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Another case of harassment on Springwater Corridor

Posted by on September 18th, 2012 at 5:00 pm

When night starts on the Springwater,
so do security concerns.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Springwater Corridor path has been called, “a stunning and well-planned urban connector” that “embodies the spirit of Portland.” During the day it buzzes with all sorts of human-powered traffic. But at night, it’s a completely different story. The path has no lighting and it has become a very popular place for people to sleep, live and hang out. Over the weekend, I heard of yet another incident where someone on a bike was harassed while using the trail at night.

Here’s the story sent in to me by a reader:

“At about 9:00 pm on Saturday [9/15] me and my girlfriend went on a night ride through the Springwater. At the entrance to the corridor we encountered a homeless camp with multiple people hanging out. They yelled and swore at us as we passed them: “Fuck you assholes! Turn off those fucking lights!”

An hour later, on the return trip back to their camp, they yelled at us again. A guy ran in front of us and came extremely close to grabbing one of us off the bike, as they were alerted to our presence well in advance because of our very bright lights. He looked enraged and screamed he’d kill us. Looking backwards, a few homeless guys were running towards their mountain bikes apparently to catch up to us. Thankfully we were biking very quickly at this point and made it off the Springwater safely.

We flagged down two cyclists heading into the corridor (by SE 4th & Division) to alert them what happened. One cyclist said a similar situation happened to her about two weeks ago. She called the police. About 2-3 minutes later 2 police cars arrived, removed the posts, and drove into the Springwater. Don’t know what happened after that because all of us left the area. Just a heads up for other people using this trail at night that it can at times be very shady.”

This is a troubling trend. The previous incidents we’ve shared — some in October 2011, the others this past August — happened in similar situations. The main difference with the story above is that it happened closer-in to downtown Portland near the northern entrance of the corridor (near Ross Island Sand & Gravel). The previous ones happened east of 82nd Ave.

After we reported on the August incidents, the story got picked up by the local news and KATU-TV reported that Portland Parks officials had decided to add police patrols (on foot and ATV) in the outer east area. Perhaps it’s time to add more frequent security patrols along the entire pathway? Or maybe it’s time for a more proactive solution? Is it time for lights along the path?

To me, the bottom line is that the Springwater is a transportation corridor and people who use it should be able to expect the same level of safety as they would on any other major transportation corridor. Of course, being on a bicycle at night makes you inherently more vulnerable no matter where you ride (and people do get harassed even on well-lit surface streets), so I’m not sure what — if anything —we can do about it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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

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Nick
Guest
Nick

I’ve never ridden the Springwater, so maybe I’m being naive, but lighting seems like an obvious solution. Every city street is expected to be lit.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

Nick,
I’ve always thought lights were the way to go too…. But Portland has a lot of wildlife activists who cringe at the thought of how the lights would impact animals that live adjacent to the path.

007
Guest

And trees and plants which need darkness, too.

Matt
Guest
Matt

I’ve heard that’s not an option due to the wildlife refuges.

Richard Allan
Guest
Richard Allan

The area where these people are camping is not a wildlife refuge. The “wildlife” in that area is mostly feral cats and Canada geese.

was carless
Guest
was carless

Thats not true. I see wild deer in that area almost every day. All the way to Oaks Bottom.

Brian
Guest

Deer are very adaptable to living near humans. Around here they eat our flowers. It so adorable. Oh well, what can you do.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

you forgot the quotes around “adorable” 😉

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

You see Deer on the 20ft wide grass strip between the path and the river, next to the fence, railroad tracks, and the steep hill up to HWY 99, just south of the Ross Island bridge?

A.K.
Guest
A.K.

I’ve seen deer on that hill between the RR tracks and HWY 99.

Easy
Guest
Easy

Yes. There are no less than three juveniles, and 2 adults.

Spiffy
Guest

just south of where this incident took place it runs through the western part of Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge for at least a mile… so they’re unlikely to put lights in that section…

Mike Fish
Guest
Mike Fish

There are quite a few lovely bird species, including sightings of elusive green herons.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Once humans have moved in to an area the wildlife has already been displaced.
Therefore it can no longer be construed as a functioning wildlife sanctuary.

Scott
Guest
Scott

The obvious solution would be to offer housing to the houseless. I think there is like 2% more vacant building than there are people without a place to live. But this is political, so let’s leave obvious out as soon as possible.

pliny
Guest
pliny

Unfortunately not all those who are houseless would accept shelter even if given to them for free. Portland already has an amazing (in comparison to other places) array of options for people who *want* to get help.

It’s not that risky a bet to assume that the sort of people who choose to camp on the Springwater aren’t on any waiting lists for shelter space.

Tony
Guest
Tony

I know its off topic, but shelter space isn’t housing.

pliny
Guest
pliny

You’re quite right, however transitional housing didn’t sound as snarky.

Scott
Guest
Scott

I’m confused a bit, because a percentage would not accept you think it would be preferential for property to go unused? This does not seem like an acceptable argument.

Also, in light of organizations like AA who grow due to outreach from those who they have helped who have a direct connection to the others that need help, this would operate with a snowball effect.

esther c
Guest
esther c

Do you want people like that living in the empty houses in your neighborhood? People that would threaten to kill you for using a bike light at night? yep, great idea. I have friends that live in neighborhoods where these types of people have squatted in empty houses and its not pleasant. Her house was robbed and a week later they tried to break in again when she was home through her daughters bedroom.

Scott
Guest
Scott

I am people like that. I have been houseless several times, always by choice, but nonetheless without a house. Just like in all strata of society, there are good eggs and bad. I would actually like living in neighborhoods with squatters more than in neighborhoods with those in the highest tax brackets.

Brrr
Guest
Brrr

Do you attack and threaten people for riding with lights on their bikes on a bike path? It’s people like THAT that no one wants to live next to.

chucklehead
Guest
chucklehead

The obvious solution would be for people to behave in a civilized manner and not threaten to kill someone for being on a bike path.

Scott
Guest
Scott

That is not a solution at all. That is whimsy.

Todd Hudson
Guest

Another big problem about putting lighting for dozens of miles is that lighting costs money to install, and money to maintain.

