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Guest Article: Want to spice up Sunday Parkways? Then step up

Posted by on August 19th, 2014 at 9:01 am

Sunday Parkways North Portland 2012-20
Sunday Parkways is great. It could be even better.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Last month we asked the community to share ideas on improving Sunday Parkways. This guest article was written by PBOT Program Manager Linda Ginenthal in response to that post.

Platinum celebration at City Hall-60.jpg
Linda Ginenthal (in 2008).

By Linda Ginenthal

As we gear up for this weekend’s Sunday Parkways (presented by Kaiser Permanente on August 24th) in southeast Portland, I wanted to thank all of you who shared your suggestions for how to make Sunday Parkways even better. I eagerly read all your comments. They were so positive and so creative about where we go next and what makes Sunday Parkways, Sunday Parkways.

What I read is people want more: more miles, more neighborhoods, more for walkers and more for experienced riders, more for the kids, more education and even more hours of Sunday Parkways.

As the program manager for this Portland Bureau of Transportation program, I can share that our PBOT team is delighted that you want to see more of a good thing.

Since 2008, when Sunday Parkways was an experimental single event, Sunday Parkways has expanded into a series of five events and become a Portland institution thanks to the thousands of people who come out and enjoy it and the hundreds of volunteers who make it happen. We even made it into the Lonely Planet Guide for what to do in Portland. How cool is that?


If we could dream even bigger, and I mean really big, we would have Sunday Parkways routes that span the entire city once a month May through September. That’s what Bogota, Colombia does. Every Sunday, 70 miles of streets are opened for biking and walking and running. Needless to say, to do what Bogota does, we would need lots more resources.

In fact, any expansion requires additional resources –volunteers, dollars and community involvement.

Volunteers: We would need hundreds and hundreds more volunteers stepping up to expand. Right now, we do a great job of turning out dedicated and fun-loving volunteers — 300 per event — but we would need to challenge the community to show that they want more by volunteering more. Would you be willing to volunteer (or volunteer more) to see Sunday Parkways in your neighborhood, to add a kids’ loop, to create an early evening event? I would love to hear from you.

Dollars: We are short of cash too. To save money while keeping the streets safe for participants, we have slimmed down the cost of our police presence from $80,000 per year to $50,000. Expanding Sunday Parkways means staffing more intersections. Expansion means more traffic flaggers/police, more volunteer management, more barricades, more mailers and door hangers to notify neighbors and more outreach to local organizations, places of worship and others who are integral to Sunday Parkways.

Sunday Parkways northeast 2014-15
Volunteers from Andando en Bicicleta en
Cully volunteered to staff a free bike repair
booth at the July event.

Right now, the City of Portland pitches in one-third of the costs. Presenting sponsor Kaiser Permanente kicks in $100,000 and other sponsors come in at around $140,000. Vendors pay $38,000. Our smallest pool is individual donations. We have some wonderful and steady donors that support Sunday Parkways (allowable as a tax deduction). Would you be willing to make a significant donation (or donate more) to see Sunday Parkways grow and diversify across the city?

I also heard people asking for more educational events. Education and other activities are always welcomed at Sunday Parkways. Our partners do lots of education and messaging already – maybe we need to communicate about it more. We have had big trucks on the route that folks could climb in to see just what a driver can see from their vantage point. We have had TriMet there with their bike racks so folks could practice using it. And just last month we had Hacienda ABC (Andando en Bicicleta en Cully or Bicycle Riding in Cully) holding a bike fair at Rigler School with all manner of education classes and rides including how to ride for kids and adults in Spanish and English. Yes, we need more and more promotion about these things.

People come to Sunday Parkways to experience the world they want to live in. What I would say here is that you don’t have to wait for the Sunday Parkways PBOT team to do some educational effort. Talk with your community group, your church, mosque, synagogue, your bike club and do it! We can probably make the space for you in the parks. Let’s work together to educate and activate Sunday Parkways.

