Video: Portland Bike Path Conditions Report

Just how bad are Portland’s marquee bike paths these days? Are they safe for everyone to ride? Is the hysteria over homeless campers living on them accurate or overblown?

These are questions I’ve thought about a lot, so I wanted to get out there and see for myself. And I figured bringing a video camera along might help other people answer them as well.

On Saturday I set off on the classic Portland path loop: Marine Drive, I-205, Springwater, Esplanade — I did about 32 miles from Peninsula Park and back. I also looked at NE 33rd Ave to check on the huge community of RV dwellers that have amassed on both sides of the street.

To back up a bit, Portland has struggled with the issue of people living on and adjacent to bike paths ever since massive camps emerged on the Springwater Corridor in 2015. While it feels like we’ve made significant progress in how we address this issue, it remains unresolved.

The intersection with cycling is very clear. Many reasonable people have told me they don’t feel safe using paths like the Springwater, or paths along I-205, Marine Drive, the Columbia Slough, Peninsula Crossing Trail, and so on. There have been scary confrontations, thefts, and assaults. In 2017 Metro planners were forced to scrap a path project when fears about homeless camping came to the fore.

In 2019, I was shocked at the conditions of both the I-205 path and the people living along it.

But I also know the issue is often unfairly used as political cudgel by some people. There’s an entire phalanx of folks who are so committed to convincing us “Portland is a lawless wasteland” they will say anything to perpetuate that narrative. So instead of arguing online, I wanted to ground-truth conditions for myself.

As you can see and hear in the video, what I encountered was a very mixed bag. Overall, my experience was much better than some of the “Portland is dying” folks are desperate for you to believe. I never once felt scared and was not approached or threatened by anyone. The vast majority of my time in the saddle was beautiful and the paths were free and clear of anyone — campers or otherwise. (Note: I am very aware that my experiences are not the same as everyone. Your mileage may vary!)

There wasn’t that much trash to be seen (keep in mind my bar is unfortunately still quite low for what’s an acceptable condition on these paths), and the presence of campers and their tents and belongings was relatively minimal compared to a few years ago. Overall, I was happy to see fewer people living outside, but we have a lot of work to do to take care of the ones still out there.

One of my biggest takeaways was a validation of my fear that the negative reputation of these trails has scared people from using them. For a nice, sunny, summer day, it was very lonely as a bike rider out there. Yes, it was pretty hot and I was out there in the hottest part of the day; but there should have been a lot more people out riding.

Through all of Portland’s ups and (mostly) downs in the past decade or so, I’ve never stopped riding these paths — and after doing this ride on Saturday, I now feel better about encouraging others to give them a try.

Here’s what I’ve heard about the video from our YouTube channel subscribers:

“I feel a little better about those paths now that you have done this. That camp under Division is very unsettling and should be moved. I feel like it is time for me to ride some of this again.”

“If there were a group ride (like a small Pedalpalooza ride) on the MUP, it would spark interest in riders to go out and take a look. Perhaps that comfort of being with others, would help calm some of the fears and concerns of the paths.”

“I used to live in Lents near that bike path, its always sad to see the conditions there but I never felt like it was unsafe for me to travel along the path during the day.”

Have a look at the video and tell me if the conditions are worse or better than you expected. And I’d love to know how you are feeling about riding these paths: Have you erased them from your route catalogue? Are you sworn off of them for good? Or are you ready to give them another chance?


I plan to do another video of the same loop in a few months to compare conditions. If there’s a specific location you want me to check out, please let me know. For a rosy look at one particular section of the Marine Drive Bike Path, check out this video I shared on Instagram earlier this week.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Mark Linehan
Mark Linehan
1 month ago

I have the same impression – there seem to be fewer homeless people on these paths. I have never been accosted on them.

KC
KC
1 month ago

I think PDXReporter has been a great tool and I do believe the more we use it the better the trails will get. Whether it was my report or a combo of other people, reporting the long standing camp under the Sellwood bridge resulted in a pretty immediate clean up and it’s stayed that way for a couple of months now.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago
Reply to  KC

I have never had a single response to any of the camps I’ve entered into PDXReporter. I don’t think anyone actually reads it.

KC
KC
1 month ago
Reply to  Fred

I’m sure results vary based on location and circumstance, but the available mapping with photos shows real activity happening. https://pdx.maps.arcgis.com/apps/dashboards/c68d1d2e29e444a7b70f20aaafcbfbeb

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago

When I lived in East Portland, we got better results complaining to Multnomah County about the 1-205 path; they would send out county prisoners to clean it up.

