Table of Contents:   




back  |  next


Portlanders value walking and imagine an even more walkable city.

Section Summary

Portlanders highly value neighborhoods and districts with shopping areas, entertainment, services and amenities within walking distance. Being able to “do errands on foot” and “walk to everything I need” is seen as a central ingredient of livability that makes Portland “warm, neighborly, and convenient.” People want to see pedestrian paths, bridges and sidewalks increased and overwhelmingly advocate making some parts of the city limited to only pedestrians or, at a minimum, car-free. They want to see Portland's downtown, business districts and neighborhoods fully walkable and accessible and also advocate for greater pedestrian access to the Willamette River. They imagine a future in which many more people choose to walk to school, work and social activities because walking is safe, convenient, healthy and adequately supported by public transportation.

Note: This section contains points of view that are also expressed in Urban Livability: Neighborhood Livability.

Summary of Main Ideas

  1. A pedestrian-friendly place is a more livable place.
  2. There are many parts of Portland where pedestrian access could be improved.
  3. Walking can become a preferred mode of transportation for the future.


  1. A pedestrian-friendly place is a more livable place.
  • Throughout this section, Portlanders make connections between an area’s livability and the degree to which it is pedestrian-friendly.
  • Those neighborhoods and business districts that can be accessed safely and conveniently by pedestrians are seen as much more livable than areas that lack good pedestrian access
  • Places where people are “out and about” on foot during the day and night are seen as safer and more community-oriented than places that lack foot traffic.
  • Walking is mentioned in regards to the livability of neighborhoods as well as that of downtown.


  • A key ingredient of neighborhood livability is access to shops, dining and essential services within walking distance.
  • Neighborhoods that receive high marks for walkability include the Hollywood District, the Alberta Arts District and the SE Hawthorne neighborhood.
  • Neighborhoods that have safe, well-designed walking paths, sidewalks and crosswalks are felt to be more livable than those where walking is unsafe or unpleasant.


  • Many people value how easy it is to walk around downtown Portland.
  • People attribute the “walkability” of downtown in part to:
    • The compact design of the city;
    • The small city blocks;
    • The small to medium-size buildings that do not block the sky or tower over pedestrians;
    • The park blocks; and
    • The riverfront with its walking trails.
“I love that there are so many small thriving neighborhoods, each with a few stores, restaurants, bars, etc… The walkability of those areas leads to a great sense of community.”

“The neighborhoods; that I can walk to the bank, the grocery store, etc… It makes Portland warm, neighborly, and convenient.”

“[I value] its human scale, a pedestrian city, city of wonderful neighborhoods and commercial hubs, easy to get around and do all one’s living within a few mile radius. Culturally friendly, tolerant, creative and whimsical.”

  1. There are many parts of Portland where pedestrian access could be improved.
  • Throughout this section, people request that pedestrian access be expanded so that all parts of the city become fully walkable.
  • Areas where pedestrian access could be improved include:


  • Many Southwest Portland neighborhoods lack sidewalks or walking access to services such as public transportation.
  • Close-in Southeast Portland needs better sidewalk maintenance.
  • More neighborhoods need community centers/neighborhood centers within walking distance.
  • Outer areas of Portland (outer Southeast, Northeast and Southwest) need to become more pedestrian friendly.
  • A number of Eastside neighborhoods lack access to shops and services within walking distance, as well as pedestrian access to neighborhood schools.
"[I would like to see] more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly streets! I live on NW Laidlaw just off NW Thompson and have NO sidewalks to take my 4 month old for a walk safety (these are busy streets). Most of the roads around hour house lack even safe shoulders which is horrible!”

City Center/Downtown:

  • Many feel that downtown would be more pedestrian-friendly if there was less of a problem with homelessness (youth and adults) and panhandling.
  • Streets are more pedestrian-friendly when busses, cars, bicycles and the MAX are not all sharing the same street.
  • A few people think that one-way streets detract from the pedestrian experience by speeding up traffic.
  • While many already feel safe walking downtown, some would like to feel even safer.
“Clean up the sidewalks! I don’t feel comfortable taking my young children with me because of the harassment from people living on the streets and because of the drug activity.”

The Riverfront:

  • A number of people would like to see greater pedestrian access to the river on the Eastside.
  • There are a few suggestions of pedestrian-only bridges and river crossing points.
  • One suggestion was for a Tri-Met “people ferry” across the Willamette.
“[In 2030] A pedestrian bridge that is lined with trees, shops, and stands spans the Willamette and becomes a destination itself – the first bridge of its kind in North America. Portland has become a kind of twenty-first century Florence and an international tourist destination.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. Create safe pedestrian pathways to bus stops in Southwest Portland.
  2. Improve evening lighting of some streets and bus stops, which can be very dark.
  3. Find a way to reduce the problem of people asking for money on the streets.
  4. Enhance the walkability of neighborhoods by re-thinking the “strip” concept (e.g. SE Hawthorne Boulevard, NW 23rd Avenue) in favor of a more compact, multi-block “village” concept. This would allow one to shop without having to walk an entire strip.

  1. Walking can become a preferred mode of transportation for the future.
  • Portlanders want to see walking promoted as a viable means of transportation.
  • Portlanders also value walking for its health benefits and community-building potential.
  • Portlanders would like to see many more children walking to school.
  • In the future, many people will walk to work because they will be able to afford to live near their work and dedicated walking/biking paths will make walking safe and enjoyable.
  • More people will walk in their neighborhoods because all neighborhoods will offer pedestrian access to essential services, shopping districts and community gathering places.
  • In the future, people imagine many more pedestrian-only areas, which will encourage more people to walk. Suggestions for these include:
    • Turn Fareless Square into a pedestrian-only area;
    • Make the entire downtown core car-free;
    • Convert NW 23rd Avenue into a pedestrian-only area; and
    • Convert some neighborhood streets into pedestrian/bike-only streets.
"[In 2030] 50 % of the population commutes by bike, foot, or public transportation. Neighborhood shopping, health services, and social services allow people to avoid taking their car… and allow neighbors to run into each other while supporting local businesses.”

“[In 2030] Services, such as grocery stores with quality, affordable food products, healthcare, entertainment, restaurants, etc… will be within walking distance (maximum of a quarter mile) to every resident.”

"[In 2030] There is a pedestrian mall for several of the downtown blocks and several smaller zones in the city ‘neighborhoods’ have imitated this model with good economic and aesthetic results.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. Encourage people in the suburbs to walk more.
  2. “Invest in neighborhood business districts to create a more pedestrian and transit-oriented Portland.”
  3. “To achieve a pedestrian-friendly city, conduct studies of other cities such as those in Europe who have successfully achieved that. Bring business to the table to get their input.”
  4. “It would be great if each neighborhood or section could close their streets one day each week to make them into a pedestrian mall. This could be done on a rotating basis.”
  5. Create more walking trails and sidewalks throughout Portland.

back  |  next

Economy | Education | Environment | Government | Health | Safety | Social Issues | Transportation | Urban Livability


Vision into Action / 1900 SW 4th, Suite 7100 / Portland, Oregon 97204 / Phone: (503) 823-9585