Ray’s 100th Post

As I was planning my 31st birthday, which is September 19, I realized that I can use a simple plan to celebrate with people that I care about. This got me thinking about my 100th post. I decided that I needed to stop thinking about an elaborate plan and just use a simple plan. I think the below photos from yesterday summarize my blog in a nutshell. PARK(ing) Day is about prioritizing people over cars. I enjoyed catching up with friends as we temporarily took over a car parking space. Hopefully, this will successfully advocate for permanent changes to the car parking space. Since I frequently overthink my plans, I want to work during my 31st year on how to not overwhelm myself with overthinking about complicated plans. Simple plans can be okay.

Active Erie Interview with City of Erie Planning Director and Project Manager Kathy Wyrosdick

I happened to be in Erie during the Lake Erie Cycle Fest: Downtown Slow Roll on Friday, July 30. I was in Erie to visit my grandma with my family. The ride showed some of the recommendations from Active Erie. Since I do not consider Erie to have a strong bike culture, I was surprised by how many people participated in the Downtown Slow Roll. With police officers corking the intersections, we covered the entire road as far as the eye can see. I felt like I was on Portland’s Pedalpalooza ride!

Should pathways be included in Level of Traffic Stress analysis for roads?

As an active transportation planner, I wanted to learn more about the planning process for Active Erie. Kathy Wyrosdick, who is the City of Erie Planning Director and Project Manager for Active Erie, agreed to be interviewed through Zoom on Thursday, August 12. As the below side-by-side maps shows, the pathways were excluded from the Level of Traffic Stress analysis. Bayfront Parkway would have had a lower stress level than level 4 if the pathways would have been included. Kathy said the pathways were excluded because the focus was on Bayfront Parkway and not the pathway alongside it. I usually include pathways or trails when I do Level of Traffic Stress analysis, so I found Erie’s approach surprising. Would you have included or excluded pathways in the analysis?

Erie did not include pathways in Level of Traffic Stress analysis. Source: activeerie.com

Alternative Pedestrian Walkway

While my grandma does not live within the city limits of Erie, her retirement home has an Erie address. As I wrote in this post, her retirement home is surrounded by streets that do not have sidewalks. This limits her ability to venture beyond her retirement home. Thankfully, Active Erie recommends establishing a comprehensive sidewalk completion and repair program. Since it will be expensive to complete the sidewalk network, I recommended to Kathy to explore the feasibility of creating alternative pedestrian walkways like Portland is doing.

Alternative pedestrian walkway in Portland’s Cully neighborhood. Source: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland

Erie could use participatory budgeting

Regardless of how Erie decides to proceed with completing its sidewalk network, I found it fascinating to learn that Kathy is exploring how to use participatory budgeting to give community members more control over how the city’s budget is distributed. Due to how many other cities are doing participatory budgeting, I am hopeful that Kathy will be successful in her quest.

Houselessness and policing are missing from Active Erie

Active Erie likely is not the only plan that does not discuss houselessness and policing. I am not trying to embarrass Erie for not including these topics in Active Erie. My goal is to raise awareness about the intersectionality of these topics with active transportation. Kathy agreed with me that houselessness and policing need to be discussed more when discussing active transportation.

One way that Oregon has approached discussing tough policy questions is through organizing Lottery-Selected Panels. My friend, Linn Davis, is Program Co-Director at Healthy Democracy. He has worked on Lottery-Selected Panels in Milwaukie and Eugene. While the below four episodes are long, I recommend watching them to fully understand how the process works. What do you think of the process?

As Kathy and I discussed creative processes for Erie’s future, Kathy surprised me with the fact that she became Erie’s first Planning Director in 2018. Plus, the Planning Department was formed when she was hired. Since Erie was incorporated in 1851, this means Erie did not have a Planning Department and Planning Director for 167 years!

Future Blog Post

I would love to write more blog posts but I need to keep studying for the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) Certification Exam, which I am taking on November 21. I am tired of writing how I am studying for the exam. I never imagined I would still be studying for the exam in 2021. While I am thankful that I have not had COVID, I am concerned that Oregon’s new COVID restrictions will cancel my exam again. As I reach 100 posts, which I wasn’t sure would happen, what do you think my 100th post should be about?

