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Sunday Parkways rolls through East Portland (photos and recap)

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on July 19th, 2010 at 11:23 am

Smiles for miles at East Portland Sunday Parkways.
-Slideshow below/Gallery-
(Photos © J. Maus)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation's Sunday Parkways event traveled to uncharted territory over the weekend with its first every foray into outer east neighborhoods. Thousands turned out to walk and bike on 4.5 miles of streets that were (mostly) closed to motor vehicle traffic. This was the third of five Parkways events PBOT is putting on this year.

East Portland Sunday Parkways-24
Nice horn!

The East Portland route (which was shortened at the last minute) went from Lents Park, over I-205 and around area parks via SE Harold, 115th, SE Bush, and 100th. With a dust-up over a bike lane project on SE Holgate (which the route crossed twice) and historical tensions between City Hall and Outer East residents, there was a bit of apprehension by City staffers over how this event would turn out.

From my own observations and reports by others, the crowds were very solid, if not bit larger than expected (gorgeous and sunny weather helped!). Many said that the feel reminded them of the first Sunday Parkways event in North Portland back in 2008. As per usual, families turned out in droves and kids pedaled on streets they've been taught to fear all their lives.

On SE Harold, east of SE 104th Avenue, I met Laura Carver and her two small children. "Why can't it be like this everyday?" she said from her front yard as streams of people ambled by. "Everyone's smiling." Laura's husband came out of the house to see what was going on. "The sound of silence brought me outside."

East Portland Sunday Parkways-1
This little guy couldn't wait to hit the streets.
East Portland Sunday Parkways-10
Tree-lined SE 115th Avenue.

Carver and her family live on a section of Harold that has no sidewalk and no shoulder. People driving too fast, she and her husband said, is a constant danger. "Every night a drunk driver will fly by going 70 mph... People crash into front yards along here at least once a year... Cops fly up this street everyday." Carver is looking forward to improvements on her street that will extend the shoulder and bike lanes Harold has just a block west of her house. "Families have more problems biking out here. It's just too nerve-wracking."

East Portland Sunday Parkways-45
Crossing SE Holgate.

But not on Sunday... a day when the tables were turned and people were able to move through their neighborhoods without fear of being run over. On another section of sidewalk-less Harold St., I rode behind a family walking and pushing a baby stroller. It struck me that, except for those few hours on Sunday, this public roadway has been essentially off-limits to baby strollers and the humans pushing them.

At Ed Benedict Park on the northern end of the loop, many people enjoyed lots of activities and performances at the East Portland Exposition, a skills park set up by the Northwest Trail Alliance, and more. It was also a perfect day to test out the new bikeway through the park that was installed as part of the SE Bush Street bike boulevard project. (Unfortunately, event organizers put up signs for people to walk their bikes on the newly installed path).

East Portland Sunday Parkways-8

While thousands enjoyed the event, there were some who were perturbed at the presence of all the bikes. I verified this report of an angry man who tried to ram his car through barricades after a heated discussion with a volunteer. There were also reports of hand-written signs that read, "No bikes, cars only," which was understandable, given that volunteers wrote things on the street like, "More bikes than cars - We win".

I also heard reports of people driving their cars in from outlying areas like Troutdale and Gresham just to take part. After the event, NE Portland resident Mykle Hansen and his family tried to take the Green Line MAX Train part of the way home, but Hansen says he was denied entry when a TriMet operator allowed only 4-bikes per car. TriMet policy states that bikes are allowed in the priority (wheelchair) seating area when their are no seniors or riders with disabilities present.

With thousands of smiles served, the event definitely accomplished it's goals. Residents of East Portland received the gift of carfree streets and people of all ages, backgrounds, and incomes enjoyed public space in a way they had never before. The event also raised the visibility of biking and walking in the area and will likely serve as a catalyst for citizen activism around active transportation projects for years to come.

View more images of the event in the gallery or via the slideshow below:

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Comments
  • Chris Smith July 19, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Anticipating potential bike capacity problems on TriMet, I chose to walk this route (given how short it was). A nice change of pace.

    There were definitely more cars making their way in and out of driveways than I have seen on the other routes, but that's OK.

    And while I 'know' about the demographics of East Portland, seeing the amazing diversity, particularly at the East Portland Expo, was wonderful.

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  • Esther July 19, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Kudos to the Sunday Parkways & PBOT staff who work year round to make this happen! I really enjoyed the feel of this event, which seemed more mellow than the very crowded NE (and parts of N) events. There seemed to be a lot of great local community involvement - the Tongan Fellowship Church was playing brass band hymns at Bloomington Park throughout much of the afternoon, and I saw a lot of teenagers who I believe are part of various immigrant communities involved as Intersection Superheroes. Across from Bloomington an immigrant family was having a huge baptismal party- the street and park across the street became the kids' front yard too- they were darting in and out with ice cream, balls, games, having a great time. I also really enjoyed the Johnson Creek and Lents community groups' booths at the Parks - there are some strong local community advocates out there!

