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On narrowed Waterfront Park path, Parks Bureau urges caution

Posted by on September 14th, 2011 at 12:17 pm

A turf restoration project has narrowed the shared-use path in Waterfront Park, making it even more crowded than it usually is and forcing Portland Parks to address user conflicts.
(Photos © J. Maus)


At the end of August, Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) began a large-scale project to restore and renovate the turf on Waterfront Park. The grassy area between Naito Parkway and the shared-use path along the Willamette River is closed. Work has begun to bring the turf back to life after the succession of summer festivals left it trampled and dead.

To keep people off the grass, PP&R has put fences that have narrowed the already-congested path by a few extra feet. Now PP&R is urging the community to walk bikes and take extra caution in the area.

Sign went up after
concerns were raised.

On August 30th, PP&R received a call from a man who says he was brushed closely by someone riding a bicycle in the project area. “No injuries, nothing major,” says PP&R spokesperson Mark Ross, “but he indicated some concern about the narrowed path mandated by our project.”

A few days after that incident, PP&R installed a sign that reads, “Congested Area: Please Walk Your Bike.”

I rolled by the location this weekend. As I expected, the area was crowded with market-goers, tourists, joggers, and of course people bicycling through (many people bike on the Waterfront path as a preferable alternate to Naito Parkway, which has high-speed motor vehicle traffic and only standard, 5-foot bike lanes). Some people obeyed the sign, others didn’t.

The narrowing of the path brings to light several issues. Courtesy for other people on crowded paths in Portland is often in short supply. The City of Portland has grappled with this problem in the past and while continued public education is always helpful, it has limited impact on changing behavior. Ultimately, as the number of people biking and walking grows, wider facilities and additional, high-quality, bicycle-friendly routes will be needed to handle the congestion issues.

From PP&R’s standpoint, they just want people to relax, slow down, and obey their sign.

“We understand the inconvenience that this necessary and important project may cause in the short term,” wrote Ross via email, “and appreciate the community’s understanding and abiding by the signage and fencing.”

The turf project and path narrowing is expected to last until the end of December 2011.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

65 Comments
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    Adam Troxel September 14, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    If people would just walk to the side it would be much safer. Seems peds are walking wherever they want (center of path) and letting their dogs heel to their left on extendo leashes.

    Maybe a sign reminding folks to walk to the side when possible and use common sense on a MUP.

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      -J September 14, 2011 at 1:42 pm

      Except that the Waterfront exists primarily as a pedestrian path…there are other options for cyclists, but not so much for pedestrians. I do ride the Waterfront occasionally, but I have no problem going at a much slower pace than usual in order to avoid kids/dogs who may have random movements. The Waterfront should be a pleasant place for visitors and pedestrians, not a bike-commuter expressway.

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        Natalie September 14, 2011 at 4:04 pm

        Fair point, J. I was going to chime in about how annoyingly carefree and inattentive pedestrians can be on the waterfront… but I guess there is kind of something nice about not always being on your guard, out of the way, etc. as I’ve come to expect of people when riding my bike.

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        Jon September 14, 2011 at 7:50 pm

        agreed, therefore the naito cycletrack is essential. too bad the overbuilt naito parkway was just rebuilt almost exactly as it was. that street carries a fraction of the traffic it used to that 5 lanes is completely unnecessary.

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      Paul Johnson September 14, 2011 at 8:58 pm

      I love dogs, but in the city, there’s really no reason not to obey the 6 foot leash law.

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        Suburban September 15, 2011 at 8:24 am

        I have observed that there is no enforcement of this law, and therefor no reason TO obey.

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        Amy September 15, 2011 at 10:57 am

        With a 6-foot leash, dogs can easily get in the way of bicycles. As Natalie mentioned above, there is something nice about not being constantly on guard. With my dog on the waterfront, however, I am constantly on guard, as bicycle pass very quickly and very closely.

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    Chris I September 14, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    The east side of naito badly needs a cycle track and sidewalk.

