For more information on the regional trails network or a specific trail, read the 2008–2015 Trails Snapshot and appendix or explore Metro’s interactive trails map.
In the greater Portland region, there are hundreds of miles of paved and unpaved trails. Every fall, Metro and its partners in the region send out hundreds of volunteers to key trails to count traffic for two hours. This data has been collected, analyzed and published since 2008. With nearly a decade of data on trail counts, trends in the trail networks are starting to emerge.
Among that data, five charts stood out for the stories they tell about trail use in the region. Read the Trails Snapshot and its appendix for a more complete look at the regional trail network.
Hawthorne Bridge, Waterfront Park trails most popular
Perhaps it’s no surprise to those who frequent Portland’s waterfront along the Willamette River, but people really love to bike and walk along the Willamette River.
The Hawthorne Bridge came out on top as the most trafficked cyclist route during the two-hour count in 2016. Heading west on the Hawthorne Bridge, cyclists head into downtown Portland. Heading east, cyclists can go south along the Willamette River and on to OMSI and the trailhead of the Springwater Trail, or go north into the Lloyd District and North and Northeast Portland. If nothing else, the Hawthorne Bridge proves that if you build easy and comfortable connections, cyclists will use them.
Across the river and near the Morrison Bridge, volunteers counted the highest number of pedestrians of any trail in the region. This is likely due to the trail being so close to downtown, yet still offering picturesque and calm strolls through a park and near the river. On a sunny day in Portland, thousands of people walk along the Waterfront Park Trail. It’s doubly amazing that this trail and park used to be a highway running through Portland.
Trolley Trail sees rapid growth
Today, the Trolley Trail is a paved pathway running alongside TriMet’s Orange Line in Milwaukie, but it didn’t always look so nice. Prior to 2012, the Trolley Trail was little more than an overgrown, often muddy trail over a trolley line that had stopped running in the 1950s. In 2012, the trail was paved and brought up to national trail standards and saw its use more than double over a single year. In 2015, an estimated 138,000 people used the trail.
Tilikum Crossing is a big hit among cyclists and pedestrians
The new Tilikum Crossing that spans the Willamette River carries so much more than MAX trains, streetcars and buses. In fact, it’s become a major bicycle and pedestrian pathway. Since opening in summer 2015, the bridge’s cycling and pedestrian use has skyrocketed to near the top of all regional trails. The new bridge comes just behind the Broadway Bridge and ahead of the Morrison Bridge, proving that it has very quickly become an integral piece of the connection in and out of downtown Portland. It carries about half the number of people that the Hawthorne and Steel bridges carry.
Women cyclists are using the network more
Across the country, women historically make up a smaller portion of cyclists. Unfortunately, cyclists in greater Portland are no different in this regard. Male cyclists outnumber female cyclists 70 to 30 percent on regional trails. And while this is slightly better than the national split (74 percent to 26 percent, according to the American Community Survey), there’s still a lot more the region needs to do to close the gap. Simply adding adequate lighting on trails and building trails closer to areas of activity are shown to increase usage by women.
There are three trails where the tide is starting to shift. The Salmon Creek Trail in Vancouver, the Waterfront Park Trail and Tilikum Crossing all serve significantly more women cyclists than the network as a whole, though men still outnumber women on those three trails. These three sites can be used to more closely study why women prefer using these trails and not others.