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The Benefits of Walking
Walking is a free form of exercise, needs no special equipment, can be done anywhere, and provides an amazing number of health benefits.
Walking is one of the cheapest and most accessible ways to stay strong and fit. You’ll improve joint health while increasing bone density and muscle strength by walking more.
Not only does your physical health improve, but walking also increases your energy level and your ability to cope with stress, depression and anxiety.
A neighborhood where people walk is a place where people watch out for each other. Walking is a great way to connect with neighbors and feel more connected to your community. You’ll also discover local gardens, parks, shops and interesting architecture while you walk.
Walking is great for the environment, too. Motor vehicles are responsible for nearly 80 percent of carbon monoxide and 55 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions in the U.S. Every driving trip you swap for a walking trip helps lighten the load.
If we all swapped one car journey a week for walking instead, car traffic levels would reduce by at least 10%.
— Sustrans 2009
Tips for Walking
Fit walking into your life
The easiest way to get started is to walk somewhere you are headed anyway.
To work: Try walking to or from work. Ride public transit and get off a few stops early, or park farther away and walk the last 10-15 minutes.
At work: Have “walking meetings” with coworkers. Take the stairs when possible.
To school: Start by walking once a week or a few times a month, then add more days as the going gets easier. Get together with other school families and split leader responsibilities between parents.
For errands: Most of our destinations are under two miles. That’s 40 minutes or less on foot (around a 20-minute mile). Get both your daily recommended exercise and the errands done in one trip.
With friends: Ask family members, friends or neighbors to join you. It’s fun to walk with someone and share both the experience and the benefits.
Track the number of steps you take with a pedometer, your mobile phone or other activity tracker. By counting your daily steps, you can set goals, monitor progress and stay motivated.
A good goal to work toward for improving your health is 10,000 steps per day — about five miles. Start slowly and increase your steps weekly.
Before You Start
- Make yourself visible – Wear bright or light-colored clothing.
- Minimize distractions – Put away your cell phone and ear buds.
- Be alert – Alcohol and other drugs impair judgement, so be extra cautious if you’ve been partaking.
- Connect – Make eye contact with drivers.
- Look – Don’t cross until cars have stopped.
- Cross with caution – Make sure cars in all lanes have stopped.
- Travel against traffic – It’s the safest way to walk when sidewalks aren’t available. Beware of corners with little to no visibility.
Multi-Use Paths – Share the Space
- Stay to the right – so other users at faster speeds can pass safely on your left.
- Walk only two abreast – when traveling in groups so others have room to pass.
- Listen up – for bike bells or “on your left” calls. This can mean someone is passing or needs more room to pass. Pay attention so we can all travel together smoothly.
- Turn down the volume – or better yet, leave one ear or both clear of listening devices. Be aware of other users and vehicles around you.
- Obey all trail and road signs – and use care where city streets intersect with paths.
- You have the right of way – as the slowest traveler on the path, runners and cyclists should yield to you.
Walking with pets
Responsible pet ownership keeps our city clean, green and safe.
- Leash your dog – Multnomah County Code requires dogs to be leashed unless in designated off-leash areas. (MCC 13.305)
- Scoop the poop – You run the risk of up to $150 in fines for not picking up pet waste. (MCC 13.303)
Increasing your visibility helps you stand out in traffic, giving other road users more time to slow down or stop for you. Here are some ways to let your light shine:
- Wear clothing or backpacks with reflective striping on them.
- Check fabric stores for safety fabrics you can stick or sew on yourself.
- Attach flashing lights to zippers or pockets.
- Carry a small flashlight to increase visibility and illuminate your path on darker streets.
- Attach reflective tape or flashing lights to a pet’s leash or collar.
- When buying an umbrella or other rain gear, consider a lighter color like white or bright yellow to be more visible to road users.
Extend your trip with TriMet
Using public transportation is a great way to extend your walking trip to farther locations.
TriMet - Complete transit service information is available online, including trip planning, an interactive service map, transit tracker arrival information, schedules and more.
503-238-RIDE (7433) - Get arrival times and service alerts 24 hours a day by phone or call during business hours for live trip-planning assistance and customer service. (7:30 am – 5:30 pm, M-F)
TriMet accessibility features - TriMet, WES and Portland Streetcar stations, stops and vehicles have many accessibility features. Information on travel training, reduced fares and other available services.