Demian Ebert
Guest
Demian Ebert

I ride this path every day year round during normal commute hours. My wife rides it twice a week at about 5 am to get to and from rowing practice. Her comment about the homeless people described in the article isn’t printable. We both appreciate the warning and will take steps to ensure that should a threatening situation occur, we have some form of protection.

As a professional wildlife biologist, lights are problematic for some wildlife species; but so are feral cat feed stations and homeless encampments. Oaks Bottom is a wildlife refuge and a pretty nice feature within the City that we should try to preserve. That said, public safety has its place too. Stepped up enforcement should help. Lights would help many safety issues on that section of the path (which I think has been discussed here in the past) and maybe it’s time to make that trade-off decision with the wildlife advocates.

A.K.
Guest
A.K.

I feel for the homeless, I really do – anyone could be ruined by an unexpected medical emergency, job loss, mental illness, or whatever. So I’ve never begrudged people who are looking for a discreet place to camp for the night.

But would it kill them to at least not cause a problem for other folks who are just minding their own business and passing through the area? It’s not their area, it’s everyone’s area.

And you think they’d like to keep the cops from being called on them…

Richard Allan
Guest
Richard Allan

I don’t think these are the same people who have camped there in the past. In the past, there were a number of single men, with bikes/trailers and tents. They would set up at night, pack up and leave in the morning, and (in my experience anyway) keep to themselves. I wouldn’t be surprised if those folks have been driven away by the new crowd.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Agreed. I pass by the same guys camping there every evening and they have been nothing but pleasant to me. At one point I forgot my lighter and asked one for a light, he politely insisted that I keep the lighter and told me to have a nice day.

esther c
Guest
esther c

there is usually a reason when a person is so socially bankrupt that they’re living in camps like this.

Scott
Guest
Scott

You are mis-guided. I would easily wager that at least one person you come into contact with regularly, like, and respect is, or has been houseless at one time in their lives. It can happen to anyone.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

The last part you wrote is the solution. We have to call in these people, and the police will harass them until they go away.

Scott
Guest
Scott

Go away where? Poof? Harassed into the ether?

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

A shelter, or a quieter place where they will not get into conflicts with commuters. It is their choice; but clearly, what is occurring is not legal or civil. Do we not have the right to a safe commute on the trails we pay for?

Richard Allan
Guest
Richard Allan

My commute is along the Springwater Willamette Trail, and there have been homeless folks camped out there pretty regularly for years. I’ve never had any problem with them.

But last night, riding home after dark, somebody there yelled profanity as I was riding by. That has never happened. I thought it might have just been people arguing with each other. But this story makes me rethink that.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

1) lighting, lighting and more lighting.
2) remove overgrowth: mainly hiding places and complete obscurement.
a) at first we should stick to invasive species and non native plants. I’m partial to goats or a public outreach like has been organized to remove non-native ivy in Forest Park.
b) remove complete visual screening from adjacent public spaces. Nothing growing there provides any visual nor auditory improvement for adjacent property owners and only helps to hide illicit activity. If Portland is so proud of the Springwater trail why are we hiding it?
3) Police call boxes. Many Depts of Transpo nationwide still put up emergency call boxes in remote areas for safety. Suppose that every 1/4 mile a permanent hardened call box that only calls the police with accurate location info was installed. There is always vandalism on any public project but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
4) In historically high risk areas, in addition to lighting, we should set up inviting picnic or social gathering areas. We need to make the high risk areas low risk by introducing large amounts of public eyeballs to the mix.
Make it cheery and garishly suburbanite looking; everything made in site poured cast concrete.

Notice nowhere did I suggest enforcement directly, merely the option of quick easy enforcement. The only real solution is to come to terms with the simple fact that with increasing use and density that these public spaces can no longer be used as quasi-rural flop houses for the homeless. NOT because they are homeless but because they are people and some percentage of people are stark raving nuts. Put crazies, homeless or not, in a situation where there are no witnesses and little worry of police involvement and this will simply happen.

Change the environment and ecosystem of use by cyclists, walkers and campers and the problem will evaporate from here.

Richard Allan
Guest
Richard Allan

Some good ideas there, but the area at the north end of the Springwater, just south of the Ross Island Bridge (where the incidents described in this story occurred) already is open, recently mown, completely visible from the river and the trail, with picnic benches. In fact, it may be those factors that are attracting this group.

Lighting would be great, at least along the segment from the Ross Island Bridge south to the Ross Island Sand & Gravel boathouse — i.e., the area that isn’t wildlife refuge and is inviting for overnight camping.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Yeah, that steep area:
() between the rail line adjacent to the Springwater and 99E
() south of the Ross Island Bridge
() all the way to Ross Island Sand & Gravel
Is a problem mostly because it is easily accessible by foot, hard to patrol and even harder for the general public to even be aware of the existence of due to being UNDER 99E and adjacent property owners whilst being too distant from those with a direct line of sight (across river). To be a concerned citizen watching this area you must be in it or using a telescope across the river.

I propose for this area either:
() it be made completely inaccessible to all
() or we get local architectural designers to come up with a beautiful and safe terraced park for this stretch.

We already have long narrow parks in Portland that would seem to have achieved what I suggest. Area restriction, to be 100% effective, will likely be quite costly.

Demian Ebert
Guest
Demian Ebert

I like the call box idea. I think almost every university campus in the US has a similar system.

DIMcyclist
Guest
DIMcyclist

I’d still suggest adding a roving bike-security patrol.

Un-(lethally)-armed private security would probably be best, considering PPD’s stellar record for dealing sensibly with the homeless & mentally ill.

dwainedibbly
Guest
dwainedibbly

Concealed weapon permit?

Rol
Guest
Rol

The thought does occur to me that the general absence of the rule of law in those areas, could be turned into an advantage.

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

I’m just not sure I want to mess with weapons in anti- weapon Portland while on a bike which has plenty of anti- bike jurors to go around.

I’d definitely mount a large pepper spray can if I went through there regularly.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Bear mace is awesome.

