Wallets on Wheels: Catering to People Biking the Oregon Coast Bike Route
Every year, an estimated 10,000 people come from around the state, around the country, and even around the world to ride some or all of the Oregon Coast Bike Route, a 370-mile journey along the entire length of the Coast from Astoria to Brookings. The route, which follows U.S. Highway 101 and other roadways, includes easy access to campgrounds and other lodging options, restaurants, shops and other tourist destinations.
Since it was established in the 1980s, the scenic route along the rugged coastline has been a popular bucket-list adventure for people who like to travel by bike. Yet many people avoid the route, citing perceived safety and accessibility as key deterrents.
“It’s perceived as a route for the ‘fearless’ even though thousands of people with various levels of experience complete the route each year,” says Sandra Hikari, Tourism and Scenic Byway Program manager for the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). She notes that the Coast has curvy, winding roads that are shared by cars, recreational vehicles, farm trucks and logging trucks. ‘While riding along U.S. Highway 101, people on bicycles must ride cautiously and be aware of their surroundings. With preparation and planning, however, it can be a great experience, which is made evident by the significant numbers of people who return to ride the route annually.”
Become a more bike-friendly business
Travelers who participated in bicycle-related activities while traveling on the Coast in 2012 spent $56.3 million, according to a 2013 Dean Runyon report. Hospitality businesses, chambers of commerce, local government and land management agencies can help enthusiastic people traveling by bicycle have a better experience when on the Coast. Following are some basic facts, tools and resources that organizations can share with visitors and local residents alike.
Oregon Coast Bike Route basics:
- The 370-mile route is typically traveled from north to south, as winds in summer are predominantly from the northwest. There is also easier access to many parks, scenic viewpoints and services when traveling in the southbound rather than northbound direction.
- Shoulder widths along U.S. Highway 101 range from zero to eight feet. Shoulder width is generally wider going the southbound direction.
- The route is marked with green Oregon Coast Bike Route signs.
- There are 38 campgrounds along the route, most of which have hiker-biker campsites that do not require advanced reservations.
- It usually takes 6-8 days to complete the route, depending on how many lighthouses, tide pools, museums and other attractions cyclists stop and see along the way. Many people choose to ride shorter sections over one or two nights.
- Call ODOT’s map hotline (1-888-275-6368 ODOT) to request a free Oregon Coast Bike Route Map and State Bicycle Map.
Your organization can become an Oregon Coast Bike Route ambassador by helping people prepare for biking on the Coast:
- Share links to the official Oregon Coast Bike Route map and the Ride with GPS file. In addition to the online version.
- Share this Travel Oregon article about traveling to and from Oregon with a bicycle.
- Check out Travel Oregon’s Bike Friendly Business Program as a way to ensure your business is doing all it can to cater to cyclists. Recognized businesses will receive branded window clings and can purchase a sign to help bring bicycle traffic through their doors.
- Hang the Bike Friendly Business window cling and sign at your business.
- Install bike parking near your business, in a location that is highly visible.
You can also add this safety information to your website or guest welcome books:
- Be courteous to other roadway users, and follow the rules of the road.
- In Oregon, people biking generally are required to follow the same rules as motorists; ride with the normal traffic flow, as far to the right side of the roadway as is safe and prudent. People biking may ride two abreast, but should only do so when it is safe and will not impede motor vehicle traffic.
- People on bikes may use the entire travel lane anywhere it is necessary to avoid hazardous conditions like parked cars or debris or where the road is too narrow for a bike and vehicle to safely travel side by side. Several tunnels and bridges on the route have warning lights activated by a push button to alert people driving that cyclists are in the lane ahead.
- People driving must give people biking extra room when passing. Change lanes to pass, if possible. You may cross the centerline to pass if it is safe and legal to do so. If you cannot pass safely, slow down and remain behind the bicycle until it is safe to pass.
- Use lights when riding or driving, as the route goes through shaded areas, tunnels, and frequent fog. Per Oregon law, when riding after dark, a bicycle or its rider must be equipped with a white headlight and red rear light or reflector.
- Dress for safety success: Wear bright or reflective clothing. Wear a helmet.
- Don’t travel in heavy fog. In summer and fall, the fog usually lifts by late morning.
- Beware of strong wind gusts on bridges.
- Stop off the roadway.
Help plan for the future
In an effort to improve the experience of biking the Oregon Coast Bike Route, ODOT is seeking input from the community about improvements needed along the route. In December 2018, ODOT kicked off the Oregon Coast Bike Route Plan, which when complete will include recommendations to improve the experience of biking on the route. These could include everything from wayfinding signs and secure bike parking to transit connections to and from the route and capital improvements such as widening shoulders. While ODOT does not currently have funding identified for improvements, the Oregon Coast Bike Route Plan will set the stage for future investments.
Photo by Russ Roca