Get to Know Your Streets
Types of legal crosswalks
A crosswalk exists at any public street intersection, including “T” intersections, whether marked with paint or unmarked. (ORS 801.220)
Crosswalks also exist between intersections (mid-block), but only if they are marked with white lines.
Pedestrians are only allowed to cross mid-block at an unmarked crossing if they are more than 150 feet from a marked or unmarked crosswalk. (Portland City Code 16.70.210)
Along with stopping for pedestrians at all legal crosswalks, motorists and cyclists also must:
Stop and remain stopped for students as directed by a crossing guard. (ORS 811.124)
Stop and remain stopped for a blind pedestrian using a white cane or guide dog until the pedestrian is completely across the roadway. (ORS 811.035)
Oregon laws provide protection and opportunity to cross the street safely. At the same time, pedestrians are responsible for acting in a safe manner and crossing legally.
Before crossing, pedestrians must show intent to cross by extending any part of their body, wheelchair, cane or crutch into the roadway. (ORS 811.028)
Pedestrians need to allow drivers enough time and distance to stop before crossing. (ORS 811.005)
Stay alert at two-lane crossings
Cross with caution on streets with two or more lanes of vehicles traveling in the same direction. If one vehicle stops for a pedestrian and another vehicle overtakes it on either side, the pedestrian may not be visible and can be hit.
In this situation, you may be blocked from the view of other approaching drivers by a stopped vehicle. Before entering the next lane of traffic, STOP and look to make sure all approaching vehicles have stopped for you before crossing the next lane.
Pedestrian crossing signals
Look! Make sure all vehicles have stopped, then go. Continue to watch for turning and oncoming vehicles.
Don’t Start Crossing! Finish crossing if already in the crosswalk. Countdown signals show how many seconds remain to cross.
Stop! Don’t Leave the Curb. A new WALK signal will appear shortly.
Rapid flash beacons
Rapid flash beacons are installed at specific crossings to alert drivers to the presence of people walking. When a person walking activates the push button system, yellow LED lights will flash signaling drivers to stop.
After pressing the button, make sure vehicles have stopped before crossing the street.
Portland’s Neighborhood Greenways
Neighborhood Greenways are residential streets with low speeds and low volumes of auto traffic where people walking, and biking are given priority. Neighborhood Greenways are designed to make your walk safer and more enjoyable.
What to Expect on a Neighborhood Greenway
Pavement markings, or “sharrows”, alert drivers to expect people biking.
Improved crossings and curb ramps make it safer and more enjoyable for people walking, strolling or rolling in wheelchairs.
Speed bumps to help slow auto traffic.
Traffic diverters to keep cars trying to avoid busy main streets from cutting through on neighborhood streets.
Find more information and maps,
Suggested Walks Around Portland
Explore our suggested walks for routes that have been vetted and are sure to be an enjoyable time. Includes routes on Downtown's waterfront loop, the Concordia Neighborhood Greenway, Lents neighborhood Green Ring and the SW Terwilliger Trails loop.
General traffic safety concerns
Transportation Safety and Neighborhood Livability Line: 503-823-SAFE (7233); email@example.com
- Clogged drains, traffic signal outage or other street maintenance issues: 503-823-1700
- Report a street lighting outage: 503-865-LAMP (5267)
Sidewalk repair or obstructions
- Report needed sidewalk repair: 503-823-1711; firstname.lastname@example.org…
- Vehicles illegally blocking sidewalk or crosswalk: 503-823-5195, Option 1
- To report vehicles after hours, call the Police non-emergency line: 503-823-3333
- Un-permitted structures or obstructions in public right of way: 503-823-7002, Option 4
- A-Board/Sandwich signs, other private signage or overgrown vegetation blocking sidewalk: 503-823-CODE (2633)
ADA issues and curb ramp requests
PBOT ADA Coordinator: 503-823-5703
Yard sign lender program
Borrow portable yard signs saying “Slow Down! Set the Pace” and other transportation safety messages. 503-823-7100
A non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to promoting walking and making walking conditions safe, convenient and attractive for everyone.
Walking with kids
Safe Routes to School provides resources for schools, parents, caregivers and volunteers that support and encourage students to safely walk and roll to school. Consultations, trainings and materials are available along with assistance to organize Safe Routes activities.
City of Portland Ten Toe Express walks and AARP NeighborWalks
Free guided seasonal walks showcasing Portland’s great neighborhoods.
I love walking because it clears your mind, enriches the soul, takes away stress and opens up your eyes to a whole new world.
– Claudette Dudley