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It’s official: Last Thursday will be completely car-free

Posted by on August 5th, 2008 at 10:34 am

A nearly carfree Last Thursday on Alberta-74.jpg
Cars won’t be allowed on Alberta Street
during future Last Thursday events.
(Photos © J. Maus)

The City of Portland has decided to work with neighborhood groups and a coalition of city agencies to close NE Alberta Street to car traffic for the monthly Last Thursday event.

The agreement was made at a meeting in City Hall last night that was attended by a myriad of stakeholder groups including, the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, Art on Alberta, TriMet, the Police Bureau, local neighborhood and business associations and others.

The meeting was meant as a debriefing session to discuss last week’s event that was an experiment to see how the event functioned with a “soft closure”. The soft closure was not an official street closure, but cars were encouraged by volunteers to take other routes and people were allowed to walk freely in the middle of the street.

“I’m glad the city is realizing that it’s the best thing for the event and for everyone’s safety to close the street to car traffic.”
–Magnus Johannesson

The result was essentially a carfree street and there were no serious incidents or problems.

Shoshanah Oppenheim works on transportation issues for Commissioner Sam Adams. She says last night’s meeting was “productive” and the result of the meeting was that,

“we’ve decided to develop a stronger partnership between the City and the neighborhood to strengthen what’s good about the event and move them towards a street closure permit.”

In advance of the upcoming street closure, Oppenheim added that the partnership will work on addressing the remaining concerns held by neighbors. These concerns include a need for more trash cans and restroom facilities, and people driving to the event and parking on neighborhood streets.

That “street closure permit” (which is the official way of saying Alberta will be completely carfree) will be filed by Magnus Johannesson, the neighborhood activist and business owner who has forced the carfree issue on the City since his brazen move to close the street to cars back in July.

Speaking after the meeting, Johannesson told me he’s, “very, very excited that the city has taken this matter seriously.” He added that he is glad the the city is, “realizing that it’s the best thing for the event and for everyone’s safety to close the street to car traffic.”

Johannesson says even though last week’s even was successful, there were still several issues with the few cars that were driving down the street.

“A few cars called 911 because they felt trapped by pedestrians and they couldn’t get off the street and a few folks tried to drive across Alberta and there were some close calls.”

But those incidents, Johannesson says, “will be a non-issue when we close the street down properly.”

To help keep the event thriving, Johannesson has established a new non-profit called Last Thursday on Alberta (famous former resident Dingo the Clown is the first official Board Member). The group is working with the city to find grant money and is currently seeking donations to pay for the street closure and various logisitical requirements (like insurance, trash cans, etc…).

The first meeting of the non-profit will be Tuesday, August 12th at 6:30 at Zaytoons (2236 NE Alberta). Johannesson says he wants Last Thursday on Alberta — both the non-profit and the event — to be very inclusive and that everyone is encouraged to get involved.

Both Johannesson and Oppenheim said they have strategies in place to try and attract more members of the immediate neighborhood to the event.

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  • seriously??? August 5, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Clearly the people who called 911 were just trying to agitate the situation. You drive by a street closure sign into a crowd of people and you have to slowly advance to the next block to get out of there, but instead these people stopped and called 911, not the non emergency number but 911! They weren\’t scared they were trying to disrupt the carefree nature of the event, hopefully the cops had that figured out.

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  • Paul Cone August 5, 2008 at 10:44 am

    They called 911 because they felt trapped? What would they have done if they didn\’t have a cellphone? Get out and look for a payphone? Maybe those people would be better off and feel safer if they just stayed home.

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  • Robert Dobbs August 5, 2008 at 10:47 am

    This is terrific news! No surprise that there are still issues to be resolved, but this goes a long way in validating an event which started pretty organically.

    Hopefully they can get the restrooms handled easily. I don\’t think there\’s going to be a good solution for the parking, though. It\’s pretty tight in that neighborhood as it is.

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  • Blair August 5, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Awesome. And a fast path from cars to car-free — all in two months. Impressive.

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  • Refunk August 5, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Excellent.

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  • Zaphod August 5, 2008 at 11:36 am

    This is a huge positive step. Now that it will be void of motorized risk, I\’ll be bringing the kids on the Xtracycle.

    I do hope that organizers are vigilant in addressing concerns of those who are impacted by this so it is viewed as a good thing by all but the most curmudgeonly people.

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  • Peter W August 5, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Maybe the city can pay for the street closure permits, since apparently they\’ll otherwise be paying for useless 911 phone calls.

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  • Icarus Falling August 5, 2008 at 11:59 am

    So,
    Now a real question is how long until you are not allowed to ride your bike down Alberta during Last Thursday?

    While I agree it is a positive first step, there will obviously be more complaints in the future, and with cars out of the picture, cyclists buzzing pedestrians will be the obvious topic of future complaints. As we all know, bikes go more straight, and pedestrians go more sideways. The two do not mix.