What I find interesting about such off-street paths in each community I visit is how tolerant they are about path users. including the homeless – or rather how draconian each community police department is about removing unwanted users.

Serenity
Serenity
1 month ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

When did you live in East Portland?

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago
Reply to  Serenity

2007-2015, in Hazelwood, served on their board too as well as EPAP; lived near SE 105th & Pine in the Lorence Court Apts.

It’s odd now that I think of it, but when I moved to East Portland in 2007, Portland was going through a severe housing crunch and rents were rising through the roof – I saw lots of homeless camps then, maybe not as many as later, but plenty.

The Great Recession of 2008-12 hit white-collar professionals harder than the working poor, and I had no rent increases for a solid 36 months, and even after only small increases until 2012 or 13. The tent camps during this period nearly disappeared and the 205 and Springwater paths were really quite safe and scenic.

And then the rents started climbing rapidly and everything went to shit; I had to move by the end of 2015 when my rent went up by 20% in 2014 and 30% in 2015 – I should have left earlier. And the camps sprung up everywhere, shootings every night, it was awful. I’m glad I could still afford to leave – many others couldn’t.

And so I too find the videos rather depressing – the I-205 path has in the past looked a lot better and more friendly, better kept up.

PTB
PTB
1 month ago

Good video, Jonathan. Or maybe I mean, good idea. Thanks for addressing this. The big flaw here is that what you saw on the 22nd might not be what you see on the 26th (or whenever, pick a different, not far off date). It could be better, it could be worse. The 205 path between Holgate and Harold, near Holgate, was cleaned up for the most part yesterday and this morning. But come back on Monday morning there might be more campers than last weekend. Some guy might have been having a hard time and starts chucking bottles into the path creating a biking and walking hazard. Last night I was coming up the 205 from Flavel to the Springwater and some asshole on a crotch rocket came down the path to his camp. Auto use on the trails is absolutely a common and weekly thing these days. I’m on both of these trails most days of the week. It’s a roll of the dice regarding what you’re gonna get.

Yes, agreed, this is sad on all kinds of levels. I too wish no one had to sleep outside except on legit camping trips. But I’ve lost my patience and empathy with this situation. There’s trash all over, campers do spill onto the trail often and even if you and I don’t feel unsafe, a lot of people do. I know you know this, you mention it multiple times. Our MUPs are not for camping. The reputational damage has been done and I think it’s gonna take a while to get people back on these trails in big numbers. Also, you mention all the indications of fire. I’m confident it’s just a matter of time before one of these fires gets out of control and rips through some homes adjacent to the trails. I’m honestly amazed it hasn’t already happened given our new summer realities.

That last line leads to my last bit and it’s less trail related and me griping. 90 is hot and for a lot of us that grew up here it is miserable. In Santa Barbara, I dunno, maybe that’s a really killer day. Go Hang Ten or whatever. Eat some hella tasty tacos and frosty margs and soak up the rays. 90 is hot for Portland. We have had our 3rd warmest first half of summer on record. We have had 12 90f days already and the 30 year average is 15 90f days, which I’m sure we’re gonna blast right past, again (which is up from what it was because our summers keep getting f’ing warmer all the time). Don’t be a Californian and tell us 90 isn’t a hot day. Ha.

mc
mc
1 month ago
Reply to  PTB

“But I’ve lost my patience and empathy with this situation.”

Yes, I hate to admit that I’ve to, especially because I’ve done homeless advocacy & support volunteering for a few years. I was also homeless for a while too.

For the past 3 years, I haven’t been able to walk out of apartment w/o there being a RV or car that someone is living in. Walk around the block and there’s a half dozen more vehicles being lived in, a shed on wheels, an unattended open fire on the sidewalk, piles of trash, a tree with a half-dozen pee bottles lined up around it.

Walk to the park with my dog to only encounter my homeless folks camping there too, beer cans, liquor bottles and drug paraphenalia strung about.

Walk to the grocery store and there’s more homeless folks living in vehicles in the parking lot, in the street alongside the parking lot and on the sidewalk.

Wait for the bus, homeless folks hanging out in the bus stop shelter, get on the bus and the homeless person across from me is sitting there in a pile of their own feces, picking at open sores on their body, while laughing maniacally.

Then go for a bike ride with a friend just to run into it all again for the 3rd or 4th time in a day.

