Perrin Smith has walked every mile of every street in Portland

Perrin Smith in The Shed. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland) Inset map: Smith’s Strava heat map.

43-year-old North Portland resident Perrin Smith has done something extraordinary. In a quest that was part of his life for nearly three years, he walked every single street and alleyway in the City of Portland. That’s about 2,100 miles of pavement, gravel, grass, mud, and sidewalks.

Born and raised in rural New Jersey, he “escaped” the East Coast and came to Portland in 2006 after graduating from Northern Arizona University. A veteran of competitive running, Smith was geared up for a big season in 2020 when Covid hit and everything changed.

“I was bummed and really needed something to do,” he told me in an interview Monday for the BikePortland Podcast. “I started following people on Instagram who were running every single street and it looked like fun. And I thought, ‘Sure. Why not? I’ll do it’.” (Smith was inspired by Rickey Gates, an author and notable endurance runner who popularized the “Every Single Street” movement.)

Smith fired up his Strava app and, since he was still in competitive-mode, started his challenge running all the miles. When an injury struck, he switched to walking and the real journey began. “I started to realize that I liked walking even more, because I was going slower. I was stopping to take photos, I was looking at graffiti, or someone’s weird artwork in their front yard. And I just I kind of slowed down life and I looked around more, which is not something that I ever did. I was always so focused on running, but it became more about exploring and learning.”

“And ever since then I have done everything that I was doing, slower.”

His day job as a pizza cook didn’t require him to explore Portland, so he found himself navigating new neighborhoods with fresh eyes. At the start, he’d drive across town to start a walk. But a harrowing car crash in August 2022 led him to stop driving. Then he decided to not renew his license, has been carfree for over a year now, and used his bike or public transit to get across town and fill in new parts of the map.

The scariest place he walked? Marine Drive or Airport Way were both “pretty terrifying” he shared. (Note: If there was an off-street bike path adjacent to a street, he would not take it. He felt walking on the street was a required part of the challenge.)

Smith’s Instagram has scenes from his walks and maps of his progress.

His favorite place to walk? Southwest hills: Hillsdale, Maplewood and Markham neighborhoods especially. “It’s so much quieter down there. It’s like a totally different town.”

In one neighborhood he found a bunch of houses that had strange, artistic mailboxes. One of them, jokingly marked “Air Mail” was on a pole, 20-feet off the ground. He also walked with a group of friendly peacocks in southeast near Johnson Creek. One time a guy chased him down and angrily demanded to know what he was doing. “I’m just walking on the street! What’s the problem?” Smith remembers thinking.

But it’s the rich memories of every nook and cranny of Portland and everything he learned along the way that he’ll remember most. “I miss it. I really miss it,” Smith said. “I’d do it again.”


For more about his amazing feat, don’t miss our conversation in the latest episode of the BikePortland Podcast (above or wherever you get your podcasts). Follow Smith on Instagram at @geographically_inclined. You can also follow another Portlander, @slipoker, who’s currently documenting their #everysinglestreet effort.

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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Brandon
6 months ago

The Peacocks are in Errol Heights where I live, I see them frequently. There is also a brand new park and natural area hidden up above the wetlands there.

SilkySlim
SilkySlim
6 months ago
Reply to  Brandon

The Errol Heights upgrade (so far, more to come) is fantastic. Kind of the perfect park in my opinion, just the right blend of play features and natural areas.

PS
PS
6 months ago
Reply to  Brandon

Did they keep the trail from the top to the bottom wetlands?

SilkySlim
SilkySlim
6 months ago
Reply to  PS

They built an elevated walkway that takes you from the “upper” area (all the new park features, adjacent to the community garden) down to the trail section, which still runs across the park east to west. This wasn’t fully open on my last visit around Christmas, but it looked like on the nature trail they redid a bridge and maybe added some newer viewing platforms. Visual here: https://www.portland.gov/parks/construction/errol-heights-park-project

qqq
qqq
6 months ago

I was going to comment that two of my favorite Instagram accounts are people in Portland who are doing that. Then I saw that Perrin IS @geographically_inclined, and the other is @slipoker who you also mention.