Brrr
Guest
Brrr

I’ve been thinking that it might be a good idea to carry pepper spray when I ride anyway. Stories like this one just cement the idea… time to go shopping.

BicycleDave
Guest
BicycleDave

You really want to ride out the other end of the trail having shot to death some poor crazy soul?

jim
Guest
jim

I guess the key there is you did ride out the end of the trail, better than the alternative.

Spiffy
Guest

BicycleDave
You really want to ride out the other end…?.

yes, getting out alive is preferable…

dr2chase
Guest
dr2chase

Y’all are getting slightly paranoid. There’s a world of difference between being harassed and physically attacked. If you carry pepper spray, make a plan NOT to use it, otherwise that is an escalation, too.

resopmok
Guest
resopmok

Lights are probably the best solution and promote safety all around. Having the path lit between the Ross Island entrance and Sellwood would make it safer for those without bright lights and discourage some riff-raff from causing problem. Lights on posts can also be shielded on the backside to prevent most of what would shine into non-paved areas of the path. Lights from the Sellwood continuation through to at least 82nd would also be helpful for the same reasons, but the wildlife refuge considerations are probably less important. Probably the biggest hurdle of making it reality would be cost of installation.

Frankly though, I have always found surface streets to be safer after dark except perhaps during the middle of winter when the sun goes down before rush hour. Clinton/Woodward and SE 52nd or 72nd get me to most destinations in outer southeast quicker than the Springwater anyway.

Spiffy
Guest

I still think the Springwater is best for southern destinations… my experience on SE Milwaukie Ave is less than stellar…

Champs
Guest
Champs

Yes I’ve heard that “turn off those fucking lights” refrain before, but that was in the middle of some dance party ON the Esplanade.

I’m not sure why the camps have to be run like gangs owning turf. We all have better things to do than deliberately bother them.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Shouldn’t an urban dance party be inviting lights, specially strobing lights to get that rave feeling?

pixelgate
Guest
pixelgate

Weird, I make multiple nightly trips along this path from SE Tacoma right through to the end and on through to Omsi, never once had a problem.

Not that I’m blaming anyone, but the biggest problem I’ve experienced on the Springwater isn’t the homeless but the other cyclists who use what appear to be airport spotlights as a bike light. When there’s nothing but pitch blackness, and all the sudden you have something that might as well be a laser pointed directly in your eye, it makes it impossible to see anything and you basically have to slow down to a near stand-still until the person passes.

I can imagine how these lights would also irritate the homeless population. If you want to use those lights on a busy, well-lit street well then okay, but on a desolate path like the Springwater it just seems like a dick move.

Rol
Guest
Rol

Dick move eh? Thing is, the busy, well-lit street is already well-lit so why would you need a bright light? When you’re on a dark & desolate bike path, is precisely when you might need a brighter light. Not everyone has perfect night vision. People do get old don’tcha know. (Such a dick move! The nerve!)

Ironically there’s MORE need for a light now that you need to be watching out for these yay-whoo’s.

pixelgate
Guest
pixelgate

So cars can see you?

I’ve yet to see a cyclist justify how aiming a bright light into the face of another cyclist on a pitch black path like the Springwater Corridor makes sense. If you insist on using these lights, make sure you’ve done your homework and know how to aim them so that they don’t put other cyclists as risk. Keeping yourself safe at the expensive of other cyclists’ safety is, indeed, a dick move.

pixelgate
Guest
pixelgate

expense not espensive*

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

Most “be seen” lights are dim. 1-5W LEDs like the Planet Bike Superflash. Works well enough, I can see those coming up the street a long way.

Where they fail is lighting a dark road. I have a 10W halogen (which is now antiquated) for riding through the Hills where there are no street lights, and often no street sweeping. At 12mph a superflash won’t light the road enough to miss a branch.

The springwater is even darker, with plenty of debris to end up on the path (horse droppings… scofflaw equestrians!) and plenty of people or animals on the path side that I’d rather see from more than 15 feet away.

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

I will note… high lumen lights should NOT FLASH.

Some people look like seizure inducing disco balls.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Except in full daylight conditions where it is difficult to see a bike light anyways.
What I want is about 2,000 lumens mounted low(headset or front fender mount) that is VERY VERY tight beam (<5°) with a VERY sharp cut off of spill over light. It also should be aimed so that the cutoff occurs ~5° below the vertical plane so as to not blind those in the distance.
I want to super illuminate ONLY my direct path so that everything bigger than aquarium gravel casts a blatant shadow ; everything else can lit by other lights as needed.
A smaller geeky 360° visible blinky on top of the helmet would be sufficient if it is visible at a distance.

Barney
Guest
Barney

Its a transportation corridor not a dormitory. The two uses are not compatible in that space. Bikes with lights belong on the Springwater, belligerents camping not so much. Your effort to characterize cyclists as the offenders here is a “dick move”.

Spiffy
Guest

you replied with camping to a post about lighting…

people belong on the path, no matter their mode…

you shouldn’t be aiming your bright lights into those people’s eyes… aim them low…

leave the eye-aiming to the low power “be seen” lights…

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

Problem is, if people are sitting on the side of the path, where are my low angled lights pointing? Right in their eyes.

Alan 1.0
Guest
Alan 1.0

Bright lights make sense to me on an unlit path like Springwater; it’s dark and you need to see what’s ahead without outriding your field of vision. Sure, they should be aimed below oncoming eyes, but oncoming eyes should also avert to the right edge of the path to avoid the lights, SOP.

I don’t really get why the lights are riling up the campers so much. They aren’t aimed right at their gathering, are they? And the trains on the track right next to the path have intensely brighter lights than any bike.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Agreed. I hit a 25lb rock at 20mph and wrecked up my bike pretty bad while riding on the I-84 bike path in east Portland. I was using one of the dinky 1W lights. I now have a 600 lumen headlight, which I always carefully aim down and don’t use on flash mode save for the most dangerous lit roads in high traffic. I could care less if someone thinks I’m a “dick”, I’m going to use my light.

