Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Scenic bikeway draws visitors


Route sparks rave reviews and cyclist-driver tensions

Since the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway opened nearly a year ago, the 50-mile route between Hillsboro and Vernonia seems to be doing what it promised: introducing more cyclists to the beauty of western Washington County and drawing them to local businesses.

From fiscal year 2012-13 to 2013-14 (the year the scenic bikeway opened), requests for the Washington County Visitors Association’s bike map quadrupled — from 226 to 982.

One of those requests came online, from Rich Wolf, who got the bike map, along with other promotional materials.

“They made Washington County sound like such an attractive destination (we decided) ‘We have to see this place!’” said Wolf, who spent two days on the bikeway with his wife last month while visiting Portland from San Diego.

“The riding was so special, the combination of quite charming small towns, friendly people and mostly-friendly traffic, the agricultural fields,” he said. Even amid overcast skies and sprinkles, “we loved it.”

In the Forest Grove area, the couple spent money at Montinore Estate, Tualatin Estate Vineyards and King’s Head Pub, where “the owner was extremely friendly, agreeable to anything we wanted,” Wolf remembers.

They also stopped at Olson’s Bike Shop in Forest Grove and Blue House Cafe in Vernonia.

Back in San Diego, they have told numerous friends about the bikeway and would like to return themselves, Wolf said.

Another rider enjoyed the bikeway so much he created a short video of it.

But it’s difficult to know how many new riders have been drawn specifically to the bikeway and how many were already using parts of that route.

Pro Shop assistants at the Forest Hills Golf Course south of Cornelius noticed a slight increase in cyclists this year, although hundreds were already passing by on Tongue Lane long before the bikeway opened, said Keith Muzz.

At Banks Bicycles, owner Len Punzel said 20 to 30 percent of his customers ride the scenic bikeway, but most of those were already regular riders of the popular Banks-Vernonia Trail and have simply added the bikeway to their route.

Banks Cafe owner Ruth Peterson thinks a few more cyclists than usual have stopped in her cafe this year, but can’t tell if it’s from the bikeway or from better signs and visibility for the cafe.

A rider count from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, July 18, found 55 male, 43 female and 19 youth cyclists passing by the Manning Trailhead on the Banks-Vernonia Trail, which comprises the northern 20 miles of the scenic bikeway.

At the southern end of the bikeway during the same period, counters found only one youth cyclist, four male and three female cyclists entering or leaving the park via bicycle on Southeast Rood Bridge Road.

Volunteer counters are needed for another count coming up Aug. 16 and 17. (See box.)

Banks farmer Loren Behrman reports a definite increase in bike traffic since the bikeway was first announced — but doesn’t see that as a plus.

Behrman spoke out during a public meeting last January against the bikeway section that runs past his seed-processing facility on Johnson School Road in Hillsboro.

“It’s not a good situation, but we’re making the best of it,” said Behrman, who described the road as narrow and curvy with no shoulder. He considers it dangerous and wishes the route followed other nearby roads that seem safer.

And some cyclists have caused problems, he said, such as the one who peed in his yard.

Another time a trio was riding three abreast, making it impossible for cars to pass, he said. When a driver honked, the cyclists stopped, blocked her way and one began advancing toward the woman, screaming and flipping her off, said Behrman, who witnessed the event.

“Not all bikers are bad,” said Behrman, a Cub Scout leader whose pack learns bike safety and etiquette. But rudeness from either side can escalate quickly, he said. “We see a lot of screaming from the bikes and the cars.

“When everyone plays by the rules,” he said, “when the bicyclists are riding single file and the traffic is moving at a normal pace and people are giving each other room, it’s fine.”