SilkySlim
SilkySlim
1 month ago

Appreciate the on-the-ground reporting. Those were pretty bad conditions if you ask me. To add my personal context, consider me a “Strong and Fearless” rider, albeit one that tows a toddler in a Burley.

We all have our own measuring sticks, and while I admit the path was only occasionally physically blocked, I have to view every tent/rv as a possible traumatic interaction w/ a raving lunatic. So that would be, I dunno, 500 potential threats over 30 some miles. And of course, most aren’t that, but just the worry and having to have my head on a swivel eyeballing everyone is so taxing.

And please don’t consider me a shut in!!! I am out frequently on the areas closest (and lucky me, safest), mainly the innermost Springwater portion (say from Esplanade through Johnson Creek). Like you said, at least there the tents are 75% hidden.

Like you said in the video, just a sad state of affairs.

EP
EP
1 month ago
Reply to  SilkySlim

In 2016-17 or so I pedaled back along the MUP from a WNBR after party on the river, fearless in the dark at 3am, and it was actually fun! Now, riding along any stretch of this MUP in the middle of the day has the potential for all the encounters you mentioned, and the middle of the night is a hard NO F’N WAY!

A month ago I had kids in tow and was at the Springwater Cart Park/Cartlandia on 82nd for lunch. I figured I’d give the MUPs a go, as it had been a long time since I’d ridden them, as I’d basically written them off. So I went east along the springwater and then up the MUP to around Salmon. Yeah, it wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t that great, as there was a bit of sketchiness all around, pretty much all the time. I totally got the stress of hyper-awareness that you mention. It’s sad when I’d rather take my chances with cars on side streets over random people camped along a MUP.

mc
mc
1 month ago
Reply to  EP

It’s sad when I’d rather take my chances with cars on side streets over random people camped along a MUP.”

No! Ni! No! Never! Ever! Motorists in my experience are far more dangerous than homeless folks camping along the MUPs.

Beth H
Beth H
1 month ago
Reply to  mc

Sadly, your mileage may vary. In the many years I used to ride the MUPs, I’ve been physically accosted three times by guys living in the underbrush and threatened a dozen times. That was enough for me to stop using the MUPs, and when I ride today I take surface streets and ride as a part of traffic. I feel safer that way.

mc
mc
1 month ago
Reply to  Beth H

I’ll take being physically accosted over being almost killed in a x-walk. It took 4 yrs. for me to fully recover.

EP
EP
1 month ago

I’ve seen some improvements in the section of the path that I frequent between Prescott and Glisan when going to Gateway Green, but it could be due to Maywood Park taking care of it. There are a bunch of new yellow bollards in the path at Prescott, and south of that where the path crosses over the I-84 W to I-205 N on-ramp. Vehicles are still getting through at the access bridge that goes from Fremont over I-84, and camping under 102nd. This weekend there was a white van inside the Gateway Green park, on the NE corner along the fence next to a rock garden. He woke up, tried to leave, and got stuck and made some big ruts in the trail.

I’m surprised you didn’t show the part of the path at the top of the hill, just west of the Gateway Transit Center, that has become the default smoking lounge for the Transit Center. It’s gross to huff up the hill into a cloud of smoke, with cig butts and trash all over. I’ve even seen the shrubs there all charred from fire, no doubt from a cig butt. I wish Trimet took a more active role in maintaining the areas around such a prominent transit center. In looking at that 2009 street view, it’s amazing how much nicer it looks without the added new fencing. This whole area needs a sound wall to make the path, and transit center, seem more cohesive and integrated and like something other than 2nd-rate facilities.

Fun fact; that spot on the path next to the transit center is the ONLY TIME I have ever seen an ODOT street sweeper on the bike path! What a unicorn! If only they could run that up and down the path every month to keep things clean and remove all the broken glass and feces.

Serenity
Serenity
1 month ago
Reply to  EP

Have you also noticed that a lot of the public trash cans are disappearing?

Serenity
Serenity
1 month ago

Thank you for doing this, Jonathan, it’s very helpful. I think a lot of people may just not get out to those trails often enough to know exactly what the current conditions on them are. It seems like their fears just take over sometimes.

cp_1969
cp_1969
1 month ago

I did about 32 miles from Peninsula Park and back…Overall, my experience was much better than some of the “Portland is dying” folks are desperate for you to believe. I never once felt scared and was not approached or threatened by anyone.“.
Big deal. One day riding, 2 hours or so and you reach your conclusion that the haters are using it as “political cudgel”.
I think maybe you are just a little too eager to give a rosy report on the state of Portland.