As for the marketplaces, I loved the comment: “Fair’s not on the main route. Though the root beer floats were awesome, and frankly, I would have missed it if it wasn’t on the route.” Doesn’t that just say it all? People love the food, the activities in and along the parks, the give-aways, connecting with community groups, and checking out the vendors – and they want to ride too. We try to strike a nice balance with bustling (and economically successful) marketplaces for our local vendors, sponsors and community groups while also ensuring that participants can move along the route. Sometimes that means people have to walk their bikes at peak times during the day. CicLAvia (Sunday Parkways in Los Angeles) have whole “Walk Your Bike” zones. I don’t think that works for Portland. Maybe this just means more root beer floats (take note vendors and sponsors).

Lastly, I agree linking a movie night with Sunday Parkways would be great fun: Pee-wee’s Big Adventure!!! What about The Triplets of Belleville or The Bicycle Thief? Or it doesn’t have to even be a bikey movie. People who bike do watch Raiders of the Lost Ark.

So thank you, thank you, thank you for supporting Sunday Parkways with your participation, your volunteer hours, your donations and your ideas. Keep your ideas and participation coming. See you on Aug. 24th.

Contact PBOT about Sunday Parkways via Facebook, or contact Linda Ginenthal directly via email at linda.ginenthal@portlandoregon.gov.


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Comments
  • 9watts August 19, 2014 at 9:13 am

    I’m curious if you could say two words, Linda, about how the costs are handled or slimmed down in places like Bogota? I can’t imagine our cost model scaled up to what they do. The impression I get is that there are other, less expensive, models out there. Thanks for your great work on Sunday Parkways, and everything else!

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  • Linda Ginenthal August 19, 2014 at 9:44 am

    Since Bogota closes streets every Sunday, the notification to neighbors is minimal at this point. They also don’t need as many “volunteers” (they pay their “Intersection Superheroes”) along the route as people already know not to drive along the routes.
    Participants use the traffic signals to cross major intersections with minimal guidance from traffic flaggers and some police. That said, their capital costs are higher – they have Ciclovia Recreativa metal signs and a large stock of traffic barriers (bollards, barricades, etc) that they have to deploy every weekend. This means more storage, trucks, drivers, etc. They have radios, uniforms, a command center and a hierarchy for managing staff. With 70 miles of streets, you do get the economy of scale for just about everything though. Lots to learn from our Latin American neighbors to the south….

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  • kiel johnson August 19, 2014 at 10:26 am

    Thanks for contributing, Linda. I’d love to help out with some volunteer recruitment. Next year if you give me some materials I could set up a table at the bike valet in april and recruit our health conscious and most of the time sundays off users.

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  • Ted Buehler August 19, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Linda — you wrote:
    “In fact, any expansion requires additional resources –volunteers, dollars and community involvement.”

    How about adding the “administrative changes” category in the search for opportunities to help the event expand?

    Since Bogota’s events requires less administrative overhead per event than Portland’s, we can also seek ways to make our events administered more like Bogota’s as it grows. This would not require additional resources.

    For instance:

    - are any city employees paid overtime for the event? Could their schedules be reconfigured so this was part of their normal duty?

    - if Sunday Parkways are considered a permanent fixture in the City of Portland’s programming, could the costs for police participation and other non-PBOT staff be covered by their own bureau’s budgets. Traffic management at parkways cross streets isn’t all that different from activities like arresting criminals and stopping speeding drivers.

    - possible cuts in staffing as the event matures — I still see police officers riding motorcycles (Buzzing past wobbly children on their bicycles, in fact). This might have been helpful in ’08 and ’09 when motorists were less familiar with street closures, but as a intersection volunteer I’ve noted that we’ve had very little trouble in the last couple years. As we scale up to the Bogota level, can we start to reduce the police presence on the route?