Spiffy
Guest

they might also be yelling at trains and chasing them down the tracks…

Dan Kaufman
Guest

I rarely use any lights when riding that trail at night but I turn them on when riders approach. There is usually plenty of light (with a couple exceptions depending on conditions) once your eyes adjust. Riding without lights makes it much more difficult for evil doers to see you coming/time your approach.

I have never had a problem with troublemakers but it sounds like it’s time to make our presence felt en masse, I’ll bring it up at the Swarm meeting tomorrow night – http://shift2bikes.org/cal/#20-3331 The Springwater belongs to all of us (and we won’t be getting streetlights).

Hugh Johnson
Guest
Hugh Johnson

Are you serious? People trying to safely light the road in front of them are the problem? Meanwhile we have drugged up people making threats and you take their side? Only in Portlandia.

Tony
Guest
Tony

I’ve got a real nice front light that is powered by a generator hub. Best $100 I ever spent on my bike… the only problem is you can’t turn it off!

Rol
Guest
Rol

Anywhoo. I agree that it can be annoying to be blinded by a light. Cut loose like a douche, another runner in the night. I’m just saying, it’s not automatically a dick move to have a bright light. Meanwhile verbally or physically attacking someone for shining bright lights (on a bike, at night, on the BIKE PATH) is unquestionably a dick move. I think that’s what originally stuck in my craw about this line of thought. I actually have nothing vested either way in questions of lighting. It’s more like, if anybody needs to apologize for being there, it’s the Path Trolls, not the bicyclist. Because at the risk of sounding like I’m writing a book for 3-year-olds, bikes go on the bike path. (“Zip-zip go the bikes on the bike path. Wheeee!”) Bikes belong there, is what I’m trying to say. There are plenty of nice dark places to party in that aren’t a paved bike path. But there aren’t so many paved bike paths.

Kim D
Guest
Kim D

“plenty of places to hang out” – Agree – my experience has been lots of folks that are bedding down for the night are closer to the water than the bike path.

Doubtful these nutcases are the ones just looking for a quiet place to sleep. And doubtful adding lights to the path will do much to negate keeping the crazies from threatening path users of any stripe. Call boxes may be a good idea – increased patrols better idea.

J_R
Guest
J_R

Time for an enforcement action. If they can do it at Ladds Circle, why not the Springwater Corridor.

Maybe if cyclists were licensed and had license plates…. (satire).

Joshua Curtis
Guest
Joshua Curtis

Perhaps the most proactive solution would be to provide an adequate supply of low-income housing, a full employment economy and funding for community mental health programs. It is a shame that we live in a country and city where anyone has to be sleeping on a bike path.

Hugh Johnson
Guest
Hugh Johnson

We also live in a free country where people can become raging drug addicts if they so desire.

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

Why stop there? Let’s learn to accept random assaults on pathway users until we solve ALL the world’s problems. Priorities, people! Priorities!

Alan 1.0
Guest
Alan 1.0

How about if a few community outreach people along with a couple of cops with friendly attitudes had a courtesy chat with those campers? Let them know that they’re aware of them but less likely to take enforcement actions if things remain copesetic with other trail users, and tell them about services and options they might use.

Kim D
Guest
Kim D

Doubtful the folks that are looking for a place to sleep are the ones that are aggressors.

eddie
Guest
eddie

This is really the best solution, minus the cops. Why not just talk to these people? If I weren’t in Europe on vacation right now (yeah, yeah…) I’d get some friends together and go down there to negotiate. Hell, maybe even bring a six pack…

I’m not kidding. These are human beings and if you approach them with respect it might do a lot of good.

I mean, lights and laws and cops might work fine, but IMHO the direct human to human communication method is often the best way to ameliorate conflict.

Spiffy
Guest

there’s no safe way to stop when they’re harassing you on your lonely ride… coming back with a large group will instantly trigger their defenses… we don’t need a war… they have less to lose…

JL
Guest
JL

I am sure that I am not the only person that noticed the increase in “campers” and the amount of trash on/near the trail south of Ross Island Bridge last year. Somebody came in and moved most of them out at one point.

Is there a city ordinance that hasn’t expired banning camping?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sit-lie_ordinance

Sunny
Guest
Sunny

flamethrowers…here, let me light that for ya

are
Guest

i think this kind of comment can be removed, jonathan

Jolly Dodger
Guest

Alcohol… methamphetamine usage…desperation – add it up…there are few and far between places to feel safe out there at night if you are down. I feel for the folks who live ‘outside’ by choice. The advancing trend of allowing alcohol sales at carts will undoubtedly bring even more of these instances…assuming some of those imbibing would have had a limited supply into the night hours otherwise.

Is it a family friendly atmosphere? Sometimes…and it depends on how much ‘respect’ you give those who choose to ‘live’ there. Pass slowly, nod and say hello…they will smile back. If you snub your nose like something smells…well, go figure.

The lights are another thing entirely. I have been blinded by other cyclists lights at night and feel sometimes it can be overkill. Yes, you should be seen…but so bright, you outshine car lights? Seems a tad unsafe for the rest of us….just saying.

Zach
Guest
Zach

Jolly, these folks aren’t going to be buying their beer from a cart at $2.50 or more a pop. They can’t afford to.

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

$2.50 for a beer is very much on the cheap side– it’s what a can of Pabst costs at a dive bar. I would imagine any cart selling beer would have their price points set such that they’d avoid those seeking to cause problems for the users of the trail as well as the cart owners themselves.

Spiffy
Guest

$2.50 for a can of PBR?! you’re not at a dive bar…

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

$2.50 for a pint of craft beer? You’re not at a food cart.

davemess
Guest
davemess

The biker bar near me sells pints for $1.50!

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Citizen patrol groups, backed up by the community and the PD, riding the route regularly, might be an effective way to go. Find out who the rowdy people hanging out are, how often they’re there. Alert them to options.

In a natural setting, street light type lighting doesn’t just impact wildlife. The type of light they produce detracts from the sense of nature people go to a natural setting for. Installing along the trails length, maintaining and keeping them may amount to a tidy sum (bean counters?). Safety is a priority, but street lights may not be the best answer.

