Multnomah County

PBOT: Walking in Portland depends on who you are

There are fewer sidewalks, crosswalks, street lights in East Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) -- Gaps in city's street system have a greater impact on low-income and minority residents, according to research conducted by the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

There are fewer sidewalks, crosswalks and street lights in East Portland that downtown and inner neighborhoods, making walking more dangerous in the part of town with more low-income residents. And during two Walking While Black focus groups held by PBOT, African-American residents complained about small and large racial slights while walking, including drivers who take longer to stop at crosswalks for them.

The Portland Tribune is a KOIN 6 News media partner

"In Portland, pedestrian safety and access is an equity issue. Inadequate pedestrian infrastructure and traffic safety concerns disproportionately impact low-income communities and people of color," PBOT said in a March 12 press release.

The research was conducted as part of a project called PDXPed to replace the city's current pedestrian plan, which was last updated in 1998. It is scheduled to be presented to the City Council this spring.

Among other things, the research found that most Portlanders say the biggest problem with the transportation system is missing sidewalks on busy streets, followed by people driving too fast on busy streets and not enough safe places to cross streets.

For African-Americans, the biggest problem was poor lighting, followed by missing sidewalks on busy streets and not enough safe places to cross streets.

In the focus groups, African-Americans also complained about being treated differently that Whites while walking. One example was "Crosswalk White girl magic — where cars stop for White women, not for Black people." Another was the belief that Portland police cite African-Americans at a higher rate for minor offenses, like jaywalking.

That claim was supported by 2017 series in the Portland Tribune. 

PDXPed proposes to address some of these problems by prioritizing transportation spending in historically underserved parts of town. One objective is, "Prioritize investment in areas with the greatest historic underinvestment in pedestrian infrastructure and with historically under-served populations to reduce disparities in access to safe pedestrian facilities."


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