Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Cops, clowns, and crowds at Last Thursday

Posted by on July 31st, 2007 at 12:29 pm

Alberta Last Thursday - July 07

Crowds gathered one last time at the
Alberta St. Clown House on NE 25th Ave.
(File photo)

This month’s Last Thursday on Alberta was notable for several reasons: the clowns, the cops, and the crowds.

First and foremost, it was the last month in a long run of action at the Alberta Street Clown House (they’re moving soon). By the time I left (just before sunset), the yard was already filling up and judging from these naked bike jousting photos on Dingo’s blog, it looks like they had a fitting send-off.

It was good to hear the Clown House t-shirts sold out. The design is by local Zoobomber/Sprockette/tall-bike jouster/musician/crafter Justa Phillips and they read, “The reign of the Alberta Street Clown House.”

The Clowns may be moving on, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of them. Here’s a shot of Dingo riding down the street in his familiar costume and his favorite tall-bike.

Dingo the Clown rides down NE Alberta Street.
(File photo)

Unfortunately, we also haven’t seen the last of the increased police presence at the event. Portland cops were out in force patrolling the streets and making sure the hordes of people remained (squished together like sardines) on the sidewalk.

They also ticketed this unlucky tall-bike rider for carrying an “unlawful passenger on a bicycle” (the passenger was on the rear deck).

I appreciate the need for the police to maintain public safety and traffic flow, but their attitudes and tone with many pedestrians and bicyclists seemed counter to the idea of “community policing”.

The big question on many people’s minds was, “Why isn’t this street closed to cars yet?!”. I overheard that refrain several times as I mixed with the crowds.

On that note, I noticed this parade which seemed to be advocating for a street closure:

Another photo of the parade is here.
(File photo)

I later heard that the Police asked the marchers to disperse.

So when will Alberta Street be closed for Last Thursday? Does anyone have an update? I hope that when it does, the Alberta Neighborhood invites Dingo and the Clowns back for an encore…

(Browse all 32 of my July Last Thursday photos in the gallery.)

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  • steve July 31, 2007 at 12:47 pm

    \’Unlawful passenger\’

    No sh!t?

    How are parents able to use extra cycles to transport kids? For that matter, how can someone ride on the back of a motorcycle?

    I hope that they contest that ticket.

    Thanks for critiquing the fuzz on this one Jonathon. I hope you keep it up!

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  • Robert Dobbs July 31, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    Didn\’t do-nothing Mayor Tom Potter get elected on a \”Community Policing\” platform?

    Somehow I don\’t see another term in his future…

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  • SKiDmark July 31, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    If the person on the back of the tallbike was not resting their feet on something the ticket is valid. There are actually two stays that bow out right below that deck that you can rest your feet on, if you are real short. The law specifies footrests.

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  • Vigilante July 31, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    Footrests for motorcycles or quads, but a bike only has to be \”designed\” or \”safely equipped\” to carry a passenger.

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  • West Cougar July 31, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    Skidmark, you are wrong. Here is the text of the statute:

    (1) A person commits the offense of unlawful passengers on a bicycle if the person operates a bicycle and carries more persons on the bicycle than the number for which it is designed or safely equipped.

    This is a ticky-tack citation meant to harass. Any other place, any other time the rider would be given AT MOST a warning. Though I seriously doubt even that much.

    They should contest it. As the builder and designer of the bike they can assert it is equipped to carry passengers viz a viz the *big freakin\’ platform*.

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  • SKiDmark July 31, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    I must have it mixed up with the laws pertaining to carrying a passenger on a motorcycle.

    Topher built that bike, not the Clowns. As far as I know that deck is meant for a passenger and the stays right below the deck are intended as footrests.

    I am apprehensive about contesting it because it will shine a light on tallbikes and freakbikes, and possibly cause increased harassment where there was very little or no harassment before.

    Obviously it\’s up to the person who got the ticket and they should do what they think is right, no matter what anyone else might think, including me 🙂

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  • SKiDmark July 31, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    And this is happening in the city with the Platinum Cycling City Status.

    As long as your bike fits within the rigid parameters of what is \”normal\”.

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  • a.O July 31, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    \”This is a ticky-tack citation meant to harass.\”


    Are there still people who actually (sincerely) believe that the PPB is interested in community policing generally or with respect to cyclists particularly? Their goal is strictly to show non-conformists and creative types that State power is in control. How many more people like James Chasse do they have to murder before people wake up? How can such a progressive City have such a fascist police force?

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  • marc July 31, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    I was at Last Thursday and there were too many people there to be confined to the sidewalks. I felt like I couldn\’t stop to look at anything and when others did it would create a huge jam and I would find myself getting mad. This and the sight of cops harassing people really killed the vibe of the event.

