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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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39 Comments
  • Avatar
    Jeff TB March 10, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    Nice! Joggers are gonna love that blacktop!

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      Chris I March 10, 2015 at 1:20 pm

      This was my first thought as well. Asphalt is better for your joints, so I guarantee that runners will be using the “bike” path.

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        dan March 10, 2015 at 2:08 pm

        Got a citation on the “asphalt is better for your joints” statement? I would have guessed the squish in the shoes made a much bigger difference than any hardness differences between asphalt and cement.

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          John Lascurettes March 10, 2015 at 2:23 pm

          Doesn’t need a citation. It’s just the general consensus amongst joggers – whether it’s truth or not. I suspect it’s complete hogwash as you state the shoes would make a bigger, more measurable difference.

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          oliver March 10, 2015 at 2:45 pm

          Documented proof that asphalt is easier on the joints than concrete is irrelevant, because that notion is commonly held among runners.

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            MaxD March 10, 2015 at 2:56 pm

            maybe that is why I keep encountering joggers in the bike on the hill of Interstate Ave! I find it irrationally irritating to be pushed out of my skimpy 5-foot lane into the path of speeding motorists because some dude is compelled to jog down the road at rush hour!

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          Chris I March 10, 2015 at 3:02 pm

          http://www.slowtwitch.com/Training/Running/Concrete_or_Asphalt__4793.html

          But you are correct in your assessment that the shoes account for the vast majority of the cushion.

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            dan March 10, 2015 at 4:48 pm

            Thanks Chris, this is an interesting digression. I ran cross country and track through high school and college, and this was new to me.

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            John Lascurettes March 10, 2015 at 5:14 pm

            The conclusion of the study is pretty much that the difference between concrete and asphalt is negligible compared to the difference between running technique, speed and shoe materials.

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      Rick March 10, 2015 at 2:57 pm

      Both should have been KloroTech stuff from Spokane.

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      Spiffy March 10, 2015 at 4:16 pm

      that was my first thought…

      and the anti-skateboarding rails on the long benches…

      but it’s the thought that counts…

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    jeff March 10, 2015 at 12:37 pm

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

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      Bryan March 10, 2015 at 1:05 pm

      True, but its fun to watch them work. Kind of like sitting in a brew pub watching beer ferment in a tank–but Zidell has cranes and sparks and loud noises–it a lot more fun and interesting. I don’t mind biking or walking around it at all.

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      9watts March 10, 2015 at 10:16 pm

      About Zidell, let’s be careful what we wish for. Industry/commercial zones next door are important as far as I’m concerned. I can’t stand the fact that in the Central Eastside Industrial District businesses are pulling up stakes faster than you can say gentrification.

      The paths look very impressive. Not sure I quite understand the $4.7million figure, though. Wow.

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        Adam H. March 11, 2015 at 9:20 am

        It was stated in the article that the river bank restoration was “expansive and very expensive”. I’m guessing that was a major contributor to the high price.

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          9watts March 11, 2015 at 9:23 am

          Right. I guess to the extent that most of the money went to restoration (rather than the fancy benches) it would be good to hold onto that. Otherwise in these times of no money for anything other than asphalt and war we run the risk of mistaking this for pork.

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    davemess March 10, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    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?

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 10, 2015 at 12:55 pm

      yep. it sure does. Sorry to say.

      And one person’s recreation is another person’s transportation.

      Seriously though… by nature of the fact that it doesn’t connect to anything, it won’t see any serious commuter or utilitarian bike traffic at all. Most likely it will be for families and retirees and picnic-takers on the weekends. There’s a bike lane on SW Bond just a block over that the more serious-minded riders will stick to.

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      Spiffy March 10, 2015 at 4:15 pm

      I see a dirt path flanking the stairs in the future…

      although those stairs look easy enough to ride on a mountain bike…

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    • joeb
      joeb March 12, 2015 at 3:09 pm

      I look for excuses to travel that route and once there, I recreate… like two weeks ago on my biannual visit to the accountant and the Buffalo Gap. I took my time exploring. Continuation on the path would/will be awesome!

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    DaveB March 10, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    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.

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      davemess March 10, 2015 at 3:33 pm

      Why is “separated” in quotes. Are you questioning whether that section of Moody (with it’s curb, raise, and 10 feet of sidewalk) is actually separated from the road?

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        Jeff March 10, 2015 at 4:22 pm

        I think he’s questioning the effectiveness of “separation” between pedestrians and bicyclists on the Moody path. Having observed 4-across and even 6-across pedestrian formations in the Moody bike lane in the past month, I question it as well.

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        Stevie Mare March 10, 2015 at 4:42 pm

        It’s not the separation from the road, but rather the intended separation of bicyclists and pedestrians.

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    Adam H. March 10, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    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!

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      Rick March 10, 2015 at 2:57 pm

      and eventually with Lake Oswego soon

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        Granpa March 10, 2015 at 4:18 pm

        Great sense of humor!

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          DaveB March 10, 2015 at 4:54 pm

          The raised part you refer to is only a block or two. Here’s an example what I was referring to:
          http://goo.gl/maps/89R02

          My feeling about bike path delineation is that the City of Portland, with the best of intentions, is WAY overthinking what’s needed to guide cyclists, motorists and peds.

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            Granpa March 11, 2015 at 8:03 am

            The area is a park, not simply a transportation corridor. It should be a point of pride that this section of Greenway does not settle for the least possible.

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    Dwaine Dibbly March 10, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    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! 🙂

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      Adam H. March 11, 2015 at 9:25 am

      I’d rather see protected bike lanes on Naito than a bike path though Waterfront Park.

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    Emily G March 10, 2015 at 10:36 pm

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

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      Adam H. March 11, 2015 at 9:25 am

      Regarding Waterfront Park, I’d be happier with protected bike lanes on Naito. This would also be better during the numerous summer festivals.

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    ed March 10, 2015 at 10:40 pm

    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.

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    eli bishop March 10, 2015 at 11:35 pm

    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! 🙁

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  • John Liu
    John Liu March 11, 2015 at 5:18 am

    Very nice!

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

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    Adam H. March 11, 2015 at 9:23 am

    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?

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    John Landolfe March 11, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    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.

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    Jake March 11, 2015 at 8:53 pm

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

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