I just wonder how tough the Springwater ‘desperados’ are. Would a been kind of interesting to watch their reaction if the reader and his girlfriend on their bikes had been followed a 100′ back or so by a group of five or six serious folks on bikes. Could be, the rowdies’ big mouths might have hushed up rather quickly once they noticed the follow up group.

Zach
Guest
Zach

Of course it would have – but what’s your point? Are you suggesting that we have teams of “serious folks” ready at all hours to shuttle riders from one end of the trail to the other?

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Point is…if the rowdies come to realize folks in numbers, rather than one or two by themselves, are coming through the corridor with some regularity, monitoring who they are and what they’re doing, they may be less likely to play little monsters, jumping out of the shadows to scare people.

It’d be helpful to know who these people are. Visit them during the day, but maybe they’re not there then. Maybe they’re just a little wilder than average drunks or druggies, but if they’re something worse, truly disposed to violence, that would take sterner measures to deal with. Possibly letting the trail side at night be taken over by rowdies, eventually becoming a place where no decent person can go, doesn’t sound like much of an option.

It’s too bad really, because the regular crowd riding the trail probably isn’t paying any mind to people just hanging out in the woods along the trail, quiet and polite, minding they’re own business, enjoying a free spot to kick back. So it’s both the regular trail users and the quiet people hanging out that are paying for the excesses of the rowdy people.

Mindful Cyclist
Guest
Mindful Cyclist

That is not a bad idea. The gay community did something similar in 2010 when there was a rash of gay bashings near the bars in Old Town. I think cyclist organizing for something like this could work to at least let the “desperadoes” know there are others out there paying attention.

AdamG
Guest
AdamG

Maybe the police should be on bikes (legally lit of course), Not ATVs .

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

I think this would be a first step. If the police only arrive by ATV, you know the cyclist isn’t an officer (on duty at least).

jayteepee
Guest
jayteepee

Stunning is definitely not a word that I would apply to the Springwater. No way, no how. It IS a connector, but I sure wouldn’t be adding any superlatives to it. Frankly, much of the route that it travels is an eyesore, in particular the Johnson Creek industrial area.

I’ve experienced similar incidents for the last several years, usually along the sketchier parts from Tideman-Johnson on out to I-205. I’m done riding through there at nights, and there have been some days where I’ve had similar thoughts.

I can’t say that I’ve had any problems between OMSI and Sellwood, but it doesn’t surprise me at this point.

Jon
Guest
Jon

If you build it, they will come. Portland has had the welcome mat out for the hardcore homeless for many years. Liberal guilt does not allow us to hold them accountable for their actions and choices. Why get treatment when you can just get by with all the social services and do gooders that don’t ask them to change?

Alan 1.0
Guest
Alan 1.0
9watts
Guest
9watts

Thanks, Alan 1.0, for that link!

Alan 1.0
Guest
Alan 1.0

You’re welcome, glad you like it. It seems he’s heading this way (journals Dromomania and Three Wheel Antidepressant [The Eleven]).

jeffrey utterback
Guest
jeffrey utterback

IMHO Many /most most of the homeless population are not innocent, unfortunate victims of circumstance, but have long standing, Mental health, substance abuse, criminal activity issues that are not easily resolved…the technical solution may be better lighting, but long term solutions maybe more elusive…

Terry D
Guest
Terry D

Endemic homelessness is the legacy of generations of trickle down economics. With our housing supply, we could eliminate it for a very small cost if the resources were directed properly, but as a society we do not have the willpower or consensus to do that.

In the meantime, we need to have the Springwater lit if it is going to be used as a transportation corridor at night. I for one, have real problems riding it at night. I do not have the best night vision so I would either have to us a monster light or just ride carefully and slowly…..then other cyclists come and blind me with their headlights and I can not see the middle or edge of the trail. It is dangerous for me to ride it…..if I was commuting into deep SE at night I would use an on-street route.

The 205 path on the other hand works just fine for me at night. The Springwater only has certain sections that are environmentally sensitive. These area the lights can be well shielded and pointing down as much as possible, but as a whole I think the trail should be lit for safety and access if it is to be used as a transportation corridor. Removal of invasives and adding areas for socializing is also important to get people off of the trail, but as this case highlights that may not always work….it is important though to give these people as many options as possible before “sending in the troops” so to speak….

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

Most of the environmentally sensitive parts have fences along the trail so people stay out of the marshes and other habitat. Even if we can’t light that, the fences help prevent parties or camps from forming in the area.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Whoa, I’ve ridden the Springwater many times at night, and never (yet) had a problem, so this is chilling.

I should add that I do dim my light on the Springwater. I don’t need as much light to see the path there as I do on suburban arterials where my light has to overcome an enormous amount of ambient glare, or on a 25+mph ride out of the West Hills.

I also put a shroud on the top of my light to help shield it from the eyes of other people on the path. On the path, the only light that does me any good is light that actually hits the pavement. Contrary to what was said above, no one is outshining car headlights in terms of lighting up the pavement. In terms of blinding others, well maybe so. Someone needs to market a cheap, bright MagicShine light with a better beam pattern.

But to blame cyclists with bright lights for incidents like the above is a total blame-the-victim dick move.

jack S.
Guest
jack S.

I had many people yell at me during my night ride. At one point there were 3 men standing on the path not moving looking at me I thought for sure they were going to hurt me. I yelled hello in the manliest voice I could muster, hoping to avert crisis. Luckily I squeeeeezed by the side of them and they just looked at me. I’ll not ride that road at night again until I’m convinced my safety will be kept.

gl.
Guest
gl.

I had this exact same experience but during the day. it’s not about lights; it’s about community standards, enforcement and consequences.

Brian Willson
Guest

I am a regular user of the Springwater Corridor on my arm-powered handcycle. As a double amputee, I am a bit vulnerable, and as a conservative precaution I simply choose not to ride the corridor after dusk. I find the described behavior of these apparently homeless folks pretty despicable. I do carry a small pepper spray can with me, mostly to fend off attacking dogs, but I would also not hesitate to use it against menacing people threatening me.