    Plus, Timo's mom Joan (an avid bikeportland reader!) flew up from Claremont CA to visit as well as enjoy Parkways, and we had a great time. Due to her and my physical limitations we ended up on foot, so it was great for us that the 3 parks were close together (but bike riders could do longer loops if preferred).
    I actually wish more focus were put on pedestrians on these events: other friends who were on foot at the NE Parkways said they felt somewhat intimidated by the crowded masses of cyclists including ones riding fast. I've encountered riders who somberly say things they've "done the loop 3 times" by 11am, as if the Parkways only purpose is to get in some race-style riding.

    At this event I felt cyclists were almost uniformly courteous, alerting us to their presence, and it was spacious enough that even wobbly little kids had plenty of room to get around us. The answer, of course, is make Parkways bigger and more frequent-- so there's plenty of room for everyone ;) (And I'll be calling my city Commissioners to let them know I think this!)

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  • Spiffy July 19, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    I was at Sunday Parkways and didn't see any grumpy old men although I did see one of those "no bikes, cars only" signs in front of somebody's driveway near my house... I did see a lot of smiles, and a couple kids crash at low speed...

    we had a yard sale Sunday so I didn't get to spend all 5 hours on the Sunday Parkways route like I had wanted...

    but I did manage to go check out the Ramona Street Fair that was left off the revised route but since it was late at that point I didn't get to hang out...

    the new MUP through Ed Benedict... yeah, that's alright I guess... it mostly parallels paths that were already there... and the connection from the city park side to skate park side didn't have a good transition and people had to cross from the old park path through grass (now dirt) to the new MUP... and walking our bikes on it didn't give us a chance to test it out at all... they really should have labeled the paths and had the old path be for walking and the new MUP for bikes for this event... if they ever cut a MUP through the trimet parking lot and make a ped overcrossing for Bush to the max station and connecting I-205 then Bush might be useful... for now I use the Holgate bike lanes...

    overall I think it went pretty well for being a new event in an area that's not totally bike friendly yet...

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  • carye bye July 19, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    yay for SP -- I hadn't really explored this part of Portland much and enjoyed the parks and happenings. Great work everyone. Love all the variety of people, bikes, etc! I'm hoping the events continue year after year -- and maybe go Noon to 5pm. It seems like mornings are often cloudy and don't break til afternoon -- and then it's done just as everyone is really in their groove. I think midday would work out fine for residents who may be inconvenienced. Those who want to get out of the area can do so in the morning, or get out for early errands, or church and back.. and we can ride til 5pm.. and then maybe even enjoy neighborhood restaurants and bars afterward. Ending mid-afternoon -- kind of feels like.. hmmm what next? home, stay out... I don't know!

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  • Spiffy July 19, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    I agree that the even was way too short... they should have extended it to 6pm since there was so much to do... and it would have given the food vendors a dinner rush as incentive to be there...

    I only got to take 1 leisure loop but I wanted to do another one the opposite direction...

    there was only 1 person who rode really annoying around us and almost cause a couple of us to crash... we stopped for 5 minutes to let them get ahead and didn't have to worry about it after that...

    what I found odd was that there were so many partial closures where cars were allowed on one half of the street... that really confused things and I hope they fix that next year...

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  • Hart July 19, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    "More bikes than cars - We win"

    I think if Americans were using bikes more than cars than a celebration of victory would be in order. Perhaps this statement was one of hopefulness and not of conceitedness.

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  • beth h July 19, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    @ #2 -- when Sunday Parkways is already begging for support and donations from private citizens because they don't have enough money to run the event, how would we pay for more frequent Parkways events?

    I keep thinking of Ciclovia in Bogota -- the inspiration for Portland's Sunday Parkways -- and wondering how on earth Bogota managed to make their event such a huge -- and weekly -- priority when every Parkways event here is, it seem, hanging on by the skin of its teeth.

    I too would love to see Parkways become a WEEKLY event covering many more miles of city streets than it already does. Other than the obvious freeway/infrstraucture differences between PDX and Bogota, what else would it take to make that kind of frequency -- and SUPPORT -- happen?

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  • Hart July 19, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    "what else would it take to make that kind of frequency -- and SUPPORT -- happen?"

    Great question. Maybe an updated logo. Something that is a little less family oriented and a little more modern looking. Maybe present the event as something closer to a civic pride sort of thing as opposed to the novelty it seems presented as now. Getting kids and families involved is important, but I know a lot of Portland riders who won't go because it is so kid oriented. More could be done to incorporate a bit of the Pedalpalooza vibe that makes this city unique.

