I walk across the Hawthorne Bridge a few times a week. Sometimes it’s a nice day and I just enjoy being outside, other times I’m feeling claustrophobic and don’t want to jam into a rush hour bus. A week or so ago this small thing reminded me why I like living in Portland.
Cross the bridge west to east, on the south side of the bridge, you reach a point where you (as a pedestrian) need to veer off onto the off ramp down to MLK, and/or take stairs down under the bridge. Hardly anyone (including me) ever does this; we usually scamper across the off ramp, and walk down the narrow shoulder/curb next to the bike lane in order to stay on Hawthorne.
In most other American cities this pattern of behavior would elicit additional pedestrian barriers, and semi-regular visits from the Police for jaywalking violations and fund raising. In Portland? An explicit pedestrian walkway is added, as well as additional improvements to the bike lane with new physical barriers.
I’ve been on the west coast for eight years now — what was once a mecca is now everyday life. Portland has it’s own set of problems and challenges around growth, race, poverty, and class, but little things like this remind me that for all it’s flaws, it’s still a place people want to be, and want to make better.
I still can’t think of anywhere I’d rather live.