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Guest Post: It’s time to make southeast Portland’s infrastructure gaps “SEAMless”

Posted by on June 19th, 2018 at 3:23 pm

SE Tolman at 51st in the Woodstock neighborhood.
(Photo: Terry Dublinksi-Milton)

This guest post is written by SE Uplift Neighborhood Coalition Co-Chair Terry Dublinski-Milton and Mt. Scott-Arleta Neighborhood Land Use & Transportation Chair Matchu Williams.

We have Southwest in Motion, Central City in Motion, Northwest in Motion and East Portland in Motion. It’s time for Southeast in Motion, or what we call Southeast in Active Motion, or SEAM.

SEAM is a grassroots, transportation prioritization effort that we want the City of Portland to get behind. Our goal is to join — or “SEAM” together (get it?) — the infrastructure gaps that isolate the 50,000+ residents of “middle-southeast Portland” — south of Powell in all directions and centered on the Brentwood-Darlington and Woodstock neighborhoods. This includes bikeways, crossings, bus routes, and gravel roadways. If we do this in places that are close to jobs, community services, businesses and educational opportunities, we’ll have an active transportation network that will give us a chance to reach our mode share goals. A SEAMless network of safe connections to Lents, Mt Scott-Arleta, Woodstock, the Orange MAX line and Milwaukie will also help integrate diverse communities.

PBOT’s existing and funding neighborhood greenway map with one very conspicuous gap.

Nearly every area of transportation south of Powell is substandard or non-existent. Powell and Holgate are both High Crash Corridors and have no bike facilities — yet they provide the precious few, continuous east-west connections. The only bike lanes that are up to modern safety standards are 52nd Ave north of Woodstock and the Foster Streetscape project; however, both are unprotected and only the minimum six-feet width allowed by code. While Willamette Boulevard and Rosa Parks Way in north Portland recently received wider, buffered bike lanes during repaving, SE 52nd south of Duke was re-striped with the same narrow 1990s era, door zone bike lanes in an area where speeding is common and parking is underutilized along a steep hill.

The rest of the region has broken, four-foot or narrower bike lanes containing dangerous gaps. Woodstock, for example — at 82nd, 69th through 72nd, and through the commercial corridor of 52nd to 41st — lacks designated bike lanes which leave riders to negotiate with freight, other commuters, and buses. The designated bikeways in the 40s south of Woodstock and the Knapp-Ogden Bikeway are still not built or funded. They are disconnected, substandard, and not yet included in PBOT’s Transportation System Plan (TSP).

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Here’s the current status of projects in the SE Uplift neighborhood coalition area:

(Graphic: SE Uplift)

Gravel roadways in this area prevent local connectivity to parks, schools, and commercial centers. With public outreach, critical areas could be prioritized for updates using the cost-effective designs envisioned in the 2010 Roadway Not Improved report. Walking is a challenge in this disconnected environment and while Brentwood-Darlington’s successful campaign for sidewalk infill on Flavel and Duke helps, the Safe Routes to Schools program frequently directs children to substandard residential roadways without sidewalks that are filled with puddles and gravel. Access to the Woodstock Town Center will be critical if parking lots and single use stores will ever develop into a vibrant mixed use corridor. How can we have a “20-minute neighborhood” if it can’t be accessed via walking and biking?

Commuters are also burdened by the lack of adequate transit options. Demand for MAX light rail service is so high that commuters park in Eastmoreland to walk to the Bybee MAX station. Eastmoreland responded with a residential only parking permit. As a city we should make transit easy and convenient, but determining where the biggest needs are for bus service must come from the people who use it.

Transportation is not for just for the benefit of those who drive an automobile. It serves everyone including underrepresented demographics: people of color, people with disabilities, and recent immigrants. More diverse than Portland as a whole, 30 percent of the residents in the area from 72nd and 82nd between Duke and Flavel identify as Latino, compared to 9.8 percent citywide. 27.2 percent of the students at Woodstock Elementary identify as Asian-American with Brentwood-Darlington schools reporting 13-18 percent. Median income generally decreases as you travel east from McLoughlin Blvd. The drop is significant past 72nd where the median income is $37,881 compared to the city average of $55,003 (Source: ACS 2011-2015 5-Year Estimates).

All three Portland Public Schools within Brentwood-Darlington (Whitman, Woodmere, and Lane) receive Title I funds and 24 percent of the students at Woodmere Elementary are English Language Learners. In addition, though there are disparate nodes of commercial potential, no one single commercial corridor exists. Thus, connecting Lents Town Center, Woodstock Town Center, and the Heart of Foster is critical for a vibrant southeast Portland.

To start this daunting task, a PBOT Planning Grant in the next budget cycle is needed for a public outreach effort that can help determine local needs and priorities.