Perrin’s accomplishment is incredible (!) but the best part of his posts are his observations and information about the areas that accompany the photos and maps. His Instagram account is great!

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
6 months ago

One time a guy chased him down and angrily demanded to know what he was doing. “I’m just walking on the street! What’s the problem?” Smith remembers thinking.

I remember going to a public open house for some new sidewalks. The leading complaint from neighbors was that strangers might walk in front of their homes.

mhl@mlinehan.us
mhl@mlinehan.us
6 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

The complaint that “strangers might walk in front of their homes” sounds to me like racism or maybe classism.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
6 months ago

To me it sounded like straight up paranoia, the sort of reason many Americans prefer sidewalkless cul-de-sacs and gated communities – they just don’t like anyone they don’t know, which is pretty much everyone. This particular neighborhood this was in was lower-middle class and overwhelmingly black – the black homeowners voicing their concerns didn’t want low-income or unemployed welfare blacks moving in nor immigrants and refugees (foreigners like Afghans, Somalis and New Yorkers) – they preferred people “just like them” – so yeah, classism, but sort of racist too.

Cason
Cason
6 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

I had a similar conversation with a 20’s Portlander that said he couldn’t live in a house. When I asked why he said because ‘anyone could just walk up.’ To him it felt -psychologically- unsafe, whether or not crime was a problem.

The twist is that person grew up outside the US and was a minority, adding a layer of complexity I didn’t dive into, but didn’t seem related to police or discrimination. To him the barrier of an apartment complex entrance/gated door offered a sense of security that he valued. I’ve heard a similar sentiment from a couple other people, that any house felt less secure to them.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Cason

Thank you Cason. Yeah, I agree with that 20s Portlander. I feel more secure in an apartment than a house, in general. I’ve lived in several large apartment buildings on the east coast. Stick a doorman or security at the entrance and know your neighbors, it feels much more secure in a lot of ways than a standalone house.

Ted Buehler
6 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

David and Mark — I hardly blame people for being concerned about suspicious looking folks in their streets, after Portland’s relatively lawless period from fall 2020 to spring 2023.

So many people had so many things stolen from their yards and cars. Police were generally unresponsive. Folks had to look out for themselves and their neighbors. And spend $$$ on fences, security systems, grey paint (to cover graffiti) etc.

I spent a lot of time in 2021 and 2022 wandering around Portland and requesting maintenance on derelict PBOT infrastructure, and saw the sheer volume of people camping on the streets at close range. And what the people living on the streets possessed that they probably didn’t pay for (100s of cars being scrapped, for instance).

Now, my hobby is riding all the streets in Portland, and there are a lot of public streets that feel very private. Particularly low traffic dead ends. And if you need to wait a minute at a one-driveway dead end street to let your slow Strava device catch up to where you are, you do look suspicious.

It’s not a racist or classist thing, simply a matter of keeping an eye on what is going on, and giving people dirty looks if they look like they’re scoping out your lawn furniture or catalytic converter. Some might be suffering PTSD from having someone living in front of their house for a year in an RV, pooping in their yard, having loud fights and drug deals all night long. Give them a little break.

With a little luck the pendulum will stay in the area of “live and let live, but don’t steal stuff” in Portland, and in another year or two Portlanders will be back to their usual generally laid back, friendly-to-strangers ways.

Ted Buehler

Jack C.
Jack C.
6 months ago

Managing to stay alive on shoulderless SW Scholls Ferry Rd between Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy and Hwy 26 is a feat unto itself, especially any time before 10 PM or so. At times it may be relatively easy downhill on a bike, but much safer on foot uphill where you often have to leave the pavement for unstable ground to avoid cars. I’m guessing he chose strategies for direction on some streets.

Scholls-Fy-above-BH-Hwy
rick
rick
4 months ago
Reply to  Jack C.

