Portland on Foot

By Erika Nelson

When I chose to attend PSU, I knew I wanted to live on (or close to) campus.  Proximity to classes and university resources aside, living in the midst of a major metropolitan city famed for its public transportation would mean I could forgo the expenses that come with having a car.

Now that I live in student housing, I walk 95% of the time. Before last year, I’d lived in suburbs my whole life, and was lucky enough to have a car (or access to someone who did) for my daily transportation. The first few weeks I lived in Portland required a huge adjustment to my lifestyle and habits. For example, walking home in the rain carrying bulging Safeway bags taught me to pare down my weekly grocery list to the essentials so I would only need one reusable bag, allowing my other hand free for an umbrella.

There are times I wish I still had a car, like when I want to go somewhere more than a few miles away, or when the weather is extreme. However, there are definite benefits to relying on my own two legs. Walking allows me to experience parts of Portland that would be hard to do from a car, like when I pass quirky shops or snap pictures of public art. My health has improved from being more active. I’ve been able to save money on gas, maintenance, and parking passes. Road rage and driving-related stress is nonexistent. Best of all: on any given day, I see a minimum of a half-dozen dogs being walked, and sometimes their owners let me interact with them! It’s times like these when I’m glad I got rid of my car and can focus on the simple things going on around me.

Commuting by Bike is a Daily Adventure

Bikes outside of Lincoln Hall.

The 2.6 mile ride from my apartment in Northeast to campus takes me 20 minutes on a good day. Add an extra five to 10 minutes when it’s raining. After attaching my panniers, which are stuffed to capacity with everything I’ll need for the day, I head west on Broadway past the car dealerships, checking out the progress of the new streetcar line.

Crossing the Broadway Bridge, I slow down, looking right and then left, taking in the panoramic view of the city. Faster cyclists whiz past me dinging their bells or calling out, “On your left!” Now that I’m on the other side of the bridge, I pick up speed and race past Union Station, and if I time it right, all the way to Burnside without stopping. Now I am extra alert. I’ve had several close calls at this intersection.

This is the most challenging leg of the ride. Downtown is a roller coaster of hills and an obstacle course of car doors, potholes and pedestrians. I talk out loud to the cars around me; “Do you see me? Are you going to stop?” I spin uphill to the intersection of SW Broadway and Jefferson; I am panting and sweating profusely. Only one more hill to go before I’m there. The construction in front of Lincoln Hall forces me out into the traffic lane, where cars are not always happy to accommodate my presence. Outside of Cramer Hall, I lock up. I made it.

What’s your commute to campus like, road warriors?