Considering the dearth of projects in the TSP, how can we mesh these projects together into a SEAMless network?

Aside from transportation deficiencies why should this corner of SE Portland be next in the planning efforts?

Want to get involved or see what we are up against?

Join us for the upcoming Pedalpalooza Unimproved Roads Ride on June 25th at 5:00 pm. We’ll meet at Woodstock Park (SE corner at 50th & Harold) and the ride will end at our monthly SEAM meeting (7:00 pm at SE Uplift headquarters, 3534 SE Main).

— Terry Dublinski-Milton and Matchu Williams

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  • Craig Giffen June 19, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    For this project, Lake Woodward at 79th and Woodward considered East Portland or Southeast? I would recommend the hike, it is beautiful at sunset:

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    • Terry D-M June 19, 2018 at 5:11 pm

      Southeast, that connection if funded, through federal flexible funding est 2021, the “Connected Jade” ….the alignment across 82 nd, yet to be determined.

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  • Cpt. Obvus June 19, 2018 at 4:48 pm

    Um, the unimproved roadways serve as inadvertent, de facto separate facilities. And it’s absurd to claim they “can’t be accessed via walking and biking.”

    Yes, you would do well to have wider and/or knobbier tires and you would need to splash through or skirt around some puddles much of the year. But that’s a feature, not a bug, for many kids — and thus, maybe not so bad at all for families headed for “parks, schools and commercial centers.”

    Authors, be careful what you wish for. You say these roads “prevent local connectivity,” which is true in that they keep both local and visiting people speeding in cars far away on better-paved roads. (Talk about traffic calming!) Do you think that will remain true once the gravel roads are tamed?

    It’s sad that the authors here characterize the Pedalpalooza ride as condemning these roads, rather than embracing the fun, challenge, and utility they offer right now, as-is.

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    • Terry D-M June 19, 2018 at 5:09 pm

      That is why a city backed planning process is needed. There are, strategic blocks, that if designed right would allow an all ages Bikeway/ walkway through alternative street designs or built in diversion. A streer like Tolman, a designated greenway, would need to be designed very differently than Knight or Ramona that would be built to encourage long term mixed use development near Woodstock.

      This is not a “full street or nothing” idea. Different designs for different contexts.

      Come on the Gravel Roadways ride to see.

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      • Cpt. Obvus June 20, 2018 at 12:24 am

        You didn’t address why you resorted to the absurd hyperbole of “can’t be accessed via walking and biking.” I’d love to know, since you WILL be accessing these roads for a Pedalpalooza ride.

        And no thanks on joining the ride. I already know many of these roads well, and I regard them as a resource as-is instead of “what we’re up against” — and I believe that to be the preferble mindset. I suggest you ride them with a mindset of listening to what they can teach you about the intertwined nature of fun and challenge and practical utility, which doesn’t sound like what this ride is about.

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        • Terry D-M June 20, 2018 at 10:00 am

          So you would encourage your 12 year old daughter to walk gravel roads with her grandmother to go the the Community center, at night in the rain through gravel roadways that appear and disappear apparently at random?

          You might, but the majority of the “Interested but concerned” would not. We are probably in the end only talking about a strategic 5% of gravel blocks for safe connectivity.

          Yes we are riding it, but I bet you the crowd will be dominated by assertive white male riders. That is not the demographic we need to build for.

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          • Cpt. Obvus June 20, 2018 at 10:23 am

            You’re getting a little closer, but you still haven’t owned up and apologized for making a factually untrue statement. Perhaps especially because of your affiliation with local government, you need to rebuild trust rather than ducking and dodging.

            (We can’t directly do much about Trump, but we can darned well hold our grass-roots representatives to a standard of straight talk and transparency — so they will take good habits along as they rise into higher offices. Nation-repair starts here.)

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            • David Hampsten June 20, 2018 at 12:01 pm

              Actually, it begins with voters like yourself stepping up your game, participating in advocacy, as Terry is here doing. It’s easy for anyone including yourself to poke holes in his arguments and statements, but much harder to actually bring about change.

              Trump won so easily because too many Americans chose to not vote at all, let alone participate in local government and/or advocate for what they believe in.

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              • Cpt. Obvus June 20, 2018 at 4:38 pm

                Hyperbole is deceit, never advocacy. Terry hinged his case against gravel roads on the absurd hyperbole that they can’t be walked or ridden (despite also having scheduled a group ride that will traverse them).

                Because Terry has chosen this forum to address the public he is authorized to represent, it’s a legit venue for holding him accountable for what he said. (And I think Terry is on the right track; I’m pretty sure this forum has many more people attending than does a typical SE Uplift board meeting.)