Attempted to Plan Car-Free Vacation Along Oregon Coast But Shifted to Columbia River Gorge

I was originally planning to bike and hike along the Oregon Coast this week instead of exploring the Columbia River Gorge. The Oregon Coast was my first choice because I have only visited the Oregon Coast two times. I took my family to Cannon Beach in 2015 when they visited Oregon from North Carolina. I also visited Seaside for the Oregon Public Transportation Conference in 2019. I had visited about the same number of cities in the Gorge before this week but the Coast is much longer than the Gorge. I have so much more to explore along the Coast!

Barriers to Car-Free Vacation Along Oregon Coast

While I did not know about the record-breaking heatwave in the Gorge when I started planning my vacation, I have been thinking about what my car-free vacation could have been along the Coast. The below 2019 Oregon DOT video and this 2013 BikePortland post convinced me to avoid biking along the Coast. Biking along the shoulder of dangerous Highway 101 did not sound fun or relaxing. I wanted to have fun and relax during my vacation. At least ODOT is trying to improve biking conditions along the Coast through creating the Oregon Coast Bike Route Plan.

Source: ODOT

The below safety message, which was installed in 2021, is one of ODOT’s attempts to improve biking conditions along the Coast. While I appreciate ODOT for recognizing the safety issue and trying to improve the biking conditions, I do not feel comfortable biking in the shoulder on Highway 101. Hopefully, neighborhood greenways on low-volume and connected side streets or trails are built. This is what made biking in Denmark and the Netherlands feel safe. I doubt Danish or Dutch cyclists would feel comfortable biking on Highway 101. Why should American cyclists settle for biking on Highway 101?

Source: ODOT

Yes, I could have used transit to avoid biking as far on Highway 101. I am impressed by how transit actually connects every city along the Coast with the Willamette Valley. A seven-day transit pass only costs $30 for unlimited trips along the Coast’s three northern counties and a roundtrip between the Willamette Valley, which includes Portland, and the Coast. While I seriously considered using transit to explore the Coast, the first- and last-mile transportation issues still exist. This means I would likely still have to bike on Highway 101 to access transit and my destination. Since I still want to do a car-free vacation along the Coast, I would love to have my concerns be proven wrong.

Source: nworegontransit.org

You may have noticed that the transit map only includes NW Oregon. I also want to explore the rest of the Coast and Southern Oregon because I am trying to experience areas of Oregon that Portlanders usually do not experience. I found a unique experience when I was researching a potential vacation to the Southern Coast and Southern Oregon. While Paradise Lodge along the Rogue River is not transit accessible, it is also not car accessible. As the below video explains, guests have to hike the Rogue River National Recreation Trail or ride a raft, jetboat, or helicopter to access Paradise Lodge. I had no idea such an experience existed in Oregon! Who wants to experience this with me?

Barriers to Car-Free Vacation in Columbia River Gorge

Doing a car-free vacation in the Gorge was not much easier than going to the Coast. The main reason why I decided to proceed with going to the Gorge was the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. While I experienced fantastic views along the Twin Tunnels Segment between Hood River and Mosier, it appears I am one of the few people who access the trail from Downtown Hood River and Mosier. According to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department’s webpage, the trail is “universally accessible”. I guess car-free visitors are not thought about when visiting the trail. The below street view is between Downtown Hood River and the west trailhead. I did not feel comfortable sharing the road with motorists, especially on the blind switchbacks, so I walked my bike up and down the switchbacks. How are wheelchair users supposed to access the trailhead from Downtown Hood River if they do not own a car?

Source: Google Street View

I experienced a similar accessibility issue between the east trailhead and Downtown Mosier. Rock Creek Road has no sidewalks or bike lanes. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department believes both trailheads are universally accessible because they have “parking at either end”. Their webpage does not even provide directions for people who want to access the trailheads from Downtown Hood River and Mosier without using a car. This would be an easy way to reduce traffic congestion in the Gorge.

Source: Google Street View

Despite the accessibility issues near the trailheads, I enjoyed most of my day trip between Hood River and Mosier. Since I have rarely seen people in person during the COVID restrictions, it was nice to visit Kathy Fitzpatrick in Mosier. She graciously offered to store my bike and pannier at her home while I explored Downtown Mosier and hiked to the Mosier Falls swimming hole. I am glad it cooled down enough to enjoy more than swimming in the Gorge. While I did not feel safe attempting to climb the rocks to access the Mosier Falls swimming hole, I got the opportunity to swim on Tuesday at Hood River Waterfront Park.