Hotrodder
Hotrodder
1 month ago
Reply to  cp_1969

No shit. Time to raise the bar as to what’s acceptable on Portland streets.

TJ
TJ
1 month ago
Reply to  Hotrodder

Couldn’t agree more. What’s acceptable here is an extremely low bar.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago

Putting lipstick on a pig – that’s what I would call this exercise.

I’ll never forget riding on the Marine Drive path some months ago and suddenly finding myself in THE MIDDLE of a scary camp. The path was completely blocked by campers and trashed cars. It was like a scene out of Mad Max. I turned around and peddled for my life.

You say that many more people should be out there cycling in the middle of a sunny summer’s day, but I can tell you it takes just one experience like the one I had, or some person yelling or throwing stuff, to convince most people never to come back. If the city can ever get on top of this problem and get us our MUPs back, it’s gonna take a generation to get cycling back into these spaces.

Michael
Michael
1 month ago
Reply to  Fred

The paths in my area aren’t good for riding anymore either. I’ve been using Google maps to find alternat bike routes. Honestly, I’m more comfortable riding on the sidestreet than the paths.

maxD
maxD
1 month ago
Reply to  Fred

I used to walk with my dog down the GOING MUP to Swan Island. I would try to convince neighbors and family to join me. After being followed/threatened by a van driver on Going MUP and a truck driver on the Greeley MUP, I advise people to be cautious. I still occasionally ride down those paths, but it remains unsafe because of people driving on them and the a handful of threats backed up with vehicles, pipes and even a knife! I get that some people have few choice of where to live, but please don’t pretend there are not others who are anti-social or dangerously unwell. Camping should not be permitted along any paths, nor in parks or on beaches. There is a lot of help available for people willing to seek it out. More relevant to this story: I was yelled at (“get out of here”) on the Marine Drive path,farther east last summer, and menaced by RV campers along 33rd (“watch out” while holding an axe) a few weeks ago.

I am happy to see that progress is being made at reclaiming our public spaces, but this video shows public space conditions that are miles away from being acceptable in my opinion

Michael
Michael
1 month ago

Hi, I live on 73rd and Foster. There are quite a few campers per mile on all of the paths in central SE Portland. I’ve taken to the sidestreet routes because there is always someone who has their stuff strewn across the path. I don’t mind people along the path, but I hate the obstacles they create. I ride mostly between johnson creek and Burnside along 205. Every time I try using the path there are obstacles. Maybe it will be better next ride.

JM
JM
1 month ago

One thing I think this doesn’t fully capture is the difference between the paths (especially the 205 path) in the middle of the day vs morning vs evening. I ride 205 and Springwater pretty often (2-3+ times a week). Most of the time my experience is like what is shown in the video — rarely any issues, not a huge amount of other people on bikes, and that camp blocking the underpass at Division is always there. But riding the 205 path in the evening around 6:30-8pm is a totally different story. So many more people standing around in the path, walking in the middle of the path, sitting next to the path, many people actively smoking or shooting drugs, and often people passed out in or next to their tent. I’ve had people yell at me, garbage thrown at me, a machete swung at me, had people step directly in front of me oblivious to the fact I was riding through, and one evening came through that Division underpass and the guy had his tarp spread out across the whole path completely blocking it forcing me to grab the brakes as hard as I could.

I fully agree with the sentiment that the paths are not as bad as the “portland is dying” crowd wants to believe, and in general people should not be afraid to use them, but the situation in the evening is bleak and can be scary and I can definitely see it discouraging people from using the paths.

Randi J
Randi J
1 month ago
Reply to  JM

Well your description of the trails in the evening sounds an awful lot like “Portland is dying”. Yeah,I’ll admit that I’m not brave enough to confront what you’re describing.

JM
JM
1 month ago
Reply to  Randi J

I definitely think the condition of the paths is a problem and I know it discourages people from using them, but I don’t think it shows that Portland is dying. I think the fact that outlets like Bike Portland exist and that so many people on here talking about these issues shows that Portland is not dying, but our local government is continuously failing to perform as it should. The local government needs to lead the way in reclaiming these spaces for the public to use. Clean up the overgrown vegetation and the glass and garbage constantly littering the path. Organize rides and walks on a regular basis so people can feel comfortable using the path with a large group. The paths are public spaces and should be critical infrastructure in a city that prides itself on bike infrastructure and culture (or at least used to).

