(*Editor’s note, 4/29): My initial report got some facts wrong. I have tried to clean things up and I’ve added in more details. I regret the errors.
File photo: 7/27/06
I wasn’t there, but I just read the news on the Oregonian Blog that things got a little out of hand at Last Thursday on Alberta last night.
From the reports (which were confusing, so I apologize if my facts are not 100% correct), about 200 people had gathered at NE 24th and Alberta Street and were dancing in the streets at about 11:00 pm. When the cops showed up to check things out, they got sidetracked by a drunk fight at NE 18th. From here the details are sketchy, but they involve a handgun, a taser, allegedly thrown bottles at cops, and so on…
All that is sad, because now I’m sure Last Thursday will get much less fun. But it’s this part of the story grabbed my attention,
“Some (people) tried to take over the street and jumped on cars, raising tensions with motorists and others in the area.”
I realize cars on the street were not solely to blame for this incident, but it reminded me of the effort begun last year to make Alberta Street carfree during Last Thursday.
I highlighted the issue last September and have heard since that the idea was brought to the Art on Alberta Organization. The last update was that a group of PSU students was tackling the plan as part of a class project but I have not heard much since last fall (*see update below).
With increasing numbers of people attending the event and a very limited amount of sidewalk space, it is inevitable that conflicts between motorized vehicles and people will continue.
In a city with thousands of miles of streets, is it totally unreasonable to consider asking cars to avoid one street (not just an alleyway), for a few hours, for one night a month?
Next summer Portland will host Towards Carfree Cities, an international conference on building more people-friendly cities. Wouldn’t it be great if we had an example to share with the world, right in our own backyard?
UPDATE: According to archives of the Portland Carfree email list, the effort to close part of Alberta Street is being taken on by students from PSU’s Urban Studies department. Art on Alberta President Joe Blanchette has agreed to go forward with the “Alberta Street Safety Project” and is working with community representatives toward a carfree test-run at the upcoming Alberta Art Hop (5/19).
UPDATE: KATU has more details and great video coverage.