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Conditions on the I-205 path are unacceptable

Posted by on March 18th, 2019 at 3:44 pm

With so few safe and direct alternatives, the I-205 multi-use path in east Portland is a crucial backbone in our transportation network. Unfortunately it’s been rendered nearly unusable due to an abundance of trash, personal belongings, and makeshift homes that have been built upon it.

People deserve places to live and people deserve safe access to these transportation corridors. We shouldn’t have to settle for either/or.

Everyone in Portland is aware that many people sleep and live outside. The spaces next to highways and paths like the I-205 and Springwater Corridor are especially popular camping spots because they often have grass and trees and there are no adjacent residents or business owners. To many people, these spaces are out-of-sight. But not to bicycle riders.

For years now, bicycle riders have had to deal with this situation. It’s one thing when people live near the path. However, it’s another thing entirely when people live on the path. That’s the situation on the I-205 path where it goes under NE Sandy Blvd. After sharing a comment from a women who said she’s stopped riding because she’s afraid of that section — and then seeing several other commenters say the same thing — I decided to take a look myself.

(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

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Today I rolled over to the I-205/Sandy area. It was terrible. Several large deposits of trash and belongings littered the path. On the section that goes under Sandy, several well-established living areas are nearly blocking the entire path. At one point there’s only 2-3 feet for someone to get by. It’s very unsettling on many levels. It’s also very dangerous.

Here are just a few of the comments we’ve heard from readers today:

Tara Goddard:

I rode it once, and was thankful to be on my ebike, and never rode it again.

Beth Rice:

It’s just horrible. I avoid the 205 as much as I can

Bjorn Warloe:

This is even worse than the last time I braved it but between broken glass and threatening campers I switched to mixing it up with cars on Sandy from killings worth to Prescott years ago.

Andrew:

I am a 57 year old large man, and I will never again ride the I-205 path between Holgate and Burnside until something changes. This is not just a “woman’s fear.” I don’t mind the homeless, but I do mind the path being an obstacle course.

Maria:

I just rode there Sunday (mid-day) and it was downright scary. I’m a bold rider but it was pretty dicey. The firepit in the middle of was pretty hot.

Al:

I just rode through there on Friday evening. The path pictured was so blocked that I had to walk my bike through as I didn’t know if the sleeping bags crossing the path had people in them. The folks there were super polite and cleared the rest of the way for me but this is definitely a safety and security concern to the point where it can’t be allowed to continue.

The Oregon Department of Transportation owns and manages the I-205 path. However, as of this year, they transferred management of this specific issue to the City of Portland. Today I noticed an “Illegal Campsite” notice from the City of Portland that looked to have been posted this morning (pure coincidence we did a story today). The notice says, “This campsite will be cleared no less than 48 hours after and within ten days of 3-18-19.”

This is such a sad state of affairs. People deserve places to live and people deserve safe access to these transportation corridors. We shouldn’t have to settle for either/or.

Below is a longer version of the lead video that shows a few sections prior to the undercrossing:

UPDATE, 3/19: Here’s KGW news coverage from last night:

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

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Eric H
Guest
Eric H

Now that the weather is getting nice again, I’m sure there are families that would love to ride the 205 path out to Gateway Green to take advantage of that facility. It would be nice if everyone was able to feel safe using the 205 path.

Paul B
Guest
Paul B

Exceptional work, Jonathan!

Jim Chasse
Guest
Jim Chasse

Thanks Jonathon for taking time to visit the area. East Portland never gets much attention unless it’s bad news, but in fact it’s been a great place for me to live and work for decades. I’m certain many people would echo this sentiment.
As an active transportation advocate I’ve seen the decay of the Springwater and I-205 Multi-Use Paths up close and in person. As many people have commented on the present condition of the path, I’d like to submit a few ideas for solutions. This facility is to important to the community to be lost.
Let’s assume a permanent fix is a long way off and the problems that exist are complex and won’t be solved by a single government entity, so let’s stop the “Blame Game”. We need this path to function as intended. A lot is at stake.

1) Let’s deal with the garbage. Put collection containers at the worst areas and insist the campers use them (self policing), otherwise the area will be swept as promised by the mayor and the city. If the city bans camping on the path, it will move it elsewhere.

2)Porta potties located in strategic areas for collection of human waste. This is a health issue!

3)Needle drops (sharps containers) should also be available. A safety and health issue.

4)No tents, or other paraphernalia should be within 5 feet of the path, or directly on the path. And no camping under overpasses, or any other permanent structure. Safety issue.

