City’s concrete barriers restrict access to Columbia Slough path

(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

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.

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“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.

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andrew
andrew
10 months ago

Remember that time pbot installed speed bumps on the hawthorne?

Jeff S
Jeff S
10 months ago
Reply to  andrew

Multnomah County, actually

Steve C
Steve C
10 months ago

Looks like a job for a couple of bollards

https://twitter.com/WorldBollard

CC Montgomery
CC Montgomery
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve C

Most of the bollards along the 205 and Springwater paths have been removed or disabled by people who drive vehicles on the path to access illegal campsites. The bollards are required to be removable to allow emergency vehicle access and that means all it takes to disable one is a bolt cutter.

Steve C
Steve C
10 months ago
Reply to  CC Montgomery

All that is required to drag these out of the way is a truck and a chain. Any removable barrier, be it gate, bollard or hunk of concrete is going to be vulnerable to tampering. If a maintenance crew is required to move it, a camper can do it too. But the nice part about a standard bollard with a reflector is it’s expected and has a clear visual language to path users understand.

FDUP
FDUP
10 months ago

Curbs and other unexpected hardscape in the ROW are just as dangerous to cyclists as these barricades are, and it’s all installed because MV drivers no longer have any responsibility for their own behavior or actions. IMO, our city and society in general have reached a very sad state when it comes to this.

H. Ovekov
H. Ovekov
10 months ago
Reply to  FDUP

Agree and especially in Portland as we have virtually zero traffic enforcement.

H. Ovekov
H. Ovekov
10 months ago

I’m actually almost pleasantly surprised the city did something to prevent driving on bike paths. They usually just enable this type of illegal behavior. But that is a pretty low budget and lousy way to do it. Again not surprised as PBOT/Joanne Hardesty don’t seem that supportive of cyclists. In my opinion, PBOT support for cycling infrastructure (keeping it safe and clean) has really declined over the last 3-5 years. I’m going to vote differently and hope for charter reform as PBOT/Hardesty have been completely unresponsive to my (and others) requests for improved bike path maintenance.

Caleb
Caleb
10 months ago
Reply to  H. Ovekov

The article says Parks and Rec, not PBOT, maintains the slough path. Not trying to dissuade you from your opinions on PBOT/Hardesty, though.

Mike Quigley
Mike Quigley
10 months ago

How about turning ’em lengthwise? And at least powerwash ’em? But, really. Does ANYTHING work in America anymore, unless you’re wealthy?

CC Montgomery
CC Montgomery
10 months ago
Reply to  Mike Quigley

Pretty sure that wealthy people use the Columbia Slough path as well as the poor. Needlessly invoking class conflict isn’t helpful, the path is here for all to responsibly enjoy.

PdxPhoenix
PdxPhoenix
10 months ago
Reply to  Mike Quigley

that was my thought. Turn them parallel to the path of travel. Then you have a bit wider, a lot longer, & much harder to remove bollard. I mean, this isn’t brain science or rocket surgery ffs.

PS
PS
10 months ago

It says a lot that this relatively remote and largely unmaintained section of path (the strava segment is literally called “The Hell of North Portland” due to its rough similarity to cobbled sections in Europe) is highlighted for issues of access and safety, but there is never an article on the Division underpass or Powell overpass on the 205 path.

Hotrodder
Hotrodder
10 months ago
Reply to  PS

I couldn’t have said it better myself. I cycle this route at least once a month (probably once a week in the spring/summer/fall) and I was pleasantly surprised to see that someone had done something preventative to keep people from driving on this dyke.
Anything is better than nothing.

BEL
BEL
10 months ago

Anyone seen the burned out car in the middle basically blocking the path on the 205 path just north of Sandy as it goes under the railroad. They finally after 2 yrs recently cleaned up the chop shop mess. Was clear for about 1 day. Now they are back & driving cars down there from NE Sandy. So Disturbing that cant use the path from safely at all.

Herculean Biker
Herculean Biker
10 months ago
Reply to  BEL

Yep, Portland has abandoned it bike paths to cars. So much for the platinum bike city and its stated carbon reduction goals.

CC Montgomery
CC Montgomery
10 months ago

We’ve abandoned practically every public greenspace to a small population of abusive persons. The politicians have embraced activists’ demands to make everyone suffer. The activists’ tack is accelerationism; they wrongly believe that this is a shortcut to revolution, that we’ll suddenly wake up one morning and reject capitalism. The houseless who are destroying our greenspace are simply pawns to them. They are where they are because it’s politically useful for the narrative.

