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Lack of sidewalks, dangerous driving cited as top walking barriers in City of Portland survey

Posted by on November 29th, 2017 at 11:46 am

Walking conditions on SE Foster east of 82nd.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

As part of their work to update the citywide walking plan the Portland Bureau of Transportation spent 17 weeks doing a survey to find out what keeps people from doing it. With 4,855 responses tallied, the results are in.

When asked, “What makes walking difficult?” Portlanders from nearly every corner for the city ranked “Sidewalks/walking paths missing on busy streets” as the number one answer. Following closely behind were “Not enough safe places to cross busy streets,” “People driving too fast on residential streets” and “Drivers not stopping for pedestrians crossing the street.”

From PBOT’s PedPDX survey.

The City’s report included a breakdown of respondents by race/enthnicity and geography. 80 percent of respondents were “white/caucasion” Portlanders — that’s eight percent more than the citywide demographic make-up of that group. On the other hand, they heard from only five percent of “hispanic/latino” Portlanders, when they make up 10 percent of our city’s population. There was a similar discrepancy for “black” Portlanders of which only two percent responded to the survey even though they make up six percent of our population.

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To PBOT’s credit, they acknowledged the discrepancy of black/African-American responses. In order to make right by it, the report says the project team will organize “Walking While Black focus groups to better listen to and understand the walking priorities, barriers to walking, and other concerns about walking, directly from Black and African American community members.” The groups will be facilitated by black and African-American PBOT staff in partnership with local organizations like Africa House, the Urban League of Portland, and others.

As far as the geographic distribution, the largest discrepancy between citywide population and number of respondents was in east Portland. PBOT received a 21 percent response rate from that part of the city which has 28 percent of our population.

You can see the full survey report via PBOT’s website (PDF). Learn more about Portland’s walking plan update at the PedPDX project website.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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CaptainKarma
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CaptainKarma

The top 5 reasons people don’t walk are directly attributable to too many cars, driving too fast or not following the law.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

I think I’d put eight of the top ten into that category, leaving only the lack of curb ramps at intersections and the tripping hazards as independent of motorist number and scofflaw behavior.

I’m assuming people want lights so that motorists who are overdriving their headlights might see them and that the lack of sidewalks in residential areas is only a concern because of motorist numbers and behavior.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

I don’t like to walk in the rain.

TonyT
Subscriber
TonyT

I’d like to add PBOT’s typical non-response when it comes to people parking their cars across sidewalks, rendering them non-existant. There’s a particular apartment building in SE where the tenants have essentially confiscated the sidewalk for their parking purposes. I have requested enforcement again and again, and PBOT does nothing.

I know that people like to look toward good design as the solution, and I agree that bad design is a huge factor. But PBOT really takes the cake for being asleep at the wheel regarding enforcement. They simply don’t respond and drivers know that short of doing 100mph while drunk, they can pretty much get away with driving however they want.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

In Portland would this not also be a PPB enforcement issue too? Or only PBoT?

TonyT
Subscriber
TonyT

It doesn’t work. PBOT almost admitted as much when I talked to them about their lack of response to any of my requests. I started calling in, but still get squat for response.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

I think PDXReporter is a dummy app just to let people think their complaints are heard, when in fact they are not even listened to.

I used the app for several months to report illegal parking, leaking cars, etc on my block. The ONLY time anything ever got done was when I actually called in.

Shoupian
Subscriber
Shoupian

Using Matt Grum’s (Dan Saltzman’s senior policy director) logic, sidewalks and safe crossings will not address the need to have shoulders on I-5 through the Rose Quarter. It’s hard to believe that City’s transportation bureau is really placing the safety of vulnerable road users as top priority when the commissioner in charge is adamant about widening a freeway through the center of the city.

Momo
Guest
Momo

That’s an ODOT project, not a PBOT project.

rick
Guest
rick

Easy. It is PBOT refusing to build and maintain paper street trails and bridges.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

Refusing?
How much did PBOT spend last year doing what you say they refuse to do?

J_R
Guest
J_R

One thing that PBOT could do to make walking safer and more attractive is to actively survey sidewalks to identify intruding vegetation (note photo above) and significant displacements causing trip hazards. But, no, they rely on complaints related to individual properties. Why not a walk-through by city staffers for a whole neighborhood with blitz of enforcement letters to the property owners?

In a bizarre assignment of responsibilities, PBOT handles the sidewalk surface issues and Bureau of Development Services deals with the vegetation issues.