5)Lobby Police chief Danielle Outlaw to initiate a bike patrol on the path. Not only should there be policing, but outreach as well.

These are a few solutions I could think of to deal with the immediate issues. Anyone else have anything they’d like to add? Remember……Solutions!

Dave
Guest
Dave

Needed: Actions in three very different directions, to wit: Police sweeps through the camps to find anyone with an outstanding warrant for a violent crime. Get true, dangerous criminals in the system.
Fund mental health care and addiction treatment that are available without cost, delay, or stigma.
Treat the housing cost emergency like a real emergency and that would mean finding space that the city could declare available for low cost housing, freezing rents immediately for an indefinite time, withdrawing police services for tenant evictions, punitive taxation of short term speculative property investments (“flipping.”)
The camps exist for a variety of reasons. Trying to get rid of them with just one tactic won’t work. I’m a “confident and competent” adult male cyclist with 50 years of riding in him with little fear of riding in traffic but plenty of apprehension about riding through chop shops/outdoor meth labs.

Jon
Guest
Jon

This is terrible but not really out of the recent norm for Portland. Our city is basically a giant garbage dump. It is starting to look like some 3rd world city.

Roberta
Guest
Roberta

When I posted about that spot from my March 3 experience, the fence on the left was covered in junk with bike parts hanging from the top bits, and loose garbage gathered at the base where you see the strip of concrete.

m
Guest
m

I used to be a big supporter of the proposed Sullivan’s Gulch Trail….

Glenn the 2nd
Guest
Glenn the 2nd

Just saw the KGW piece on this. Caption at the bottom of the screen said CYCLISTS SAY I-205 PATH “UNSAFE”

Wasn’t aware that was a colloquial expression requiring quote marks. Why don’t they just make the twirling-finger “crazy” gesture and roll their eyes dramatically if they’re trying to be assholes about it?

The other thing is, where were they every other time we said something was unsafe? Not a peep. But oh, the second there’s a “pile on the homeless” angle, they’re all over it!

Al
Guest
Al

I was going this way again today but had a long day at work and just didn’t want to add the downer of having to cross this section again. Going south, I connected to the I-205 path further south at Stark. This video looks cleaner than when I saw it on Friday.

I’ve witnessed a camp clearing before. It’s very difficult to watch and it’s hard on the people doing the work of clearing these camps as well. The city, county, state and country need to step up, show some leadership and cooperation in tackling this problem in a way that makes progress every time a clearing is done. Otherwise, the way things are going, clearing just becomes a harassment for the homeless people and merely days later another community, bike path or loop or dead ends street, will bear the brunt of their relocation and formation of a new camp because where are these people to go?

Fred
Guest
Fred

I would like to see a daily police presence on the I-205 path, to prevent camping sites from being put up. Can BP do a GoFundMe drive to fund overtime for two bicycle cops?

Jonathan, you nailed it when you said the bike paths are popular b/c most people don’t see them. We need police to get out of their cars and see them.

Timee
Guest
Timee

People have to live somewhere. This article pretends to advocate for a solution to the homeless crisis (“we shouodn’t have to settle for either/or”) but doesn’t provide any ideas besides displacing the people on the 205 to somewhere else. I ride the 205 everyday. I don’t feel unsafe. If you don’t want to be reminded of the horrible conditions we allow people to live in and our absurd income disparity, go ride somewhere else.

I thought bike Portland was moving past fear-mongering about street people but I guess not.

hotrodder
Guest
hotrodder

Just imagine if Sandy turned into a huge Pedalpalooza-esque ride every single day and night, around 8 in the morning and 5 at night; I think city leaders would be able to find a solution to getting the MUP’s cleared.

billyjo
Guest
billyjo

It’s not just that stretch. I go from Glisan to the gateway transit center every day. I can go through at night and it’s fine. By morning they need to bring in trucks to clear out the mess. Some time over the weekend another car thought the path was the freeway on ramp and drove down and took out the fence. There are still car parts there…..

Columbo
Guest
Columbo

Here’s an inconvenient truth about illegal camping on our MUPs: it’s driven by access to MAX. Ride south of Clackamas TC and the problem all but vanishes because there are no trains to ferry the homeless around. Before the Green Line was completed, the 205 path was clean and peaceful, a community resource. Now it’s a liability.

Don Courtney
Guest
Don Courtney

I grew up using this path in the Gladstone area and live blocks from it in Lents now. I agree with all of these comments—a testament to this blog and it’s readers.

