This article was originally published at Blooming Rock.
Portland, Oregon is known nationally as a bikeable, walkable, livable place to call home. For many wealthier upper middle-class neighborhoods, this is true. Venture a ways outside the city core to the working class communities east of 82nd avenue and the livability reputation doesn’t ring so true.
In fact, Portland spends only 3% of its transportation dollars east of this high-volume surface highway strewn with drive-thrus and endless parking lots. So the question must be asked, whom exactly are we building livable streets for?
Perhaps it’s better to first ask what makes a street livable in the first place. Or even better, what makes it unlivable. The answer to that question is simple: cars. The higher the volume of traffic on the street, the more inhospitable and outright dangerous it is for humans. This index of harm was brilliantly illustrated by Donald Appleyard in 1970’s San Francisco.
Try using a crosswalk at the intersection of your typical surface highway. You’ll be waiting minutes before you can walk, and even then you’ll have mere seconds to cross numerous lanes. Only the most able-bodied adult is going to risk traversing this expanse on foot. Certainly no child would be safe navigating such a crosswalk alone.