatives Director Ginny Sullivan.

Eight hours after Smith’s email was sent, ODOT’s Northwest Region Manager Sonny Chickering responded. “I want to thank you for bringing this paving issue to my attention so that it can be reviewed, discussed and addressed.” Chickering said he’s scheduled a conference call for today to discuss the issue with his district managers and said we can expect an update from ODOT about how they intend to address the situation by the middle of next week, “with further updates as warranted until the issue is resolved.”

We’re glad to see quick attention to this issue from ODOT — especially since hundreds of people will be riding on it in a few weeks as part of the Amgen People’s Coast Classic Ride. In a larger context, we’ve had the poor cycling conditions on the Coast Route on our radar for many years. For being such an important and famous road for bicycle touring, it’s shocking how many safety issues exist on it. This repaving work also comes from an agency that has attempted to paint itself as much more sensitive to biking and walking in recent years.

I was already planning to do the People’s Coast Classic Ride next month and I look forward to taking a first-hand look at these issues. Stay tuned.

——
Read our latest update to this story posted Monday August 26th.

How to build the world’s longest bike touring route: 8 questions for Jean-Francois Pronovost

How to build the world’s longest bike touring route: 8 questions for Jean-Francois Pronovost

Quebec’s Route Verte. (click to enlarge)

Portland has a network of neighborhood greenways, and they’re great. But Jean-Francois Pronovost’s is 3,100 miles long.

That’s approximately the distance from Portland to Nicaragua.

The Greenway (Route Verte in Pronovost’s native French) is a bike route network running all over the Canadian province of Quebec. On Monday, the vice president for development and public affairs at advocacy group Vélo Québec visits Portland to share lessons from this project and others in the first annual Ann Niles Transportation Lecture, a major new series produced by Portland State University’s Institute for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation.

The event is free, though space is limited to 240. I spoke with Pronovost Thursday to learn more about his life’s work, the best parts of Quebec bike touring and how his hometown of Montreal managed to replace 320 auto parking spaces with a downtown protected lane that carries 9,000 bikes per day. (When you read his responses, be sure to imagine them in a dignified French-Canadian accent.)

Can you describe your most famous achievement, the Route Verte?
The Route Verte [pronounced with hard Ts and silent Es] is now 5,000 kilometers all over the province, linking the major city centers. The most interesting thing is that partnership that has built over 18 years, which is still going on. Tons of organizations, hotels, lodging facilities, that sort of thing.

Do you know how much money gets spent in a year by people on the Route Verte?
A few years ago when we measured that with university researchers, we were $134 million ($127 million USD). That doesn’t include bikes and accessories – it’s only travel expenses.

Jean-Francois Pronovost.

In his campaign last year, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales called for more emphasis on big, inspiring ideas like a bike trail to the Oregon coast. Did Route Verte begin with advocacy from people at the local level, or at the provincial level?
It’s very rare, but it was actually a decision of the prime minister of the province. He decided it was a way to help regional development and to help young people be involved in a big mobilization.

I talk to a lot of people in the US and Europe. Their first priority is not to link to every territory and every country. It takes some perspective to see all the benefits that you could have linking every region, every city, every municipality together. In little rural communities, the bicycle was not the agenda. But with the Route Verte, they were asked to be part of the movement, and that was their first experience to see how to include bicycles in the community.

Let’s shift to talking about cities. Montreal pioneered the use of physically protected urban bike lanes in North America. Lately, there seems to be an almost religious debate within the U.S. bike community over whether these should be widely used. What do you think?
I think it’s less a debate than it was a few years ago. I remember in the 80s we had the first parts of the Montreal bicycle network being built. People were saying, “No, that’s not the way to do it, bicycles have to ride in the street.”

We were really glad to see the administration here build these kind of facilities, because it was one of the reasons why we find so many people on their bicycle in Montreal. It’s not the only reason of course, but it’s been over the years a major incentive to ordinary people. Many cyclists don’t need. But many, many people need.

Is it something that we can implement everywhere? Probably not. It’s not the magical recipe. It’s something you have to adapt in the context you are working in. But the general idea is to create environment where the ordinary people will feel comfortable. And we don’t even talk about “safety,” because safety is a concept that is really different from one person to another. Comfort – it’s a feeling. You feel comfortable.

Montreal’s De Maisonneuve Boulevard on Wednesday.
(Photo courtesy Jean-Francois Pronovost.)

