Can bicycling be Oregon’s Maine event?
June 16, 2006
Suddenly Oregon seems serious about branding itself as “the bicycle state.”
State government is gearing up to hire a “bicycle concierge” to serve tourists on two wheels.
Crater Lake is considering a “car-free day” to lure pedalers to the national park.
More than 300 people are expected at Saturday’s Portland Bike Summit (portlandonline.com/transportation) to hear policy wonks talk pedal power.
What’s at stake in all this is more than bragging rights. What’s at stake is economic development, the kind of economic development — clean and green — coveted by communities coast to coast.
The travel industry figures more than 5 million Americans head off on bicycling vacations each year. Hotly touted destinations include Provence, Tuscany, Napa and, yes, the Willamette Valley. Portland International Airport is busy making itself bike-friendly to welcome those flying in with their titanium steeds.
Oregon’s lure includes a wide network of well-maintained country roads, a stunning diversity of spectacular landscapes and a full complement of berry cobbler communities that think the proper way to treat strangers is to try to talk them into staying over for a while.
Since 1988, Cycle Oregon, presented by this newspaper, has produced a weeklong tour each September designed to showcase this bounty. Lately, Cycle Oregon has been working with Oregon State Parks to develop a network of state scenic bikeways.
Last summer, more than 1,000 cyclists saddled up to christen the first such bikeway, from Portland to Eugene. Next month, we’re at it again, extending the bikeway south from Eugene. The July 22-23 event, tailored for rookie riders who wonder what the heck this is all about, features all the traditional Cycle Oregon amenities, from bike mechanics and baggage porters to a beer garden.
Full ride details are available at www.cycleoregon.com.
Perhaps the best news is that, all around the state, communities now are pursuing a piece of this action. Cycle Oregon is already looking at scenic bikeways through the Columbia Gorge, in Central Oregon and linking the Willamette Valley to the coast.
Bart Eberwein, the Hoffman Construction exec spurring this drive to “re-brand” Oregon, has little doubt of the power in pedals. “Bicycles,” he says, “can do for Oregon what lobsters did for Maine.”
Jonathan Nicholas: 503-221-8533; JPNicholas@aol.com
©2006 The Oregonian