And, finally, there’s the leaf issue where residents can fill the streets and drainage grates with debris (leaves) including the corners with ramps, thus forcing pedestrians into the streets for two months every year.

Vision Zero. Ha.

Bald One
Guest
Bald One

Great point, I couldn’t agree more. Less surveys of the totally obvious and more picking up a broom, loppers, garbage bag, mower, and/or trimmers and getting off their butt and getting out and doing something about it. How much time, money and effort did it take PBOT to conduct this survey? Money that could have been spent actually trying to fix some of these issues. The “woe is me” government running Portland is just captivated by their own inept situation – no money, not our dept, not our road, mayor’s issue, no police, equity issues, business-owner issues, etc; the excuse-o-meter continues to be flipped.

Whenever I notify city about major walking impediment maintenance issue, even as it relates to walking school kids, the response is usually non-existent or months later, and that after telling me to call a different bureau, etc.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

My definition of a quality organization is that when a customer comes to them with a request, the person they initiate contact with will either take care of the problem or will take the customer directly to the person who will take care of it. If there’s any doubt or delay, that first person will remain in contact with the customer.

In failed/failing organizations, everyone works very hard to define their job so narrowly that they are never responsible for solving anyone’s problems.

I’ve worked in both types. It’s a lot more fun and productive to be in the first kind and it definitely begins at the top. I still remember my first day as a visiting scholar in a pathology department at a medical school in California. The department chair introduced me to the entire administrative staff and emphasized to them that part of their job was now to make my job as easy as possible. I later worked in a department managed by the sister of that good chair’s manager. In that (failing) department, people actually had signs on their desks informing those they were supposed to serve that “a lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” Ugh!

Paul Hobson
Guest
Paul Hobson

* Why not a walk-through by city staffers for a whole neighborhood with blitz of enforcement letters to the property owners?*

That would be prohibitively expensive.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

JR,
Or any resident could do the same thing.
https://www.portlandoregon.gov/27447

q
Guest
q

For some types of problems, it’s legitimate that the City asks people to report them–for instance a street sign knocked down, or other things that the City couldn’t possibly be expected to know about unless had unlimited resources for patrolling.

But I get tired of reporting problems that exist because several City (or County) employees or contractors dropped the ball.

PBOT in my experience does well compared to many other bureaus and agencies. I wish PBOT actually had more control over transportation issues and facilities. The Parks Bureau, County and ODOT control a lot, but are much less capable than PBOT (in my experience).

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Put utility poles in the street instead of the sidewalk.

Bald One
Guest
Bald One

I like this. A buffered sidewalk, instead of a totally impeded sidewalk.

Huey Lewis
Guest
Huey Lewis

Yeah, I hear you. Folks on Prescott west of 42nd have it super rough. But on Prescott there ^are^ sidewalks. Out here in Portland-not rich-ex-pat-exile outer SE, you’re lucky if there are sidewalks at all. It’s a lot of tires, trash, mud puddles, trash, parked/busted cars and standing water if you’re walking and there’s not a sidewalk under your feet.

rick
Guest
rick

Even the SW Hills have very narrow sidewalks where people often park their cars on top of the sidewalks.

Paul Hobson
Guest
Paul Hobson

Bald One
How much time, money and effort did it take PBOT to conduct this survey? Money that could have been spent actually trying to fix some of these issues. Recommended 2

You need surveys like to justify to stakeholders what your priorities are. Otherwise, you’ll be flooded with endless complaints that you did address an individuals’ pet peeves.

Paul Hobson
Guest
Paul Hobson

didnot*

soren
Guest
soren

perhaps it is the biased, undemocratic, and unrepresentative stakeholder process that is an impediment to transportation equity…

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Great, another survey. Next they can do a study. And so on.

billyjo
Guest
billyjo

All of our infrastructure is designed for cars and pedestrians are simply an afterthought. So many places need to have dedicated lights for the right turns so that pedestrians can safely cross without getting run over. It will never happen because that means cars would have to wait and we can’t have that happen

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

I think you mean *was*, *is* certainly is no longer true. Changing past choices by those who came before us is the nature of life.

JeffS
Guest
JeffS

Doesn’t seem right. I don’t see “fat butt”, “laziness” or “prefer to drive” on the list at all.

There is no doubt that these would have beat out “missing curb ramps”.

Scott Kocher
Guest

This is an important article. 2017 has already broken the record for the most people killed in Portland while walking (online data goes back to 2006). Almost always, it’s a person driving into a person crossing the street. The survey confirms that people all over Portland are well aware that we aren’t safe where there are fast cars, and where there are not safe crossings. Thanks for the walking reporting, keep it coming!