I was just thinking how I wouldn’t want it put in if I could go back in time.

Accepting the campers means accepting the menacing and also real violence that bleeds into the surrounding blocks as well. Also car theft which has impacted me twice in one.

And sadly, I’m my 42 years in the area as a loner type person I have seen the street people change into more entitled (I’ve had a hard life I deserve to break your window) and more menacing, this is likely drugs and what it means is forcing treatment on them isn’t going to work—you can ask any therapist or counselor in private practice this but somehow it gets lost on the well meaning Portland public.

Barry
Guest
Barry

“People have to live somewhere.” Then why not just set up in the middle of a major street. and leave it there until those affected on a daily basis” provide any ideas besides displacing the people to somewhere else”. Why is it always ok if its just cyclist & out of sight. Why is it acceptable to be threatened for one’s physical safety. It’s more than just blocking the path. Many of the people are aggressive about “their space.” Bikejackings are a concern. One is vunerable especially women. Have you ever had someone grab you while you are carefully slowly trying to get throught. NOT pleasant.

Jason E Start
Guest
Jason E Start

Thank you for bringing attention to this issue. Most of my co-workers (and myself) avoid almost all portions of the 205 path on our North/South commutes. Basically the only portion we’ll ride is Gateway transit center past Gateway Green and that’s it. I take 92nd from Woodstalk all the way to Glisan because most of the 205 path is past terrible. Frankly, it frightens me & I’m a big dude. I’d challenge anybody to ride north of the Stark Taco Bell through what we call “The Gauntlet.” I dare you. I tried it an had to dodge about 50 people – two of which were shooting up right in front of me. Forget it. Very scary and sad.

Jimmy
Guest
Jimmy

The city of Portland is responsible for policing and cleaning up after the homeless. Many successions of city leaders have promoted homeless camping and all the elements it has brought. They have achieved exactly what they looked to create- a city with little if any restrictions or responsibilities to the norms of a community. I suggest they raise taxes on individuals and business to provide the necessary funds to continue to provide an open camping environment. The more the merrier.

Mark
Guest
Mark

The street camping and the associated criminal activity has steamrolled into a problem that Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco are not able to manage. There will always be criminals who choose to live outside of society norms and we’ve allowed them to hide in the homeless population; this was just stupid thinking on our part and it won’t go away until we have empty shelter beds available for those who want them. We’re not helping the homeless by perpetuating this mess. Shelter, treatment and then enforcement of the law. It’s really pretty simple. Until then, we will continue to attract those who just want to get high, no matter what it takes.

Dan
Guest
Dan

I used to ride on the northern section of the I-205 MUP as part of a NE Portland loop, but a couple of years ago gave up on it entirely. The broken glass, camps under the bridges, and dangerous debris everywhere (not to mention the hostile transients) were bad then, and judging from Jonathan’s video and the descriptions in these comments, it is much worse now.

Once I was forced off the path by a disheveled and deranged-looking man on a mountain bike pedaling directly at me at high speed. If I were a lone woman I would certainly avoid biking on this path, no matter the time of day. I would never travel this path with children.

I have also felt unsafe at areas along the Columbia Slough Trail, and at the newish path that goes under I-84 at the Sandy River. Debris, menacing individuals with apparent mental health issues, etc. Advocating for any new MUP in the Portland area seems foolish at this point.

I have no solution to offer. This is a problem too intractable to lay at the feet of the mayor or any city council person. It’s one of the reasons I recently moved out the city of Portland.

Cody Herriges
Guest
Cody Herriges

Thank you for this post. This is my daily commute from Argay and the conditions are abysmal, to the point that I dodge camp fires and intoxicated individuals regularly and my wife won’t ride it alone. It’s also the primary artery for escaping the outer east side with our kids on the weekend. To make biking to even Montavilla for lunch safe I have to make careful detours onto the city streets because it’s getting to be safer to just ride with the cars.

I wear many hats
Guest
I wear many hats

Repeated methamphetamine abuse destroys swaths of the cerebral cortex, thereby making a healthy mind mentally ill. When you combine Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs to include crank it’s a recipe for our current plague of drug addicted homelessness. Crank is valued beyond all else, even defecating in your front yard. The good and bad news is that needles often get recycled. I can’t count the number of sharps boxes I see scattered around the metro area. No one cares about making a mess when they’re in a ‘fix’. The only solution is for the Metro to provide wet/high housing, with safe spaces for drug use. Only then can we effectively remove illegal camping/ squatters from our open spaces. I sadly fear that this will repeat itself and get worse as our society continues to extract wealth from the poor at an alarming rate. It will likely take a majority of people living in shanty towns before the wealth pony up for adequate services. Lets start providing toilets, and safe spaces for these people to do what they do, otherwise this will continue to be the result.