Randi J
Randi J
1 month ago

Thanks. Interesting Jonathan. Unfortunately I’m still a bit too scarred from prior bad experiences to venture onto our MUP’s right now—especially with kids in tow. Glad to hear they seem to be trending in the right direction. Maybe next summer after some enforcement of our no camping ban I’ll
try it. Thanks for the reconnaissance.

Bob
Bob
1 month ago

Great video Jonathan. It’s good to see current conditions.

Something has got to be done with all the RVs on 33rd. This is such an important access point to Marine Drive, not only for those living in north Portland, but for all those that want to ride loops around the city.

I used to travel 33rd a lot, but I try to reroute around that now because of all the RVs. They’ve cleaned it out several times before, once for Biden’s visit and another time for the Women’s Professional Golf Association tournament at Columbia Edgewater.

Other than 33rd, it was nice to see improvements elsewhere. It is definitely not as bad as before in many places. You didn’t even show the Marine Dr, I-205 intersection which used to be a disaster zone, as was much of the path going south up to Sandy Blvd. I’ve been through there recently and it was all clean. As were the tunnels south of Parkrose Tri-met station as your video shows.

There also used to be a lot of tents all along the I-205 path going south, especially at the intersection with the Springwater and going towards 82nd. So I agree, it is much better there. Let’s hope we continue to trend in the right direction.

Trebor
Trebor
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob

Just to confirm: the underpass of the Union Pacific rail line that is just south of the NE Lombard/NE Sandy intersection is no longer blocked? I haven’t even tried to ride that route in at least two years and have instead been going up NE 122nd

Bob
Bob
1 month ago
Reply to  Trebor

Over at least the past six months, there has been no one camping there when I’ve ridden through. Jonathan’s video also just passed by this area as if to say that there was nothing to report there. I live in Vancouver, so that is a key transit point when riding into the city. It’s about three weeks ago that I rode through.

John
John
1 month ago

I wish I was invited, that ride looks downright pleasant!

I do like the idea of some pedalpalooza style group rides there too.

John Maribona
John Maribona
1 month ago

Saturday July 22nd in the afternoon on a 30+ mile ride around the city that included East Bank Esplanade, Springwater Corridor, 205 Bike Path, Marine Drive and NE 33rd I witnessed dozens of encampments right on the bike path, including several scenes of hard drug use at encampments right on the edge of the path, right out in the open undisturbed by passers by. NE 33rd is much worse than ’22. Overall the 205 path is much dirtier than last year heavily perfumed with the odors of human feces and urine. It’s also sketchier than before, I actually felt like I shouldn’t be there a few different times as I was being checked out by some of the shady characters I passed. Not sure where the writer of this article has been riding but I certainly understand why there are so few bike riders on Portland’s bike paths these days.

Liz
Liz
1 month ago

My experience is as a petite cis woman. I only ride those paths during broad daylight in the weekends when I know other folks will be around. That said, I’ve never had a negative experience with an unhoused person on the bike paths. During the pandemic, I was biking sprig water and 205 in a regular basis and generally found the trash to be okay, if not ideal. I wish they were cleaner AND I don’t want to sweep places where people have been able to find shelter at a time when it’s increasingly difficult to be unhoused in portland.

curly
curly
1 month ago

Now that we have alternative N/S routes, I seldom ride the 205 MUP. Many people still avoid it and ride the 80’s, 70’s, or 100’s Greenways. Options!
The thing that struck me the most about the video is you saw very few pedestrians unless they were campers hanging at their camps. There is an Elder Care facility between Division and Stark where you used to see many peds out for a walk. It is a MUP. No walkers for years.
Yes, it’s rideable from the Glenn Jackson bridgehead to Clackamas Town Center, but it’s not an enjoyable ride. That’s what I miss.
It is the only lighted MUP we have and it’s a shame that I don’t feel comfortable riding it at night.
ODOT has invested $500k since 2012 finishing the underpass at Division and tree plantings along the corridor and another $100k in lighting improvements. Most folks consider the 205 MUP a world class cycling corridor, yet it now serves mostly the homeless and drug dealers because it’s so accessible.

JM, disappointed you didn’t get video of Better Red project in Gateway. It’s progressing nicely.

EP
EP
1 month ago

One nice change with the better red project is that it’s created a huge sound wall/barrier for parts of the MUP and Gateway Green.

