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First look: New South Waterfront Greenway offers separate paths for walking, biking

Posted by on March 10th, 2015 at 12:22 pm

South Waterfront Greenway path-12

Stunning new paths — black for biking, white for walking — on the Willamette in South Waterfront.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

I finally got a chance to check out the new section of Portland Parks’ South Waterfront Greenway and I have to say: It just might be the best integration of public space and bike path Portland has ever built.

Now, if we can just make it actually connect to something we’d be in business.

South Waterfront Greenway path-1

The path itself has been over a decade in the making (it first shows up in city plans in 2004) and construction started in earnest about five years ago when the City of Portland purchased a quarter-mile of land along the Willamette River in South Waterfront. The project stalled three years ago due to a lack of funding but City Council finally authorized the final $4.7 million to complete it in February 2014. (The funding source was primarily System Development Charges, or SDCs, which are fees paid to the city by developers to mitigate the impacts of their developments.)

Beyond the world-class design and general excitement about a new section of riverfront bike path in Portland, what makes this project special is that walkers and bike riders will have their own, separate paths. As we’ve seen on the waterfront path just north of this location, overcrowding on Portland’s multi-use paths is a major problem. The separation of uses inherent in this design will (hopefully) alleviate some of the stress and tension of a crowded path where bikers and walkers mix.

Take a little tour and see what you think…

I rolled in at the path’s north entrance on SW Curry Street, or what the Parks bureau calls the “Curry Overlook.” Here’s the view of the path looking north…

South Waterfront Greenway path-2

And looking south…

South Waterfront Greenway path-6

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Another view south showing the entire elevation, including the expansive (and very expensive) shoreline restoration work they had to do…

South Waterfront Greenway path-5

Note that only a small section of the walking path north of Curry St is currently open. Parks has fencing up around most of the path (which I went around to get some of my photos) to make sure the new lawn and other plantings can get established before the official opening later this spring.

South Waterfront Greenway path-9

One thing I like about the design are the subtle markings. Note the classy, inlaid “bike” and “walk” symbols to direct folks to the appropriate path (these are so much better than paint or thermoplastic)…

South Waterfront Greenway path-3

South Waterfront Greenway path-4

Just north of Curry the walking path dives down a gradual ramp into the Willamette. This area will likely be busy as a kayak and canoe launch; and I have a feeling that some folks might tempted to launch off it a la the Cupcake Challenge

South Waterfront Greenway path-10

Like I alluded to above, unfortunately this path comes to an abrupt end north of Curry St at the start of the Zidell Yards (a marine services company) under the Ross Island Bridge, tantalizingly close to another section of existing path…

South Waterfront Greenway path-11

And here’s a look at the southern terminus of the path, south of SW Gaines…

South Waterfront Greenway path-13

Overall, I was very impressed by the public art, the benches, and other furnishings. All are very high-end, built to last, and they make it clear to users that the City of Portland respects this space…

South Waterfront Greenway path-12

Now our challenge is to connect this path to other sections of the existing Willamette River Greenway path to the south and the north. Hopefully that won’t take another 10 years.

— Learn more about this project at the Portland Parks & Recreation website.

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Jeff TB
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Jeff TB

Nice! Joggers are gonna love that blacktop!

jeff
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jeff

it will be a decade before the two paths meet…Zidell’s going nowhere fast..

davemess
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davemess

Does the north end really end at a sidewalk with stairs?
Do you get the impression that this is pretty much exclusively a recreation path right now?

DaveB
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This beautiful separated path begins after the convoluted and confusing “separated” bike ped path along SW Moody. Fortunately, that stretch is wide enough that there’s plenty of room when peds or cyclists don’t use their designated path.

Adam H.
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Adam H.

I was over in this area a few weeks ago and was very impressed by the separate walking/bike riding spaces. Hopefully this will connect with the rest of the network soon!

Dwaine Dibbly
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Dwaine Dibbly

For people living in South Waterfront and commuting to downtown (or anywhere north) it will be useful. (There must be some people who do that, right?)

Also, I’d really love to see a paved path added to Waterfront Park, like this one, so that people on bikes didn’t have to “interact” so much with people on foot. Yeah, it would be taken over by every festival all summer long, but it would be there most of the time.

Ride the new greenway to the tram, ride the tram up the hill to OHSU, coast into downtown via Terwilliger & SW Park! It’s the lazy man’s commute! 🙂

Emily G
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Emily G

This looks really beautiful. I’d love to see more shared spaces, like Waterfront Park, redesigned with separated paths like these.

ed
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ed

Sometimes you include a map when you feature infrastructure changes additions as this. Great if you can as for some of us it clarifies and defines better than pix do; thanks.

eli bishop
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eli bishop

Not connected to the Moody path is killing me. Ending in stairs is killing me all over again. Nice path but no good way to get onto or off of it! 🙁

John Liu
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John Liu

Very nice!

I think that explicit “bikes only” and “no bikes” graphics will be needed, periodically along the path, not just at its start.

Adam H.
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Adam H.

There isn’t much distance between this path and the Willamette Greenway path to the south. Any idea when these two trails would be connected?

John Landolfe
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Regardless of the path’s potential as a connector to a larger transportation network, I’d recommend people check it out and, if they like the design, consider it a prototype for other facilities around Portland. Future experiments will only get political backing with vocal support.

Jake
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Jake

Great looking park on the river, but doesn’t do much as a bike path.