When I think of cities in Oregon that are highly walkable for non-drivers, the two local college towns, Corvallis and Eugene, both come to mind immediately. Others are either too large or too small or don’t have amenities like groceries, restaurants, medical facilities and housing all clustered in a central area. Here’s a little bit more about both:
Corvallis: Home to Oregon State University, home of the Beavers, Corvallis is consistently rated highly for being pedestrian-friendly, bike-friendly and safe. It’s got a nice downtown, a beautiful riverfront and miles and miles of public pathways and trails. (www.therighttrail.org is a great website devoted just to Corvallis trails and pathways.) One of the things that I think makes Corvallis particularly friendly for a non-driver is that there are grocery stores and small markets scattered in many different areas around town, which means that no matter where you live you don’t have to walk far to get your food and household essentials. Corvallis also has a decent (and free) public bus system with stops throughout town for times when you don’t want to go places on foot. Corvallis has just under 50,000 residents, and it’s a town with a small, homey feel. Definitely give it a visit! You can go to www.visitcorvallis.com for more information.
Eugene: Eugene has all the same great things going for it that Corvallis has — fun downtown, river access, and miles of paths and trails — but it’s a bigger city with a few more amenities, such as a train station, a nearby airport and beautiful performing arts center downtown, The Hult Center. Eugene is also a university town, home to the University of Oregon Ducks. It’s famous for being the birthplace of Nike and a major force in track & field sports, so it should be no surprise that public trails for running and walking are a big deal in Eugene. You can find a good map here. It also has grocery stores and medical facilities that are close to places to live, as well as a good public transit system. One thing that does give Eugene an edge over Corvallis for non-drivers is its easy public transit access to other Oregon cities — the Amtrak station is right downtown, with daily train service up and down the I5 corridor, as well as Greyhound, BoltBus and other bus services. It also has a small airport. In Corvallis, connecting to other cities on public transit usually requires riding a bus to Albany, then getting on a train or bus at the Albany station to Portland or Eugene. You can get more info about Eugene at www.eugenecascadescoast.org.