Cemetery blocks cyclists through Memorial Day

Between 500 and 1000 bicyclists pedal through River View Cemetery every day

A bicyclist rides through River View Cemetery in Southwest Portland, May 25, 2017 (KOIN)
A bicyclist rides through River View Cemetery in Southwest Portland, May 25, 2017 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Each Memorial Day weekend, thousands of people pay their respects to their loved ones’ final resting spot. Cemeteries are filled with friends and family who come to visit a gravesite.

Over this Memorial Day weekend, about 10,000 cars will pass through River View Cemetery on SW Taylors Ferry Road. David Noble, the cemetery’s executive director, said this will be their busiest time of the year.

A bicyclist rides through River View Cemetery in Southwest Portland, May 25, 2017 (KOIN)
A bicyclist rides through River View Cemetery in Southwest Portland, May 25, 2017 (KOIN)

Since the new Sellwood Bridge opened, Noble said between 500 and 1000 bicyclists pedal through River View Cemetery every day. Though the cemetery is private property, they allow the cyclists to cut through, and the majority, he said, are respectful.

“Remember, first and foremost, it is a cemetery,” he told KOIN 6 News. “We’ve been basically helping the city by giving them a bike route, which they even put on their bike map on their website as being a bike route — which really isn’t.”

But all the cars from visiting families and the cyclists passing through causes problems.

That’s the main reason they decided to not allow bicyclists through River View through Monday.

“Based on last year’s experience over Memorial Day weekend we decided that this year it would be better for the bicyclists as well as our clients if we didn’t have bicyclists in the cemetery,” he said.

A sign posted at River View Cemetery in Portland, May 25, 2017 (KOIN)
A sign posted at River View Cemetery in Portland, May 25, 2017 (KOIN)

“We had accidents between bikes and cars, bikes and bikes, thousands of cars in the cemetery over Memorial Day weekend, narrow roads, elderly people driving those cars. It’s conflict that we just had to address.”

David Noble, the executive director of River View Cemetery in Southwest Portland, May 25, 2017 (KOIN)
David Noble, the executive director of River View Cemetery in Southwest Portland, May 25, 2017 (KOIN)

Noble said they received written complaints after the last Memorial Day weekend about the bicyclists. Families felt the bicyclists were disrespectful. Coupled with the traffic issues, Noble said it was “pretty clear to us that we needed to do this.”

The cemetery doesn’t have an issue with the bicyclists throughout the year, and Noble said he understands the appeal for cyclists.

“The area roads are problematic in that if you’re coming across the Sellwood Bridge from Southeast Portland and you want to get up to Lewis and Clark College or Terwilliger Booulevard or Barbur or OHSU, you have to get up that hill and you either have to go north to Macadam or go up Taylors Ferry, which has no shoulders, no bike route,” he said. “There just isn’t a good route on the city roads. There are routes available, they’re just not as nice and they’re not as safe.”

But the “exponential increase in ridership” created the issue cemetery officials had to handle, he said.

Cyclists Frank Kunkel and Jim Sunderland totally understand River View Cemetery’s policy for this Memorial Day weekend.

“I think it’s appropriate. You know it will be crowded in here,” Kunkel told KOIN 6 News.

Sunderland said the policy is very reasonable.

Bicyclist Jim Sunderland, May 25, 2017 (KOIN)
Bicyclist Jim Sunderland, May 25, 2017 (KOIN)

“It’s Memorial Day weekend. There will be a lot of people here. Cyclists can find another route,” he said. “I’m thankful that the cemetery even allows cyclists to pass through here. I mean it’s private property, they put up signs. … Of course there’s always a few bad apples who might try and ruin it for others, but just very appreciative that we even have this.”

David Noble stressed this Memorial Day policy will not lead to a permanent cyclist ban.

“I don’t want this weekend closure to be mistaken as a slippery slope that’s about to happen, but if ridership continues to increase beyond what it has there could eventually be a tipping point,” he said. “Our hope is that between now and if-that-ever-happens that the City of Portland would take their responsiblity seriously and develop a safe bike route.”

PBOT spokesperson Dylan Rivera told KOIN 6 News they’re grateful for the accomodations River View Cemetery has provided for cyclists.

“We agree that a bike lane is called for on SW Taylor’s Ferry Road and our plans call for adding a bike lane and walkway there,” Rivera said in an email. “It could cost $3.5 million or more, because there are steep hills there and fast moving traffic.”

He added they haven’t yet identified the funding for the project.

A scene at River View Cemetery in Southwest Portland, May 25, 2017 (KOIN)
A scene at River View Cemetery in Southwest Portland, May 25, 2017 (KOIN)