Seven Things We Learned Biking in Helvetia

1000 Friends was pleased to join our friends at the Westside Transportation Alliance and Helvetia Community Association on Sunday, June 10, in hosting a Pedalpalooza ramble through lovely Helvetia. Below, some of the things the 30+ attendees learned as we rolled through rural Washington County.

  1. Helvetia has a fascinating history that locals are rightly proud to celebrate. There’s the formation of the land from Lake Missoula floods; the long past and continuing presence of native people and Swiss pioneers, celebrated annually at the Helvetia Culture Fest; and early pioneer trails, barns, and churches that still are marked and cared for. This unique area north of Highway 26 has a stunning, rolling landscape that’s perfect to enjoy at the speed of a bike.
  2. But this highly productive area, with one of the state’s largest clusters of irreplaceable high-value farmland, could look very different. Fortunately, local activists, like Cherry Amabisca and Robert Bailey at the Helvetia Community Association, have repeatedely fought back attempts to site landfills, prisons, and subdivisions throughout the rolling farmland. But there’s still a lot of work to do to keep reminding leaders how important Helvetia’s farmland is!
  3. Elizabeth Furse, who represented District 1 in Congress from 1993 to 1999 and owns a vineyard in Helvetia, credits Oregon’s land use planning system with helping her secure federal funding to extend the MAX to Hillsboro. It also helps folks like third-generation farmer Matt Furrow, whose farm we visited, know they can safely invest in planting Christmas trees and  hazelnuts on their land. Land use planning makes a huge difference for Helvetia's current and future prosperity and productivity. (Learn more about land use in your community at friends.org/LandUseIs.)
  4. There are a lot of bicyclists around rural Washington County on a nice Sunday afternoon! And it's almost the perfect place to ride.
  5. Drivers are notably courteous to people riding bikes on county roads and suburban arterials alike! It’s still a bit jarring to transition from a quiet rural lane to a narrow bike lane on a five-lane arterial. But thanks to folks like the Westside Transportation Alliance, bicycling safety and quality is improving throughout Washington County.
  6. When the historic Helvetia Tavern says “Jumbo Burger”, they mean Jumbo Burger! And when 30+ hungry/thirsty cyclists show up, they spend a lot of cash on refueling.
  7. We can’t wait to do more biking in beautiful Washington County! Fortunately we had another great chance to bike there just a few days later with our MAX to Market ride from Hillsboro to Forest Grove. The trip was co-sponsored by WTA, Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Adelante Mujeres, and Willamette Pedestrian Coalition. WTA made a great time-lapse video of the trip.  Check it out here.

See pictures of our Helvetia ride on Westside Transportation Alliance's Facebook page.