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Frequently asked questions

1. What is the Off-road Cycling Master Plan (ORCMP)?
2. Why is the City creating an Off-road Cycling Master Plan?
3. How will the community be involved in the development of the plan?
4. How can I learn more about this project?
5. What is off-road cycling? Is it different than mountain biking?
6. Who rides bicycles off-road?
7. Isn’t off-road cycling (or mountain biking) hard? Do you have to be really experienced or an adrenaline junkie?
8. Doesn’t mountain biking require mountains?
9. Do cyclists on trails interfere with hikers or other users?
10. Will off-road cycling harm the environment?
11. How will the Off-road Cycling Master Plan incorporate or impact existing park master plans and management plans that were adopted by City Council?


1. What is the Off-road Cycling Master Plan (ORCMP)?

The ORCMP will be a citywide plan for a system of off-road cycling trails and facilities.
The Portland Off-road Cycling Master Plan will provide a vision for a system of off-road cycling trails and facilities where kids, adults and families can ride for fun, exercise and to experience nature in the city. It will make recommendations for the future improvement and management of these trails and facilities, based on community needs and input, site opportunities and constraints, and best practices in design, development and management.


2. Why is the City creating an Off-road Cycling Master Plan?

To address community needs and expand opportunities for Portlanders to be active and experience nature in the city.
The City has previously undertaken multiple site-specific planning efforts that considered off-road cycling use on public properties, most recently as part of the Riverview Natural Area Management Plan. In part as a result of this process, the City recognized the existing and growing need for additional off-road cycling experiences within the City. The Off-road Cycling Master Plan will provide a comprehensive plan for the development and management of off-road cycling trails and facilities across the city.


3. How will the community be involved in the development of the plan?

Portlanders, including people who ride bicycles off-road and other trail users, will have multiple opportunities to provide input on the Plan.
The Off-road Cycling Master Plan will be developed through a collaborative and transparent engagement process that offers a variety of opportunities for Portlanders to join the planning process. Project staff are reaching out to a wide variety of public agencies, community organizations and outdoor-recreation businesses during summer 2015 to begin conversations about the plan and to help ensure the overall process is equitable and constructive.

The full planning and community engagement process will begin in fall 2015. While exact engagement opportunities have not been identified yet, the City intends to conduct a well-publicized process that allows partners and community members – especially those who have been historically under-represented – to engage in and influence the planning process. 


4. How can I learn more about this project?

Visit the project website at www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/offroadcycling to learn more and to sign-up for project emails.


5. What is off-road cycling? Is it different than mountain biking?

Off-road cycling can take many different forms.
Off-road cycling can include a leisurely bicycle ride along a smooth natural surface trail; a more technically or aerobically challenging ride with more obstacles, topography or distance; a session at a pump track or skill park; or participation in a mountain biking or cyclocross race. Mountain biking is riding bikes off-road, generally on a bicycle with knobby tires and a durable frame.

People might engage in off-road cycling for many reasons – to experience nature, have fun, spend time with friends and family, get exercise, and get from one place to another or to gain more experience riding a bicycle without motor vehicle traffic. The Off-road Cycling Master Plan project will develop a citywide plan for a system of trails and facilities that create a range of off-road cycling experiences.


6. Who rides bicycles off-road?

Many people ride bicycles off-road – including women and people of all ages.
Approximately 11 to 12 percent of people in Multnomah County participate in off-road cycling, a rate on par with or higher than participation in many other recreational activities (including basketball, football/soccer/lacrosse/rugby, skateboarding, and paddlesports). More women (56 percent) than men (44 percent) ride bicycles off-road in Oregon, and people of all ages are participating – at rates similar to other trail-based activities.*

The Off-road Cycling Master Plan project will engage and plan for a variety of off-road cyclists, including children, adults and families, and other trail users.

*Based on data from the Oregon State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan and the Oregon Non-Motorized Trail Participation and Priorities report, both developed by Oregon State Parks.


7. Isn’t off-road cycling (or mountain biking) hard? Do you have to be really experienced or an adrenaline junkie?

Off-road cycling experiences can be easy... or difficult…
Off-road cycling trails range from easy to advanced to accommodate a wide range of riders and their riding preferences. Beginner trails are often used by riders with little to no experience riding off-road.

The International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) is a nonprofit educational association focusing on best practices for planning, designing, and managing successful off-road cycling networks. IMBA has developed a rating system for trails, based on the trail surface, width, grade, and the extent of natural obstacles (like roots and rocks) and technical features (added logs, bridges or other challenges). The rating system uses symbols similar to ski trails, with easiest trails marked with green circles, intermediate trails marked with blue squares, and the most difficult trails marked with single or double black diamonds.

The Off-road Cycling Master Plan project will plan for off-road cyclists with varying levels of experience.


8. Doesn’t mountain biking require mountains?

No. Off-road cycling (or mountain biking) can occur on all types of terrain.
The terrain and topography of off-road cycling trails can vary greatly – from virtually flat (0-5 percent grade) to steep (over 15 percent grade). Some of Oregon’s best-known and most-used trails are not located at high elevation or in areas with extreme topography. The EasyCLIMB trail system in Cascade Locks is located along the Columbia River at an elevation of approximately 175 feet. The McKenzie River Trail, one of the most popular mountain biking trails in Oregon, starts at an elevation of 3000 feet and descends only 1500 feet over 25 miles.