                In this case, what I believe in (and what I’m advocating for) is to NOT bring about change to gravel roads — or at least to do so based on facts. So far, the facts seem hard to find. (The other stuff he mentioned is all great.)

                The SE Uplift bylaws seem to indicate that people in Terry’s position can vote as our representatives but cannot be voted on by us. In this specific case, the scope of our participation does not appear to include voting. (I would love clarification on this.)

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              • David Hampsten June 21, 2018 at 10:35 am

                I would encourage you to make your voice heard by, for example, joining your neighborhood association, if you have the time. There are 20 in Southeast Uplift (SEUL) alone and another 75 in the city as a whole (check the ONI web pages to figure out what neighborhood you live in; some neighborhoods also encourage people to join who work in their neighborhood). You might also consider joining SEUL committees as an “at large” member, as they normally reserve several seats as such. The citywide Bicycle Advisory Committee also encourages “at large” membership. Aside from the official bodies, there are groups like BikeLoud, EPAP, and the Citywide Transportation Committee.

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              • twowheeler June 22, 2018 at 6:32 am

                Terry isn’t wrong. I didn’t read anywhere where he said ALL gravel roads can’t be walked or biked on. But some of the “roads” in this area of Portland are difficult to pass on a bike, with a stroller, etc., especially when they’re wet and have giant puddles (some of them mini lakes). These roads should also be reasonable passable in the dark; some of them aren’t unless you have a crazy amount of light. It’s 2018 and Portland is a major city. It shouldn’t have roads looking worse than many 3rd world countries.

                I get the argument that some people like them because they reduce traffic on their street, but they also make the grid incredibly incomplete in much of this area. Try taking a side roads route parallel to Woodstock between 52nd and 39th. There is no fully paved route this way.
                I’m fine with many of these roads remaining gravel, but the city needs to own up and maintain them. Get a grader out there a few times a year and do their jobs for the citizens in these under served neighborhoods who pay more than their appropriate proportion of property taxes.

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          • mh June 20, 2018 at 10:34 am

            Maybe I’ll haul out the too-heavy ’80’s mountain bike with its wide but slick tires, and see how it behaves. Certainly neither of my other bikes is up to this.

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          • catherine feta cheese June 20, 2018 at 1:40 pm

            Unless the “grandmother” is wearing spike heels, of course I would suggest she could walk on gravel roads, whenever. Is “grandmother” of a 12 year old supposed to imply someone ancient, infirm and hobbling around? Plenty of walkers, hikers, bike commuters and adventurers are of the “grandmother” age and gender. Likewise 12 year old girls, who totally rock.

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            • Terry D-M June 20, 2018 at 2:17 pm

              Properly graded and maintained, maybe. I know my grandmother would not walk down a gravel roadway. She was scared of anything but a sidewalk, so my grandfather drove everywhere until he Died of heart disease.

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          • Granpa June 20, 2018 at 7:41 pm

            I live in this neighborhood and find the gravel roads to be the most tranquil and safest routes around town. Kids on BMX bikes commonly grind and splash on these roads. I walk them, I cycle them and I have never tripped or stubbed a toe. The hyperbole about feeble grannies and simpering youth in the dark and driving rain is fear mongering a-la Fox News. I am reminded of a former compulsive BP poster who wanted concrete barriers around all bike paths everywhere. He was agenda driven and rules obsessed. This neighborhood holds true to the grid system of roads, and it is easy to get to the community center.

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    • matchupancakes June 20, 2018 at 5:58 pm

      I am hearing fear and anxiety behind these words -fear of the unknown and change from what currently exists. Change is difficult; however, whether we welcome or resist it, change is already here. Private development is completing streets within the region per standards developed with the car first. Sometimes this includes sidewalks but not always. This corner of Portland is particularly at risk of gentrification and already redevelopment now is completing the roadways slowly within the region.

      De facto deterrence will not last. Rather the community must advocate for designs now that permit neighborhood connectivity for people of all ages and abilities via designs that simultaneously discourage it as a congested cut through. This includes designing routes for people using mobility devices. Residents of the areas between 72nd to 82nd Avenues, south of Duke and north of Flavel are 43% more likely to be considered disabled than the city overall. Yet they must use the gravel and dirt roadways rain or shine without sidewalks. We can do better than that.

      The city must serve the needs of all its citizens and the not just the interests of individual property owners. A planning process will help prioritize accessibility and address equity and safety issues while minimizing congestion. Inaction permits private development to dictate the future of the neighborhood. This is a proposal for a community driven solution.

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      • Cpt. Obvus June 20, 2018 at 10:33 pm

        Agreed, these points seem very important. It’s almost as if they would have warranted inclusion in the portion of the guest article above that addresses gravel roads. Yet they did not, in favor of language implying, bizarrely, that such roads can’t be walked or biked. Huh.