I wanted to end my post on a positive experience but the 40-foot staircase near Eagle Creek ended my vacation earlier than I planned. Even if I did not have an extreme fear of heights, I would not enjoy carrying my bike and hiking backpack up and down the staircase. This staircase prevented me from accessing the rest of the Bonneville Segment of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. While the staircase would not be approved for construction today, it was constructed in 1996, which is before ADA mandates for recreational facilities were required. Thankfully, ODOT plans to seek funding to replace the staircase with an ADA-compliant trail. Since the priority is completing the trail before fixing the ADA-compliance issue, it may take several years before ODOT replaces the staircase.

We’ve said it’s a priority for us to get this fixed at some point in the future, but our priority is the trail and completing it first. I want to make sure we’re keeping our priorities straight.

ODOT’s Region 1 Manager Rian Windsheimer

While I would prefer to get back on my bike and not have to rely on a shuttle when hiking, especially when the Sasquatch Shuttle stops service at 6pm, at least this is an option for accessing waterfalls until the Eagle Creek staircase is replaced. I wish this shuttle service was included in the GOrge Pass. $200 for the Sasquatch Shuttle’s annual pass is expensive compared to the $30 annual GOrge Pass! Sasquatch Shuttle’s $10 day pass is reasonable. Due to the popularity of the Eagle Creek Trail, which just reopened, I am surprised the Sasquatch Shuttle does not stop at this trail. Maybe the owner was waiting for the trail to reopen.

Future Blog Post

I have plenty of thoughts to share about my advocacy work in Clackamas County, which is located in the Portland region. I am involved with the I-205 Toll Project, Regional Mobility Policy Update, Oregon City 2040 Comprehensive Plan, Clackamas County Climate Action Plan, 82nd Avenue, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues, pushing to keep sidewalks and trails open during the Oregon City protests between Antifa and Proud Boys, etc. Since I am trying to encourage myself to continue studying for the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) Certification Exam, which I am taking in November, I may not have time to share many thoughts about my advocacy work. The short version is I am feeling burnt out by trying to be a constant advocate. I am jealous of my Portland advocacy friends who have paid staff from advocacy organizations to support their work. I have tried to partner with these organizations but they do not have enough bandwidth to help me beyond providing a letter of support. While I care deeply about my advocacy work, I keep trying to tell myself that I need to prioritize self care.

Hopefully, my vacation to visit family and relatives in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and North Carolina in late July and early August will allow me to prioritize self care. Since my dad and I often argue about politics, I am concerned that I could return from vacation more stressed than when I leave. I wanted my car-free Gorge vacation to help me return less stressed but the trail access issues were stressful. I guess I should have just done a staycation like many of my friends suggested. Staycations are mentally tough for me because I feel the need to travel when I have time off work. This feels like a perfect opportunity to end my post on a positive experience. I am excited to someday experience and write about the completed Gorge Towns to Trails trekking vision!

Thankful For Help During Oregon’s 115-Degree Heatwave

I felt stranded at Skamania Lodge, which is located on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, yesterday after walking three miles from Cascade Locks in the heatwave. I was planning to leave my bike overnight in Cascade Locks and use Gorge Taxi to reach Skamania Lodge. Since Gorge Taxi’s pricing starts and ends in Hood River, they were required to charge me $50 each way to take me three miles. I may have been too frugal when I rejected the taxi service, especially since I almost fainted walking in the heatwave. While I usually use Uber or Lyft, which likely would have been cheaper than $50 for three miles, Uber and Lyft no longer provide service in the Gorge because it is too rural.

While I had my bike, I did not feel safe enough to bike in front of motorists across Bridge of the Gods, which has no bike lanes or sidewalks. I also have an extreme fear of heights, which made crossing Bridge of the Gods even tougher because I could see the Columbia River through the open-grid steel plates. Thankfully, motorists went around me as I walked my bike against traffic across Bridge of the Gods. This bridge is part of the Pacific Crest Trail, so I was not the only person that has walked across the bridge.

