Portland and the Bay Area have a lot in common when it comes to limited access to trails for mountain biking. Although both areas have a significant amount of green space and trails, due to anti-mountain bike factions with considerable political influence, there is a serious lack of close in recreation opportunities for mountain biking on narrow single track trail.
To enjoy the sport properly, a vehicle and at least an hour of drive time is required in both areas. That means a minimum of two hours will be spent just commuting each time you want to get exercise and enjoy a proper trail experience.
Fuel costs add up quickly, but for us, time is our most valuable asset on a workday, and most of us can’t spare an hour to drive after work to get our fix. And that’s not even taking into account our carbon footprint each time we want to enjoy riding a bicycle.
Having recently moved back to Portland from Oakland, we took a look at it from the perspective of what options are available without the use of a vehicle. Both options are limited, but Oakland wins handily, thanks to Joaquin Miller Park. Although a relatively small park, it can be reached from downtown Oakland fairly quickly. Ironically, it’s butted up against the much larger Redwood Park where miles and miles of single track remain off limits, and cyclists are restricted to wide natural surface roads.
In Portland, options are limited to similar dirt roads in the largest green space known as Forest Park. There are miles of single track trail that happen to be quite sustainable and fun on a bike. Users aren’t interested in sharing though, and with mountain bikers lacking in political clout, it’s unlikely to change in the near future.
But wait — Portland has a park with multi-use single track too. Unfortunately, Powell Butte Nature park has less than five miles of trail. Though it used to have more, the trail has undergone changes, with many of the trails becoming paved. Others are now wide, covered in crushed rock. It’s also 12 miles from down town.
In fact, it’s about a 30 minute drive from the center of the city; another 30 minutes and you can reach the area’s premier trail network- Sandy Ridge. Guess which one we’d prefer to ride?
Regardless of either city you call home, one thing is clear: mountain bike advocacy could use a hand.