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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Bureau of Transportation

Phone: 503-823-5185

Fax: 503-823-7576

1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 1331, Portland, OR 97204

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Dylan Rivera

Public Information Officer


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For breaking news on overall service disruptions in the Portland-Vancouver metro area, go to @publicalerts or see 

Can transportation help you live longer?

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Part V in our Health Equity and Transportation series

Transportation and Health Equity Series: Part V

We’ve already established that there are elements that impact the health of Portland residents that go beyond health care.  Read about our new (imaginary) friends, Aaron, Julie, and Mateo in Part 4 to get a sense of what some of these elements (aka Social Determinants of Health in fancy-pants health circles) are. 

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) and, increasingly, other transportation planning organizations are beginning to acknowledge these connections.  PBOT needs to think about how its decisions, policies, and projects are affecting the health of its residents. How can PBOT give Aaron just as much of a chance as Julie to lead a long and healthy life?

The first step is understanding the following three major connections between transportation and health:

  1. Physical Activity.  If you are over 30, think back to third grade.  Did you walk to school? In 1969, about 50% or kids walked or biked to school.  Most of the rest bused.  In 2001, 16% of students walked or biked to school. Most of the rest were driven. Taking trips on bike or foot (or even walking to transit!) are chances to sneak physical activity into our busy lives.  Compared with drivers, transit commuters are four times as likely to walk the 10,000 steps/day recommended by the US Surgeon General. And even better, PBOT works with walking, biking, and transit promotion programs including our absolutely fabulous Safe Routes to School and SmartTrips programs. (In our Safe Routes elementary schools, students walk to school at three times the national average).
  2. Air Quality.  Every year, 64,000 Americans die prematurely due to air pollution via exacerbation of asthma, lung and respiratory illnesses, and heart disease. That’s almost the population of Portland, Maine.  Cars and trucks make up a large percentage of air pollution.  Good thing PBOT works to make it easier to switch from driving alone to other transportation options that reduce pollution – yeah!
  3. Safety. Road traffic crashes are the leading cause of death among young people between 10 and 24 years, according to a report published by World Health Organization.  Worldwide, over 400,000 youth are killed in car crashes annually – that’s about the same number of people that live in Minneapolis and St. Paul (where Julie’s from).  Good thing PBOT works with traffic safety in order to make moving from one place to another a safer experience for everybody using any transportation mode!

So as you can see, although PBOT does not have a white coat or a freezing cold stethoscope, transportation planning can and does impact residents’ health. But as we stand now, not all residents are getting the same ‘health’ benefits from PBOT.  We’ll talk about how Aaron, Julie, and Mateo are or are not benefiting from PBOT’s health inputs in the next post and what changes can be made to give residents better opportunities to lead healthier lives.

Need a prescription to help you to drive less? Order free carpool, transit, bike and walking information.

Read the other parts of our series:


Do walk and bike maps attract customers?

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Free maps for Portland businesses

Here's a Friday afternoon chin scratcher: could a walk and bike map support local business?

As part of our larger suite of employer services, in summer 2009 we began offering local businesses free neighborhood walk and bike maps to their customers along with a window decal to give passers-by another reason to walk in the door.

We envisioned it as a virtuous circle: business owners get a tool to direct foot traffic into their shops and offer a free service to offer their customers, PBOT gets another partner encouraging inexpensive, healthy forms of transportation, and Portlanders learn great spots to walk, bike and shop in their neighborhoods.

Things rarely go as planned - thankfully this time they've gone better. 

The maps are very popular with customers and businesses keep asking for more. To date, our local business partners have distributed 20,000 neighborhood walk/bike maps to their customers. In our last survey, 75% say that promoting walking and biking is good for their business.

Our program is open to any employer in the city and is free of charge. Contact us if you'd like to participate


Your neighborhood and your health

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Part VI in our Transportation and Health Equity series

Transportation and Health Equity Series, Part VI


We’ve talked about how Aaron, Julie, and Mateo might have various health outcomes based on ‘social determinants of health,’ such as race, income, and education.  But we in the planning and health fields believe that negative implications of one’s “social determinants” can be overcome and are working to give those that might be at risk for poor health a better chance to be healthy.

If you live in Portland, you probably have realized that each neighborhood in the city is unique.  Hang out in the Pearl for a while and then head out to Lents - same city, very different experience.  Portland’s neighborhoods have different landscapes, different assets, and different behaviors.  The Portland Bureau of Transportation is looking to influence these neighborhoods in a way that can improve the health of Portlanders that need it most! 

Now let’s place Aaron, Julie, and Mateo. Aaron lives in inner N/NE Portland by Emmanuel Hospital, Julie lives in NW by the Montgomery Park building, and Mateo lives in SE near Mt. Tabor.  View this table to see how environments, specifically in terms of access to physical activity, air quality, and safety might influence their health.

So you can see, that there are some built environment features (sidewalks, bike routes, parks, roads, access to businesses, lighting) that can influence residents’ health in their neighborhoods.  The Portland Bureau of Transportation is looking into how some parts of the city facilitate healthier habits than others (like Julie’s neighborhood versus Mateo’s neighborhood) and how investments in some parts of the city can decrease the ‘health gap.’

The next blog will talk about processes within the City that will set our future course and attempt to even the health playing field for Aaron, Julie, and Mateo.

Read the other posts in the series


Kidical Mass Cruises Cully

By Kiel Johnson, Reprinted with permission from

Today was the March Kidical Mass Ride. We started at Rigler school (which has an awesome community garden). Were we were greeted by a special guest, Strechy the clown, who came out to send us off. Then we were to Harvey Scott were we ate some cookies I made (they were gone in a few seconds) and we had some impressive tree climbing. Then we checked out a house with a bunch of chickens running around and a duck. Lastly, we headed over to the edible forest on Going and got a quick tour. Great weather and turn out (70 people)!

Harvey Scott parent Vince was also at the ride, who is hopefully going to be leading a bike train to Harvey Scott starting in April.

Enjoy the pictures!


Portland Students: 800% Better than Their National Counterparts

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Perhaps you've noticed that the Commuter Central crack investigative journalist team has been blogging more about children.  We've reported about the socio-cultural experience of riding the bus with our newborn daughter and about the number of options families have when getting to and from school. And now we've just come across this article on Grist about making transit more family-friendly. 

But nothing says blog fodder like a good ol' fashioned chart showing how good Portland is.  Let's face it, we love this place.  For all the complaining we do about the wet or the gray or the lack of Indian restaurants in your neighborhood, Portland holds a special place in our hearts.  So, with no further ado I give you Another Chart Showing How Portland Rocks - this one showing how students in Portland's Safe Routes to School Program bicycle 800% more and walk nearly 300% more to and from school than their national counterparts.