Mark smith
Mark smith
10 months ago

Whoever coordinated this installation is clearly anti bike. Down deep they don’t like bike riders and probably dislike anything not related to cars. They could have easily painted both high viz, put some
Reflectors on them and turned them sideways in order to gently narrow the path less than 5 feet. Dear goodness , there are still people inside the Portland government that wish harm on people….

Todd/Boulanger
10 months ago
Reply to  Mark smith

That may be a leap in assumption…per ‘anti bike’…at worst it was either their work instructions from their manager were ‘vague + with no understanding’ about how bike access works (not being a cyclist with kids in a trailer) AND the difficult/ constrained access to place the jersey type / fixed object barrier in place.

We can ALL agree that it could have been done way better with some preplanning/ awareness…and it is way past time for PBoT/ etc. to write a grant application for a holistic management plan to add pneumatic barriers at these control points…to keep rogue drivers out but still allow family cyclist and EMS/ PPB/ maintenance vehicles past.

The state of best practice and the technology is well proven…it just takes the will.

Chris I
Chris I
10 months ago
Reply to  Mark smith

I think it’s a knee-jerk reaction by Parks given the camping problems. Is it dumb and short-sighted? Yes. I don’t see it as intentional hostility.

CC Montgomery
CC Montgomery
10 months ago

I’m disappointed (but not especially surprised) to learn that this blog has pressured PP&R to remove these barriers instead of making them safer. Why not add some reflectors or change their alignment? These barriers were erected to address a very serious problem that’s getting worse every day: vehicles driving on what’s supposed to be a car-free path.

I will be writing Portland Parks & Recreation to ask them to restore the barriers ASAP for the protection of cyclists, walkers, joggers and anyone else who uses (not abuses) the path. It’s disappointing to see a “leading voice of the cycling community” working to undermine efforts to keep cars off the path.

X
X
10 months ago

Sometimes it seems like there’s a communication failure or a cultural gap between the layers at PBOT. I believe lots of their people really do support active transportation of all sorts but when there’s a direction to block unauthorized car access should it be necessary to say “but don’t block out mobility devices of the people the path is meant for?”

Our emergency response always requires a full size motor vehicle.

For humane reasons Portland has come down pretty clearly on the side of allowing people camping to remain, at least temporarily. There is a policy of removing camps that actually block right-of-ways and sidewalks but it’s clearly not getting across. If people know that leaving a 4 foot gap will improve their odds of remaining undisturbed it’s going to change what they do. At present when there’s a sweep they sweep everybody.

I’ve been told by a city employee that the reason for a specific lapse in bike lane maintenance was the adjoining tents.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  X

There is a policy of removing camps that actually block right-of-ways and sidewalks but it’s clearly not getting across.

It’s not getting across because it’s not being enforced. I have made several complaints about blocked sidewalks, and none have been addressed, even the two that were clearly unrelated to camping.

The city seems to have just given up.

Mike Quigley
Mike Quigley
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Plus, with inflation raging and the eviction moratorium expiring, lots more homeless are on the way. Notice how train smash-and-grabs are becoming more popular? Trains have begun keeping their empty boxcar doors open in an attempt to combat the trend, but all that does is direct the thieves attention toward boxcars with closed doors, plus afford opportunities for people on the move to “hop a freight” like in the good ol’ days.

The Grouch =)
The Grouch =)
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

The City Council has certainly given up and the bureaus seem to be stuck in the same malaise, putting out half-baked and half-hearted projects. This is the way Portlandia ends, not with a bang but with a whimper…

maxD
maxD
10 months ago

Can PP&R relocate these to the Greeley MUP to keep cars off it?

Chris I
Chris I
10 months ago

These were added to the outer Marine Drive path back in November. I posted about it in the forums, but didn’t have a picture to share. I haven’t been back out there in months because the trail has turned into a camp, but I would assume they are still in place.

https://forums.bikeportland.org/t/concrete-blocks-added-to-marine-drive-path/1602

Audrey A
Audrey A
10 months ago

Thanks for bringing this up, I ride that path and it wasn’t clear at first why the barricades were there. I rode it yesterday after they were removed and of course a sketchy older black sedan with “temp plates” drove right up behind me on the path, I moved out of the way, as did the dog walker and their pet ahead of me on the trail. I took some iphone pics, thought about calling non-emergency to report but I know how that story ends.

I’m glad Parks and Rec is working to remedy the situation, obviously cars driving on that path is dangerous (as are non-reflective, etc. barricades).