    Until they close the street to cars, I am done with Last Thursday.

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  • hanmade July 31, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    I was put off by the police last Thursday. It was my first visit to the event, but I would be apprehensive about going again, because the cops looked mean and ready to harass at a drop of a bike. Everyone else seemed very nice. Who invited those guys anyway?

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  • BURR July 31, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    They tend to invite themselves.

    I\’ll second giving Mayor Potter the heave-ho if he runs for reelection. He has clearly not lived up to his billing as \’bike-friendly\’; and, judging by the antics he, as police commissioner, has allowed the police to get away with vis-a-vis cyclists over the last two years, he really isn\’t interested very much in bicycle commuting, let alone creativity, fun or free expression.

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  • jeff July 31, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    Last Thursdays were so much more fun a couple years ago…

    I stopped going this year because the crowds are out of control and obviously don\’t fit on the sidewalk. The street should be closed, it will benefit everyone. I\’d be happy to help in that effort.

    I\’m no fan of the police presence, but the with all the booze flowing some of the public drunkeness really brings out the a__hole in people.

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  • Minda July 31, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    Closing the streets to cars is a no-brainer. Why not, when peds obviously outnumber cars? First off, people should stop driving down Alberta Street on Last Thursday! Second, what do we need to do to make this happen? It\’s apparently been an ongoing issue (I\’m relatively new to Portland) but it seems like a massive petition to the right people could do the trick (Commissioner Sam Adams?).

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  • Todd B July 31, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    I asked some of the clowns (working the cash register) and they said they would still be around for one more Last Thursday in August.

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  • Carl July 31, 2007 at 3:45 pm

    Here\’s some fun discussion of last Last Thursday and that bogus ticket:

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  • Waffle King of America July 31, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    I\’ve never heard of any official action to close down the street for pedestrians and bike. Can we start a petition on this site? Good God do they need to shut down the street. I agree with people that said they are tired of last thursday due to the crowded sidewalks. Let\’s do something like we/you did with the bike master plan funding. We should be allowed to have some fun on last thursdays. Jonathan Maus for Mayor!

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  • Grant July 31, 2007 at 4:23 pm

    How to obtain a street closure permit \”to provide for special events such as neighborhood street fairs and community events that draw in participants from more than a few block radius.

    Contact: Street Systems Management
    Phone: 503-823-7073


    It took me about 5 seconds to find this on the City\’s web site, so I am assuming that there is a reason why no one has gotten one for LT. Maybe because it is recurring, I don\’t know…

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  • pushkin July 31, 2007 at 4:57 pm

    Where will the buses go? People in wheelchairs use them.

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  • Andy July 31, 2007 at 5:14 pm

    Am I mistaken, or is it just a question of someone filling out the form for a neighborhood party to close down the street? Or is Alberta too big/long to go about closing it that way?

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  • Waffle King of America July 31, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    The buses can go up and down Going, it\’s a through street. They setup temporary stops all the time. All of the downtown bus mall stops are temporary and people deal with it. The bus stops are no reason to scrap the whole idea. It just needs to be adjusted appropriately. We\’re talking about 4 hours a month.

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  • Antonio Gramsci July 31, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    I was there, and it was an obscenity. I estimate the volume of people being served (barely, at level of service \”F\” or below) by the sidewalk at ten times the volume being served by the street which officers believed it their solemn duty to keep pedestrian-free. The police behavior came off as authoritarian hazing ritual pure and simple.

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  • BURR July 31, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    motor vehicle access and movement is apparently sacrosanct to the cops in this town, most of whom are die-hard motorists themselves and live outside the city in the suburbs.

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  • Kronda July 31, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    Trimet has already voluntarily re-routed for Last Thursday in the past. Doesn\’t seem like that big of an obstacle.

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  • Antonio Gramsci July 31, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    By the way, for people who say \”just apply for a permit,\” it may not be so simple. I know that for some streets it\’s virtually an impossibility. SE Division comes to mind, for example. I was once in a group that tried to organize an event involving temporary street closure there, and it requires multiple permits from state and local officials. It all depends on a hodgepodge of legal classifications regarding the status of the particular street in question.

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  • Minda July 31, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    Ok, so rather than having twenty people applying for the same permit, is there a leader-type who wants to take this on? I\’ll do it if no one else wants to, but I\’m hardly the best qualified since I don\’t regularly attend Last Thursday or have a personal history with the event. (I\’m just tired of hearing people complain about this, and I don\’t want the situation to escalate to the point where someone gets hit by a car or assaulted by the police.) But I\’m happy to do the research. Just say the word. It wouldn\’t be the first time I\’ve contacted the city regarding transportation-related problems.

