Report from Portland Pedestrian Summit II

My experience of Ped Summit II began when I boarded the #45 bus in downtown Portland. Over the next few blocks, 3 or 4 more transportation advocates boarded the bus, and on the way to Multnomah Village, the driver regaled us with the comparative advantages of the #44 versus his #45 to get us to our mutual destination.

Mayor Potter welcomed us to the summit (Transportation Commissioner Sam Adams is off at Railvolution this week). Updating us on the New Orleans evacuee status (off again?) the Mayor reminded us that a major earthquake awaits Portland sometime in the future and building community networks (like Pedestrian Advocacy) is critical to disaster preparedness.

The summit was hosted by activists from SW Trails, led by Don Baack, chair of SWTrails. Many of the presentations focused on the work of this organization and their effectiveness in getting trail projects done. Some of their “get it done” tactics include:

  • Building a bridge over a creek for $500. The project is list in the Transportation System Plan for $95,000.
  • Creating stairs from railroad ties rather than the more expensive poured concrete.
  • Using ground up asphalt and concrete recovered by PDOT from repaving projects for trail surfaces.

Since these projects are not up to ADA standards, some concern was expressed about accessibility, but the general consensus was that since the City would not build ADA-standard projects in the same locations for many years, if ever, having non-ADA trails was better than having no trails at all.

The key to success in getting these projects done is getting buy in both from neighborhood associations and the adjoining property owners. The importance of this work is reinforced when you understand that only 15% of streets in SW Portland have sidewalks!

Wendy Bumgardner, the Portland-based guide for walking.about.com (with a million online readers) gave us an in-the-flesh presentation of the health benefits of walking and told us how to locate walking clubs (Volkswalking) in the region.

A discussion of pedestrian challenges included vocal complaints about poor pedestrian detours and lack of mitigation for sidewalk closures due to construction projects.

And we were reminded to call 503 823-SAFE (PDOT’s safety line) when we encounter a pedestrian safety issue.

The Pedestrian Summit is one of the few city-wide gatherings of transportation advocates and I sincerely hope this series will continue!

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