Highway 14, which is on the Washington side of the bridge, also does not have bike lanes or sidewalks. I continued walking my bike against traffic in the shoulder. I noticed Ash Lake Road when I was planning how to return to Cascade Locks. Even though this route would have been slightly longer than staying on Highway 14, Ash Lake Road likely would have been easier to bike on because it does not have the high speeds and traffic like Highway 14. While I usually do not have an issue walking three miles, the heat was unbearable. I took frequent water breaks when there were gaps in the guardrail but these breaks did not prevent me from feeling more faint. Thankfully, I arrived at Skamania Lodge without fainting. Guests told me in the pool that they were alarmed to see me walking along Highway 14. My bike was the only bike parked at Skamania Lodge, so everyone else likely drove.

Unfortunately, I spent most of my time at Skamania Lodge planning how to safely return to Cascade Locks instead of relaxing. I also caused unneeded stress for my caring family, friends, and coworkers. Ellen Payne, who is also from North Carolina (we met at UNC Charlotte) and now lives in Portland, drove me and my stuff back to Cascade Locks. Thankfully, I was able to remove the front wheel from my bike and fit it inside Caleb’s (Ellen’s fiance) car. I should have gone directly to Hood River instead of spending one night at Skamania Lodge. Downtown Hood River has transit access. I am now in Hood River through Friday. While my safety is more important than trying to complete a car-free vacation, I regret not being able to complete my car-free vacation. I feel embarrassed for having to ask for help when I did not prepare for the heatwave well enough.

I wanted to share these photos from Cascade Locks they show how challenging the heatwave has been for businesses. My employer, Clackamas Community College, closed in-person and online classes and work for today and tomorrow because of the heatwave.

I wrote this post on my smartphone. I did not take many photos during the heatwave. Hopefully, I will feel safe enough to hike and bike again sometime this week after the heatwave ends. It feels weird to be in the Columbia River Gorge and not feel safe enough to bike and hike. I have been swimming as I wait for the temperature to return to normal.

Columbia Area Transit just announced that they may have to reduce bus service this week due to the heatwave. I will be stranded in Hood River if bus service is suspended. I chose a bad week for my car-free vacation to the Gorge!

Record-Breaking Heatwave For My First Solo Multi-Day, Multi-City, Car-Free Vacation

I will be doing my first solo multi-day, multi-city, car-free vacation in the Columbia River Gorge from June 26-July 5 (working remotely on July 1). I will be in Portland briefly on Saturday to participate in Loud and Lit, which is this year’s largest Pedalpalooza group bike ride. The largest Pedalpalooza ride is normally the World Naked Bike Ride but this ride was canceled again this year due to COVID restrictions. I enjoy riding in the World Naked Bike Ride, so I hope it returns next summer. Cascade Locks and Stevenson will be my next stops on Sunday and Monday. Most of my vacation will be in Hood River. I plan to do a day trip to Mosier along the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. Hopefully, the heatwave will be gone by the time I reach The Dalles next Friday for a one-night stay. I am very concerned about the heatwave in The Dalles because The Dalles is normally hot during the summer. I plan to finish my vacation by returning to Cascade Locks for the rest of Independence Day Weekend.

Several days of my vacation will be during a record-breaking heatwave. While I have been planning daily bike rides to waterfall hikes and kayaking in a lake or the Columbia River, the 110-degree heat over several days may force me to spend more time swimming and staying inside air-conditioned places. Since most people drive to the Columbia River Gorge and may think a car-free vacation is impossible, I wanted to share how I planned my car-free vacation. As this 2019 post shows, I have actually been thinking about doing car-free vacations to the Columbia River Gorge for two years. I did a weekend car-free vacation to Hood River in 2019 but my next vacation will involve multiple cities. While the below transit map has not changed much over the past two years, a big change is coming to the GOrge Pass on July 1. I will be able to ride transit anywhere on the Oregon and Washington sides of the Gorge for only $30 with the annual GOrge Pass!

I am also excited about the launch of the Gorge Food Trails website in 2021 because I want to support local businesses during my vacation.

