Carfree Days will celebrate streets this weekend

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 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.”

Has Last Thursday outgrown the sidewalk?

[Last Thursday on NE Alberta St.]

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.”

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16 years ago

SW Ankeny between 2nd and 3rd Avenues?
Why not just close a parking lot and claim “car free day” while we’re at it. To make this exciting I’ll claim it for my driveway as well. yawn!

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
16 years ago

Dang pdxrocket, lighten up man ;-). Sure it’s not a huge area, but this is a good start and it will hopefully lead to more closures (both temporary and permanent) in the future.

Hope to see you there.

16 years ago

Yep, closing a bigger street would have been more dramatic and probably more fun. It also would have taken about five times the time and energy that we had this time around. Next year we want to do something much larger, and we’ll need lots of co-coordinators and volunteer power.

Check out our listserv (search for “portlandcarfreeday” at for ways to get involved and have a say next year. In the meantime, come dance in the street this Friday night…

By the way… closing a parking lot probably would be a lot more difficult than this. They kind of thrive on car traffic…

josh m
josh m
16 years ago

Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t the point of this to emulate certain car/ped only avenues as in europe?

Therefore, Ankeny between 2nd and 3rd ave is a good start.
It’s a narrow one way street that usually is only parking for the local clubs/bars in the area. It’s not a really viable bypass for anything when you can just cross burnside and circle back around.

It’s just one of the many streets in downtown that could be made bike/ped only.
There are already some in the old town that they just made?

pdxrocket, let me know when you close off your driveway, i’ll be there.

16 years ago

The city should be doing more to facilitate Car Free Day and car free streets in general. The bar is set really high for CFD activists to get any street closed, even for a day, even on a Sunday – 100% of the property owners on the street need to agree, and if it’s on a bus route, so does TriMet. I don’t think pdxrocket appreciates the work that goes into making one of these events happen.

16 years ago

right, we need a pedestrian friendly plaza from the river to the park blocks(at least). I will be there with the chess board ready…

16 years ago

For immediate release:

Bike advocates challenge officials to donut eating contest at Car-Free Day

Volunteers promoting bicycling for transportation, health, and fun have challenged city officials and others to the First Annual BonB Donut Eating Invitational. The contest takes place 6:00 pm Friday, Sep. 22 at the Car-Free Celebration SW Ankeny St. between 2 nd and 3rd Avenues. This block of Ankeny will be closed to motorized traffic from Friday evening through Sunday.

“BonB” is an abbreviation for Breakfast on the Bridges, a monthly event hosted by Shift, a local bike culture organization. Volunteers serve coffee and pastries to cyclists crossing the Hawthorne and Broadway Bridges on the last Friday of the month. The event is free, thanks to donations from local coffee roasters, bakeries, and others.

organic brian
organic brian
16 years ago


3P – Ask Irene (acoustic)
5P – Eclectic Bastards
6P – Underscore Orkestra
7P – Johnny Punchclock
8P – 20 Foot Man

Also, Last Regiment of Syncopated Drummers would like to drop by briefly, after returning from an out of town show if they’re not too tired. Therefore, they’re not on the schedule but if they perform it will be a nice added surprise. March Fourth Marching Band actually might have played, but two of the band are to get married on Sat. Nearly all of the groups I’d contacted were willing to play at the event, but most of them had a conflict for Saturday. The town loves PCFD!

16 years ago

TODAY: Carfree Day begins! Come on down any time and do your thing. At 5pm get some fizzy drinks and community, at 6pm represent for your favorite donut team! At 8pm, the dance party takes over. And that’s only the beginning of your night.

Tomorrow (Saturday) stumble down for coffee and a free bike tune-up after 11am…stick around till evening for the acts Brian listed above.

Sunday is your chance to drink tea and watch movies on a comfy couch with new friends.

See you all there —

el timito
16 years ago

for immediate release:

Portland’s own Trash Mountain Boys to play Car Free Day on Saturday, Sep. 23rd.

Per custom, the Boys will show up uninvited for an acoustic busking show at or about 2:00 pm.

The group, known for its small fame and dubious notoriety, has been referred to as “the most self-deprecating band in the business”.

The TMB set will feature their song, written for the 2004 Car Free Day, “CarFree/CareFree.” Other hits include the encyclopedic and pandering “My Bikey Town,” the wistful and lurid “Road Pizza,” and the crowd-pleasing “Bunny on a Bike.”

Donations to the Boys’ “Help Stamp Out Sobriety NOW!” Campaign will be accepted. (Note: suggestions for more and longer set breaks will be most effective if accompanied by donations to the Campaign.)

Potential groupies may preview the set at the band’s website: (click on the trash, then choose the electric version [shout out to Rev Phil on drums] or the “Renn Fayre 2006 live!” acoustic version with “you can understand the words” recording technology)