Let me be clear that I have absolutely nothing to do with the Oregon Scenic Bikeways other than having ridden a bunch of them and liking them a whole lot. But even so, I managed to invite myself to the Scenic Bikeways Conference that happened yesterday in Salem and had a rocking good time.
…So wait, what is a Scenic Bikeway? This is something unique to Oregon (so far) and I think it’s super awesome. In a nutshell, the Scenic Bikeways are bicycle routes that are planned and submitted by local proponents to showcase some excellent biking in their region. Someone in Eastern Oregon, say, dreams up an amazing bike ride–perhaps with some excellent campgrounds along the way, some cute cities, awe-inspiring natural features–then garners local support and applies to Oregon Parks and Rec to get Scenic Bikeway designation.
Then, the route gets tested–via bike, of course. It’s evaluated both on route characteristics (what you see along the way, both natural and man-made) and route conditions (what the pavement’s like, how much traffic is there, how fast it goes). Ultimately, if it is indeed an awesome bike route that people will probably enjoy traveling, it gets recommended to and voted on by Oregon Parks and Rec for final approval.
(If you’re interested in more details, the Scenic Bikeways Handbook is actually a really interesting read. Or maybe I’m just a nerd;)
So right now, there are 9 Scenic Bikeways in Oregon with two more proposed Bikeways being voted on at the next Oregon Parks and Rec Department meeting on May 8. There are also four more potential bikeways that have applied to go through the whole process. So theoretically, there could be 15 Scenic Bikeways in the near(ish) future. If that’s not exciting, I don’t know what is:)
The conference itself, aside from being incredibly informative for me (since I knew basically nothing about this process), was also super exciting. The room was full of the myriad people who planned and implemented all the Bikeways–and it was an interesting dynamic for me, who’s use to most people around me riding bikes in some capacity, to be surrounded by people who (as one woman said) might not be cyclists, but definitely loved cyclists. Everyone was so psyched on the tourism dollars that being a Scenic Bikeway brought into their communities and was so excited to get people biking through their towns. How rad is that? (Perhaps I should mention that it was also at this conference that they unveiled the Bike Friendly business program, which you can read about over at BikePortland.)
It was also just sort of awesome to hear about all the thought that goes into these Bikeways. It’s easy, when you’re out and about on the road, to get annoyed about why a sign was there instead of here, or why whoever designed the route picked this godforsaken road instead of a nicer one–so it was a good reality check to be in a room full of people who really, really wanted to do what’s best by cyclists. And to hear about the challenges they face as they do so.
Anyway. I would heartily recommend the Scenic Bikeways if you’re looking for good bike travel. They range from 29.5 miles (the Metolius Loop) to 175 miles (the Old West), with varying degrees of difficulty, and they start in places all over the state. There are good, easy-to-follow maps, and if you start in Sisters, OR, you can even connect up a whole bunch of them into one giant Scenic Bikewaystravaganza:)