Another case of harassment on Springwater Corridor

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.

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