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      Steve September 14, 2011 at 2:00 pm

      I hate when they put up those fences tight to the bike lane along the East side of Naito – it ALWAYS leads to people walking in the bike lane. I really wish they’d at least give a buffer and make an impromtu “sidewalk of sod”.

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    Indy September 14, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    I walk this every weekday and the sign is usually to the side, not visible at all. Must be a Market/Weekend only thing.

    Once the weather turns rainy again this’ll blow over.

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    Amy September 14, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    On the weekends when I walk my dog down there, zero percent of bicyclists walk their bikes. However, it’s so crowded and everyone is going so slowly that I feel perfectly safe, compared to other parts of my Hawthorne-Steel Bridge loop, where my dog has had some near misses with bicyclists.

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      Bob_M September 14, 2011 at 2:03 pm

      AMY
      I trust you don’t have one of those 20′ retractable leashes. A coworker of mine was taken out by a dog on one of these long leashes. I hope, also that the dog poo I so frequently see on this bridge is not a result of your abandoned responsibility.

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        Chris I September 14, 2011 at 2:36 pm

        I think you can blame the street kids and their pit bulls for that one…

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          justin September 14, 2011 at 3:54 pm

          this is the most pointless and baseless comment i’ve read on hear in quite some time. i’ve seen people from all income levels refuse to pick up after their dogs. But it must feel nice to blame those who sleep on concrete and don’t know where their next meal will come from for a few piles of dog mess. Hooray for compassion.

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            Hugh Johnson September 15, 2011 at 6:26 pm

            maybe their priority should be food and shelter for themselves first, and not being a pet owner. Can they always provide for the poor pet?

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            justin September 16, 2011 at 9:05 am

            @hugh: a lot of the time, the dogs that you speak of are adopted by the kids because they are strays. outcasts. abandoned. and the kids really relate to that. and the dogs of street kids usually eat better than the kids themselves. i find your point of view incredibly sad, but what really brings me down is the fact that many people feel the same way.

            sorry to hijack a bike thread to discuss homelessness, but the last thing the folks on the street need is to be blamed for such “first world” problems like dog doo. maybe you can help them out a bit instead of throwing stones, and we will all be better off in the end.

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        Amy September 14, 2011 at 3:41 pm

        I do NOT have a retractable leash–in fact, I think they are evil.

        However, dogs like to sniff things, and the things they want to sniff might be on the left side of the road. I do my best to look back, use hand signals, etc. but there have still been some close calls. I actually prefer super-crowded, nice-weather weekend days for my walks, because EVERYONE, bikes included, needs to slow down.

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    ME 2 September 14, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    I don’t want to sound crass, but as someone who rides SW Naito northbound every evening rush hour I regularly have to deal with pedestrians walking in the bike lane whenever there is an event (cinco de mayo, beer fest, bite of oregon), I doubt Parks and Rec or any other City agency would place some signage directing pedestrians off of the naito bike lane. I try to ride safely around pedestrians, but would appreciate them being reminded every now and again to act responsibly by not walking in bike lanes or jaywalking in the rose garden TC.

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      Jon September 14, 2011 at 7:51 pm

      thats probably because naito is missing a sidewalk on the eastside of the street (which adds additional pedestrian traffic to the waterfront path).

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    beelnite September 14, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    No one should expect pedestrians to “hug the side” of any sidewalk or MUP or shared path EVER! Why? Because. That’s just how it is. Sorry. People walking take priority and they can walk, amble, stumble, weave, side-step, crawl, etc. wherever they darn well please and anyone walking DOES NOT have to move over cuz we yell “On yer Left!” So there. Sorry to be so blunt. Cyclists… just take Naito if you want to go anywhere faster than 8 mph… which happens to be the speed most of the good looking joggers/runners are running at. The Waterfront is not for you.

    In the midwest – if you come across a herd of cows on the interstate… it’s often illegal to honk, startle, yell or attempt to move said livestock… this is on the interstate… your choices as a driver are: Wait, wait and wait.

