#BikeTourism and the Historic Columbia River Highway
A few weeks ago, we were asked to film the annual Policy Maker’s Ride on the Historic Columbia River Highway. The ride was meant to bring key policy makers to the Historic Columbia River Highway so they could see what could be possible with a completely re-connected HCRH. The ride brought together elected officials, staff from various DOTs, bicycle advocates, business leaders and even the mayors from the neighboring cities. It was an amazing event to be part of.
What was most remarkable for us was that everyone in attendance was keenly aware of the historic highway’s amazing “bicycle tourism” possibilities. Sure, you could blaze through the Gorge on I-84, but you don’t really experience it. Perhaps more importantly, by taking the interstate you move TOO fast and aren’t stopping at the small communities along the way. The mayors from Troutdale, The Dalles, Hood River and Cascade Locks were there (mayor Doug Daoust, who hadn’t ridden a bike in years, rode the the whole way!) and each spoke about the benefits of having a re-connected historic highway and a steady stream of cyclists passing through. These aren’t Portlandia bike hipsters or hardcore bike-campers, but they recognized the potential of having the historic highway easily navigable by bike.
The ride also celebrated a new stretch of off-road bike path. You can now ride from Troutdale to Cascade Locks without getting on the less than pleasant I-84. For all the fanfare though, there was still a very serious call to action. The HCRH trail is not complete. The last 10 miles, which will be the hardest to construct and costliest to fund, is still at stake. In order for the Gorge to truly be a world-class bike destination, that last 10 mile stretch must be completed. As it stands now, cyclists who want to ride from the greater Portland metro area to Hood River have to negotiate a terrible stretch of I-84. Most notorious is a portion called Shell Rock (aka Death Wall) in which the shoulder shrinks to the width of a sidewalk AND curves, leaving a cyclist to sprint around the corner to avoid speeding traffic.
This is a long-term project with lots of challenges (financially and politically) along the way, but we are pretty confident it will be worth it. Right now, riding to Hood River via the Gorge is a pretty good ride. Having a complete Historic Columbia River Highway will make it a truly GREAT ride, worthy of being a world-class bicycling destination. Only 10 more miles to go!