BikePortland

Comment of the Week: A woman’s fear of riding on the I-205 path

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Southbound on 205 path where it goes under Sandy Blvd.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

A comment written by Roberta on March 9th touched on an issue that we’ve addressed several times in recent years: People who live on and adjacent to multi-use paths.

In response to our story about paths along the Columbia Slough, Roberta said conditions on I-205 have become so bad she’s afraid to ride on it. And several other readers echoed her concerns.

Here’s her comment:

“Right now 205 path is scary and I won’t do it again. On Sunday March 3 I joined the 205 bike path at Prescott, heading north to go shopping at Target by the airport. Near the Sandy underpass there was a large encampment with guys stripping bike frames. The scary part was the encampment under Sandy. Homesteaders had their belongings spread over nearly all the entire bikeway, leaving a path just barely wide enough for my bike tire and pedals. Bike frames hung overhead and I had to duck to avoid being hit by the “inventory”. People were inside the tents. Propane tanks and then pure garbage abounds. I chose not to bike home that way – too creepy. So I chose to bike home via Alderwood > Cornfoot > 47th by Whitaker Ponds. Crossing Columbia at 47th/42nd was fine but that hill heading south on 42nd is too steep and too narrow. I walked my bike on the sidewalk on the opposite side (facing traffic) and that sidewalk ends as well. Way too narrow for uphill biking and fast cars.

I’m a woman in my mid-50’s, and I’ve been bike commuting in Portland since the 90s. Not the timid 80 y/o used as an example, but also not strong enough to keep up with traffic when the hill is steep and the road narrow.

I sure would like to see that encampment under Sandy cleaned up. It’s been there a long time, but never taken up so much traffic space as this week. I would have taken a picture, but no way with those people working on all those bike parts. I might have gotten beaten up or my own bike taken from me.”

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Roberta’s comment reminded me of a story from another woman who’d contacted me with similar concerns about this exact location two years ago. The woman had used the City of Portland’s PDX Reporter app to report the camps and trash. She said much of the path under the Sandy Blvd “tunnel” was blocked by trash, tents, and other items.

In response to Roberta’s comment, a reader named “curly” wrote, “It is a tragedy that the city, and east Portland residents in particular, have effectively lost this premier active transportation facility because it is considered unsafe to ride. I would also add that it is the only lighted Multi Use Path so it’s usable 24/7 were it not for the described unsafe conditions.”

I chose Roberta’s comment for several reasons: It highlights an important, complicated, and sensitive topic many people are afraid to talk about out of fear of being called uncompassionate or “anti-houseless”; She’s a woman in her 50s and I’m eager to amplify non-male voices here; And she shares a personal vulnerability and experience I think many others can relate to.

Thank you Roberta.

If you see a great comment, please flag it for me by writing a reply that includes the words “comment of the week” (so I can find it via search).

For more on issues related to people camping on paths, see our homelessness archives.

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

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