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      ME 2 September 14, 2011 at 2:56 pm

      I don’t think pedestrians should be marginalized, but as humans I expect a bit of common courtesy and awareness of their surroundings. Their inattentive ambling side to side can have bad consequences for them and others. My brother who was jogging at the time had a few grand in dental bills as a result of a pedestrian who decided to get off a MUP. The ped at fault didn’t get off scott free either, as his collision with my brother resulted in a trip to the ER for some stitches.

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      Richard September 14, 2011 at 4:36 pm

      I have seen some large people on MUPs, but they are smaller than cows and, I hope, smarter.

      And in your hierarchy of users, where do people on rollerskates fit? Are they pedestrians, who can use as much of the path as they please, or if they are going very fast are they more like bicyclists who have to yield?

      Bottom line, it seems to me, is that everyone needs to be appropriately careful and courteous.

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      Paul Johnson September 14, 2011 at 9:07 pm

      That’s why the MUP concept is intrinsically flawed. You know what actually works? Riverparks Eastbank Trail in Tulsa. Seperate pedestrian and cyclist space, jaywalking in the cycleway and cycling in the footway tends to get cited aggressively by the Riverparks Authority, to nobody’s chagrin. In places where it is a MUP, pedestrians have a paved shoulder on the river-facing side and cyclists still have clearly defined lanes.

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      Jay September 16, 2011 at 7:56 am

      “because and “thats just how it is” aren’t valid reasons for this argument; I take it someone failed COMM 314 or never took it. The “trail” along the River is a “Multic-use path” ..that means everyone gets to use it, bikes, peds, wheelchairs, what have you.” “MUP” also means that you dont get to walk 90-people across with no room for anyone else to pass you or to travel in the opposite direction without having to move. It means you walk single-file or at the most 2-across and allow people ample room who are traveling in the opposite direction or trying to pass you. It also means you walk on the damned CORRECT side of the path (the right side) and stop wandering all over the path. Seriously, I see this crap on the Springwater too which really gets my goat–last weekend people were doing some sort of marathon practice and I can’t for the life of me figure out WHY they have to run in this wolf-pack with 10 people across and how they REFUSE to break formation when they see someone coming in the opposite direction–its really inconsiderate. By the third time I finally yelled at a group that they were hogging the trail and to be more considerate. They of course, ignored me.

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    J-R September 14, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Most pedestrians and most cyclists exhibit proper usage of the path with regard to speed and position. However every time I ride the path (slowly and carefully with my kids), I encounter several pedestrians who walk wherever, leaving a few feet to the right and several feet between them. Two unaware or inattentive pedestrians can take up more than half the width. And that doesn’t even account for meandering.

    If people observed more thoughtful positioning, we could all share the reduced width. Expecting cyclists to walk at all times is an overreaction and unrealistic expectation. This is due to one complaint due to being passed closely?

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    Lee September 14, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Simple solution with a new sign on Naito: “Congested Area: Please walk your car.”

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      Paul Johnson September 14, 2011 at 9:28 pm

      Someone should do that just to troll the parks bureau for thinking that was an acceptable response a block east on Willamette.

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    Deeebo September 14, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    This is a situational awareness issue. Walk/ride to the right and its all good. However, there have been multiple times on that strip where I’ve come head to head with walker/ runners travelling 4,5, 6 abreast, sometimes with dogs. In these cases I’ve come to a stop directly in front of them and asked “where, exactly, do you expect me to go?” Normally they mumble and make some room but it comes down to paying attention and realizing that you, surprisingly, are not the only one that happens to be using this particular public space.

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    JAT in Seattle September 14, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    If the Parks Bureau wants people on bikes to “obey” their sign (and in re-reading the article I recognize this is Jonathan’s wording and not necessarily theirs) perhaps it shouldn’t be phrased with a “Please”. I can’t think of any other road-use signs that ask my politely for my mandatory compliance.

    Please No Parking? Please Stop? 30mph Please?

    Nope. This sign uses non-standard lettering and coloring and offers a justification (congested area) for asking me to voluntarily change my behavior.

    While I’m absolutely for using street-like bike facilities (as opposed to park-like) when a cyclist wants to travel at speed, asking a cyclist to dismount is about like asking a pedestrian to restrict themselves to a limited part of a multi-use path, which as beelnite points out above: ain’t gonna happen.