    - scale up the street closures. You could simply ban parking on sections of the some sections of popular routes. Ban parking the night before and barricade the cross streets at intersections. This would reduce the need for intersection volunteers. Start with a 1-mile pilot section in a neighborhood that has had firm support from the neighborhood association, and see how it goes. (It would also provide more space for walkers).

    - neighborhood-level mini-Sunday Parkways. My neighborhood (Boise) was included in the 2008 parkways, but hasn’t been included since. If PBOT provided an option for a neighborhood-level mini Parkways, some of the funding and volunteer recruitment could be done at the neighborhood level.

    The mini parkways could coincide with other family-oriented events, like festivals, movie nights, picnics or other stuff where kids gather. For instance, if a neighborhood is having an annual party/picnic, or an elementary school, they could close a 1 mile section between a park and a school have a scaled-up block party/scaled-down Sunday Parkways. Or park re-openings. Dawson Park was recently reopened after a reconstruction, there could be a neighborhood-level Sunday Parkways as part of the grand reopening event — make a little route of Dawson, Unthank, and Overlook parks, reach out to kids through the Safe Routes to Schools teachers at elementary schools, and get the whole neighborhood out on bikes.

    (Mini-parkways would also make the Sunday Parkways experience more available to all kids in the city — with only 5 events each year, and spread across 5 quadrants, if your family is out of town on the one day its in your quadrant your kids might miss the whole Parkways season).

    Just some thoughts.

    Ted Buehler
    Regular Intersection Superhero

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    • Terry D August 19, 2014 at 2:13 pm

      Excellent ideas.

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    • Linda Ginenthal August 19, 2014 at 6:18 pm

      So many good ideas here. Thanks Ted.
      Right now City General Fund pays for all Police and Traffic Engineering and barricades and some of Parks expenses too. PBOT staff overtime is minimal. Most of our work is done before the events (so it all goes smoothly).

      I like that at a moments notice, we have officers on hand to handle unsafe conditions. Our officers do a great job handling the errant driver. And as you probably know, contracting work on Sunday can be expensive. Our police costs per hour are less than some of our contract traffic flaggers; go figure.

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  • Linda Ginenthal August 19, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Awesome! I’ll connect you with Phil Barber, our volunteer recruiter extraordinaire with Axiom Event Productions. Thanks.

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  • Mark August 19, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    Linda is a pretty spectacular public servant and Portland is fortunate to have her.

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  • Linda Ginenthal August 19, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    Blush. We have a spectacular core team over here in PBOT: Rich Cassidy is the Event Designer and Logistics Manager, Alexis Gabriel is the Communications and Community Outreach staffer and our Volunteer Managers Neal Armstrong and Phil Barber. Danielle Booth does our mapping, and Diane Dulken does our media work. They make it look easy.

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  • Linda Ginenthal August 19, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    Here’s the link to volunteer: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/51516

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  • Kirk August 19, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    I absolutely love Sunday Parkways, it’s such a delight and my partner and I often plan summer weekends around the event dates. To ensure it has a bright future I have donated a number of times and volunteered a bit (which I plan to do more of in the future). Thank you, Linda, for helping manage all that goes into it.

    For me it is a chance to get off of my bike and experience the featured roads via different human powered modes since I already ride my bike many of the other 364 days that don’t “open” up particular segments of (mostly) neighborhood greenways to all humans.

    I understand that the event showcases our partially complete network of neighborhood greenways so that some more people will hopefully try biking on our roads soon after the event (hopefully none will be ambitious enough to try biking on Clinton Street within 2 weeks following this upcoming Sunday Parkways: http://bit.ly/1pbksvG).

    However, I also feel that an important piece is missing from this puzzle: opening up some of our vibrant or potentially vibrant business corridors to all humans for 5 hours a year. I’m not suggesting to expand the program given our funding issues (even though it’d be awesome), but to just mix up the routes now and then and have the route sometimes venture onto a main street where we can expose many of the business owners to bikes and other human powered modes (and the $$$ that comes with them). I personally believe that’d do more to help advance the 2030 Bike Plan than any other form of community outreach EVER could.