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  • dr. monkey July 31, 2007 at 6:39 pm

    Is there a lawyer that reads this site and knows about the legal process to help this along? I think I believe Antonio (comment 25) when he says it\’s a bit more complex for certain streets. I appreciate everyone that\’s been offering constructive advice. This is a good way to get positive things done.

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  • Becky July 31, 2007 at 6:39 pm

    Fewer drunken yahoos would make Last Thursday a lot more pleasant.

    I\’m guessing most of the jerks drive to Alberta St.(including the yelling dude who bumped my neighbor\’s motorcycle with his car as he was leaving.) considering how clogged the streets have gotten recently.

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  • Antonio Gramsci July 31, 2007 at 6:45 pm

    If it\’s too complicated to get a formal street closure permit for an ongoing event for a big street like Alberta, then another approach would be to see if there is an ordinance that would allow pedestrians to legally walk in the right most lane of the street when the sidewalk is too congested for reasonable movement. If such an ordinance doesn\’t exist, then maybe it\’s time to lobby for one.

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  • Dabby July 31, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    Another classic example of people being pissed off about a ticket that is thoroughly justified, and legitimate.

    I have seen that girl riding \”Side Saddle\” on that same \”platform\”, which is in no way a seat. I thought it was a stupid thing to be doing in traffic.

    To make it legal, why not just mount an actual seat on the platform.
    As is, it is no more than a cargo bike.

    By the way, some of the usage of the \”bakefits\” (I kinda hate those bikes!) is not legal either, in regards to passengers) unless it has seats and belts for a child, or even for an adult, it is just like riding on the handlebars.

    Pay the damn ticket, and save the bitching for something legitimate!

    And good luck getting the city, and Tri Met, and the Alberta business assoc. to agree on terms for a street closure. Especially once a month.

    Too many bull headed people means it will never happen. Sorry to be the one to point this out.

    By the way, I did see a Tri Met bus going the wrong way down Sandy, over the 205 overpass today. It went the wrong way down the road,( I mean in the opposite traffic lane) full of passengers, for no less than 5 blocks. Total idiocy, the driver should be fired, sadly, I did not get the bus number.

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  • BURR July 31, 2007 at 8:21 pm

    Dabby, you\’re such a killjoy! 😉

    If it\’s a problem, the city should just pass a new ordinance that makes it easy.

    Oh wait, city hall isn\’t listening…

    Time to vote Potter out!

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  • Antonio Gramsci July 31, 2007 at 8:35 pm

    I actually think that passing an ordinance allowing pedestrians to use the street when the sidewalk does not afford them resaonable mobility would be a much greater accomplishment, which would address not just the problem of Alberta Street on Last Thursdays, but a much broader range of cases. And it is only simple justice and logic that pedestrians should be able to use the street when their mobility requires it. Afterall, pedestrians are not required to hire a motor vehicle to legally cross the street. So why should they have to do so when the sidewalk cannot accommodate their numbers? Streets should be for the mobility of people, period, not just people who have the means to purchase a private motor vehicle.

    Naturally, when people have to walk in the street because the sidewalks are too crowded, then motorists too will have to slow way down. In that case, the responsibility of cops should be harassing motorists who drive too fast, instead of pedestrians who stray from the sidewalk.

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  • rixtir July 31, 2007 at 9:22 pm

    Maybe you should run for office on that platform.

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  • Dabby July 31, 2007 at 10:49 pm


    There is already an ordinance that covers that same subject. Although the wording is a little more negative, since it describes a crime.
    I believe if you researched it, you would find that it is called \”J Walking\”.
    In no way will the city put themselves in the position of inviting people to wander randomly off the sidewalks into the street.

    This constitutes a huge liability, and will only be allowed through a permit process, which would require the signing off of all the businesses along NE Alberta, plus all affected residents, and Tri Met, which loves \”our\” all mighty dollar too much (mainly cause they can\’t stop spending it).

    Don\’t get me wrong, I would love to see this happen.

    But, I would also love to see a unicorn….. I guess I will just have to watch the director\’s cut of \”Legend\” over and over again……

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  • Grant July 31, 2007 at 11:00 pm

    When they held the Mississippi Street Fair a few weeks ago, the 4 line was re-routed to run on Albina for the 10 blocks or so that encompassed the fair. Cars were also diverted, so it is clearly possible. I didn\’t go to the Division Street Fair last weekend, but I imagine the situation was similar. I wonder if there is some superceding issue, such as the recurring nature of Last Thursday, that prevents the permit from being issued each month? I can\’t believe that no one who sponsors the event hasn\’t tried to close the street. Are there any business owners on Alberta reading this who have insight on the issue? I think Trimet\’s low-floor bus fleet could accommodate ADA issues, even on a street not constructed for bus service. In any event, City policy could certainly be tweaked to allow for Last Thursday to be car-free, which it really should be. Anyone from Adams\’ staff out there have any suggestions?