But s a 71-year-old man, I have been around the block a few times and feel compelled to share a deeper context. Social-economic-psychological problems cannot be divorced from understanding the grotesquely criminal cultural political economic context in which we live in the USA. Gross personal behavior cannot be excused but it is helpful to know what social-economic conditions tend to greatly INCREASE the number of dysfunctional individuals and uncaring communities.

Our country has been in a virtual permanent war economy since WWII.The entire US American system has a vested interest in a permanent state of tension, needing one illegal war after another to feed the military industrial banking congressional presidential complex. The US spends more $$ on their military than any other nation – 45% of the entire world’s expenditures, more than the next 14 nations combined. Most amazing of all, the top 0.1% (one-tenth of 1%) have more combined pre-tax income than the poorest 120 million people. The 6 Walmart heirs wealth equals that of the entire bottom 30%.

In effect, the war economy, the capitalist ideology of gross selfishness, is sucking the society dry, sending the money to the rich in the gated communities literally making their money on wars, i.e., murdering others. There is little money left for across the board constructive programs promoting social uplift. The narcissism here is on steroids.

The impact of inequality on individuals and society is well established. The quality of social relations in societies is related to the scale of income inequality – how big the gap is between rich & poor. More unequal societies tend to have higher rates of violent crime and homicide, and that people living in them feel more hostility, are less likely to be involved in community life, and are much less likely to trust each other. Inequality is deeply corrosive. Greater inequality is perhaps the most significant obstacle to the development of healthy individuals and communities.

So, though, I cannot defend the behavior described and find it despicable and scary, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that we live in a society that institutionalizes private profit and public decay. It has huge blowbacks effecting all of us.

Tyler w
Guest
Tyler w

Yup.

DIMcyclist
Guest
DIMcyclist

What’s the line– ” a sick society creates sick people?”

Rol
Guest
Rol

That’s what the whole Occupy movement was about. I think.

gl.
Guest
gl.

I’ve been harassed onnthe trail in the daylight. It’s not about lights; it’s about community standards, enforcement and consequences.

I’ve also been chased by dogs, which I find scarier than homeless.

Tourbiker
Guest
Tourbiker

My Headlight can make oncoming cars flash their brights at me.
I’m usually past them by the time they even get a chance to size me up.
not a cure…but it helps

Editz
Guest
Editz

I think this gives cyclists a bad name. The lights most commonly sold in this country are designed for off-road use, where spillage doesn’t matter. It’s time for more bike lights with focused optics that meet German StVZO standards.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

I agree with both of you.

ZGNW
Guest

…and we are all curious to hear what StVZO stands for, of course!

Editz
Guest
Editz
Mike
Guest
Mike

Perhaps Bike Portland/BTA/Walking Coalition can set up a donation fund to light (parts) of the Corridor and install call boxes.
The project shouldn’t cost more than $1,000,000.

It’s easy to suggest solutions that cost tremendous amounts of money. The issue is getting these projects paid for – especially now.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Yeah, call boxes are an expensive solution. So are most other suggestions here.
Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.
In this critical area how about we allow a public vegetable garden? It is a very steep area but with the people camped there anyway we might as well facilitate their self sufficiency in a way that encourages some pride in ownership. These social modifications would mitigate the extreme marginalization of people living there.

There will always be homeless that want nothing to do with modern society; reality TV makes me feel that way. By communicating through action that us mundanes don’t think they are disposable trash will go a long way towards more friendly encounters in the future.

Duncan
Guest
Duncan

Springwater is why I bought the XB8 lights I own. Just keep them angled to the right a little.

noel
Guest
noel

It’s ironic, they don’t want to disturb the wildlife by not installing lighting, yet the city lets the homeless camp there…

Ashley
Guest
Ashley

DO NOT ride the trail at night people. And learn how to deal with the fact that you are in a CITY where dangerous people live and where a lot of times you are unable to rely on help from the police when YOU put yourself in a harmful situation. It has nothing to do with wildlife, call boxes (call boxes????….really???), lighting, or any other well-thought out, unfunded and politely discussed “solution.”

There is NO solution. Understand that the entire city is not your little fun playground to bike around in – nor should it be. **portion of comment deleted for inappropriate language**

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

So you don’t believe that tax-paying citizens should have the right to use public infrastructure without being assaulted?

Spiffy
Guest

the entire city should be a SAFE place for PEOPLE to move around in…

to that end, it should also be a fun place for us to bike around in…

you have a seriously bad case of “blame the victim”…

Granpa
Guest
Granpa

Ashley your opinion is either a fatalistic admission that we should relinquish public spaces to criminal elements or you wish to deny trail users access to public spaces. (sarcasm) Way to be part of the solution (sarcasm off)

Easy
Guest
Easy

This is reminiscent of college flyers telling women how to dress and act in order to avoid rape.

What about folks who work late, or who go to movies after work, or who want to ride their bikes in the evening? Stop being silly Ashley.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

#$%**# the world and let it burn?

Go hide in your gated community.
Everything can be delivered, including groceries, so you never have to leave home.
In case of an emergency an ambulance can escort you from your current hermetically sealed environment to another.

The rest of us out here have to live and work in it so we will be working to FIX it.

A.K.
Guest
A.K.

Quote: “Understand that the entire city is not your little fun playground to bike around in – nor should it be.”

So a transportation corridor built specifically for cyclists and walkers (and other human-powered things), away from car traffic, shouldn’t be used by those two groups of people?

OK, got it. Makes perfect sense… right…

jayteepee
Guest
jayteepee

Frankly, I’m in full agreement with Ashley’s comment. I’m curious what the rest said, inappropriate or not.

A.K.
Guest
A.K.

So you don’t think it’s reasonable that people should be able to use a transportation corridor at any hour that they need to? Not everyone works 9-5.

Would be interesting if people thought the same about freeways (don’t use them after dark! You can’t always see and might have an accident!!).

I honestly cannot fathom how the thought process of NOT using public infrastructure is in any sensible.

Rol
Guest
Rol

OK good, cuz I was like, “This playground kinda sucks.”

Andy
Guest

The river bike path here in Reno has similar problems. Got the pleasure of riding up on a gentleman who was “pleasuring” himself alongside the trial. If anyone figures out a way around this type of problem please let the rest of us know!