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    Spiffy September 14, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    “Warning: Don’t collide with anything” signs might as well be put up on every block in the city if they think this is the way to go about things…

    no, I will not walk my bike… I will ring my bell as required by law and if they still step in front of me that’s their problem…

    the waterfront is always narrowed by something… sometimes it’s a fence and sometimes it’s a line of people in various modes…

    we don’t need to spend money putting up more signs for idiots…

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    Rita September 14, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    I ran the path at noon today, and while it was congested, I never saw this sign. I did see bikers biking, but they were obviously going slower and with much attention to the excess people on the track. Quite honestly, this is a non-issue because the trail users (mostly) seem aware of the issue. Kudos for the park for putting up signs on WHY we’re being fenced off the lawn, it helps.

    More dangerous are the un-constricted segments where cyclists open up (I do it myself) and peds stop being ultra aware of space constraints, and people are more likely to let dogs and kids wander. I’m sure there’s a near miss or slight collision every day, but guess what, that’s what happens in public: there are other people there.

    Can’t we all just get along

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    NW September 14, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    A lot of people (not all) I see riding in the congested area(given the speed they are going) should be able to use the bike lanes on Naito. While it is probably a slightly more inconvenient route for some, it is likely faster and safer during the narrow path period.

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      Donna September 14, 2011 at 9:41 pm

      True, and I did indeed move to the bike lane last Sunday so as not to be impolite – and encountered pedestrians there as well. Am I supposed to walk my bike in the bike lane, too?

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        JRB September 15, 2011 at 7:39 am

        No, take the lane.

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    JRB September 14, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    What a wonderful world this could be if folks would exercise a little better judgment and tolerance and not get so wound up about what their perceive to be their rights. I never ride the waterfront because it is dominated by pedestrians. Why should I get frustrated when I can easliy take Naito. If Naito is too scary , than take the waterfront and walk your bike in the congested areas. So what being respectful of the safety of other mode users costs you a little extra time, isn’t that we are always telling motorists? I also can’t understand people getting bent out of shape about people walking in the bike lane when the sidewalk or sidepath is closed off. None of you take the lane when the bike lane is blocked?

    Another example: There was some organized ride going south on Naito last Saturday morning, part of which passed through the area where Saturday Market vendors unload their vehicles. The loading zone includes the bike path and the entire right hand lane, is demarcated with cones and has a huge electronic sign telling vehicles that the lane is closed. In the brief time I was their I watched the vast majority of cyclists on the ride travel through the loading zone weaving among vendors who were trying to unload and move their wares instead of taking the lane. What prompts people to do this?

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      Jay September 16, 2011 at 8:01 am

      I really only ever expect to go slowly on the “west” side of the river at Waterfront Park; this problem doesn’t seem to be as noticeable on the Esplanade; hence the reason I’ve started avoiding the west-side path on my weekend rides.

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        Paul Johnson September 16, 2011 at 7:57 pm

        The Esplanade gets backed up pretty badly, especially on particularly fair-weather days (which I think speaks volumes about cyclists in this city, which largely lacks extreme weather altogether).

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    kerry September 14, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    The waterfront was instrumental in getting me to bike commute, but now that I’m more confident and faster, I despise every inch of it (in the summer. Come rainy season, it’s fine). Multiple of the uses are wholly inconsistent with efficient, linear travel.

    However, the bike lanes on Naito are awful. The grates are huge and periodically have those mulch fenders in them, they’re narrow, they’re made of two different surfaces, the car drivers are aggressive to openly hostile, and there are frequently pedestrians in them even when there isn’t a festival afoot.

    In short, there needs to be a recreation/exercise path and a travel path.

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      Randall S. September 14, 2011 at 3:34 pm

      Eh, I ride Naito to work every day (at least part of it), and I don’t really have any issues with it.

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      Dabby September 14, 2011 at 11:06 pm

      Those Mulch fenders sometimes are loaded with spores…
      Is supposed to help in the whole process.

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    Ryno Dan September 14, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Seems to me they could install the fence on the grass and not block the MUP. Also maybe we need to consider having less festivals down there.

