Bike detours done right

The other day, I was biking east on the Springwater Corridor, which is one of my favorite bike paths in Portland and is 21 almost-totally-car-free miles long. It goes along the Willamette River, then up Johnson Creek, traveling through wetlands, open prairies, and between parks. It’s the way I used to bike to work when I worked in Gresham, and I’d routinely see rabbits, coyote and tons of different kinds of birds, hear frogs, and generally just feel like I was in the woods. It has its ebbs and flows of transient camping alongside it (like lots of places in Portland), but it’s totally lovely and one of my absolute favorite places to ride.

So, the other day I was riding east toward Gresham and came to a closure sign, with a detour:




For those of you unfamiliar, this detour to SE Foster Road sounds scary, especially because of the contrast. The Springwater is miles and miles of carfree path, the kind of thing you’d take your kid on for a sweet little weekend toodle. SE Foster Road out here is winding, narrow, has no shoulder, and is heavily trafficked by people driving upwards of 50mph — not the kind of thing you would take your toodling kid on at all, not even the kind of thing that most people would bike on as full-fledged, confident adults.

So, I was a little skeptical of this detour. (And I will admit, a little self-righteous about how annoying it is when a heavily-used bike route is closed without a viable detour.) But I figured I’d check it out rather than turn around, mostly because I wanted to see the little side streets that weren’t Foster Rd.

And hey! It turned out to be awesome.

When I got to Foster Rd, a flagger motioned me to stop briefly, then she waved me through to turn left onto Foster, turning her sign so that all the traffic behind me stopped. “Go ahead!” she told me. “I’ll keep traffic stopped behind you.” So, I rode along Foster by myself, on this narrow road with no shoulder, but all the traffic behind me stopped. I had the whole lane to myself, which was fantastic.

However, I was still a little nervous about how I would turn left across Foster again on the other side of the detour, since oncoming traffic was still coming, quickly and with no real breaks. But when I approached the other end of the detour, the point of left-turning, I saw another flagger in the distance. Seeing me, he turned his sign to stop all oncoming traffic, and waved me across to safety. And then he radioed his flagging buddy on the other side to tell her I’d made it (and, presumably, that she could let traffic through again).

So, that was the best detour ever. Though I was nervous about Foster, having the flaggers on both ends not only made it safe for me, but also made me feel like someone had actually thought about the fact that Foster by itself is not a viable detour. And then they took steps to make it one.

Thanks, PGE (or whoever conceived of the flaggers:)


Update: I found a project map and description here: It seems like it’s a fairly organized and transparent process, for which I am very thankful even if I happened to come across it in real life with no previous knowledge of what I was getting myself into;)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.