For mountain bikers climbing uphill, seeing another cyclist flying down toward them can be awfully intimidating.
Conversely, for mountain bikers cruising downhill, having their flow interrupted by slamming on the brakes for an oncoming uphill rider can be incredibly frustrating.
Seeking to limit such conflicts — which are becoming commonplace on the popular and oft-crowded singletrack system west of Bend — the Central Oregon Trail Alliance and the Deschutes National Forest announced they will designate one-way trail routes for select singletrack in the Phil’s and Wanoga networks.
Starting April 5, Phil’s Trail will be downhill only from the three-way intersection at Kent’s Trail (junction No. 18) to Phil’s Trailhead, a section known as Phil’s Canyon. Ben’s Trail will be uphill only from Phil’s Trailhead to Forest Road 300.
In the Wanoga network, Tyler’s Traverse Trail will be downhill only from the intersection of Kiwa Butte Trail to Conklin Road.
Clear directional signs are scheduled to be posted at the affected trails by April 5, according to COTA.
By some estimates, the number of mountain bikers in the Phil’s Trail complex has nearly doubled in the last few years. Safety was becoming a concern, and COTA members — who volunteer to build and maintain Central Oregon’s world-renowned singletrack — believed they had to act.
COTA chairman Woody Starr said the group has received numerous comments about the directional trails — many from riders who enjoy descending Ben’s Trail.
“They can still come down Kent’s and Phil’s,” Starr said. “We’ve got hundreds of miles of trail. The proposal affects 7 miles of trails. A couple (of COTA) board members were even against it. They came around to see the light of it.”
COTA cited several benefits of directional trails:
• Safety: Directional trails allow users to choose a route where serious, head-on collisions between uphill and downhill riders are not a concern.
• Less conflict: Increased traffic led to more conflicts when users were not heeding proper trail etiquette, which includes yielding to uphill riders.
• Continuity: Directional trails will increase continuity of a ride, with little or no stopping to let others pass .
• Perceived solitude: While Central Oregon trails are more crowded than ever, riding on directional trails can make it seem that there are fewer people on the trails.
• Keeping singletrack single: As trails become more crowded, the continuous passing of users going both directions has harmed the trails. Many riders simply ride off the trail instead of stopping to let the uphill rider pass. Directional trails make for minimal passing, keeping them singletrack.
Longtime Bend resident Phil Meglasson, for whom Phil’s Trail is named, said he supports the directional trails plan. Meglasson was part of a group of mountain bikers in the early 1980s who first started riding on game trails and building singletrack trails west of Bend.
“It’s an idea whose time has come,” Meglasson said. “The number of riders out there is increasing so quickly that we just have to start going to one-way trails. This winter at Maston (near Redmond) and Horse Ridge (east of Bend), it’s also been very obvious the increase in the number of riders. I don’t know why, but the last three years it’s really increased a lot. I’d say it at least doubled, maybe even more.”
Meglasson acknowledged he will miss being able to climb the trail through the small canyon named for him, but he understands the pressing need for change on the trails west of Bend.
“That has been here for years, and we were used to going up there and riding up and maybe not meeting a single person coming down,” Meglasson said of Phil’s Canyon. “That was great, but those days are long gone.
“You have to think about what you’re losing for what you’re gaining, but overall I think it’s a good plan. It’ll definitely be an improvement in the long run.”
And as for riders paying attention to the “one way” and “do not enter” signs that are to be posted by April 5?
“There’ll be a few people who don’t see the signs,” Meglasson said. “But as many people that are using that area, they’ll quickly get schooled into following the signs.”
Starr said the signs will be “very clear” and added that COTA will have an informational booth at Phil’s Trailhead to explain the changes.
COTA notes on its website that there is no law against riding the wrong way, but adds that riding against traffic “wouldn’t be much fun.”
In choosing which trails to designate as one-way, COTA’s aim was to provide the longest and most uninterrupted loop while maintaining the most ride options.
According to COTA, Ben’s Trail is a natural up-route because it has the most intersections, making more turn-around loops possible. Phil’s Canyon is revered by locals as one of the more steep and thrilling descents in the Phil’s Complex. Kent’s Trail is rated as the easiest trail in the complex and will remain two-way to allow novice riders a relatively tame uphill/downhill route.
Tyler’s Traverse was built recently as a downhill route and features the greatest elevation loss per mile of any of the Wanoga trails.
The idea of directional trails is not new within COTA. According to Starr, over the last few years COTA has received much feedback about trail crowding, collisions and trail widening.
“We’ve been collecting comments for years,” Starr said. “People hate encounters. There’s been some bad, devastating ones.”
COTA plans to collect comments on the directional trails at least through Labor Day, but Starr encouraged riders to try the one-way loop before commenting.
“If they go out and actually ride the loop that we’re proposing to be one way, and you get back to the parking lot and there’s 100 cars there, but you saw two people, I think that’s a win,” Starr said.
— Reporter: 541-383-0318, firstname.lastname@example.org