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    • Matt June 21, 2018 at 8:17 am

      Yes! Until recently, my commute took me directly through the area highlighted on the map, and I chose a route that maximized the amount of unimproved roadway–in all kinds of weather–precisely because these are the best roads to bike on. I’ve even done it on a road bike with slick tires, no problem.

      Most bikes’ wheel diameters are much larger than most cars’, so the rollover ability (angle at which the tire meets an obstacle of a given height) is superior. Rarely have I encountered a car on these gravel roads, even during rush hour. I even had to use a particularly narrow one of these roads to escape a road-raging SUV-driving person who was chasing me down, trying to pick a fight with me or run me over once.

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  • Tom Hardy June 19, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    And we STIILL have a battalion of Koch lawyers representing oil, and the paving companies trying with big bucks to ban any and all light rail, or trollies and only pushing diesel busses and self driving cars that do not st op or avoid pedestrians or cyclists.

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  • igor June 19, 2018 at 8:21 pm

    I concur about downtown Woodstock being treacherous biking. I ride through there in the evening rush hour. Traffic is usually backed up, so I’m often biking between parked cars and cars stuck in traffic as I head east. There are the usual perils there: cars turning right without notice, cars trying to get out of side streets, and doors of parked cars opening. I think it’s one of the most dangerous parts of my commute.

    Ironically, I come up Tolman through Eastmorland, and would be happy to use it as a bypass, but Tolman turns to gravel at 42nd, as do Carlton and Martins, the two streets between Tolman and Woodstock. There’s isn’t an easy alternative.

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    • Cpt. Obvus June 20, 2018 at 12:33 am

      Why not just ride the gravel part of Tolman (or Carlton or Martins)? It’s fun and car-free.

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      • Terry D-M June 20, 2018 at 10:03 am

        Tell that to the novice mother who want to tide to the store with her elementary school child.

        Tolman would need to be designed for a Greenway for 15 mph or less with stretches of linear park.

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        • Cpt. Obvus June 20, 2018 at 10:28 am

          Why would I tell that to a novice mother when it’s Igor who presented the dilemma?

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          • igor June 20, 2018 at 2:03 pm

            I’ve ridden plenty of Woodstock’s “unimproved” blocks. They’re slow to traverse, and pose extra problems for those of us with skinny road tires. I ride Woodstock Boulevard because it’s faster and direct, albeit more dangerous. I’m an experienced cyclist, but I’d prefer to ride a smooth road surface than go off roading on my commute.

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            • Cpt. Obvus June 20, 2018 at 2:20 pm

              Agreed: Wider tires help, and the gravel parts generally mean lower speeds — but fewer stops, with maybe not much difference in elapsed time. And of course a completely paved Tolman would be no more or less direct, relative to Woodstock, than it is now.

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              • Terry D-M June 20, 2018 at 2:29 pm

                Noone ever said anything about a “completely paved Tolman.”. There are plenty of linear park like alternative designs. The unimproved roads of Woodstock were studied in depth by PSU planning students including sigificant outreach.


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              • Cpt. Obvus June 20, 2018 at 2:48 pm

                Agreed. More specifically to Igor’s stated condition: If Tolman didn’t “turn to gravel” from pavement at 42nd — and presumably, extending to where Tolman is interrupted at 52nd.

                [igor: would “park-like alternatives” meet your skinny-tire condition? See Terry’s link.]

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      • twowheeler June 22, 2018 at 7:43 am

        Not exactly fun to pull a bike trailer, especially if it’s been raining.

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  • John Liu June 19, 2018 at 8:36 pm

    I have friends who live on a dirt and gravel road in Cully. They and their neighbors have grown to like the road as it is, and do not want it to be paved. The road deters cut through traffic and fast driving.. They have a pile of gravel and fill the worst potholes themselves. The rest they leave and enjoy the slamming sound of too-fast drivers blowing out their shocks and smashing their mufflers. There is no problem walking or biking on the road and they happily drive slowly. Their kids are safe from speeding cars.

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    • bikeninja June 20, 2018 at 8:34 am

      Plus they can be an economic engine. I had great uncle who lived in Salem from the 50’s through the 80’s and he strategically kept the street in front of his house rough and full of potholes. Cars would zoom by, and hit the potholes and their hubcaps would fly off. He had his front yard and shed converted in to a used hubcap store, selling the hubcaps he picked up from in front of his house. So he got his customers and his inventory from the strategic use of bad roads just like the current day folks in Cully.