    Which will surely result in a \”walk your bike\” stance during the street closure

    Is there a plan to keep this from happening?

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  • Elisabeth August 5, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Wonderful news! The artist vendors for Last Thursday on Alberta will now be receiving my hard-earned money once again, now that I will finally be able to actually *see* what they have for sale, rather than being crushed, shuffling at 0.007mph down a congested sidewalk laden with peds, dogs, toddlers, strollers, etc etc where I can\’t see anything other than the back of someone else\’s head.

    Wonderful!

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  • Myra August 5, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    Wow I love this idea.

    I think there are many places cars and trucks and busses should not be allowed.

    To band bikers don\’t believe any place should be banned from bikers.

    Great example is at the Rose Quarter Transit Center.

    Tri-met is using a lane that runs along the tracks to move people while the bridge is closed. Today I had to take the shuttle bus to get back home.

    I saw a the bus in front of us slam on it\’s breaks as a biker (not following the walk your bike rules) comes riding the wrong way up the road.

    So the bus drivers not only have to look out for trains, crossing over a busy exit ramp from the freeway, people crossing the road, not hitting the curbs in this tight area and a bus so full of people you can hardly breath no thats not enough now they have to see through a freeway ramp, into the through the cement bridge supports, into the darkness under the bridge for the possibility of a bike that is not only going in a restricted area, not only not pushing his bike but is going the wrong way.

    Bikes in for the win.

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  • wally August 5, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    I haven\’t been to last thursday for a long time and I live in the neighborhood. I despised being shoved on the sidewalk. This is great news. I think there are less problems when people don\’t feel pushed. Thanks to everyone that helped make this possible.

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  • BURR August 5, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    Myra – In Paris and other cities, busses and bikes share the restricted lanes; it could be that way in PDX too, but TriMet is simply unwilling to talk about it.

    FWIW, I have no sympathy for the bus operators, I know there are some good drivers, but enough of them have demonstrated their hatred and disregard for cyclists that I don\’t trust any of them anymore.

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  • bahueh August 5, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    Icarus..do you seriously want to ride a bike through a dense crowd of pedestrians and children who are there to enjoy themselves and relax…NOT be run over by a guy on a bike who can\’t seem to realize the situation.

    the street has not been closed for YOUR enjoyment…its been closed for everyone\’s. take it into consideration and act accordingly..you know, like an adult. if riders act curteously, slow down, and behave as they should…I doubt any complaints will transpire…

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  • Toby August 5, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    Adding to Burr\’s post, their hatred and disregard goes far beyond just bikes. They truly think themselves divine, and can do no wrong. That\’s a gross generalization, of course, but I don\’t trust them as far as I can smell them. I\’ve been pushed around and squeezed out by them too many times to think it wont happen next time. The times they actually do yield and show a little courtesy, I always wave and smile. I saw one smile back once and I just about fell off my bike!

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  • Icarus Falling August 5, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Baheuh,

    \”Icarus..do you seriously want to ride a bike through a dense crowd of pedestrians and children who are there to enjoy themselves and relax…\”

    You missed my point.

    This is a bicycle based website.

    I was pointing out the obvious. This will lead to no riding down Alberta during this event.

    It will not only be car-free, but soon bike-free as well.

    The problems between bikes and pedestrians will be compounded by an occupation of the streets by the wandering masses. And, yes, the complaints will soon follow. This is reality.

    In answer to your question, \”do I really want to ride a bike through a dense crowd, blah blah blah…..\”

    No. I do not even go to Last Thursday anymore. It is a damn annoyance. I do not choose to ride my bike, or even walk and shop, in the one area, and on the one day of the month that everyone and their mother has also chosen to go.

    I support Last Thursday for those who enjoy it. I just happen to not be one of them.

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  • joe August 5, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    this is great news! well done to all the people who have worked on this over time.

    maybe a next step is to encourage people to get to the event without using their cars.

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  • D.R. Miller August 5, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    This is an example of how there IS in fact the possibility of positive change in this crazy world. Huge thanks to the people who made it happen!

    Myra I\’m glad you like the idea too, but jeez, why the need to steer your comment immediately into flogging the very dead horse that\’s been drawing flies for some time now?

    As for bus drivers: they are people with a viewpoint based on the seat they sit in for several hours of every day. Then too they are unionized and basically unassailable, and my observation about people in that position (including 2 years of working for Tri-Met) is that they get very jaded and exhibit the same kind of we\’re-always-right/those other idiots are always wrong mentality as members of the police force and long-time bike commuters. Urp… what am I saying?
    Just that we all, based on habit and human nature, think our own viewpoint is the valid one.

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  • felix August 5, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    Hell yes! So good to hear!

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  • bahueh August 5, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Icarus..and you missed mine. That being that cyclists so often miss the fact and reality that they collectively hold their fate in their own hand…

    ride like an a-hole down Alberta on last thursday and yes, your (proverbial you) presence there will not be accepted and a bike ban, yes, will be put in place.
    ride responsibly and curteously and the chances of that outcome diminish…a few can easily ruin it for everyone else…as could a few local residents who will take issue with the closure.