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      JRB September 14, 2011 at 3:52 pm

      It’s not the festivals that are the problem, its the fact that the grass is destroyed every time and needs to replanted, fertilized etc. The City should explore surfaces for this area that don’t require constant replanting. Perhaps the City can invest in some kind of resusable raised duck boards to protect the grass during festivals. I imagine they could pay forthemselves over time by saving the cost of constant replanting.

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        Paul Johnson September 14, 2011 at 9:35 pm

        Or perhaps consider moving such events to a park that isn’t effectively the median between 99W and the Willamette Greenway. Like Lownsdale and Chapman Square. Likewise, Pioneer Square events should probably be moved to the former two squares so Portland’s living room and busiest transit hub can be Portland’s living room and an easy to negotiate space.

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    Natalie September 14, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    I think PBOT could benefit from reading this entire string of comments. This seems to be one of the most reasonable and civil discussions from both sides of the aisle that I’ve seen on this blog in a while, and some really good points on needed infrastructure improvements have been made. Just sayin.

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      Paul Johnson September 14, 2011 at 9:36 pm

      PBOT doesn’t have anything to do with this; this is another example of Parks & Rec not being Transportation and not knowing how to properly handle the situation. Why Portland thinks sending Parks & Rec to do a job better suited for PBOT or a specialized greenway authority is beyond me.

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        Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 15, 2011 at 9:13 am

        Paul makes a good point. I’d love to see some policy/jurisdictional clarifications between PBOT and PP&R. In my experience, Parks is not equipped to deal with transportation corridors… which the Esplanade, Springwater, Waterfront Path, etc.. certainly are.

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          Paul Johnson September 16, 2011 at 8:03 pm

          Long story short, if it runs through a park, be it cycleway, MUP, sidewalk or motor vehicle facility, it’s Portland Bureau of Parks and Recreation. If it’s anything else that matters to machines with wheels meeting roads, is inside Portland and isn’t ODOT, it’s PBOT. This differs notably from the State of Oregon. All transportation facilities owned by the state, be it in a state park or not, are ODOT. Cycleways and MUPs in state parks are ODOT. The parks that may or may not be around them? Oregon State Parks.

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        Natalie September 16, 2011 at 9:25 am

        Interesting point, I’d just assumed this was a PBOT issue–it doesn’t make sense for Parks & Rec to be in charge of this kind of stuff. Regardless, good points are being made on here that would do well to be funneled into the laps of these decision makers.

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    Bjorn September 14, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    The best solution would be to add 4-5 feet to the width of the path and have less sod to try to “maintain”.

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    Kevin Wagoner September 14, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    I’ve ridden through there a bit lately and didn’t notice the sign. I’ll stick to Front Ave until the fences disappear. Good to know.

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      Jay September 16, 2011 at 8:03 am

      yay for calling it “Front” still 🙂

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    Brock Dittus September 14, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    I am a big proponent of observing the code of conduct that seems to be common courtesy – vehicles of all kinds yield to pedestrians. Makes for some slow going but it seems to be the best way to ensure that people in all modes of transit are equally protected and respected. Also it provides me with a sense of empathy for drivers who must follow slow cyclists such as myself. 🙂

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    captainkarma September 14, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    Sounds ironically funny hearing bicyclists complain about scofflaw, unpredictable pedestrians and dogs. Hope a bicycle speed limit doesn’t become mandatory.

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    Joe September 14, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    markings?

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    Mike September 14, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    Here’s an Idea, how about being a cyclist who follows the rules, yields to pedestrians and doesn’t ride like a maniac when there are alot of pedestrians present. Can this site ever consider how cyclists bad behavior impacts others or is it always my way or the highway? If there is congestion and you have some sense, SLOW DOWN

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    Dabby September 14, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    Every year the city gives out permits allowing the destruction of the grass in the process.
    Then every year they spend a whole load of money and time regrowing/ rebuilding it.

    It is the same as it ever was.
    This is nothing new.

    I think many of the festivals thrown on the waterfront should be moved to the outskirts of Portland.