Bob
Bob
1 month ago
Reply to  EP

The better red project has been horrible for the Gateway Green. It is a shame that they shut down the best part of the Green to spend $215 million to basically straighten out the hairpin turn on what was the original design of the Max Red Line to the airport. I can see why they wanted to do that, but to spend $215 million on it is way beyond waste. It should have never been designed that way. Even the project construction workers that I’ve talked to there cannot believe the cost of what they are building. Hardly had the Green been open and attracting riders, when they shut down the best part of it.

Furthermore, I don’t hear the wall muffling much of the sound. I-205 is an incredible noise corridor, especially with I-84 on the other side. Ride down the middle of the Glen Jackson bridge and you can’t hear yourself think. Even on top of Rocky Butte, with all those expensive homes, the noise is deafening.

I’m looking forward to your separate post Jonathan. The construction access road from 92nd and Halsey should provide great access to the Green, but I’ve also seen plans for a MUP from the Green down alongside the west side of I-205 to Hancock Drive, which provides a good link to the Tillamook Greenway. The 92nd/Halsey access is already built, the Hancock plan, while nice, will increase the cost. But apparently money is not a concern for our government spending.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob

An awful lot of what TriMet does these days is directed by which grants it gets. It can’t really afford to do anything with its own money, so has ceded control of its capital project prioritization to the federal government.

EP
EP
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob

I’ve been riding the GG area on and off since 2007, when it was just a couple dirt mounds/jumps. Ever go to the grotto dirt jumps before they were bulldozed? GG as a whole is definitely way better now, even with the _temporary_ disruptions of the better red project. Yes, it sucks they shut down the top of the jump line, but it’s planned to be rebuilt, and the direct access up to the Transit Center will be better than the MUP along 205. I hope the huge mound of soil that’s there right now stays, and gives the place a bit more vert. The new pump track is great, and so are the recently revamped skills lines. I don’t mess with the big dirt jumps though.

The access path under 205 is a thorny one as PP&R is hesitant to create a new “problem” area. BUT, it has to get built, as it’s such a crappy route over Halsey, even with the planned bike lane.

Yes, $215 million could’ve built a really great bike bridge over I-205 from Tillamook to Gateway Green!

Jack Blashchishen
Jack Blashchishen
1 month ago
Reply to  curly

I will second the comment about not using the MUP now that there are alternatives. Since the work that was done on 102nd, I like to ride the new buffered bike lane there now instead of the MUP. I want to be visible and I hate when I hear my neighbors complain about bike lanes saying nobody rides them. I ride them!

GAry
GAry
1 month ago

Thanks for the very informative video!

Bobcycle
Bobcycle
1 month ago

As recently as 15 years ago I rode Marine Drive MUP with my granddaughter who was just learning to ride a bike. There are days when that might still be doable but the unpredictability of safety concerns make it not feasible. For comparison ride Vancouver’s Salmon Creek (no campers) or Burnt Bridge/Discovery trail (non threatening cleaner camps well off the trail in one area adjacent to Andresson). Not sure how Vancouver does it. On the negative side homes adjacent to the Discovery trail were evacuated for a short time earlier this summer due to a fire along the trail in an area frequented by campers. I ride the trails in Vancouver with my grandson something I can’t do in Portland.

PS
PS
1 month ago

Giving credit where it’s due, great video and an honest reflection of the conditions, particularly the disparate range of people’s experiences that can contribute to their behavior and willingness to ride here.

The huge hurdle Portland has is that of people’s behavior. Behavioral economics 101 talks to the stickiness of people’s behaviors, and the draw of something new has to be quite robust for them to take the opportunity cost against something they know.

Having been a regular rider on all of these paths for years and years, I agree that these conditions aren’t that bad if you’re in it all the time. Of course, the pandemic disrupted that and I’ve not seen it for a year or so now. With this video, I look at it and say, “nope, not worth it”. I have routes where there isn’t any possibility of that interaction, I have other workouts that fit my needs and with little kids, I would never take them into that type of interaction. Yes, the risk is low, but it certainly isn’t zero.

I hope they can clean it up and make it better, because it is such a great resource that everyone should be comfortable on.

Bobcycle
Bobcycle
1 month ago

Just wanted to add that perhaps the reason more people aren’t riding those trails is that even if you don’t find them threatening, they are not very scenic or pleasant.