Since I do not want to risk overheating my laptop in my pannier during the heatwave, I plan to only take my smartphone on vacation. This means I will have to create blog posts using my smartphone. Due to this, the posts that I publish during my vacation will be shorter than normal. Feel free to send me feedback about what you want me to expand on after my vacation. Despite the record-breaking heatwave, I am excited for my vacation!

Results From Engaging Historically Marginalized Communities During COVID-19

I have results to share after completing the outreach that I showed in this previous post. I worked with a graphic designer at Clackamas Community College (CCC) to design the below sidewalk decal, which had an embedded SMS survey. I used grant funding to pay for ten decals and the SMS survey. SimpleTexting was used to manage the SMS survey.

While I was disappointed to only have 17 people participate in my SMS survey, I gathered helpful insights into which proposed shuttle routes and stops would work best for people who live and travel through Milwaukie. I may try to do a similar survey in Oregon City and the Clackamas Industrial Area. Clackamas County will be starting free shuttle services in these areas in July. Sidewalk decals with an embedded SMS survey may help understand whether the currently planned routes and stops are working well for people.

I used CCC’s Interim Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Framework and the below section of the BlackSpace Manifesto to guide my shuttle outreach process. One element of the framework and BlackSpace Manifesto that I have been struggling with is to focus on quality of engagement over quantity. I received more quantity of feedback through an online survey than the SMS survey. However, I received better quality of engagement through the SMS survey than the online survey. I also engaged better with people most impacted by the proposed shuttle service through the SMS survey than the online survey. How much quality engagement is needed in order to feel comfortable with the quantity of engagement?

Source: https://www.blackspace.org/manifesto

Future Blog Post

I will be doing a car-free vacation in the Columbia River Gorge during the last week of June and early July. While I have planned my vacation to be as close to transit stops and bike infrastructure, I am already nervous about the challenges of trying to do a car-free vacation in an area that does not have frequent transit service and fully connected bike infrastructure. As this video shows, Friends of the Columbia Gorge has an exciting Gorge Towns to Trails vision for how to make car-free vacationing easier in the Columbia River Gorge. I plan to share in a future post how this vision is already coming together in some parts of the Columbia River Gorge.

My Toughest Car-Free Experience During Oregon’s Ice Storm

I want to start by thanking everyone who helped me survive and be comfortable during Oregon’s historic ice storm. Oregon City, which is where I live, started with a few inches of snow on Thursday, February 11 and ended with an inch of freezing rain on Friday and Saturday, February 12 and 13. I wish Oregon City had received more snow than freezing rain because I have never seen snow cause the same amount of damage as freezing rain caused in Oregon City. My apartment lost power and WiFi and my phone lost cell and internet services on Friday night. Power and WiFi were not restored until Thursday, February 18. As the below photos show, the ice storm brought down many trees in my apartment complex and forced me to walk on ice. The last time I saw this level of damage was during a 2002 North Carolina ice storm. I still lived in North Carolina in 2002.

View from my Oregon City apartment. Photo: Ray Atkinson
Ice storm damage in my apartment complex. Photo: Ray Atkinson
Ice storm damage in my apartment complex. Photo: Ray Atkinson

Walking On Ice

My dad used a generator to keep our Kannapolis (officially in unincorporated Cabarrus County but has Kannapolis address) house warm when our house lost power during the 2002 ice storm. My family also owned a van and a truck in 2002. Due to being warm and having access to transportation if my parents needed to get groceries, my 2002 ice storm experience was much less stressful than my 2021 ice storm experience.

My Oregon City apartment complex does not have a generator, so I slept on a very cold bed with several layers on Friday and Saturday nights. In addition to shivering, I found it challenging to sleep because I could hear tree limbs and ice falling then crashing to the ground. Since I couldn’t open the fridge or freezer during the power outage without potentially spoiling my groceries, my first car-free challenge was trying to find a restaurant that was open on Saturday. This proved impossible because all the restaurants within a safe walking distance were closed during the ice storm. I ended up buying the last pre-made cold sandwich as WinCo, which is a grocery store.

I finally found very weak cell service after walking to OC Point, which is a small shopping center. While I usually bike to OC Point, it was not safe to bike on ice. I still did not have internet service, so I tried calling my dad to ask where the warming shelters are located in Oregon City. My dad couldn’t hear me, so I learned only texting worked but even my texts kept not being received or sent. I am thankful a customer at The Growler Run offered to create a hotspot with his phone after I explained how I was trying to contact my dad. I probably should have contacted a coworker or Portland friend first because they are more familiar with Oregon City, but I assumed they would also have no cell service.

