By Don MacGillivray
Everyone walks somewhere everyday. It is the oldest and most important means of getting around. The pedestrian is the foundation of all other modes of transportation.
Even those that consider themselves primarily drivers, cyclists, or transit customers are walking to and from their vehicles of choice. Because it is so common, its taken for granted as an important means of transportation.
Sidewalks and open spaces add to both the social and the physical qualities of life. There is no better way to see a city than on foot. Portland has always been known for its walkability and now through the PedPDX program there will be greater public attention to making it even better.
The City of Portland’s new PedPDX program is focusing on making the city safer, more accessible, more comfortable, and attractive to residents and visitors.
All streets, sidewalks, and road crossings will become more inviting and connected as well as more safe and secure for everyone.
Those with wheelchairs, walkers, canes and those with special needs will find sidewalks and crossings are more user-friendly.
Walking is a major health- related activity and can benefit people of all ages. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone should have thirty minutes of exercise each day and walking is one of the best and easiest ways to fulfill this objective.
PedPDX addresses the areas of the city where residents are more likely to depend on walking as an important means of transportation. One goal is to provide sidewalks in underserved areas.
Portland’s plans to address environmental and climate concerns are part of the plan. Vehicle transportation modes make up forty percent of local carbon emissions.
One way to replace carbon-producing vehicles is to improve walking connections in neighborhoods. With vehicles increasing on busy streets, promoting pedestrian activity encourages people to get out of their cars and make a vote for the environment.
The city will be divided into sections and the streets within each section will be given a classification that indicates its usage and priority. Portland has approximately three hundred and fifty miles of streets without walkways and 3,500 locations on busy arterial streets where marked crossings are needed.
The first Pedestrian Master Plan was created in 1998. It helped improve the walking environment, but is in serious need of updating. The work is unfinished, and the needs and issues have changed reflecting a more modern city and how we get around. PedPDX will take its place.
To compete for transportation funding successfully there needs to be complete documentation and value shown to obtain funding for improvements related to pedestrians.
Portland averages twelve pedestrian fatalities each year. About a third of these involve automobiles. PedPDX will coordinate with Vision Zero to address the worst areas within the street and sidewalk system.
Portland’s Transportation Systems Plan (TSP) has been the document guiding the growth and use of the city’s transportation network.
For many years it has identified the pedestrian mode as important, but since automobiles are the dominant mode, they get the most attention.
With recent growth and developments the importance of pedestrian travel has increased. Of the four hundred+ major projects identified in the TSP, more than half include pedestrian features.
The city expects another half million residents over the next twenty years and already some streets are operating beyond their capacity and very few of the streets can be widened. This limitation makes it necessary to expand pedestrian and bike transit to take on more of the load.
Another longstanding deficiency in Portland’s network of streets is the missing sidewalks in the neighborhoods of Portland ‘s Eastside and SW neighborhoods.
This is due in part to the expense of adding sidewalks and because in these post WWII suburban neighborhoods, sidewalks were not required to be built along with the homes.
Should the City pay for them when the rest of the City pays for theirs as part of the purchase of their homes or as part of their rent? The discussion continues.