    I, like you, don\’t care to join the masses on Alberta…never will. I find enjoyment from a bike when I\’m actually moving…

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  • Bill Stites August 5, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    This is a huge step in the right direction.

    We just finished gathering signatures for closing Belmont for the Street Fair on Sept. 6, and that\’s only once a year!
    The city requires these signatures from every address on the closed streets, so they are clearly working with the Alberta crew.
    And yes, engaging immediate neighbors is essential for long-term success.

    Kudos to the City of Portland [uh, that\'s us] for supporting and showing some flexibility in enacting this momentous move toward urban livability.

    Yes!!!

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  • T WIlliams August 5, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    Re: banning bikes at this event. I\’m going to ride my bike there, then lock n\’ walk.

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  • Donald August 5, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    Man, I hate crowds. (Sunday Parkway notwithstanding.)

    But, if this is a genuine bottoms up mini-revolution, I\’ll give it a half-earth-first-fist up.

    Cars ARE the new smoking. (I can co-opt that: I got two GFs in my garage.)

    I\’ve marked the Thursday last in January on my enochlophobic calendar. I\’ll be hoping to chat with anyone who cares concerning if it really is about the art anymore.

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  • Mark C August 5, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Quite a few here are taking great pains to point out how they now dismiss Last Thursday, since the great, unwashed masses and yuppies have taken it over. After all, these commenters are trend-setters on the lookout for the next \”cool\” thing that only the \”in-crowd\” is privy to. I don\’t attend Last Thursday regularly, but I say anything that gets people out of their cars and together on the street is OK by me. And yes, ride your bike (or take transit) to the event, and then lock it up when you get there and walk.

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  • n8m August 5, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    YES. Can\’t wait to celebrate at the next LT. Thanks to the folk that made it happen.

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  • Icarus Falling August 5, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    Way to put words in others mouths Mark C.
    Perhaps you should insert your foot into your own?

    It is easy to see why one might not enjoy Last Thursday. One does not need to resort to \”taking great pains to point that out\”.

    I, for one, am some what claustrophobic, and have anxiety up the yang. That, combined with walking behind meandering, un-attentive, and sometimes sideways waddling masses of people makes for an unpleasant experience. Mentally and physically.

    It has nothing to do with being cool.
    (Maybe with keeping a \”cool\” head)

    Though shalt not criticize a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.
    (I believe that is a quote from Will Rodgers)

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  • Afro Biker August 6, 2008 at 7:25 am

    Of course a lot of people attending this event will have no problem DRIVING to it and hogging parking in front of other peoples homes. And to the **deleted** cyclists, yeah wouldn\’t it be tragic if you had to leave your bike locked elsewhere or at least have the courtesy to walk it? This is supposed to be a family event, not just for **deleted** cycling **deleted** who coincidentally are the same **deleted** making it harder for the rest of us cyclists out there on the road.

    Afro Biker

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) August 6, 2008 at 8:07 am

    Afro Biker,

    Thanks for your comment above. But please, in the future, try and not resort to name-calling. Let\’s keep everything above the belt if possible. thanks.

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  • steve August 6, 2008 at 10:22 am

    \”In a posting pulled off of Moviepoopshoot.com the gruesome twesome threatened, and I quote: \’Once we get to Hollywood and find those Mirimax –expletive deleted– who are making the \’Bluntman and Chronic\’ movie we\’re gonna make them eat our –expletive deleted– then –expletive deleted– out our –expletive deleted– then eat their –expletive deleted– which is made up of our –expletive deleted– that we made them eat.\’ Unquote. So far we\’ve been unable to get a statement from onybody here at the studio.\”

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  • peejay August 6, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Jonathan:

    I have a suggestion to deal with certain posters who don\’t play nice with others. It\’s called \”disemvowelling\” and boingboing.net uses it to great effect with their trolls. Here\’s a link: http://www.boingboing.net/2008/03/27/boing-boings-moderat.html.

    Feel free to use it on me when I fck p nd gt rd wth thr ppl.

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  • jimbo August 7, 2008 at 12:58 am

    Don\’t forget buss free also. I suggest that you have pedicabs to shuutle the buss riders from one end of the event to the other end where they can reboard the buss and go on their merry way

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  • Donald August 7, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    A buss-free zone just sounds so unromantic.

    Once again, the man trying to keep us down…

    ;-)

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  • Surlyben.com » Blog Archive » Last Thursday August 28, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    [...] a non-profit has been set up to facilitate the whole street-closure thing. I expect mission-creep and angry blowouts over mission-creep to follow. But for now, closing the [...]

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  • Jade_Pdx May 27, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    Good. Now if only the entire Portland Metro area were car-free Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays my world would be complete!

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  • Spiffy August 6, 2013 at 9:40 am

    and now it’s full of cars again… ):

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