Just back from a trip to the town I grew up in – Bend, OR. If you’re unfamiliar with Bend, it’s located in the near-geographic center of Oregon, on the high desert east of the Cascades. It’s a beautiful place, and a mecca for all things outdoors-fitness related. And, despite having more brewpubs per capita than anywhere else in the US, it serves as a launching-off point and training ground for many world-class athletes. US decathlete Ashton Eaton (who just set the world record at the Olympic trials) is from Bend, and many cyclists, snowboarders and skiers have Bend as their home base.
Bend has grown fast since I moved away in 1986. It’s gone from a mill-and-skiing town of 15,000 to nearly 100,000 today, with close to double that number in the surrounding area. The infrastructure has changed as well; outside of the core area of “Old Bend” (as pleasant a downtown riverside spot as you’ll find anywhere) the city’s system of roundabouts and roadways has expanded greatly since I tooled around town on my old Royce Union in the
So it’s a bit shocking that with all of this new infrastructure, in a town awash in competitive and recreational cyclists (and yes, maybe even a few commuters), so little attention has been paid to cycling infrastructure. What could have been a model for cycling has been reduced to an afterthought. There are a few bike lanes along some of the newest roundabouts, but they’re strictly made for recreational riding, with a weird cobblestone texture. And what to make of Century Drive, Bend’s primo location for serious training? You’ll see a steady stream flying up and down CD to Mt. Bachelor every day, including teams training in full kit at high speed. But the road barely has a fog line, to say nothing of a bike lane. With only one lane in each direction and a posted speed limit of 55 MPH, it feels like a disaster in the making.
I love Bend, and I love going back to visit a couple of times a year. It’s just a shame that the city hasn’t been able to do more to embrace and support all the cycling that goes on there. Because with 300+ days of sun a year, it’s almost always a good time to ride in Bend.
And then there’s all those brewpubs . . .