    For example: I saw many comments in the previous Sunday Parkways thread about how people had to wait in long lines to get food as there were only a handful of vendors available and how these vendor areas cause traffic jams along the route. When I read stuff like that, I can only imagine how this demand could be supplied by existing businesses along the really wide main roads. Not only would people have numerous choices of where to spend their money, but the businesses would already be setup to handle large volumes of customers, and if there are any lines they wouldn’t cause bike traffic jams where everyone in the area has to walk to get through the route.

    Once again, I want to express my gratitude to Linda for managing such a fun event, but I’d love to see it get even better by exposing people to businesses and businesses to new customers along more of our major streets. That’s one of the things that wasn’t included in Linda’s list of what she reads people want more of, but I’d like to put in my request for more of that here :)

    PS – I’d also like to request that we do a ‘Sunset Parkways’ where we delay the start of one of the routes to around 3pm and end around 8 or 9pm. Sometimes the best time to ride your bike is when the sun is about to go down and not during the extreme heat of the day. Just food for thought.

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    • Linda Ginenthal August 19, 2014 at 6:42 pm

      My Axiom colleagues and I went down to Los Angeles to the Open Streets Summit and to experience the “Miracle Mile” by bike. It was exhilerating. Most places in the US are doing Open Streets/Sunday Parkway events on major streets as a way to raise the visibility of cycling (this is a critical goal for Los Angeles). The businesses on the route cleaned up. I mean they made lots of money. Again, this is one of those really great ideas that would require lots of resources and support from the business community.

      And I like the idea of calling an evening Sunday Parkways “Sunset Sunday Parkways”. Thanks.

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      • Kirk August 20, 2014 at 9:13 am

        Thank you for hearing what I (and likely many others) would like to see more of. Honestly, it is extremely refreshing to get confirmation from people at PBOT, such as yourself, that you are reading the comments on BikePortland stories that are relevant to your job. Even if the changes can’t be implemented right away, to know that you also share an interest in improving a great thing and are actively looking for inexpensive ways to do so says a lot. I certainly wish this was the case more of the time.

        With that said, and admitting that I do not know the relative scale of traffic control associated with neighborhood greenways compared to major streets, I wonder if people would be willing to have the route downsized by a mile or two in order to focus those resources on opening up a half-mile or mile long stretch of a business corridor. Or, maybe if the businesses were in support of the idea, they’d also be able to assist with the costs since they are proven to ‘clean up’ at similar events in other cities? Then the route wouldn’t have to be downsized…just brainstorming at this point. Long story short: I sure hope to see some of Sunday Parkways on major streets in the near future!

        And for the idea of ‘Sunset Sunday Parkways’, I’ll give that one to you for free ;) … just to be able to have the opportunity to end the day with the vibe of Sunday Parkways during our gorgeous Portland summer evening weather would make me a very happy person, a priceless feeling that can only happen when the streets are opened up for everyone – rich or poor. Many thanks Linda!

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  • Jason August 19, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    I volunteered once and I won’t again. There were far, far more volunteers than were actually needed and I felt like I was just standing around wasting my time.

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    • Brian August 19, 2014 at 2:15 pm

      The NWTA always needs help with the skills course. They are always in need of volunteers.

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    • mh August 19, 2014 at 7:39 pm

      They are ALWAYS short “mobile superheroes” (the rovers that ride the course and intercept trouble, help the volunteers responsible for intersections, etc.). The last couple of years, SE really needed more.

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    • Paul Wilkins August 20, 2014 at 11:51 am

      I volunteer multiple times per year and there are never enough volunteers.

      I will be coordinating Superheroes at Ivon Park. SIgn up for there on Sunday and we’ll put you to good use, I promise!