SW Scholls Ferry Road between SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway and Highway SW Raab Road is a very difficult passage. I find it far easier to ride a bicycle downhill than to walk on that section unless I’m on one of the sections where there is a rare sidewalk. PBOT only owns the section of SW Scholls Ferry Road between the highway 26 overpass to SW Raab Road and then PBOT owns it from SW Thomas Street to SW Raleighwood Lane. There are four government entities that own it from BH to Highway 26 and ODOT owns BH between about downtown Beaverton to SW 65th Avenue. Multnomah County told me in 2022 that they had plans to repave their Scholls Ferry Road between Thomas Street and Raab Road in 2023 or 2024 but they told me earlier this winter that they don’t have any month for it despite a car tire blowout costing my mom about $1,300 which _Multnomah County_ paid with a check. The county then later went this winter to patch those massive potholes this winter.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  rick

Scholls, the road no jurisdiction wants to love.

Ted Buehler
6 months ago

Nice work, Perrin!

I’ve been thinking about this concept ever since I read the Alan Koch story 11 years ago.

https://bikeportland.org/2012/10/15/alan-koch-72-completes-quest-to-ride-every-public-road-in-the-region-78725

But in the first 10 years since I read the story I was never motivated to try to do it myself.

Recently I signed up for Strava. I never thought it would be my “thing”. I’m not worried about how fast I go, whether I go faster or slower than others, how many times I’ve ridden a route, what the total distance or vertical climb is. I just like to ride my bike. But my girlfriend Mia used it. So I signed up, and pretty soon I noticed that I was riding faster. And farther.

Then, at one of the Gorges/BikePortland Bicycle Happy Hours in September I talked to John Russell one week. Who showed me how he was uploading his Strava data to another website (I don’t recall which one), and had the goal to ride every block of every street in Portland. I thought about this for a minute, and a bell went off in my head, and I knew what my next hobby would be.

A week later, Armando Luna showed me his Portland coverage on http://www.Wandrer.earth Wandrer is another website that uploads your Strava data, and shows you where you’ve gone.

Strava cares about how fast you go, how much you’ve climbed, what your heart rate is, whether your faster than other people, whether you’re faster than your previous rides on a given route.

Wandrer cares about whether you’ve been on a segment of street or not. Wandrer wants you to ride all the streets, and see everything there is to see. The objective is to ride every block of every street in your neighborhood. Then, of course, you’ll need to ride every block in the adjacent neighborhoods, and anywhere else. Eventually you’ll ride every block of every street in your city. After that you’ll want to ride every block of every street in the world. And you get a nice map that shows the streets you’ve been on in blue, and the ones you have yet to ride in red. It’s compelling. Your brain will be saying “Hey, let’s turn this map blue…”

There’s other elements to Wandrer, too. That are all about motivating yourself to wander. It turns out, if you ride 50 miles a day, 365 days a year, all new miles, you’ll cover 1% of the roads on earth every 20 years. So if you do this, say, from age 15 to 75, you’ll cover 2.5% of the roads on earth. You’ll need about 40 lifetimes to cover all the roads on earth. (And double that, approximately, since so many roads are dead-ends. You only get mileage credit going in, not coming back out).

It’s loads of fun, it turns out. In the four months I’ve been doing it I’ve seen *so* *much* street art. So many pretty gardens. Big trees. Pretty houses. But it’s the Portland street art that is off the charts. So much quirkiness and creativity. And for over a decade I’ve been riding the same routes — Tillamook, Going, Ankeny, Rodney, Clinton, 20s, 30s, 50s, Klickitat, Michigan, Concord, etc. etc. etc. Now I ride *all* of the streets. Sure it’s a little harder crossing arterials, but you just need to be patient and wait for a gap. There is so much more to see on the streets of Portland than just the usual pretty houses and quirky art on the Neighborhood Greenways.

I’ve now covered 19% of all the streets in Portland in four months. Now the easiest streets (routes I normally take, adjacent routes, and variations on routes between other common destinations, like Mia’s house, The Gorges Brewery and the Grocery Outlet) are done, and it gets progressively difficult to cover new streets. So it will take a couple years to get the whole city. But I’m greatly looking forward to it!

It has really gotten me out on a bike a lot more! And I thought I already rode a lot…

I plan to lead a few Shift2Bikes Wandrer-theme rides this spring and summer in East Portland. We’ll meet at a Blue Line MAX Station somewhere, and do a slow 3 hour cruise hitting up all the streets and cul de sacs in neighborhoods like Centennial, Wilkes, and Argay Terrace. Because. Why not?

Ted Buehler