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  • dwk June 19, 2018 at 9:44 pm

    The gravel roads are the best part of the neighborhood….
    I think every paved street in portland should have sidewalks, but these little gems
    deserve to be kept as is if the adjacent homeowners prefer.
    They are a refuge for kids these days. Does the author want to pave everything?
    Walking is challenging on a dirt path with no traffic?
    ***sentence deleted by moderator***

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  • Jim Lee June 19, 2018 at 9:51 pm

    I put 26-inch cyclocross tires on the fixie and seek out the “worst” Woodstock has to offer!

    Been doing it for years–fabulous fun!

    Do not change a thing.

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    • matchupancakes June 20, 2018 at 6:00 pm

      I too enjoy exploring the area with mountain bikes and would love to experience these routes with you; however, we should not funnel neighbors using mobility devices onto the main corridors and call that “good enough.” Change is happening already through private developments. We should welcome all members of the community through safe, accessible designs and not just the urban mountain biker. Thank you, Jim Lee.

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  • Andrew Kreps June 19, 2018 at 10:41 pm

    I honestly prefer riding on unimproved roads as the likelihood of a car speeding past me only to swerve a large piece of metal in front of me 10 feet in front of the upcoming stop sign is, give or take, 0%.

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty June 19, 2018 at 11:27 pm

    How do I get one of these great traffic calming streets in front of my house?

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    • Chris I June 20, 2018 at 12:32 pm

      Sell your house and buy one in a cheaper neighborhood.

      Or, the tool library does rent jackhammers…

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  • Terry D-M June 20, 2018 at 1:23 am

    Keep in mind everyone that we are talking TARGETED gravel roadway improvements, and this chapter is only a small part of the overall planning request, even if it is the main point of Matchu’s ride next Tuesday.

    You can build a two blocks multi-path connection through gravel safe for children to get to school or the park without increasing cut through traffic. There will be examples on the ride already built.

    We are also talking about a low income neighborhood where many may not be able to afford all terrain Bikes. City policy states Bikeways are supposed to be for “all ages”….. gravel doesn’t count. Many have only one street bike, living in Brentwood-Darlington because they were gentrified out of the inner neighborhoods.

    We are also talking prioritization of arterial sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, Bikeway modernization and bus lines where each will have it’s own chapter describing why investment is needed.

    This is much more complex than just gravel.

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    • Cpt. Obvus June 20, 2018 at 7:55 am

      It IS more complex than gravel, but gravel is where you resorted to the absurd hyperbole of claiming it can’t be walked or ridden _even though you will be leading a group ride on it_. And you haven’t yet explained why you did that.

      Meanwhile, by far most low-end bikes — your Magnas and Pacifics and what-not from big-box stores — have wider, knobby tires adequate for gravel. (So it’s not an income thing.)

      And please supply reputable citations establishing that gravel somehow “doesn’t count” for all ages.

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      • Terry D-M June 20, 2018 at 10:11 am

        I did not say can’t, I said difficult enough to resort to driving. We were at 46/ Harold yesterday. The narrow ( 12 feet) paved stetch had walkers, riders and we even saw strollers…and one slow moving car. We were there for five minutes. West where there was gravel we saw no one for blocks.

        Is this random? No, it is induced denand because of safe infrastructure.

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        • Cpt. Obvus June 20, 2018 at 5:14 pm

          In the last sentence of the fifth paragraph of your guest article above, you DO say “can’t.” You posit a neighborhood that “can’t be accessed via walking and biking,” in a paragraph dedicated to “gravel roads” and including a description of “roadways … filled with puddles and gravel.”

          It’s great that you were out observing that “can’t” isn’t true for gravel roads, but it would have been preferable to do it before releasing the article.

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          • Terry D-M June 20, 2018 at 5:27 pm

            If you are hanging your entire argument on one missing qualifyer in one sentence I will fully admit I could have said “for many people.”

            I assumed that the readers understood that not everyone has the same safety standards. Sorry that I assumed people knew that.

            So yes,I should have added that clause.

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            • Terry D-M June 20, 2018 at 5:28 pm

              Or I should say WE, I I am only co-Author.

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            • Cpt. Obvus June 20, 2018 at 10:49 pm

              Yes, perhaps a surprisingly cardinal learning for a budding public representative: Words matter, on so many levels.

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      • Terry D-M June 20, 2018 at 10:30 am

        Bikeways and Pedestrian walkways should be designed using the “Bikeway Design Guidelines” and the “Pedestrian Walkways Design Guidelines”. Gravel in allowed in natural park areas, but is not recommend for urban settings because it us not viable for “all ages and abilities.”

        Think wheelchairs and children.

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        • Cpt. Obvus June 20, 2018 at 11:16 am

          Thanks for the link to the comp plan. It makes one mention each of the Bikeway Design and Engineering Guidelines and the Pedestrian Design Guide, but doesn’t define them or link to them. Moreover, it doesn’t mention gravel (or “pavement” or “road surface”) even once. But it does mention that “Greenscape Streets” should minimize impervious surfaces — so that’s one thing the gravel roads have going for them.