My Toughest Car-Free Experience: Part 1 on Saturday

The hotspot also allowed me to contact my coworkers about the dire situation I was experiencing. I learned the warming shelters in Oregon City were already full. Even if they had space, they only accepted homeless people. My coworkers suggested using TriMet or Uber/Lyft to stay at a hotel until power was restored to my apartment. Unfortunately, TriMet canceled all MAX and bus service when I needed it most. Line 33 resumed service by Saturday afternoon but only between the Clackamas Town Center Transit Center and Oregon City Transit Center. This meant that Line 33 did not continue up the hills in Oregon City to where I was located. I only learned about this service alert because I was lucky enough to get access to a hotspot.

Even though TriMet’s bus stops at Clackamas Community College (CCC)’s Oregon City campus have Connectpoint’s real-time arrival digital signs, the service alert was not working properly on Saturday. I talked with a TriMet rider waiting at CCC’s TriMet bus stop to board Line 33. He was unaware that Line 33 was not providing service above the Oregon City Transit Center. He asked me for money to pay for Uber or Lyft when I asked him how I could help. Since there was ice between us and I did not feel comfortable walking on the ice to give him money, I asked him if there was another way I could help him. We ended up walking our separate ways to our cold homes.

Photo: Connectpoint

My Toughest Car-Free Experience: Part 2 on Sunday

I became more desperate on Sunday for a warm place to stay temporarily or overnight with warm food. I walked across ice to OC Point again. The traffic signals were still out from the ice storm, so I am thankful that motorists allowed me to slowly and safely cross the icy, busy highways. Motorists were never this polite before the ice storm when I walked or biked across the busy highways!

Motorists were less willing to provide me with safe passage when I encountered two-lane Molalla Ave, which is under construction. While I tried walking on the icy sidewalks to avoid having to walk on the road, which had been cleared of ice, I couldn’t find a safe way to walk on the icy sidewalks. I would normally ride TriMet along Molalla Ave but buses were not running along Molalla Ave during the ice storm. Walking on Highway 213 was also not a safe option.

My phone still had no internet service, so I texted several friends to ask them to order an Uber or Lyft ride from OC Point to my coworker’s home. Unfortunately, I needed internet service to find my coworker’s address. As I learned later when I arrived at Bi-Mart, it would not have mattered if my friends had tried to order me an Uber or Lyft ride because no drivers were available.

The only remaining option to travel north towards more restaurants and shops was to walk through CCC in hopes that I could find streets that were cleared of ice. My neighbors told me that Beavercreek Road north of CCC had power, so I was determined to make it to Beavercreek Road. As soon as I found a street on campus that was too icy, a College Safety officer happened to be driving towards me. While she may have been willing to give anyone a ride, being coworkers who knew each other likely helped her feel comfortable enough to offer me a ride to Bi-Mart.

My phone’s cell and internet services worked again when I arrived at Bi-Mart. I tried using Uber and Lyft to get a ride to my coworker’s home, which was about a mile away. Even though I have used Uber and Lyft in Oregon City before, neither service had drivers available. Thankfully, my coworker’s husband was able to pick me up at Bi-Mart and take me to his home. He said I looked as cold as I felt. My phone died on Sunday just before Marvin picked me up at Bi-Mart. I was unsure how long my battery pack would have kept my phone from dying again. This is how close I was to an even more desperate situation.

Thankful for Coworker and Her Husband

I honestly do not know what I would have done without my coworker and her husband’s help. The sidewalks were icy in every direction around Bi-Mart. The roads were clear of ice but I doubt motorists would have welcomed me to walk in front of them on the road. Basically, I had no safe way to return home if my coworker and her husband did not invite me to stay at their home. Since Uber and Lyft drivers were not available, I had no way to be transported to a hotel. I am not sure how Bi-Mart staff would have reacted if I told them I needed transportation to get home. I am not poor so it felt weird to be in a situation where money could not buy a transportation service.

