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May 25th, 2011 CRAIG BEEBE | Featured Stories
 

The Paths Less Cycled

Riding Portland’s most underrated bike routes

lede_3paths_3729KEEP CLIMBING: Riding from the Pearl to Pittock Mansion. - IMAGE: James Rexroad
     
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Clinton. Salmon. Ankeny. Williams. Broadway. Even occasional cyclists recognize the names of Portland’s busiest bikeways. From bike lanes to cycle tracks and the clumsily named “neighborhood greenways,” the city’s bike network is constantly expanding, as Portland seeks to out-hustle competitors for the title of America’s most bike-friendly city. But a lot of the great rides in our current network remain largely unknown and unridden. To rectify this situation, I unfolded a copy of Metro’s Bike There map, rolled up a pant leg, and hit the road to find these five scenic rides that will broaden your cycling horizons. 


View Bike Route 1 in a larger map

Southeast 33rd and 34th Avenues

Southeast Portland is notorious for lacking good north-to-south connections for bicyclists. Thankfully, there’s this hidden gem of a route, winding little more than a block back and forth while connecting Southeast’s chief commercial districts and neighborhoods. The rolling terrain is ideal for families as well as commuters, with city views and impressive gardens all along the way. Since it slices right through the middle of several shopping areas (on Powell Boulevard, Division Street, Hawthorne Boulevard and Belmont Street), there are many places to stop for refreshments and distractions, too. Unfortunately, the route has hardly any wayfinding marks, so check it out on a map—Metro’s or Google’s—before you go.

Difficulty: Easy. 

Traffic: Light to medium.



View Bike Route 2 in a larger map

Northeast Going and Alberta Streets

The Going-Alberta greenway is perfect for a lazy Saturday ride amid quiet neighborhoods from Cully to Albina, comfortable even for the training-wheel set. West of 33rd Avenue, where it uses an innovative cycle track to overcome the broken street grid, the route’s just a couple of blocks south of the main Alberta corridor. East of there, the ride cuts through a variety of unpretentious neighborhoods. The best part of this ride, though, is the near-absence of stop signs most of the way. Peacefully riding a bike for 70 or more blocks in a major American city with only a half-dozen stops is a surprisingly giddy experience. Make a loop of it by using 72nd to connect to the Northeast Tillamook-Grant-Hancock bike boulevard south of Rose City Park, and ride back west via the Hollywood District.

Difficulty: Easy. 

Traffic: Light.



View Bike Route 3 in a larger map

Southeast Gladstone and Center Streets

One of the city’s newest bike boulevards, this hilly route has the potential to be a major connector for cyclists in the Creston-Kenilworth and Foster-Powell neighborhoods, and is also worthy of a weekend ramble. Pick it up at Southeast 26th Avenue and Gladstone Street and use the bike lane to climb up and drop down to cross César E. Chávez Boulevard. At 42nd Avenue the route passes a new bioswale/traffic-control device, where sharrows guide you up a short, steep hill for a few blocks. At 52nd Avenue, jog north to continue on Center Street to Foster Road. Satisfy your hydration needs at Slingshot Lounge, then use the new bike box to get across busy Foster (be sure to press the ped button or the light will never change.) From here, follow the sharrows past small parks and modest homes to 82nd Avenue. To get to the I-205 path, carefully cross 82nd Avenue at the pedestrian light and connect past Eastport Plaza via Bush Street and the (soon to be former) Marshall High School campus.

Difficulty: Medium. 

Traffic: Generally medium to light.



View Bike Route 4 in a larger map

Pearl to Pittock: Northwest Johnson Street, etc.

When seeking a solid hill climb in the city, a lot of riders head for Council Crest or Mount Tabor. Here’s a quieter and arguably more scenic climb that begins right in the Pearl. Head up Northwest Johnson Street via a gradual climb past condos, Victorians and trendy shops. After 24th Avenue, Johnson becomes Westover Road, and the serious climbing starts. The official route follows Westover and Cumberland, but instead turn left onto Marlborough and wind along the quiet, steep streets lined by mini-Pittocks to take advantage of the supreme views. It’s easy to get lost in this labyrinth, but as a general rule, just keep climbing! Eventually, find Monte Vista Terrace to access the back entrance to Pittock Acres Park. It may be exhausting, but the view at the top is especially stupefying when you’ve really earned it. Bask in the glory, then check your brakes and enjoy coasting back down to celebrate with ice cream at Cool Moon (1105 NW Johnson St.).

Difficulty: Very hard. Just ask anyone who lives up here—these views don’t come cheap. 

Traffic: Medium to heavy on Johnson, light past 26th.



View Bike Route 5 in a larger map

Gresham-Fairview Trail

This much-needed new spur off the Springwater Corridor connects wetlands, schools and communities along a disused utility right-of-way. At its south end, it’s surprisingly rural, branching off the Springwater a couple of miles past Powell Butte at a horse pasture, and crossing Powell Boulevard to descend into a surprisingly quiet wetland. Farther north, the trail can feel somewhat squeezed at times, particularly at TriMet’s Ruby Junction facility, where many of the MAX trains come home to roost. The crossings of each major arterial are also a bit hairy: A recording plays when the crosswalk button is pressed, warning riders and pedestrians to “cross with caution; traffic may not stop.” (It typically doesn’t.) Plans call for extending the trail all the way under I-84 to Northeast Marine Drive, but for now it unceremoniously dumps northbound riders at Northeast 201st Avenue and Halsey Street after just over three miles, giving only the options of turning around or connecting home via an array of depressing routes. 

Difficulty: Easy. 

Traffic: Bikes and peds only on the path, but use caution at the crossings! 




Not-So-Friendly Bike Cities: Portland vs. Minneapolis

Credits: Corey Thompson

“Portland ain’t nothing but a street in Minneapolis,” one cyclist responded to Bicycling magazine’s article, “Bike Friendly Cities: America’s Best Bike Cities, Bicycling’s Top 50,” which ambitiously named Minneapolis No. 1 last year.

It may seem like a miscalculation that a city covered in snow and ice for nearly eight months of the year would be the most bike friendly of all, but with 46 miles of dedicated bicycle lanes, 84 miles of off-street bicycle paths and the most bicycle parking spaces per capita of any city in the nation, Minneapolis has been fueling a rivalry with Bridgetown for years.

Minnesota was first on the scene with two key biking innovations: PedalPub, a pedal-powered bar with seating for 16, and, for more sober commuting, Nice Ride MN, a bicycle-sharing program akin to Zipcar for bikes. Minneapolis’ zealous attempts to gain more cyclists have fallen short, though, as Portland still boasts more bicycle commuters—6 to 8 percent, higher than any other U.S. city.

A thorny branch in Minneapolis’ spokes, the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030 aims to expand our city’s bikeway networks, attract more riders and add more bicycle parking. You best watch your back, Minnesota. KAREN LOCKE.

 
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