Many of the recent posts in this blog have pointed out characteristics, for example the “cream colored” brick buildings of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that help give that location a “sense of place.” For Portland, Oregon, that characteristic could be its “foot friendliness.” The city is compact; it has a great light rail, streetcar, and bus network; many of its neighborhoods have very high “walk scores”; and it is always easy to find a great place to walk. You can find several previous posts about walking in Portland by entering “Portland” in the search box.
Earlier this month, I had another opportunity to experience the “foot friendliness” of Portland. In the course of several walks with my grandson, daughter, and son in law, we found many items to add to why Portland is a great place to be on foot.
For starters, there is the newly opened (September 2015) Tilikum Crossing Bridge. It is the largest car-free bridge in the United States. It was built to accommodate a new streetcar and light rail route and has lanes for both pedestrians and bicycles. It is extremely attractive and is a great way to cross the Willamette River, even in the middle of an ice storm, without the noise of cars zooming by you.
Drinking fountains are almost ubiquitous to Portland. They are in every neighborhood and are great for keeping a walk going. Downtown Portland has unique four-bowl water fountains called “Benson Bubblers.” They are all over downtown and were an early 20th Century gift to the city from Simon Benson, a local businessman. The fountains were even mentioned by John Gunther on page 91 of his 1947 book “Inside U.S.A.” Milwaukee, Wisconsin is another location that calls water fountains “bubblers.”
On a walk from downtown to the Aerial Tram, my daughter, son in law, and I ran into several foot friendly items.
When we reached the aerial tram, we noticed a stairway next to an outside elevator on the other side of the street. Rather than take the elevator, we climbed 122 steps to the Gibbs Street Pedestrian Bridge. The bridge connects neighborhoods on the other side of the Interstate with the tram, riverfront, and a streetcar line.
Rather than taking the tram up to the hospital and medical school complex (OHSU) at the top of the hill, we decided to see if we could walk to top. We began by walking over the bridge and went through a very pleasant neighborhood to a 50-step stairway. From there we zigged when we should have zagged and ended up bushwhacking through a ravine to reach the top. Once at the top of the hill, we took many flights of stairs inside the tower supporting the tram to actually reach the tram deck. My son in law thought it was one of the best walks he had ever taken.
On the next day my grandson and I took the same walk over the Gibbs Street Bridge. This time we zagged and found a very nice route to the top that included two stairways and a brick path. We also found an easier way to get to the tram.
We took a different route to go down from OHSU to work our way to downtown. While crossing an expressway along the way, I noticed how the city had improved a sidewalk barrier to make crossing the expressway a safe and pleasant experience. It’s little touches like these that makes Portland “foot friendly” and a great place to take a walk.
I hope you, too, have a chance to walk in “foot friendly” Portland. I’m sure you’ll discover something new. And if you need some ideas, feel free to check out some of the other Portland posts for ideas.