Lots of major bike projects lead to a removal of auto parking or an auto travel lane. What can you say to those who worry that these changes will hurt businesses or cause congestion?
I hate to say it, but merchants are often complaining. They complain for everything – they complain for the weather. I know that it’s tough to do business these days, but when you are in a neighborhood where a lot of people walk and bike, a lot of people who come to your shop will come by walking and biking.

For example, in downtown Montreal in 2008, when the city implemented the bike path on the De Maisonneuve Boulevard — it’s a big arterial street in the business district — they remove 320-something car spaces.

We have evaluated that in a corridor with 200 meters on both sides of the route, there were approximately 11,000 parking spaces. So 300 in 11,000 – you know, it’s almost nothing. The association of merchants was complaining of course at the beginning, and after a while everyone realize that it didn’t change anything.

And now you see that facility in downtown, where you have traffic of almost 10,000 cyclists a day. Everyone is happy. It’s a major improvement for everyone who wants to travel downtown by bicycle.

What’s the best thing about biking in Quebec that someone can’t find in Oregon?
Oh, geez. (laughs) I like biking in Oregon. I’ve been three times at least, mostly on the coast. What is interesting with the Route Verte is the connectivity. I’m able to leave from downtown Montreal with my bike and travel all over the province. We have 500 hotels that are certified “Welcome Cyclists.” So that means you arrive there and they are not scary about you. You arrive and you are welcome. They have special meals for you. So that’s very fun. And the geography’s very different – the St. Laurence River, the old villages, the French culture, the mix of the culture in Montreal – I think it’s fun to try at least once.

If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing to make you a better bike advocate, what would it be?
We never do enough partnership and building relationship. Because it is the key to be able to influence the decision-makers. It’s a work that is taking so much time to try to bring people all together.

What about biking most inspires you to work on its behalf? Don’t give me a list! I know there are lots of good reasons, but there’s got to be one that’s the most important thing for you.
I think it’s because it’s so simple. You can change a lot of things with the bicycle. You can change the way that people think, you can change the way that people feel, you can change the way the neighborhoods are friendly. A simple thing that can do so many great things.

Qs & As edited for brevity. Pronovost’s speech is 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 26, in Lincoln Hall at 1620 SW Park Ave.

How to build the world’s longest bike touring route: 8 questions for Jean-Francois Pronovost

How to build the world’s longest bike touring route: 8 questions for Jean-Francois Pronovost

Quebec’s Route Verte. (click to enlarge)

Portland has a network of neighborhood greenways, and they’re great. But Jean-Francois Pronovost’s is 3,100 miles long.

That’s approximately the distance from Portland to Nicaragua.

The Greenway (Route Verte in Pronovost’s native French) is a bike route network running all over the Canadian province of Quebec. On Monday, the vice president for development and public affairs at advocacy group Vélo Québec visits Portland to share lessons from this project and others in the first annual Ann Niles Transportation Lecture, a major new series produced by Portland State University’s Institute for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation.

The event is free, though space is limited to 240. I spoke with Pronovost Thursday to learn more about his life’s work, the best parts of Quebec bike touring and how his hometown of Montreal managed to replace 320 auto parking spaces with a downtown protected lane that carries 9,000 bikes per day. (When you read his responses, be sure to imagine them in a dignified French-Canadian accent.)

Can you describe your most famous achievement, the Route Verte?
The Route Verte [pronounced with hard Ts and silent Es] is now 5,000 kilometers all over the province, linking the major city centers. The most interesting thing is that partnership that has built over 18 years, which is still going on. Tons of organizations, hotels, lodging facilities, that sort of thing.

Do you know how much money gets spent in a year by people on the Route Verte?
A few years ago when we measured that with university researchers, we were $134 million ($127 million USD). That doesn’t include bikes and accessories – it’s only travel expenses.

Jean-Francois Pronovost.

In his campaign last year, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales called for more emphasis on big, inspiring ideas like a bike trail to the Oregon coast. Did Route Verte begin with advocacy from people at the local level, or at the provincial level?
It’s very rare, but it was actually a decision of the prime minister of the province. He decided it was a way to help regional development and to help young people be involved in a big mobilization.

I talk to a lot of people in the US and Europe. Their first priority is not to link to every territory and every country. It takes some perspective to see all the benefits that you could have linking every region, every city, every municipality together. In little rural communities, the bicycle was not the agenda. But with the Route Verte, they were asked to be part of the movement, and that was their first experience to see how to include bicycles in the community.

Let’s shift to talking about cities. Montreal pioneered the use of physically protected urban bike lanes in North America. Lately, there seems to be an almost religious debate within the U.S. bike community over whether these should be widely used. What do you think?
I think it’s less a debate than it was a few years ago. I remember in the 80s we had the first parts of the Montreal bicycle network being built. People were saying, “No, that’s not the way to do it, bicycles have to ride in the street.”

