The Portland Parks and Recreation bureau has finally had enough with people driving cars onto the Peninsula Crossing Trail in north Portland. This path is a key part of the 40-Mile Loop and an important north-south route that offers a carfree option for walkers and rollers between North Willamette Blvd and North Columbia Blvd, a distance of just over one mile.
Unfortunately, many people have erased this from their list of preferred routes because they feel it has become unsafe due to the cars some camp residents use and park on it illegally. For over two years now other neighborhood residents have voiced concerns through official channels. In May 2020, four neighborhood associations (Bridgeton, Arbor Lodge, Overlook and University Park) sent a joint statement to City Hall that stated, “We request that the City of Portland clear campsites located in parks, waterways and public paths.”
In the last year, the problem of cars on this path has become larger. When I biked on it in July 2021 I saw two people pull right off of N Lombard onto the path and numerous cars and trucks parked at campsites (see photos below). With narrow path openings and poor visibility, there has been alarming potential for a collision between an unsuspecting path user and a car driver. Now that potential has been all but erased.
Heavy-duty gates now block the entrances to the path. Parks has cleared a few feet and added pavement to the edges so path users can get around the gates, but the path looks much less welcoming now. The entrances are also much narrower than before and people pulling trailers, riding trikes or other large cargo bikes might not be able to maneuver around them (see update below for details). Parks faced a similar conundrum on the Columbia Slough Path back in January when they installed large concrete barriers to prevent driving, but made it nearly impossible to bike around (those barriers are now gone).
That might be welcome tradeoff, based on reactions from some neighbors in a KATU a story about this last week:
“The city’s Street Services Coordination Center tells KATU that keeping vehicles off the trail is the first step in the push to clean up and clear the camp, where neighbors have complained about cars speeding through and doing damage for years… ‘It’s been a nightmare for us here,’ said Corah. ‘They roar up and down the road, all hours of the day and night. Right now, it’s quiet because of the jersey barriers that are going in, and the gates.’
Corah’s wife was so happy to see the boulders, blocks, and gates, she hugged the workers installing them.”
One factor that has upped the urgency of this issue is the announcement earlier this year of a Safe Rest Village that will be located adjacent to the path. Commissioner Dan Ryan, who oversees the Joint Office of Homeless Services, is under a lot of pressure to restore a sense of safety to the path as that village site gets constructed.
I’ve asked Parks for a comment and more details about the gates and will update this story if/when I hear back.
UPDATE: 12:01 pm, 8/10: I’ve gotten more details from Parks:
There are a total of six gates installed ; they are at the entrances to the sections running from N Princeton to N Lombard, N Lombard to Fessenden, N Fessenden to Columbia Blvd. (gates at each entrance, total of 6)
There are 75 boulders, 30 “superblocks” (cast concrete blocks with chains that can be locked together, or stacked, but are hard to move), along with six gates to prevent car entry. All the barriers of any sort that are installed still allow for entry by people on bikes, with mobility devices, and/or on foot.
Regarding the cycling community comments on the gate bypasses, we identified this condition and facilitated repairs which made the bypasses meet the project specification of 48” width. This work was completed by 10 am on Tuesday morning (yesterday, 8/9/22). This project has been completed at the direction of elected officials and as such, we refer you to Commissioner Rubio’s office for any information on the rationale for this project.”