Vincent Dawans
Vincent Dawans
1 month ago
Reply to  Bobcycle

That is really not said enough. I am not a hardcore biker per se, but I grew up in Europe where biking is sort of a normal thing. So, I used to bike a lot here in the 15 years I have lived in Portland, including for recreation purpose. The last few years not so much. I always found some of these trails to already be somewhat unpleasant even in the best conditions, especially the 205 running along the freeway, it’s utilitarian at best, but hardly pleasant even when clean. I can’t imagine going there today for pleasure when you had the general look of things. It might still work from a utilitarian standpoint but the idea anybody would go down the 205 paths for fun is really hard for me to understand. To be honest in general I find we have way too many trails and parks right next to traffic; it’s just so noisy and unpleasant to start with that it doesn’t take much to make it a no go for me.

Rick
Rick
1 month ago

Thank you very much for the update.

I ride the MUPs every month and agree with your overall read of the current conditions. Compared to a few years ago, Marine Drive, lower Springwater, and the top of the 205 are noticably better. The Peninsula Park trail (!) and Gresham-Fairview trail are beautiful right now

The 33rd RV Thunderdome is much worse since the too-brief period of clear riding on one side of the road. The 205 from Gateway to Harold also looks much, much worse in your video than what I rode through in June. It was nice to see the Stark to Burnside “tunnel” clear for the moment. During the worst times, that stretch was actually nerve-wracking even for a rider for Maus-like thresholds of engagement.

Maria
Maria
1 month ago

Thanks for reporting on this in such detail, Jonathan! I’m a long-time user of all of the paths and routes you listed, and also a very confident cyclist. However, I’ve avoided 33rd and the 205 path especially because I haven’t felt safe. I’ve encountered folks in crisis who are carrying weapons (like axes, numchucks) and/or who are acting erratically.

It’s a tough situation for everyone. The people who are living out there are humans in crisis and my heart breaks for them. My use of the bike path feels like a privilege when contrasted with that. However, I feel like we’ve worked long and hard as cyclists on advocating for safe car-free spaces to ride and it’s the first thing that gets ignored by officials.

mc
mc
1 month ago
Reply to  Maria

Very well said. They’re “humans in crisis” trying to survive. We all call it camping, but camping is a voluntary, recreational activity.

I guess in a way, I do feel privileged as I’m enjoying a bike ride and they’re trying to just get through the day w/o any trouble and probably worrying about when their shelter & belongings will get swept up.

But what I also feel when riding by is that I’m encroaching on their personal living space, although it’s public space that is for walking, running & biking. This creates some real inner conflict for me and it’s a crappy feeling.

Matt P
Matt P
1 month ago
Reply to  Maria

Except the bike paths are not a privilege. We citizens pay for it! And it’s not right that the use of the paths is taken away from the many because of the selfish destructive behavior of a few. I hate seeing the situation framed up this way, like I’m some entitled bike riding jerk lording my privilege over some poor soul in crisis who just needs a place to live. I’m so tired of hearing it and it has not and will never solve the problem.

J_R
J_R
1 month ago

I rode the I-205 path recently with a group (I am not willing to ride it alone). There were half as many campers as there were a year ago. Much better, but not good enough that I will ride it by myself.

Congestion from traffic crashes take three times as long to dissipate as the original blockage. If the same ratio applies to MUPs, we’ll not be back to normal until about 2028. I’ll probably move before then. It’s really disappointing that one of the best things about Portland has been frittered away.

Jack Blashchishen
Jack Blashchishen
1 month ago

Thanks for the video, Jonathan! I am curious about the condition of the Marine Drive path east of its junction with the 205 path. The last time I rode it, it was fully covered with cars and RVs, it smelled horrible, and there was erosion caused by the camps spilled over the path, covering it with a wet mixture of mud and possibly sewage. This was a section that was below the roadway on the south side of Marine Dr, I think maybe even east of 122nd.

Ruben
Ruben
1 month ago

As some of the comments have alluded to, it’s the unpredictability about the condition of the paths that stops people from using them. No one wants to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. I used to routinely ride up NE 33rd to do the N Portland loop or the 205 path up to Vancouver but little by little they became worse. The last time I rode 33rd it felt like I was in the wrong place. Lot’s of garbage, people milling about, broken car parts all over the road. None of that on the Fanno creek trail, which makes for a much more pleasant experience.

Jamie Longoria
Jamie Longoria
1 month ago

I hoping things continue to improve on this sections of bike path. Hopefully return to how it was before the homeless problem. Unfortunately, I don’t see myself riding this bicycle path until it’s a lot better. I am a life long portlander born here in 1964. I can’t wait to retire and leave the Portland area. I can’t wait to ride my bicycle again some where I feel some what safe.