          As a grass-roots government representative, can you please supply _relevant_ reputable citations that _really do_ establish that gravel “doesn’t count”? Sorry if I wasn’t specific enough.

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          • Terry D-M June 20, 2018 at 12:22 pm


            It is city policy to use modern design guidelines. Specifically look at the “designing for all levels and abilities” chapter, then focus on the “Bike Boulevard” chapter, Tolman is one. I road Tolman yesterday and a wheel chair would be impossible, a stroller in the rain at 6pm in January would be unpleasant to say the least, and could seem threatening, or dangerous….and this is the designated alternative to Woodstock.

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            • Cpt. Obvus June 20, 2018 at 11:39 pm

              Thank you. Keep in mind that you’re leaving a sizable gap for the layperson to leap in faith. Those without transportation backgrounds (I have a little) won’t know that NACTO = modern design guidelines and thus won’t find it as plausible that city policy effectively stipulates NACTO.

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              • Terry D-M June 21, 2018 at 12:43 am

                We only had 800 words to work with. Criticize the neighborhood activists all you want, but one has to start somewhere. Our report, which is just asking for an outreach effort to understand what the priorities are of the local residents combined with regional needs, will probably be fifty pages at least. Gravel Roadways are one chapter of six (demographic rational will be chapter one). We are not making any assumptions, just pointing out a need that has trickled up from the streets.

                I hear that we should have explained everything in one article, and we probably should have put the demographic and “all levels and abilities” in the first paragraph, but you can not do everything at once. Expecting us to explain all city policies regarding transportation in one short article is unfair.

                As far as outreach goes, there are two studies included in the side bar, “Unimproved Roadways” based on residential participation around Woodstock (75 pages), and the Brentwood-Darlington needs assessment. Both are based on local input and are excellent documents. No need to reinvent the wheel, just build on it.

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        • catherine feta cheese June 20, 2018 at 1:54 pm

          In neighboring Sellwood, children of all ages constantly walk on the gravel part of the Springwater. Children all over the world, as soon as they take their first steps, walk on unpaved paths, trails and roads. Why would a child prefer a hard paved surface?

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          • Terry D-M June 20, 2018 at 2:13 pm

            Yes, but no potholes because there are no cars. If the Community says “Keep the gravel, but driveway access only, ” then design the street for “filtered automobile mobility” it might work if properly graded and lit.

            BTW, that section of the Springwater is scheduled for paving, Umatilla to Linn. I’m not sure when Metro money filters down for that.

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            • Cpt. Obvus June 20, 2018 at 2:53 pm

              Sooo… if gravel has so quickly reached “might work” status, then maybe it DOES count for all ages. Were you able to find any relevant, reputable citations?

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              • Terry D-M June 20, 2018 at 4:09 pm

                The question actually is whether you have asked the differently abled Community what their needs are. NACTO is the current professional design guide for urban streets because of the need to design for all residents.

                Gravel will not work for Bikeways or Safe Routes to schools, but for local access streets sure if properly maintained…… Which is what has been said from the very beginning. These are separate classifications of streets, designed for different functions, to be used by as many residents as financially viable.

                Since you think wheelchairs are cool on Gravel, what about taking a cargo trailer to the grocery store? What about my friend who bikes everywhere, born without arms, who doesn’t even ride on streets with potholes? There are dozens of permutations that exist in city life that deserve safe access.

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              • Cpt. Obvus June 20, 2018 at 5:25 pm

                Agreed — if that really is the question, it would have been good for you to ask it. You did not. You don’t mention wheelchairs or the differently abled in your guest article above.

                Start with those next time. Moving the goalposts like this erodes your credibility.

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          • twowheeler June 22, 2018 at 7:49 am

            This is such a disingenuous comparison.

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    • John Liu June 20, 2018 at 3:11 pm

      An old rigid mountain bike is about the least expensive used bike there is. You can buy them for $100 all day and they are made for gravel, dirt, etc. It is the high-zoot skinny-tire roadbikes that quail at anything other than smooth pavement.

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  • rick June 20, 2018 at 6:38 am

    Just apply for a permit from Portland’s new Urban Trails Program. It can take several years, though.

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    • Terry D-M June 20, 2018 at 10:19 am

      This is a region of 50,000 plus residents covering and area of about 15 square miles with connections to other regions. Any plan needs public input on a scale of other city outreach efforts. Without city backing, the more controversial issues, like prioritizing a 12 foot winding path for two blocks to get to Woodstock Park becomes “They want tleverything” paved so cars can speed through.