Editz
Guest
Editz

Critical Mass ride armed with police batons?

Tom
Guest
Tom

last week on SpringWater , west of 82nd , one of the homeless thot it funny to jump out in front of me and scream and wave his arms over his head.(had to swerve to miss him ..figured he was hoping for a crash)
Yesterday..3PM there was a “not homeless looking” guy who had a parked bike yelling at all riders “Goddam bikes”

..sometimes sketchy even in the day time.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Ashley, this kind of behavior is NOT something we should resignedly accept as a fact of life in “the city”.

In fact, I bet you don’t live in “the city” yourself. I bet you live in a suburb our out in the boonies. Almost every time I’ve been in a discussion centered around solving an urban problem, and someone has brought up that dismissive, unhelpful “you live in the city!” reasoning, it has almost ALWAYS been from someone who does NOT live in the city. Usually it comes from someone who lives outside the city, watches too much TV news and holds a skewed image of “the city” as some noisy, crowded, smelly, crime-ridden cesspool, ignorant of the day-to-day reality of people who actually live there, find it a quite nice place to live, and want to make it better.

I will allow that there is also a (smaller) chance that Ashley does live in the city, but hails originally from a more crime-ridden city somewhere else. That still doesn’t mean we should let ourselves sink to a lower standard of acceptable behavior.

jram
Guest
jram

A few thoughts on the comments above:
1. I find it odd and hypocritical that on a website where we shun the word “cyclist” because it dehumanizes someone by making no mention of the word person, the term “homeless” is used as a suitable descriptor of a person.
2. The situation described in the article is scary, and I hope the police were called on this group. However, this situation should not be assumed to be the normal actions of people living on the street, no more than running a red light is assumed to be normal actions of people on bikes. In my experience, most people living on the streets are just trying to figure out how they are going to make it through the night, and can’t be bothered to harass someone.
3. I have no idea the mental/emotional state of the person(s) that harassed/threatened the reader, but I bet no one on this thread would be operating from a place of 100% sanity if they were in a similar situation (i.e. having to camp on the side of the river, wondering where your next meal will come from while everyone else passes happily by on the MUP). It’s easy to see a situation where the bright lights shining in your eyes while you are trying to sleep can be the proverbial straw breaking the camel’s back. This is in no way intended to justify the actions of the aggressors, but it is always good to try to look at the situation through the lens of the others involved.

shirtsoff
Guest
shirtsoff

Obviously the city needs more beds and resources to deal with an ever increasing homeless and at-risk populations. If you’ve ever slept outside in an urban environment before, you know it is hard to find places low on lighting (which helps facilitate sleep when less lights) and the mob mentality comes from safety in numbers (i.e. the gangs of homeless). That this is happening on the Springwater Corridor shows that there is a lack of resources for homeless populations in the inner city neighborhoods. This is not unique to Portland but we must put pressure on the city and state to work on solutions to this problem that don’t involve incarceration.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

Don’t forget we get screamed at and menaced by “respectable” people every day from their cars.

More enforcement. How many of these troublesome homeless are transient, part of the so-called road warriors who show up en masse when the weather gets nice, and leave (or go back indoors) when the weather gets bad?

If the police are responsive, (and it sounds like they may be) Swift response combined with the impending weather change should clear up the problem in short order.

Redhippie
Guest
Redhippie

Hate to say it, but this is not an uncommon occurance on many of our public green ways and park. I don’t go anywhere near the cross peninsula trail with my kids at night, and only occationally do I venture it. Same issue, people taking it over.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

sounds like a problem that will disappear once it starts raining.

007
Guest

Awnings.

Duncan
Guest
Duncan

Ashley- I can see your point, however I disagree. Yes the whole city should be our playground. A citizen engaged in lawfull behavior should be able to use the infrastructure built for their use. I think we can all agree on that. I wouuld go so far as to say that I have no problem with the unlawfull use of public spaces in so far as it does not harm/threaten/endanger others (ie if a guy is sitting on a bench drinking a beer, I am inclined to let it pass.) HOWEVER as soon as a persons behavior (whether they have a home or not) threatens the safety of others then the logical next step is to contact the authorities. If everyone who has such an experience were to report to the police they (the authorities) will see the pattern and should react accordingly. The arguments against this approach are:

1) The police may mistreat the perpetrators.
This is sadly a possibility, however; the perpetrator engaged in activities likely to result in police response. They knew this (or reasonably should have known this) when they harrassed/threatened/assaulted another person. They had the option to NOT engage in that activity. Anything that happens is the result of their own choices. While we as citizens should continue to press for Police reform, in the interm they are the best people to deal with these situations.

2) The perpetrators are lilely drug/alcohol addicts and not responsible for their actions.
My AA/NA friends say that the most important thing one can do for an addict is NOT shield them from the consequences of their abuse of alcohol/drugs- shielding them from these consequences has another name – “enabling” and it just lengthens the amount of time one must suffer before changing course. Having worked with homeless men – many of then who suffered from drug/alcohol issues the most common sobriety story involved a person who would suffer some negative consequence (including arrest, loss of job/home/partner/family) and how that forced them to evaluate their lives and led them to seek help.

3) We should rely on vigilantism.
While I would never say that a person should not defend themselves, I think their is a line between going out prepared to defend oneself and going out armed and looking for trouble. I am probably farther to the the right on this issue than many of the readers of this blog having no issue with a person who is legally able to carry a firearm from doing so- however as a person who has had some firearms training I would say that a person would have to be very cautious when considering that option when biking on the springwater- the use of a firearm while biking in the dark in an urban area in a crowd of people seems like a recipie for unintended injuries. A person heading out on the trail looking for disruptive people armed with deadly force might well be considered to have been going beyond what is considered acceptable for self defense.

In my mind while a person has the right to self defense, it is always prefferable to avoid injuring others- I would argue that the arrival of law enforcment is less likely to result in injury/fatality of all parties than an armed and untrained individual.

