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Portland Mountain Bikers Fight Back on Trail Ban

Thursday, March 12, 2015


Hundreds of cyclists are planning a protest ride in the River View Natural Area on March 16, the day the City of Portland is officially banning bikes from the trails.

The organizer is Charlie Sponsel, a life-long rider on the trails and a member of Portland's Parks Deparment's committee for creating a bike trail plan in River View before the city'sban was announced this month.

Outcry from the mountain biking community for the loss of the only legal trails in city limits promoted Sponsel to organize the ride. However, he said the message is more about highlighting the process of the city’s decision.

“It’s a political statement, motivated by a great swell of upset, jaded people who want the parks department to get back on track,” Sponsel said. “It’s not just a bunch of 20-something dudes with no place to go.”

Over 275 people have signed up via the event’s Facebook page, with at least 89 more possibly showing up and hundreds more invited. Participants will show the diversity of the mountain biking community, Sponsel said, with many families and working professionals taking part.   

Bike Ban in River View Natural Area
On March 2, Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Nick Fish announced bikes would be banned from  the River View Natural Area, 146 acres in Southeast Portland.

A letter from Fritz and Fish said the ban was due to the environmental impact bikes have on the area. Fritz also encouraged support for a new budget for the Parks Department, which she hopes will help create trails in the future.

“We are not saying River View will never be used for mountain biking, rather just not now, before the citywide assessment of appropriate places for cycling is funded and completed,” Fritz said in a statement.

The Parks Department had been creating a management plan River View to stabilize the area and control invasive species over the last  few years.

A member of the technical advisory committee, Sponsel said the deal was to keep the trails open and work on a way maintain the area. So, he was shocked when after two years of working on the project, it was annoucned the trails access would be closed completely to cyclists.

Mountain Biking in Portland
Portland is building a national reputation for its cyclist-friendly infrastructure and bike commuters. However, Brian Zeck, the bike manager at River City Bicycle, said the mountain biking world is often overlooked, even with a large community of riders.

“Portland is really known for riding in the legal limits, but it’s quite a drive to get to a trail. That’s often seen as a stain on the city’s cycling reputation,” Zeck said.“People travel around the world to go mountain biking so it almost seems like Portland is missing out and not capitalizing on that. They are leaving a lot of money on the table.”

Zeck said business is good for mountain bike sales, and the the industry is taking off. 

Freedom Ride
The protest ride  will take place on Monday, March 16.  Riders will gather at the at the corner of SW Palatine Hill and Brugger Rd at 4 p.m.

On the event’s Facebook page, Sponsel says the ride will be a well-organized, well-mannered one. If police do show up to enforce the ban, Sponsel said the group will carry their bikes along the trails. 
Sponsel hopes the ride will start a conversation about city’s view of mountain biking, and provide a positive outlet to frustrated bikers. 

“I’m obviously ecstatic about how many people are showing up,” Sponsel said “There’s a huge pent-up demand for trails, and a very low tolerance for the political process used.” 


Related Slideshow: 10 Ways to Fight Bike Theft

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Register Your Bike

It is the simplest and most effective way to make sure you get your bike back after it's stolen. It lists your bike’s serial number with your name officially with the police.

If filling out paper work is too much trouble, at least make sure you have a picture of the bike and know the serial number. This information will help police find your bike and return  it. 

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Know Your Insurance Policy 

Some homeowners and renters insurance policies will cover bike theft. Hoffman said her renters insurance covered a large portion of her stolen bike, allowing her to buy a new one.

However, if you end up finding the stolen bike, you will have to buy it back from the insurance company. 

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Lock Smart

When locking your bike, stay away from the cheap options. Allard said 70 to 90 percent of bike thefts are from cable locks, which can be cut through with any $20 dollar cable cutter.

A U-lock is much harder for a thief to dismantle, unless they use power tools.  Locking the U-Lock through the frame and tire also helps, making it hard for the thief to make off with your wheel or ride away.  

Photo Credit: Walnut Studiolo via Compfight cc

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Park Smart

Be conscious of where you lock your bike. Try in front of ATM or other busy places with security cameras.  Also, avoid areas near electrical sockets so thieves can’t use power tools to cut bike racks or U-locks.

Although finding a safe spot to lock up may add a few minutes walk to your travel, it is well worth the price of your bike. 

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Try the Police

If your bike is stolen, make sure to report it to the police. Many victims assume it is not worth time or some even try to track down the bike on their own. Although many bike crimes go unsolved or prosecuted, some do have happy endings. Why not use all your resources?

And if your bike is registered, you have a better chance getting it back. 

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Make Friends With Your Local Bike Shop

Bicycle shops are a great resource, whether your bike is stolen or not. They have a touch on the pulse of the local bike world. If your bike is stolen, check in to see if they have seen it brought in for repairs, or ask if you can post a missing flyer.

They also can provide helpful tools and tips for keeping your bike safe from thieves, so it doesn't get stolen in the first place.

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Download An App

Technology is helping fight bike crime, one app download at a time. Portland’s Project 528 has one app that makes it easy to register your bike, and another that uses a network of bikers to send out an alert system if your bike is stolen. 

The Cricket sends an alarm to your Smartphone every time somebody touches your bike.

BikeSheppard also has an app to help register and report a stolen bike.  

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Crowdsource, Crowdsource, Crowdsource

BikeIndex.org. StolenBikeRegistry.com. NationalBikeRegistry.com. There are a number of websites that list serial numbers from stolen bikes. They also allow people who see suspicious bike advertisements to check to see if it is stolen property.

Social media is also helpful for spreading the word to friends and members of the biking community about your missing property. 

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Google Alerts 

A great number of stolen bikes are fenced via Craigslist and E-bay. So set up Google alerts that match the description of your bike. That way if anyone does try to sell your bike, you’ll know about it. 

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Expand Your Search

Just because your bike was stolen in Portland doesn’t mean it stays in Portland. A majority of bike thefts are part of large criminal operations. Allard said many times police will come across a number of stolen bikes while breaking up other crimes. Yet it could be hundreds of miles away from where your bike was stolen. So try police departments around the state. 


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