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

Over here in Bend, you would have to add un-shoveled sidewalks. There is a law that requires homeowners to shovel snow in front of their houses, but it gets done maybe 25% of the time, the City itself does not shovel its own sidewalks, and there is zero enforcement (well, they will enforce after my third written complaint). Of course, that is seasonal. I walk everywhere, because I do not feel safe riding my bike. My biggest complain is drivers’ not yielding to me. They will if I step in front of their path, make eye contact and walk aggresively. If I don’t do all three of these things, most will try to bully past me. If you are old, very young, infirm, you are a sitting duck.

bendite
Guest
bendite

I think drivers do pretty well stopping in crosswalks here, but the not shoveling does drive me nuts. I was able to commute everyday with the heaps of snow last winter with my fat bike that has studded 4″ Dillinger tires on it.

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

You’re a better man than me. Crosswalks are totally unpredictable. Sometimes, drivers are great. Sometimes, if I just stand there passively, looking straight ahead, and make no move to cross, 10 cars will zoom by. Don’t forget, I believe the law is the same if the crosswalk is marked or not. Unmarked, forget it.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

How is a person driving supposed to read your mind? If you’re standing on the side of the road ‘passively’, how is anyone to know what you want?
Were you trying to be funny?

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

No. It is reality. If I just stand there a couple feet from the roadway, technically they are supposed to yield. But, when I do nothing more than just stand, without looking at oncoming traffic and/or walking into the roadway, I have found that frequently many cars will just ignore me. It is hard to explain, but, you apparently do not walk a lot in busy areas, or you would understand what I am saying. Try watching a crosswalk in an area with a fair amount of traffic, but not a lot of peds, and you will see many different types of ped behavior.

bendite
Guest
bendite

If you step in the street a few inches and look to your left, you’ll be much better off with getting a response. They aren’t technically supposed to stop until you’re in the road, unfortunately. I know on the eastside of Bend you won’t get as good of a response because drivers tend to move faster on that side, but downtown or on the Westside, you will.

John Liu
Subscriber

People stand on the sidewalk for a lot of reasons, not always because they want to cross. Drivers can’t reasonably stop simply because someone is standing on the sidewalk while showing zero signs of wanting to cross the street.

q
Guest
q

Yes. Many corners are also bus stops, for example. And many people who want to cross will stand back a couple feet from the curb, so it’s clear they’re NOT planning to step into traffic, and only step forward to the curb when they see a break, rather than step right up to the curb initially and trigger a requirement that cars stop for them.

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

I live just east of 82nd and have to take a “secondary arterial” to get to bus or MAX. Because several of my neighbors can’t afford to build / maintain sidewalks in their yards, there are none. My path becomes a muddy goat trail of rocks and puddles. Then I come to the corner crossing where utility poles and bushes require pedestrians to step off the curb and walk in the bike lane. On top of all this nonsense, is a storm drain that regularly clogs in the winter and creates a 10-15 foot wide, 6″ deep puddle.

End result: pedestrians entering vehicle lanes. Incredibly unsafe. I’ve complained to PBOT at least once a year for the last four years and they’ve done nothing. The shameful legacy of neglect continues: City Hall doesn’t care about East Portland. Not Fritz, not Saltzman, not Eudaly. All sitting idle while people die.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

You’re not describing a secondary arterial, whatever that is.

David Burns
Guest
David Burns

I live a few blocks from where the lead photo was taken. Even staying on the sidewalk during the rainy season is likely to be unpleasant, as cars trucks spray rooster tails. Sometimes it seems like it’s intentional.

Tri-Met busses seem to be the worst of the offenders. Because they’re heavy enough and stop/start at the same places, they degrade the roads and make a big dip where water collects in front of each bus stop. I’ve sometimes stood on the shelter’s bench to avoid my shoes being soaked with an arriving busses’ wake. Other times, I wished I had.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

JL,
And you called it in to nuisances, yes or no?

Doug Klotz
Guest
Doug Klotz

Don’t expect everyone to know the jargon. I’d guess he means a neighborhood collector.

K'Tesh
Guest
K'Tesh

I wonder how much effort would be put into fixing these conditions if… Say a group of disabled veterans were to start lodging formal complaints about the vegetation and other obstacles. A few well placed threats of (or actual) legal actions done in the name of the ADA might be able to do some wonders.