4) We should accept the current situation as uncahngable.
As a progressive I find this position incorrect- any more then we should have accepted Jim Crow laws in the south, McCarthyism in the 50s, or Unequal treatment of women in the workplace or Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in the military the only way to end the oppression of the vulnerable is to confront the issue. Seeing as the most likely people to lose use of this area are the more vulnerable individuals (women, the elderly and disabled) I would say that dealing with this issue means preserving this public resource for all users not just those physically willing to take the risk.

~n
Guest
~n

Maybe it’s not “homeless” people out there shouting and whatnot, maybe it’s Sheila & Beth doing some research for a story, haha… No, but, hey, why don’t we have Occupy plan a march along the Springwater Trail? City would have it properly monitored in no time.

dbrunker
Guest
dbrunker

I’m surprised anyone read down this far, thank you.

I have to agree with Redhippie. Multi-use paths attract dangerous people and I don’t mean reckless cyclists. I’ve had to avoid hitting homeless people on the bike paths for Haden Island, Springwater, Waterfront Park, the Esplanade and the I-205 multi-use path.

Each path has different issues and lighting Springwater won’t solve everything. For example, I’ve been harassed after ringing my bell just one time, by teens who take up the entire path by walking in groups while I rode along the well lit I-205 path at dusk. I suspect because paths are public spaces and they’re isolated it gives certain people a sense of entitlement to be there and immunity from police who can’t reach them. I often think to myself how much I’d like to ride at night, but I stay home because I don’t want to get harassed or attacked and it’s hard to ride the distances I’d like to go without using a multi-use path.

In all fairness, 2700 lumen, flashing, head lights are annoying and not useful on a multi-use path were there aren’t any cars. I can understand the need if you’re riding with traffic on a high volume street without a bike lane, but bike paths have no car traffic. I’ve always wondered how cyclists who use flashing lights can even see their path in the dark when their only illumination is a huge strobe light flashing on the road ahead of them.

K'Tesh
Guest
K'Tesh

Bright lights and pepper spray. Anybody jumps out to try and catch my bike, better be prepared to get both aimed right for the eyes.

CaptainKarma
Guest
CaptainKarma

I yell obscenities at people on bikes who shine their gigawatt lights in my eyes, too.

Duncan
Guest
Duncan

and how is that working for you CK? You think it changes peoples minds about their lighting choices- or maybe it just changes their mind about you?

Sunny
Guest
Sunny

A wide angle lens for the common magicshine type lights is only 5 bux or less from ebay or amazon. They spread the beam pattern such as that of car lights to prevent light wasting above the horizon and blinding others. It’s a popular upgrade to convert an “off road only” light to street legal.

Joe
Guest
Joe

I hit a racoon that ran from the RR tracks under the fence, lucky i hit the brakes hard but still hit it. lol man the thing was solid..

007
Guest

I do not think lighting is the answer. Just another thing for those with too much time on their hands to vandalize. I ride the repugnant corridor regulary and was thinking the other night, the city needs to clean it up and make it so it is not a good place to hideout. It needs mowing, brush removal, a huge cleanup, and perhaps some fencing. Make it more open.

“Stunning?” I think not. I certainly would not show off the corridor to anyone and after I moved here I was so unimpressed that I did not ride it again for 12 years. I don’t know why Portland is so proud of that disgusting strip of unmanaged habitat, rampant with eua de human feces, abandoned clothes and shopping carts, garbage and alcohol addled derelicts. The 205 bike path is supremely ugly, too. And there are too many stop signs on both paths.

Portland should take a look at the bike path cyclist-hating Spokane built from Riverside State Park to Idaho and see how it is done right. I’m not bragging about Spokane (which bites the big one in so many ways), but the cycling over there is amazing.

Commuting to work and getting around the inner city of Portland is great, but recreational riding here gets an “F” IMHO.

Duncan
Guest
Duncan

Its funny but I <3 the Spingwater- some of it isnt so great- but other parts (like around Powell Butte or along the Willamette are so great- or the top of the hill cruising down to Sellwood in the evening is so satisfying to me. I bike it every chance I get.

Dan Kaufman
Guest

You tell me this path don’t look so good, well you just got to poke around http://www.flickr.com/photos/69105289@N00/8057600135/

Joe
Guest
Joe

Springwater is also my fav place to ride. * daily * wish we had more access roads like it.

rolinon
Guest
rolinon

Lighting is a “great” idea. It would also help the homeless meth adicts as a source of income when they rip out the wiring to support their habit. What was it 2 or 3 years ago when metal thieves were hard at work along the 205 path? They were ripping wires out as fast as they were replaced.

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

I commute hundreds of miles per week, many of them on bike paths around the metro area. As a reasonably sane woman traveling alone, I realize it’s not smart for me to use these paths after dark.

Until disparities of all kinds are dealt with on a society-wide level, it’s not wise, especially for people perceived to be women, to travel these paths alone at night.

So now, because some men don’t feel safe, it’s a pressing issue. Once the “aggressive drunken homeless” issue has been swept off the Springwater, probably by police who will abuse their power in some way or another, it will still be unsafe for women. And there will still be homelessness caused by our failing economic system. It will not change until we deal with sexism, ableism, and socioeconomic disparity on a society wide level.

If you don’t think that will ever happen, then advocating for a safe night time Springwater for males only is only working in half the population’s interest.

So have fun doing that. In the meantime, I’ll keep riding the streets after sunset. I recommend you do too.

Duncan
Guest
Duncan

The question is why are the streets safer? Most likely because there are more law-abiding people around- safety in numbers right? My point is that if we can make the Springwater more popular at night (through lighting, enforcement, etc) then yes eventually it will be safe for everyone. Remember at one time Burnside, downtown, and may other areas were considered “unsafe for women at night”… and now by the only measure I have (that I see women walking around at night) that has changed.

Yes it would be great to get all the big things fixed. But sometimes you have to start small. Because those small things add up- whats the difference between saying we shouldnt enforce the law on the Sprungwater and we shouldnt enforce the law (when it comes to people injuring others at least) downtown? Should we go back to the days when people who were assaulted were obviously “asking for it” by being somewhere that they shouldn’t be?

C3
Guest
C3

Ask cops to cycle patrol the corridor at night, posing as regular cyclists. If the trail trolls act up, the cops can smash ’em.