This Friday through Sunday, Portlanders will get a taste of Europe when a small section of downtown will be closed to cars. The occassion is the Portland Carfree Days, organized by an emerging group of advocates, who are working with local businesses and non-profit groups to promote alternatives to motorized vehicles in the city and to reclaim public space for people.
The event will “celebrate the street” with music, kids activities, outdoor movies, free bike repairs (Saturday), and more. For all the details on the event, check out the new Portland Carfree Day website.
To get the lowdown on this event and other carfree plans in the works, I interviewed organizer (and BikePortland.org contributor) Elly Blue:
What is your goal in having this event?
“We’re hoping this event will show Portland that this street would be a much better street without car traffic on it.”
So why did you pick this location (SW Ankeny)?
“It first came to mind when I read an article in the paper that several of the business owners wanted to make this area into a European-style public plaza. They’ve been wanting this to happen for years, but were just lacking the political will and organizational power to make it happen.”
What is the status of the rumor that this location will become permanently carfree?
“There’s nothing official on the table yet. At this point, we’ve just been focusing on this event…once it’s over we can look into what it might take to make that happen.”
Do you hate cars or something?
“No. We’re not anti-car, we’re pro-people. We think cars are…how do I say this…we think downtown is best experienced by foot and by bicycle and by transit. There are plenty of times when you need cars but we want people to realize they have choices and that they’ll have a better experience of the city outside their car.”
It seems like this new carfree group has a lot of energy, I noticed you guys converted some parking spaces into a living room during Last Thursday on Alberta. What’s the lastest on making that event carfree?
“We’ve been working with Sam Adams’ office to figure out solutions to conflicts between pedestrians spilling off the sidewalk during Last Thursday. There’s a meeting tomorrow between the neighborhood, the police department, TriMet, PDOT traffic engineers and others. PDOT is very interested in using Last Thursday to figure out a new paradigm on how to deal with big community events and street closures…it’s very exciting.”
Thanks and congratulations Elly on your exciting work.
Don’t miss Portland Carfree Days starting this Friday through Sunday (9/22-24) at SW Ankeny and SW 2nd Ave. downtown (just off Burnside). It’s free so stop by and as the flyer says, “do your thing.”