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    • Middle of the road guy August 20, 2014 at 1:29 pm

      That’s interesting. I have been volunteering for 5 years and it has been a very rare event where there were enough intersection superheroes. More often than not, it is a challenge to staff every intersection.

      I’d suggest that your single experience is not an accurate portrayal of the norm.

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  • Dwaine Dibbly August 19, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    Great job, Linda. Mrs Dibbly & I really love Sunday parkways.

    Since the Police are such a big expense, is there any way to reduce that further? What if some of the smaller intersections were unattended? Would that really be so bad? With all of the bikes, won’t motorists get the idea pretty quickly that they do NOT want to go this way?

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    • Linda Ginenthal August 19, 2014 at 6:31 pm

      Police are a bargain for Sunday Parkways at less than 11% of the budget. The safety they afford us (and the peace of mind) are well worth it. When the routes are packed with participants, folks who need/want to drive on the route are usually pretty patient. It is those times when the routes are just starting for the day or it is a rainy day (not this one coming up!) drivers can get on the route pretty easily and can zoom.

      We experimented last year with reducing police officers and adding our Maintenance Operations traffic flaggers. The flaggers did an outstanding job. We now have them at about half of all intersections where motorists can cross the route.

      We are always learning and thinking about ways to cut costs, increase the fun and safety, streamline operations and include all Portlanders. Thanks for adding your ideas here.

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    • Middle of the road guy August 20, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      No, the motorists move the barriers and drive on the route anyway.

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  • gutterbunnybikes August 19, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    Just curious, but I’ve noticed the last few years that there are always a few companies pushing products (samples – usually some sort of power bar) on the route outside of the vendor areas. Are these sanctioned/paid vendors? If not is there some way to enforce some sort of payment/fine upon them.

    Now I don’t mind the lemon aid stands and garage sales, or even the local churches doing bake sale type stuff. Can’t really stop them anyway. but some of them seem pretty well organized with a crew all in a matching corporate T’s and such.

    I ask because (jeez has it been that long ago) 20 years ago I owned a couple ice cream trucks, and despite my best efforts, was never able to land a permit for selling on the Rose Festival Parade routes. And even when not on the route the police nicely asked me stay at least 5 blocks from the route.

    It might not be a lot of extra cash, but every little helps. And they should at least be paying for a tent space in the vendor areas if they are trying to promote their products. Doesn’t seem right since others are paying for the privilege to do so.

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    • Linda Ginenthal August 20, 2014 at 11:28 am

      With a few exceptions (which we happen upon on the day of the events) all the folks who are stationed at the Marketplaces and along the routes have a “permit” to be there either as a vendor, sponsor or community group. Folks do things like garage sales and lemonade stands and such outside of this which is certainly fine. We also have folks with petitions and voter registration that will often times work with us to gather their volunteers. For food and other sales, we let them know that they need to work with us and comply with health requirements. We don’t want our participants getting sick from eating and drinking at Sunday Parkways. :)

      For next year or even the SW event, if we have vendor space, we can work with you if you want to participate.

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      • gutterbunnybikes August 22, 2014 at 8:16 am

        Thanks for the offer, however I sold the company years ago. It was a fun (once you learned to ignore the music and Cheech and Chong jokes) summer job while I was in college.

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  • Paul Wilkins August 20, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    Thanks, Linda for this post! I love it and I love Sunday Parkways!

    The mini-Parkways idea strikes a chord with me – wonder if we could arrange something along MLK/Grand from Lombard to the viaduct? How cool would that be? How about a slip-lane for racers or a 2-hr criterion (like 8 – 10) prior to the open parkway?

    Potential sponsors: Hello Nike? Deek and Brian? River City?

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  • LindsayEUG August 21, 2014 at 9:37 am

    Linda, as always, EXCELLENT WORK! Loved reading this and have sent it to all my staff down here in Eugene. We often get the same sentiment of “we want more”! Exciting, but like you guys…not possible without more help.

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