Stephen Keller
Stephen Keller
1 month ago

It’s better than I expected, but it’d still freak my wife out of I weren’t with her.

mc
mc
1 month ago

This is really good reporting work. I really appreciate your personal take on the situation as well as your awareness of how other people might feel. As a person who has done a lot of homeless advocacy work, I’m not scared by or afraid of biking past these encampments.

But I’ve to be honest, I don’t enjoy it at all. It just really detracts from the experience of getting away from city environs & problems for a nice bike ride that is relaxing & restorative.

The Trolly Trail down to Oregon City is so much nicer, cleaner, enjoyable & “safer”. Not just do to no encampments that I’ve seen, but also less selfish a-holes that want to go as fast as they can on any electric or non-electric wheeled conveyance.

These speed freaks create far more safety concerns & dangerous situations that homeless folks camping on or around the paths.

I watched a recent video of someone biking on the MUPs in Minneapolis. I didn’t see any tents, trash, debris and/or graffiti. It made me very upset, envious and wanting to move.

Zach
Zach
1 month ago

Good video. I’d love to see one covering the Peninsula Cross Trail which was cleaned up recently and also the Interstate Ave underpass via Columbia Slough Trail @ PIR, this was a very sketchy spot the last times I’ve been through there.

El timito
El timito
1 month ago

I get it. Seeing poverty and people suffering from illness, malnutrition and lack of housing is unsettling. But the problem isn’t people spoiling our beautiful paths, the problem is a massive housing crisis, a lack of health services and access to the services that exist, and the evaporation of a safety net. Instead of advocating for sweeps let’s advocate for more housing and healthcare.
https://www.streetroots.org/news/2023/07/26/privilege-ability-portland-cycling

Steve
Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  El timito

Well said!

Matt S.
Matt S.
1 month ago

I have a four and 15 month old, and no way am I going to take them along in the Burley. To me, these MUPs don’t exist when having kids.

mc
mc
1 month ago

This past Sunday at 10:30 am. my older friend, in his mid-70s & I were biking along the SWC. We turned onto the I-205 path, stopped in the shade for a quick water break.

We’re chatting as we see a small suv driving down the I-205 path towards us. As he drives by, my friend raises his hands, in the universal WTF? motion and says at conversation level, “What are you doing?” The driver says, “Whatever the F! I want b—h! I’ll fuq’n knock you the fuq out!”

Shortly after his incident, there’s a guy sitting in the path, trying to find a place on his leg to shoot-up, a lil’ bit further up. there’s a guy working on his bike that’s laid out on the path and there’s 3 people standing on the across from him on the path in front of a broken down RV. We ride through slowly, say Hi and they just kind of leer at us and murmur.

Up near Gateway Green, we encounter a person passed out on the on the edge of the path and few more dirty looks from folks hanging out on the path.

Here’s the reality, the MUPs in certain areas are no longer public spaces and it feels much more like we’re encroaching on someone else’s turf.

Out there, the play by a different set of rules. You’re on the side of the tracks, so to speak and you’re probably best advised to keep rolling through and mind your own business.

On NE 33rd after departing Marine Dr., there were about 100 RVs, campers, vehicles along the shoulder. We mostly had to ride in the street due vehicles and other stuff sticking out into the bike lane as well as lots of debris. Fairly unsafe situation.

Marine Dr. between I-205 & NE 33rd was very enjoyable to ride. We saw 1 tent.

Yes, some folks are in crisis and yes there are real criminals and 20 something gangs operating in PDX. Desperate people do desperate things.

I hoped to bike commute to MHCC along the SWC from inner SE this fall, but I’m rethinking that.

TJ
TJ
1 month ago

Thank you Jonathan for the video, though I think this visibility was needed starting 8+ years ago.

Springwater wasn’t full of trash pre-mayor Hales and pre-2015. Graffiti was notable because it was the exception. Same with trash. Today they are the norm and trash “is to be expected in a big city”.

The bar for what’s “to be expected” has been dropping for years. Now it sounds like it’s literally on the ground, next to the trash.

I’ve long believed you have to get on a bike to know how bad the homeless situation is. Camps along the paths build up, get moved, come back, get moved, etc. What’s clear one week may be occupied the next. Trash, graffiti, and environmental damage remain long after the camp is gone.

I remember the SWC, 205, peninsula crossing, and Marine from 2013-14. They were clean. They were available to all. They were great public spaces. That should be the bar.