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News How does bicycling fare in Forest Park Recreational Survey?
Author: By Jonathan Maus
Posted: September 16, 2010

Portland Parks & Recreation has released results of their 2010 Forest Park Recreation Survey (PDF download). With the fate of bicycling improvements in the 5,000 acre urban park hanging in the balance, I thought I'd take a look at how two-wheeled recreation fared.

The survey was part of five management initiatives launched back in June by Parks Commissioner Nick Fish in response to a City Club report on the park that was highly critical of the City of Portland. (That report was criticized by bicycling advocates for inaccuracies and bias.)
Working with Portland State University to intercept park users, 564 people responded to the City's survey. The survey was done on two separate Saturdays in the months of May and June this past summer. According to Parks, the purpose of the questions asked in the survey was to, "better understand who uses the park, timing of use, where they are coming from, motivations for using the park, perceptions about park quality, and preferences for future improvements."

Here are some of the more interesting (in my opinion) findings:

- 79.3% of respondents said they drive a car to the park (and 63% of respondents travel four or more miles to get there).
- 4.5% of respondents ride a bike to the park (13.3% walk)

- When asked their primary motivation for visiting, 42.4% of people said, "exercise and fitness" while 31.6% said it was to enjoy nature and be outdoors.

- For this next one, I'll defer to a graph. Here's the breakdown of answers when folks were asked their three top activities they do when visiting Forest Park:

- When asked to rate the importance of park features (across all Portland natural area parks) on a scale of 1 - 4, trails came out on top with an average rating of 3.89. The next three were forests (3.66), native plants (3.29) and then wildlife (3.28).

- When asked the open-ended question (in write-in format), "What can be done to improve your experience at Forest Park?", "Improve Trails" and "Increase Bike Trails" were the categories most often cited.

Tom Archer, president of the Northwest Trail Alliance, says the results of this survey boost their position that more bike access and trail improvements are needed. "The number of cyclists compared to other users is relatively small, because there are no amenities for cyclists right now. Many people also commented that they'd like to see an expansion of bike facilities."

This survey - along with the City Club report and a Forest Park Bicycling Survey done last spring - is likely to be used by advocates of both sides of the issue in the ongoing discussion about how best to improve biking in the park. A bruising public process recently concluded and now the ball is in Parks Director Zari Santner and Commissioner Fish's court. They're expected to issue their blueprint for moving forward on the issue - in the form of a list of recommended actions - in the next few weeks.

We'll keep you posted.