UPDATE, 1/14 at 4:14 pm: The Parks bureau says they barriers have been moved and the path is clear.
Two large concrete barriers placed on the Columbia Slough path near Portland International Raceway restrict access to a popular bike route and have raised safety concerns.
“These barriers should be called widowmakers.”
— a reader on Instagram
I first saw these Thursday afternoon and went back today for a second look. One is placed right near the top of the small hill near east of the railroad overpass and Columbia Wastewater Treatment Plant. The other one is located at the threshold of the chain-link fence just west of the North Denver Avenue entrance near Portland International Raceway (PIR).
While I’ve just confirmed with Portland Parks and Recreation they’ve been placed to prevent people from driving cars on the path (an issue that has become more common lately), they also restrict access by other types of mobility devices like wheelchairs and adaptive bicycles. A wide bicycle with a trailer also couldn’t around it, so the trail is effectively closed to many users. Another issue is that neither of the barriers have reflective material on them and would be very hard to see at night — especially since this path is not well-lit. There are also no signs to warn path users to slow down and expect a barrier.
The barriers are way too heavy to move without specialized equipment.
“These barriers should be called widowmakers,” shared one reader after I shared an image on Instagram. “I know that’s an obvious answer they don’t want vehicles driving down these paths. But with not having any reflective devices or any kind of illumination on these barriers I would imagine riding this path at night could be treacherous and fatal.” Another reader said, “I was so surprised coming around the corner and had to slam on my brakes.”
Some people are happy to have something that keeps drivers away. “If it keeps us from having to deal with people driving cars down there, I’m happy to not get run over while using the path,” read another comment.
The slough path is managed by Portland Parks and Rec. The bureau recently adjusted a barrier that had closed the Thurman gate entrance to Forest Park “>when an adaptive bicycle user complained that his trike could not fit through.
PP & R Public Information Officer Mark Ross confirmed a few minutes ago that City of Portland staff placed the barriers on the Slough path to, “Deter illegal vehicle access on the path.”
He added that, “Parks & Recreation staff are moving them aside for now as the blocks may not be visible by cyclists or other trail users in dim light. We are considering other options/modifications. We also want to ensure that people using mobility devices can access the path. Our priorities are safety and path accessibility for appropriate use.”
Ross has assured me that, “They have either already been moved or are being moved right now.”
We’ll keep track of this and make sure Parks gets this right. Please share your experiences and any updates you see in the coming days.