Next Blog Post

While I plan to write a follow-up post after I use on-the-ground engagement for Clackamas County shuttle planning, I am not sure how many more posts I will have time to write until after passing the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) Certification Exam. Due to the first round of COVID-19 restrictions, my exam was canceled in May 2020. The second round of COVID-19 restrictions canceled my November 2020 exam. Since the vaccine is being distributed, I am hopeful that my May 2021 exam will happen. Even though I am still struggling to choose the best correct answer, especially when I must think from the perspective of the exam writers and nationally (Oregon has special planning), I have been studying for the exam with few breaks since summer 2019. I am excited to blog more consistently after passing the exam!

Cabo San Lucas at Eye Level

“Cabo San Lucas at Eye Level” is a reference to “The City at Eye Level”. While this book is still helpful, I wanted to share the below video from Create Streets that provides a concise perceptive on the same topic. I am focusing the following post on two approaches I took to walk between my hotel and downtown. Yes, most tourists at my hotel paid for transportation to downtown. I paid for roundtrip transportation between my hotel and downtown once because the Arch and Lovers Beach water taxi provided through a company at my hotel included a nearly 50% discount on a massage at my hotel’s spa. Even though my massage therapist did not speak much English, I still enjoyed the massage. I knew enough Spanish to say thank you, give feedback on how the massage felt, and provide a tip.


Highway Route

Transportation between my hotel and downtown was cheap, so I was not trying to avoid paying for transportation by walking. As a transportation planner, I wanted to experience whether it is feasible to walk from my hotel to downtown. I also wanted to slow down time to take photos and stay in one place to watch people interact with the infrastructure. Being driven was too fast to take photos and observe people on the highway!

While I knew walking along and across highways would be risky, I was surprised by how much more dangerous walking was in Cabo San Lucas than anywhere I have walked in the US. As I will show later, I should clarify that walking was much safer in the downtown tourist area. It is unfortunate that the locals have to suffer from dangerous infrastructure while the tourists get the safer infrastructure. The locals have to suffer from the dangerous infrastructure every day while the tourists likely only spend a few hours walking downtown. In case you are curious how I know the elderly person shown in the below photo is a hotel worker, I saw a hotel logo on their shirt and they were walking from the direction of many hotels. I did not speak Spanish well enough to ask whether they work at the hotel shown on their shirt.

Elderly hotel worker walking on highway towards downtown with no sidewalk. Photo: Ray Atkinson

The below intersection was a few feet away from the above photo where the sidewalk ends. Due to the walk signals not working and the lack of beg buttons, I ended up having to jaywalk across this busy intersection. I watched the locals jaywalk to figure out when to safely jaywalk. Even though I hate beg buttons, I would rather have a beg button than try to jaywalk.

Walk signals did not work and there were no beg buttons! Photo: Ray Atkinson

As I mentioned earlier, the walking infrastructure got safer in the downtown tourist area, which was not far from the above dangerous intersection. The below video shows a running signal (the person in the signal runs instead of walks) in front of the Hard Rock Cafe. I did not even have to push a beg button to activate the running signal. The signal automatically started. I barely crossed the highway before the runner stopped running, so I doubt the signal is timed for elderly people and people in a wheelchair. While I am not sure whether Mexico has something similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the ramp on the side I was standing on likely was too steep and narrow to be ADA compliant. Why is the signal only limited to the Hard Rock Cafe?

Beach Route

Due to how dangerous the highway route felt when walking, I avoided the highway route for my next walking trip to downtown. Even after I tried to force Google Maps to provide a beach route to downtown, Google Maps kept forcing me to use roads. Since there were no cars on the beach, I felt safer walking along the beach than on a highway with missing sections of sidewalk and walk signals. Thankfully, I wanted to walk all the way to downtown because there was no public beach access until downtown. I kept looking for public beach access as I walked past continuous walls of private hotels. The hotels had “private property” signs everywhere. Even though I wanted to take a short cut to access a road between the hotels, I could not find any public access so I kept walking until I reach the marina in downtown. I was getting nervous about whether there would be public access from the beach to the marina. This is the only public access to the beach that I saw between my hotel and the marina. The very limited public access to the beach surprised me because I have been getting used to Oregon’s laws that require public access to the beach.

Why does Google Maps not show a walking route along the beach?