Trail terrain and topography are key factors in a trail user’s experience and are major considerations in trail design and in difficulty ratings. The Portland Off-road Cycling Master Plan project offers an opportunity to expand off-road cycling opportunities in Portland and create an off-road cycling system that takes advantage of the diverse urban and natural setting the city and region offer.


9. Do cyclists on trails interfere with hikers or other users?

Trail design and management and user etiquette can minimize or eliminate potential conflicts.
Many trail systems, local communities and trail organizations follow a “share the trail” etiquette program. According to “share the trail” principles, mountain bikers must yield to hikers, horses and uphill traffic. They must give an audible warning if they are about to pass, and pass slowly. Special care is required when passing equestrians, including giving more space and asking the rider for instruction or permission to pass.

Off-road trail design and management guidelines and practices have evolved to consider potential user conflicts from the beginning of a project. Trails can be designed to limit the potential for conflicts and help ensure all users feel safe. For example, designers and land managers can look at options for single versus shared-use trails; trail aspects like lines of sight, vegetation clearing, potential user speeds and placement of passing zones; and management strategies like directional trails or time- or day-specific use to minimize or eliminate conflicts for all users.

The Off-road Cycling Plan will be rooted in such best practices for trail and facility design, development and management.


10. Will off-road cycling harm the environment?

Natural stewardship is a common goal.
Trail users are typically nature-lovers; they are on the trail to get outside and experience the natural environment of the Northwest. To prevent damage to trails and the surrounding environment, people riding bicycles off-road are commonly required to stay on formal trails and not ride on wet trails.

Trails – for all users – can be designed, constructed and managed to limit environmental impacts. For example, trails can be located and designed to avoid or minimize impacts on streams, wetlands, and habitat for sensitive plant, fish, and wildlife species. Trail design can prevent damage from erosion by using natural infiltration and best practices in stormwater management. Ongoing trail stewardship can help maintain an enjoyable riding experience while preserving these important environmental functions. Stewardship can also include efforts to restore vegetation, decommission informal trails, and enhance the environment.

The Off-road Cycling Master Plan will be based on best practices and guidelines for sustainable trail design and management, which require careful consideration of the natural environment.


11. How will the Off-road Cycling Master Plan incorporate or impact existing park master plans and management plans that were adopted by City Council? 

The Off-road Cycling Master Plan is intended to provide citywide policy guidance and planning for off-road cycling trails and facilities. It is taking a comprehensive approach – in terms of the geography of the plan, the type of needs considered, and consideration of the City’s overarching policy context. The Off-road Cycling Master Plan will be presented to City Council for adoption by resolution.

In general, the Plan will use the goals and other guidance provided in park-specific master plans and management plans to guide consideration of off-road cycling opportunities on associated properties. The goal is to develop an Off-road Cycling Master Plan that provides for off-road cycling within the City in ways that are not just compatible with, but also forward, City and community goals for our public lands. However, there is the potential that updated city goals, community needs, and technical analysis may support reconsidering certain aspects of existing park-specific plans.

Whether the Off-road Cycling Master Plan can directly amend Master and Management Plans that have been adopted by City Council depends on the type of existing plan, its level of guidance and specificity related to recreational uses, and its adoption status.  A resolution can amend another non-binding resolution but it cannot amend an Ordinance or adopted City Zoning Code regulations.

Example 1: River View Natural Area Management Plan

The River View Natural Area Management Plan was accepted by City Council by resolution – one which specifically called out the potential for future recommendations related to off-road cycling access. Should the Off-road Cycling Master Plan recommend, and City Council adopt, an Off-road Cycling Master Plan and accompanying resolution deeming off-road cycling an appropriate and allowed use at River View, within the parameters of the design criteria associated with the River View Natural Area Management Plan, this decision would supersede the interim cycling restriction in the River View Natural Area Management Plan. In other words, City Council would not have to take a separate action to amend the River View Natural Area Management Plan. This can occur because the level of adoption (non-binding resolution) is the same between the two plans.

During their deliberations on the River View Natural Area Management Plan, City Council acknowledged that if the Off-road Cycling Master Plan recommended off-road cycling as an allowed use, it might also offer more detailed guidance regarding the precise trail design (outside of the established Habitat Preserve). Such guidance might include best practices for designing the trails to provide safe and enjoyable experiences for people on foot and people on bikes where such recreation is endorsed.

Example 2: Forest Park Natural Resource Management Plan

The Forest Park Natural Resource Management Plan was adopted by ordinance and codified in the Zoning Code 33.430.030. The Off-road Cycling Master Plan will be adopted by resolution and cannot directly change the Forest Park Natural Resource Management Plan.

The Off-road Cycling Master Plan may make recommendations regarding off-road cycling in Forest Park, based on community input and technical analysis, and with consideration for the goals and policy provided by the Management Plan. If a Council-adopted Off-road Cycling Master Plan were to recommend any changes to uses, trail standards or other factors outlined in the Forest Park Natural Resource Management Plan, implementing such changes would require either 1) a separate City Council action to incorporate these recommendations into the Forest Park Natural Resource Management Plan, or 2) the proposed changes to go through environmental review as described in the Management Plan.