      These improvements have to be weighed against bus line services, upgrading miles of four foot bike lanes with gaps and the coming pedestrian plan. Since roadways building is the most expensive and can induce autos, it needs a light touch. Hence, this is not just an urban trails project.

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  • Mike Caputo June 20, 2018 at 10:37 am

    I live near (though not on) these Woodstock gravel roads. As a car-free walker, I absolutely love them. I think they serve a crucial niche for pedestrians and bicyclists alike – I think the city would do we ll to explore *expanding* these gravel roads across the city, not filling them in. They are a rare resource that should be studied seriously as a (nearly) car-free road design.

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  • Jim June 20, 2018 at 4:39 pm

    It’s really disappointing to see commentators writing that “I love riding gravel, you should just do x and y and z and love it too”.

    Do you care what the people who live here think and want? Residents have been fighting for years to get streets improved. Not everyone likes walking or biking though bumpy or flooded streets to school (eg see SE 62nd and Cooper). It’s great that you may enjoy the recreation of urban mountain biking, but I thought we were looking to get hesitant people cycling for their daily trips? This really isn’t about you and your comfort level or your fun. Some of these streets really do feel impassable to some people. Hooray for you for being able-bodied and mobile.

    And yes, there are some residents who are wary of paving because it might encourage more drivers. But in the meantime, those drivers are funneled onto currently-paved roads, often superblocks, which are designed perfectly for people driving 40mph and nobody else. The status quo is not working for these neighborhoods, but this has been ignored for decades.

    I’m really sad to see this response towards a grassroots plan from less wealthy neighborhoods. You’re just telling others that their concerns don’t count. I thought the people on here were interested in their fellow citizens and the transportation and wellbeing of their city as a whole.

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    • Cpt. Obvus June 20, 2018 at 11:27 pm

      Agreed that this is a crux issue — the extent to which the components of this effort authentically represent the will of the residents. Can you link to a credible record of what gravel-road residents think and want — some study or survey, maybe?

      Because it sounds like you might be asking “less wealthy neighborhoods” to take _yet another one_ for the team by absorbing the life-threat and nuisance of cut-through traffic at a time when more wealthy neighborhoods get infrastructure to divert it.

      BTW, my house only “sides” on gravel rather than fronting on it. From my side gate, I can reach the Woodstock Safeway with my wheels or sneakers touching pavement for only a few feet other than intersections. Thus, besides being fun, gravel roads are my errand routes and part of my commute. Their tranquility would be ideal for any new rider who hasn’t been conditioned to fear them.

      As for those other than able-bodied and mobile, agreed — another crux issue. That being the case, it’s curious that the original article above didn’t mention it in conjunction with gravel roads.

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      • Jim June 21, 2018 at 9:20 am

        I don’t have links to hand. There has been a presentation called “Where the sidewalk ends”. There has been a report from PSU grad students. Most of my impressions come from talking to my neighbors and going to BDNA and land use meetings.

        You write “Their tranquility would be ideal for any new rider who hasn’t been conditioned to fear them”. I’m telling you, I know multiple people who are not confident cyclists, who are “new riders”, who do not want to cycle on gravel streets. At this point we are just slinging anecdotal evidence back and forth, but I am asking you to realize the range of opinions out there.

        You write “it sounds like you might be asking “less wealthy neighborhoods” to take _yet another one_ for the team”. This is pretty patronizing. I live here. I talk to my neighbors. We are not asking other neighborhoods to do anything. We are looking to improve our neighborhood.

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  • John Liu June 20, 2018 at 5:51 pm

    Terry D-M
    The question actually is whether you have asked the differently abled Community what their needs are. NACTO is the current professional design guide for urban streets because of the need to design for all residents.Gravel will not work for Bikeways or Safe Routes to schools, but for local access streets sure if properly maintained…… Which is what has been said from the very beginning. These are separate classifications of streets, designed for different functions, to be used by as many residents as financially viable.Since you think wheelchairs are cool on Gravel, what about taking a cargo trailer to the grocery store? What about my friend who bikes everywhere, born without arms, who doesn’t even ride on streets with potholes? There are dozens of permutations that exist in city life that deserve safe access.Recommended 0

    Persons in wheelchairs typically travel on sidewalks rather than the traffic lane.

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    • Jim June 20, 2018 at 6:00 pm

      Sidewalks? In Brentwood-Darlington? You are hilarious.

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      • John Liu June 20, 2018 at 11:01 pm

        But a sidewalk, or a narrow paved path, can be built for far less $ than a full road, and won’t permit fast driving.

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        • Jim June 21, 2018 at 9:02 am

          That is true, and that is a battle that has been fought on SE Cooper. I think you are perhaps unaware of the work and tactics that have been going on in these neighborhoods already.