Betsy Reese
Guest
Betsy Reese

I thought I would share my most recent 205 bike path experience as I have not read one quite like it here. I am a 62-year-old woman. I found myself riding home from Mall 205 at about sunset and made an error in judgment in selecting my route. I don’t remember the exact cross street. As I entered the bike path there was a young healthy-looking man with chubby cheeks and big curls standing there wearing a midcalf-length dark double-breasted trenchcoat and had a small backpack on. It was a warm evening and the coat seemed unusual.He almost seemed to be guarding the entrance. He did not stop me although he did stare me down. This is a section of the bike path where there is a tall concrete wall on the freeway side and tall chain-link fence on the west side, so it is only the width of the pavement. Once I had committed, I kept going. The path was lined on both sides with so many people, dozens, down on the pavement, arms and legs flailed and flailing everywhere. Some people were helping other people. I realized that this group must have just received their IV drug delivery. Everyone was shooting up. There was a little passage clear for me to pass through, but I had to ride more slowly than a walking pace to be careful not to hit anyone. I just tried to keep my blinders on and get through, but towards the end I could not help but see an elderly-looking man with one pants leg pulled up and a quavering palsied hand holding a hypodermic and repeatedly stabbing at his shin trying to find a good vein. It was heartbreaking. I did feel scared and realized how vulnerable I was, but no one paid any attention to me or made any kind of threatening gesture. Had I ridden through there an hour earlier before the delivery, it possibly may have been different. This scene in Portland Oregon 2018 is only rivaled by, in my memories, which include living in or traveling through many poor countries, the streets of Bombay in 1983 with the wall-to-wall low cardboard and corrugated metal lean-tos and shacks lining the streets, filled with skinny little families begging for charity so they could eat one more day.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Maybe Jonathan should take a sunny ride out and film that section of the I-205 as well? I wonder how many others, like Betsy (previous comment) make an “error in judgement” and follow the guidance of Google or other maps that recommend this route when you are trying to find a safe way to go from point A to B via bike? It’s a bit of a shock when the unaware/tourist find themselves in this situation.

In my experience the people in these sections are not “aggressive or threatening,” but I definitely feel uncomfortable. This is a segment of our society I don’t normally see nor understand. Feeling uncomfortable puts me on guard and more conscious of my surroundings.

Maybe warning signs should be posted? Better yet, be aware that the more relaxed way to go is 92nd Ave with the traffic.

Huey Lewis
Guest
Huey Lewis

Great! I’d like to see JM/BP do a piece on those that are making and leaving all the luxury condos and apartments around town. Who is even using these things?? No one I know. They’re gross. I don’t get it! They’re an eyesore and they are ruining the livability of huge chunks of the city! Affordability of once great neighborhoods, *communities*, has been shot to hell. It’s gotten so bad that me and Ms. Lewis had to move out east of 205. For now, it’s safe out here. I fear that won’t always be the case.

Ken S
Guest
Ken S

The camps at the Sandy overpass and Burnside-Stark Gauntlet are symptomatic of the larger problems with the 205 path in general;

*It’s not a continuous path, but multiple broken up sections that individually don’t connect many places, allowing the perception that it’s more of a series of alleys than a proper road.
*These sections are all obscured from view of most roads and neighborhoods. Out of sight, out of mind.
*It fits the definition of a road (a place for travel, not a place to stop and reside, but isn’t enforced as one. I can’t just park my RV on the side of I205 to sleep for the night, so how is it any different with people camping on the side of MUPs?!

I’ll assume for moment that it’s a given that homeless people deserve to have basic human needs met and be treated with dignity.
It’s not compassionate to let them keep camping on paths. They’re dry camping and setting up the circumstances for illness, crime, and other conflicts.

The camps clearly need to go. Homeless camps along MUPs are unacceptable. It deprives the public of active transportation corridors, it pushes homelessness out of public view and out of the public forum, it allows for people in need of resources to remain away from resources.

TJ
Guest
TJ

I rode 205 northbound mid-Feb while crews were in the midst of clearing out campers. The path was pretty clear until the Sandy overpass, at which point I was hit on the helmet by a cord stretched across the MUP. The was garbage on the ground, tents half on the path, and I was looking down at the road and didn’t see the cord. It was startling. I rode a little further and called it into police. I haven’t been back since and seeing how bad it’s become only a month later, I’m not going back.