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  • MeghanH July 19, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    I was glad to see so many people come out and join the fun. It seemed like everyone was enjoying a little freedom to walk/ride/skate in our public space for once. I can only hope that it inspires more of my East Portland neighbors to use their bikes/feet/skates more often, and make the roads safer for all of us who live there.

    Plus, if nothing else, it showed people who live in the part of the city most often forgotten by the Powers That Be that we matter, too. We deserve amenities like a car-free fun day as much as anyone west of 39th...

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 19, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Beth and others,

    Think for a second about the success and size of World Naked Bike Ride. That happens w little to no budget. Then think about the cost and size of Sunday Parkways.... There's got to be a way to make Parkways less expensive... Perhaps the WNBR organizers and the Parkways organizers should have a summit and share tips and ideas?!

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  • Anonymous July 19, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    I LOVE SUNDAY PARKWAYS!!!

    I'm so very please that it happened in East Portland. Definately needed in East Portland as much- or more- than any other neighborhood.

    If you can conceive- you can believe- then you can achieve. This event, more than anything else allows folks (especially those in east portland- who don't live on going or on clinton) to become exposed to car-free streets.

    Thanks Sunday Parkways staff for all of your hard work. Thanks City Hall for making this a priority. Thanks to the thousands of volunteers for helping to make this a success.

    I really feel like this event plants the seeds of an alternative future into the minds of all.

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  • Esther July 19, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Jonathan, here is what I responded to Gabe A. when he twittered about "Why does Parkways cost so much compared to WNBR?"

    "I don't think the price tag is ridic when u consider the scope of parkways vs wnbr
    5 parkways x 23k participants=115k participants. @ 5 hrs each. @ 15+ parks. Prof sound systems etc. Outreach to THOUSANDS of neighbors. 25+ police man hours vs 2. Recruiting thousands of volunteers.
    amazing ppl make wnbr happen from their own bloo/sweat/tears, but can you name a comparable event to parkways w less $?"

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  • Roger Averbeck July 19, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    East Pdx Sunday Parkways was a great success in my opinion, even if attendence was less compared to past SE & NE events (have not seen the counts yet).

    As a explanation for more cars on the route, this part of the city has a lot of dead end streets, so the local residents had no alternate vehicle route in or out. Hopefully the addition of "bike escorts" (my primary volunteer job for the day) for the car drivers helped to minimize the disruption and keep everyone safe.

    It would be great to extend the timing to 5 pm. To make this happen more volunteers are needed. I worked at the event as a volunteer from 8 am to 3:30 pm, helping with set up and clean up, plus escorting cars, never made it north of Holgate and had only one 20 minute break for lunch at Bloomington Park.

    It was great to see everyone out having fun - thanks to all the local residents who were cooperative, the police for doing traffic control and to all the organizers and volunteers who made it happen.

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  • matthew vilhauer July 19, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    as a first time volunteer (lents park cleanup)for sp i was a bit let down by only doing 15 minutes of work. i was ready to do more. was really dissapointed with the garbage folks left on the ride as well. cleanup involved taking signage down, collecting & stacking tables and chairs. i wasn't the only person randomly picking up trash and it would be great to see more folks doing this. yes i live in vancouver and i wasn't the only 'couverite to show up to help out (good to see you jk). this is what community is all about.

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  • matthew vilhauer July 19, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    esther-well said. you really cannot fairly compare the two events.

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  • Hart July 19, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Yes, the World Naked Bike Ride organizers should definitely share their tips.

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  • Michweek July 19, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    I wish the roads were quite and people were smiling everyday too. That is why I advocate for a car-less city. Then we would have Sunday Parkways, everyday, all day! And it wouldn't cost the city a thang!

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  • Red Five July 19, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    I know there is *something* here I should be protesting.

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  • eric July 19, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    I chuckled at the people putting their bikes onto their cars to go home.

    That makes me wonder: Where did they come from? Where did they go to? Is there a way to complete the loop? Did they drive because they had kids? What can you do to get people to ride to the event?

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  • Daniel F July 19, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    My greatest hope for Sunday Parkways is that they keep happening each year in all major regions of the city so they'll become a normal part of summer that we all expect, look forward to (and even kvetch about, on ocassion) just like Independence Day and Labor Day.

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  • Spiffy July 20, 2010 at 7:22 am

    yes it was odd at first that people drove to the event... a little after 9am cars started parking on my street and people were walking the block over to the event at Bloomington Park...

    but we need all the support we can get to make this event a regular thing...

    and as mentioned in the article this was the closest event for people out in Gresham and Troutdale so I expect that a lot of them drove...

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  • Moses lake,Wa July 20, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    We(five of us) drove from Eastern Washington. :)

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  • Sophia July 20, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    I was shocked to see how many people drove - the parking lot at Lents was full and side streets around the park were packed. All of the cars really crushed the spirit.

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