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          • John Liu June 21, 2018 at 9:41 am

            Can you elaborate?

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          • David Hampsten June 21, 2018 at 10:54 am

            John, about half the city lacks basic sidewalks. sidewalk gaps exist nearly citywide, but are most pronounced in areas that were annexed 50 years ago (Southwest) and 25 years ago (East Portland, Cully, & Brentwood-Darlington). For many years the city refused to build sidewalks under the pretense that the city has never built any, that all the city sidewalks were built by developers or private homeowners in times past. However, in 2000 PBOT published a report that basically said that the city has at various times built many sidewalks, even those in some residential areas. In addition, as part of annexation processes, the city made various promises to build infrastructure, including sewers, streets, sidewalks, and recreation centers, which more often than not, went unfulfilled, except for the sewers.

            In 2012, under Mayor Adams, East Portland and Southwest each secured $8 million for new city infill sidewalks – sidewalks built along major streets connecting existing sidewalks. This was meant to jumpstart a process of the city gradually building more sidewalks in poorer parts of town, a process that continues in East Portland (EPNO) and to a lesser extent in Southwest (SWNI) and Cully. Brentwood-Darlington, which happens to be part of SEUL rather than EPNO, has been largely neglected in this process, but nevertheless lacks most sidewalks and is just as poor as anywhere in Portland.

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  • Jim Lee June 20, 2018 at 9:22 pm

    A properly set-up cross bike can tame just about anything urban cycling throws at it.

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    • David Hampsten June 21, 2018 at 11:00 am

      Ah, but can it navigate the hazards of neighborhood politics? Can it overcome 150 years of city policies? Can it, in other words, deliver the goods?

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  • X June 21, 2018 at 10:46 am

    What is the city policy for adding pavement, sidewalks, and storm drains to unimproved streets? Are adjoining property owners charged, and how much?

    If you find the answer to that you might have a big piece of this puzzle.

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    • David Hampsten June 21, 2018 at 11:05 am

      If a majority the immediate property owners want it done and are willing to pay for it, they can form an LID (local improvement district) and over a 20-30 year period pay for the city to make the improvements immediately.

      It gets a lot more complicated if the neighbors are not willing to pay for it and insist that the city pay for it. Not impossible, it’s been done before, but very messy and politically complicated.

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    • David Hampsten June 21, 2018 at 11:10 am

      A new “complete” residential street 250 feet long by 50 feet wide, with pavement, curbs, sidewalks on both sides, sewers, etc. is I believe $100,000 if a private developer puts it in to city specs – if the city does it, it costs more. However, Pailkala probably has a more recent estimate of this cost.

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      • John Liu June 21, 2018 at 3:02 pm

        What would just sidewalks cost?

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        • David Hampsten June 21, 2018 at 8:30 pm

          Sidewalks are typically 5 or 6 feet wide. If there is already a curb & sewer:
          $10 per linear foot if you do it yourself;
          $25 per linear foot if you hire a contractor or the City of Gresham does it;
          $50 per linear foot if PBOT does it;
          $100 per linear foot if ODOT does it or contracts it out to PBOT (as on outer Sandy).

          If there isn’t a curb and sewer, the cost is multiplied by about 5 times, as runoff liability is an issue. If there is a sewer but no curb, runoff can be handled using bioswales (except in SW Portland where soils are not permeable) and the cost merely doubles (check out Yamhill in Gresham:,-122.4641824,3a,75y,90h,90t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s2Pows7SisGA0RtO8dU5big!2e0!7i13312!8i6656 )

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    • Gary B June 21, 2018 at 2:40 pm

      David alluded to the answer, but let me try to make it clearer (I live on an unimproved street). The abutting landowners are fully responsible for an unimproved street, because it hasn’t been “dedicated” to the city. That means I have to maintain it myself (few people do, hence the epic potholes). If I want the city to “accept” the street, I have to improve it to their standards first. I would have to pay for that. In practice, it would happen on a full-block basis. Which could be achieved either by me and my neighbors agreeing to simply pay the bill (i.e., voluntary, everyone agrees), or by forming a LID through a vote of the affected landowners. The latter would be a simple majority, and if successful, would compel those affected to pay via an assessment on their property taxes.

      Of course the city can pay for it, but the above is the general process.

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  • Jim Lee June 21, 2018 at 8:35 pm

    David Hampsten
    Ah, but can it navigate the hazards of neighborhood politics? Can it overcome 150 years of city policies? Can it, in other words, deliver the goods?Recommended 0

    Perhaps it can. Several years ago I was standing by my track/cross hybrid at City Hall when Catharine Ciarlo accused me of being a “trouble-maker,” a crime to which I am obliged to plead, “guilty!”

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