    It becomes a reason for me to not go downtown when something is going on along the waterfront.

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    Alex Reed September 15, 2011 at 6:37 am

    Has the City look into putting artificial turf down in the most heavily-used areas of the waterfront? I’m sure it would be controversial, but I’d say it would be greener and less costly in the long run than constantly watering, reseeding, and resodding the living grass.

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    ccama September 15, 2011 at 8:52 am

    I’ve recently started biking, and living in sw, use the waterfront and eastbank esplanade quite extensively. Within about 3 weeks I realized the waterfront was just too risky if I don’t want to stop every 100 feet. So I ride on Naito. No biggie. The weekends though are TREACHEROUS with people who barely know how to operate a bike much less understand laws and/or convention for riding.

    I respect that people have to walk, and have a right to do so. I guess my issue is with the groups of 4,5,6 people all walking next to one another (maybe even with a child or three), who don’t understand or care that they are also sharing the pathway. During the Brewfest I thought it was probably best to take my chances on the waterfront route since it was already dark and wanted to avoid drunkards in their cars on Naito, but was amazed how people almost tried to make me crash. Mind you, I was fully illuminated and going quite slow. Just my .02

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    KatLog September 15, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    I hit a pedestrian with my bike on the Waterfront in August of this year. She didn’t look in any direction before she literally ran right in front of me and we both went down on the sidewalk hard. All witnesses, herself and her friends included, agreed it was completely her fault. We were both relatively uninjured, but we were both lucky.

    All people regardless of how they are transporting themselves need to treat a MUP like a road (slow traffic stays to the right, travel only on the right side of the road, check behind you AND in front of you before changing lanes or passing, look both ways before crossing, etc.), but they don’t and I don’t think they ever will.

    Even if we educate (“train”) Portlanders to remember to treat a MUP like a road, there will always be the issues of kids and tourists. There needs to be a separate cycle path on Waterfront or a cycle track on Naito.

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    KatLog September 15, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    To be absolutely clear, the pedestrian was standing on the side of the path talking to friends and not moving, and suddenly ran across the path without looking both ways.

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      dan September 15, 2011 at 4:20 pm

      To be absolutely clear, you were going to fast for the conditions, and should be anticipating just such actions in a pedestrian area.

      Just as it’s been pointed out here numerous times the vulnerable road user always has the right of way. We can’t blame the driver for hitting a cyclist that was riding at night w/ no lights and dark clothes on a darkly lit rural road but then say ‘it was the pedestrian’s fault, I didn’t expect him to run out into my path…”

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        Spiffy September 19, 2011 at 8:45 am

        so if they were going 1 mph then that was too fast?

        it doesn’t work that way… people dart in front of moving things… it happens… the only way to avoid it is to be stopped…

        I doubt you spend your entire life stopped, therefore it’s possible that you could hit somebody that darts out in front of you… and it might not be your fault for going to fast…

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    katlog September 15, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    There was no speed at which I would not have hit her. She literally went from standing to crossing the road (the MUP) at a running speed without looking either way. I accept her view and her gaggle of friends’ opinion that it was totally her fault.

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    kittens September 15, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    Haha, the smallness of this “solution,” even temporarily, is shocking! Spend millions rebuilding Natio Parkway but fail to install sidewalks and great bike facility, then be surprised when congestion happens. If only the minds at work engineering roads for cars to move on, were as adept as those moving bikes and peds. This is not rocket science!

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    Hugh Johnson September 16, 2011 at 9:16 am

    justin
    @hugh: a lot of the time, the dogs that you speak of are adopted by the kids because they are strays. outcasts. abandoned. and the kids really relate to that. and the dogs of street kids usually eat better than the kids themselves. i find your point of view incredibly sad, but what really brings me down is the fact that many people feel the same way.
    sorry to hijack a bike thread to discuss homelessness, but the last thing the folks on the street need is to be blamed for such “first world” problems like dog doo. maybe you can help them out a bit instead of throwing stones, and we will all be better off in the end.
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    My point of view is sad because I think they should be focused on their self preservation? Wow.

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