In addition to having difficulty finding public access from the beach to the road, I was constantly approached by Mexican vendors on the beach trying to sell cigars, weed, coke (cocaine not the drink), hats, jewelry, activities, etc. The below photo shows one of the worse locations because vendors approaches me from the hotel side and the water taxi side. The water taxi vendor wanted to take me to the Arch and Lovers Beach. Thankfully, the vendors let me through after I replied no, shook my head, or ignored them.

Is the beach a transportation walking route? Photo: Ray Atkinson

Even though no one was using these stairs, which face the marina near the public beach access, the hotel blocked the public from sitting on the stairs. I found it difficult to just find a public place to sit after walking along the beach. While I understand hotel management likely does not want people who are not staying at the hotel to be on their property, the stairs face a public walkway. I believe people need public places to sit when the walkway is public.

Private stairs facing public walkway near public beach access. Photo: Ray Atkinson

Fun Vacation Despite Walking Challenges

I added this section because I do not want readers to think I had a horrible vacation. I realize after reading what I wrote in this section that it appears I tried to show that I had a fun vacation. I definitely enjoyed escaping western Oregon’s rainy and cold winter to a place in Mexico that is consistently sunny and warm during the winter. I was able to go swimming outside and wear sun glasses every day! While the weather was great, I plan to learn from the bad aspects of staying at an all-inclusive hotel for my next vacation. I feel context is important in the bad aspects because I would rather have been in Mexico than doing a staycation like many of my Oregon friends.

Due to the threat of COVID-19, I decided to stay in one all-inclusive hotel the whole time instead of traveling to several cities. While I ate and drank plenty during my first time staying at an all-inclusive hotel, which felt like a cruise ship on land, I quickly got cabin fever or stir crazy because I had a constant urge to leave the hotel to explore Mexico. I am not sure what personalities the people who relaxed by the pools all day have but I got stir crazy after only an hour of laying in or by the pools!

Even though my dad felt it was unsafe to leave the hotel and urged me to stay in my hotel the entire time, I needed to leave daily to maintain my sanity. I got tired of the tourist restaurants in my hotel. I would have preferred experiencing and financially supporting authentic local restaurants instead of the tourist restaurants in the hotel. While I would need to speak Spanish better, I also would have preferred talking more with the locals instead of other tourists. I did not come to Mexico to hear American tourists bash COVID-19 restrictions in their home city and state! Many American tourists booed the hotel staff at midnight on New Year’s Eve when they kept announcing that everyone had to wear a mask and do physical distancing when celebrating the new year. As the below photos from my trips outside the hotel show, I consistently wore a mask and did physical distancing.

Next Blog Post

While I plan to write a follow-up post after I use on-the-ground engagement for Clackamas County shuttle planning, I am not sure how many more posts I will have time to write until after passing the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) Certification Exam. Due to the first round of COVID-19 restrictions, my exam was canceled in May 2020. The second round of COVID-19 restrictions canceled my November 2020 exam. Since the vaccine is being distributed, I am hopeful that my May 2021 exam will happen. Even though I am still struggling to choose the best correct answer, especially when I must think from the perspective of the exam writers and nationally (Oregon has special planning), I have been studying for the exam with few breaks since summer 2019. I am excited to blog more consistently after passing the exam!

Sustainable Safety

I have never reblogged a post before, so I am curious what happens. Since most people I talk with in the US have only heard of Vision Zero and have never heard of Sustainable Safety, have you heard of Sustainable Safety? How do you think Sustainable Safety compares with Vision Zero?


Sustainable Safety (“Duurzaam veilig” in Dutch) is the name of the Dutch approach to achieve a better road safety. This policy is lesser known than ‘strict liability‘ and underestimated. Where strict liability is a cure after something went wrong, sustainable safety does much more and at a different time. The main objectives of this vision are preventing severe crashes and (almost) eliminating severe injuries when crashes do occur. It was introduced and quickly adopted by all road managers in 1992 and has since been very successful. In 2005 it was revised and extended. The approach began with establishing that the road system was inherently unsafe. The goal was to fundamentally change the system by taking a person as a yardstick. The guidelines for design were to be the physical vulnerability of a person, but also what a person can and wants to do (humans make mistakes…

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