Concerned Citizen
Guest
Concerned Citizen

I’m surprised nobody commented or the article doesn’t highlight the amount of chopped bicycles in these pictures alone.

Kittens
Subscriber
Kittens

I used to be one of the “compassionate” ones who said live and let-live. But I’ve had enough of this naive brand of elite Portland liberalism which, honestly, is just negligence by another name. How is it compassionate to say this is acceptable?

Throwing up our hands and proclaiming how sad it is and taking no action is worse than nothing. Here is a wild idea, PPD could be doing their job and patroling these and all our multi-use paths daily and purging those who are a danger to themselves and others. How about inclusive zoning, forcing millionaire developers to construct affordable hosing as % of units. Portland is one of the hottest cities on the west coast. Pretty sure they will still be building.

I hope our leaders take note, a dramatic and systemic paradigm shift is underway in how citizens see (or don’t see) our government’s response to this epidemic of homelessness, affordability and the unspoken contract between taxpayers and representative democracy. 2016 Trump, Bernie are not blips, they are a desperate and eager electorate casting about for solutions.

Adam
Guest
Adam

How in God’s name do homeless people create so much trash???

It’s not like they are buying a lot of stuff.

Where do they get all this trash from that they generate?

There are just piles and piles and piles of it around *every* tent I see in downtown Portland. It is actually a fire hazard. I’ve seen one tent completely burned to the ground on the sidewalk at Bud Clark Commons last year, because the piles and piles of trash had acted as an accelerant.

I think there should be a rule e that homeless people should only be allowed to keep everything INSIDE their tents. They don’t need three broken wheelchairs with one wheel, seventeen stolen bbqs from people’s porches, a baby stroller, and forty bags worth of literal trash strewn around each tent.

It’s ludicrous.

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

Why is everyone so interested in enabling the behavior instead of changing it? 5000 fine, 5 years In prison should do the trick.

Carrie
Guest
Carrie

I don’t have much to add, but I do have something. The conditions on this MUP is why I was SO upset at the TriMet detour route when the SE Lafayette St bridge was closed at night for 2 months. The detour route was a sidewalk/path under the SE 17th St flyover along SE Powell Blvd. That route frequently has people dismantling bikes and living in the space and I do not feel safe riding there during the day, let alone at 9pm by myself. The justification for closing the bridge was because there was no electricity so no lights so the bridge wouldn’t be safe. But I would bet real money that those who mapped out the detour had ever taken the detour route after dark to evaluate where the real danger spot was.

KL
Guest
KL

Everyone, please remember this, and all of the other issues related to the cesspool this city is becoming, when you vote for mayor next year. Stop voting in leadership that is content to do nothing.

Lazy Spinner
Guest
Lazy Spinner

Regardless of proposed solutions caring or callous, the problem needs to be addressed right away or people that would ride bikes are going to start considering other alternatives. What’s a relatively safe alternative to riding where the byway is clear of camps, law enforcement regulates the flow of movement, and you feel a stronger sense of personal protection?

Ah, yes! Driving a CAR!!!

Is this really what we want? After years of scrapping and fighting to get clout and infrastructure? By all means, we should endeavor to help these people and put pressure on City Hall to find a firm but, compassionate solution. We are on the precipice of losing our fight for bicycling if we stop demanding safe bike infrastructure and waste our energies hand wringing over social justice. You wouldn’t allow a chop shop, drug activity, or crime to happen in your personal backyard. These paths are the collective backyard of Portland’s cyclists. If we lose them, I doubt that any additional will get built since they will be perceived as a magnet for filth and crime by the greater populace.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

This isn’t ‘Nam. There are rules.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUfec8S10MI

Half billion for housing
Guest
Half billion for housing

If only ODOT were pushing for a half billion housing project and not for a few extra freeway lanes.

Lance R Hoover
Guest
Lance R Hoover

Two places I won’t ride: I205 between Burnside and Stark. I go over a block and take 94th, which has speed bumps but it’s better than riding pass people with needles hanging out of their arms. And, under Sandy Blvd. There alternative is not that bad. Just go up to Sandy Blvd instead. You can either cross at the light at 96th or just go down Sandy and rejoin at Killingsworth. Not that we should have to do either of course. Just pointing out options (have not read any other comments yet).