We were really glad to see the administration here build these kind of facilities, because it was one of the reasons why we find so many people on their bicycle in Montreal. It’s not the only reason of course, but it’s been over the years a major incentive to ordinary people. Many cyclists don’t need. But many, many people need.

Is it something that we can implement everywhere? Probably not. It’s not the magical recipe. It’s something you have to adapt in the context you are working in. But the general idea is to create environment where the ordinary people will feel comfortable. And we don’t even talk about “safety,” because safety is a concept that is really different from one person to another. Comfort – it’s a feeling. You feel comfortable.

Montreal’s De Maisonneuve Boulevard on Wednesday.
(Photo courtesy Jean-Francois Pronovost.)

Lots of major bike projects lead to a removal of auto parking or an auto travel lane. What can you say to those who worry that these changes will hurt businesses or cause congestion?
I hate to say it, but merchants are often complaining. They complain for everything – they complain for the weather. I know that it’s tough to do business these days, but when you are in a neighborhood where a lot of people walk and bike, a lot of people who come to your shop will come by walking and biking.

For example, in downtown Montreal in 2008, when the city implemented the bike path on the De Maisonneuve Boulevard — it’s a big arterial street in the business district — they remove 320-something car spaces.

We have evaluated that in a corridor with 200 meters on both sides of the route, there were approximately 11,000 parking spaces. So 300 in 11,000 – you know, it’s almost nothing. The association of merchants was complaining of course at the beginning, and after a while everyone realize that it didn’t change anything.

And now you see that facility in downtown, where you have traffic of almost 10,000 cyclists a day. Everyone is happy. It’s a major improvement for everyone who wants to travel downtown by bicycle.

What’s the best thing about biking in Quebec that someone can’t find in Oregon?
Oh, geez. (laughs) I like biking in Oregon. I’ve been three times at least, mostly on the coast. What is interesting with the Route Verte is the connectivity. I’m able to leave from downtown Montreal with my bike and travel all over the province. We have 500 hotels that are certified “Welcome Cyclists.” So that means you arrive there and they are not scary about you. You arrive and you are welcome. They have special meals for you. So that’s very fun. And the geography’s very different – the St. Laurence River, the old villages, the French culture, the mix of the culture in Montreal – I think it’s fun to try at least once.

If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing to make you a better bike advocate, what would it be?
We never do enough partnership and building relationship. Because it is the key to be able to influence the decision-makers. It’s a work that is taking so much time to try to bring people all together.

What about biking most inspires you to work on its behalf? Don’t give me a list! I know there are lots of good reasons, but there’s got to be one that’s the most important thing for you.
I think it’s because it’s so simple. You can change a lot of things with the bicycle. You can change the way that people think, you can change the way that people feel, you can change the way the neighborhoods are friendly. A simple thing that can do so many great things.

Qs & As edited for brevity. Pronovost’s speech is 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 26, in Lincoln Hall at 1620 SW Park Ave.

After carfree success, Crater Lake National Park officials make it an annual event

After carfree success, Crater Lake National Park officials make it an annual event

Reader Sally Hunt and a friend took
full advantage of a carfree Rim Drive
back in June.

After the resounding success of its first-ever carfree weekend this past June, Crater Lake officials now plan to make it an annual event. And, as a bonus, they’ll host another carfree weekend next month.

Travel Oregon is set to announce tomorrow morning that Crater Lake National Park will hold another carfree weekend on September 21st and 22nd this year and that, “Going forward, the third weekend in September will be preserved for non-motorized enjoyment of the park.”

Park Superintendent Craig Ackerman, who told us back in June that, “Bicycle use fits well into our sustainability and emission reduction goals for the park,” said that June’s trial was so popular it will now become a tradition. “After an outpouring of positive feedback from the many people who participated in this rare opportunity,” states Ackerman in a Travel Oregon news release, “we decided to make it an annual occurrence.”

Here’s more from Travel Oregon:

Under the plan, East Rim Drive will be open to non-motorized vehicles only (except for administrative and emergency vehicles) from North Junction around the East Rim of Crater Lake all the way to the intersection at Crater Lake National Park Headquarters and the Steel Visitors Center. Hwy 62 through the south end of the park, West Rim Drive and the North Entrance Road will be open to vehicles. Regular parking areas will be open, but generally fill up quickly. Normal park entrance fees apply.

For more on parking, fees, and other Crater Lake information, check out the official National Park Service website.