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  • Dabby August 1, 2007 at 12:00 am

    I hope you people realize that this is not a new idea and has been tried. Unsuccessfully. Here on Alberta. Of all places.

    Where is Carl to help us out here?
    He is Mr. Car Free…

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  • Bobby August 1, 2007 at 8:53 am

    Dabby, I must agree with Burr, you are being a killjoy. Lot\’s of postive changes have been made after many unsuccessful attempts. In fact the majority of changes in public policy are often difficult but they do happen. Anyone else with some good constructive ideas?

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  • Mikey August 1, 2007 at 9:11 am

    Dabby, (and others, just FYI):

    \”Jay-walking\” is not a legally defined term in Oregon law. It does not mean crossing a street midblock. The Oregon
    Vehicle Code states that it is illegal for pedestrians to:

    –Cross a street against a traffic signal;
    –Cross the street outside of a crosswalk without yielding
    to automobile traffic;
    –Cross the street outside of a crosswalk at an intersection; and
    –Proceed in a crosswalk in a manner that causes an immediate
    hazard to an approaching motor vehicle.

    The right of way laws are:
    –At crosswalks, marked or unmarked, drivers stop and
    yield to pedestrians (ORS 811.015, 017, 020 & 028).
    –At other locations, crossing is allowed, but pedestrians
    yield to vehicles (ORS 814.040).

    PERSONALLY, I think Last Fridays are no fun anymore, now that all the Pearl District-ites have found it to be the \’new thing\’ to drive their Hummers to. .. juuuust kiddding…(?)

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  • Todd B August 1, 2007 at 10:21 am

    If the street closure option does not pan out…how about just apply for no parking on Alberta during the event and then place the vendors (and cafe tables ala Mountain View CA) in the parking lane – except at bus stops?

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  • Matt Picio August 1, 2007 at 10:34 am

    \”How can such a progressive City have such a fascist police force?\”

    Leadership starts at the top. Oh, wait, that would be Mayor Potter.

    Didn\’t *he* used to be a cop. My, how politically incorrect of me.

    I don\’t envy the cops – they\’re in a bad position, trying to do their jobs, short on staff, and hated by everyone. Then again, they\’re called to a higher standard, and if they can\’t meet it, then they either need to negotiate a new social contract with the community, or quit.

    I respect them, but respect is no excuse for abuse, and there have been plenty of documented cases of police abuse in Portland.

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  • Chris Sullivan August 1, 2007 at 10:37 am

    Another option might be for peds to make extensive and slow use of the crosswalks thereby bringing motor traffic to a standstill. Make a permanent river of people crossing the intersections. That might be a perfectly legal method of gumming up traffic enough for the city to step in a do something about the problem.

    I really couldn\’t enjoy my time there last week b/c of the tight crowds and especially b/c of the police yelling constantly at people to stay on the sidewalks. It was ugly.

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  • BURR August 1, 2007 at 10:47 am

    \”I respect them, but respect is no excuse for abuse, and there have been plenty of documented cases of police abuse in Portland.\”

    Respect is earned, and the police have not yet earned the respect of the \’bicycle community\’.

    In fact, just the opposite seems to be true, everywhere you look, they seem to be going out of their way to harass, intimidate and target the bicycle community for a variety of imaginary infractions against auto-hegemony…

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  • Doug August 1, 2007 at 11:11 am

    Here\’s an interesting quote from the Portland Tribune on July 10, from an article titled \”Pileups stall unpatrolled freeways\”

    The Portland Police Bureau does not have enough money for regular freeway patrols either, said traffic division Cmdr. Mark Kruger.

    According to Kruger, his division currently is six officers and one sergeant short of its authorized staffing levels. Its top priorities are drunken drivers and moving violations that lead to accidents on city streets, not patrolling the freeways, Kruger said.

    “We do not have any dedicated (freeway) patrols,” Kruger said.

    Kruger is convinced that a concentrated and sustained freeway patrol effort could reduce the kinds of accidents that snarl so many commutes.

    Funny, isn\’t it?

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  • steve August 1, 2007 at 11:28 am

    Ahh yes isn\’t Kruger funny!

    Well, no actually.

    He is a violent and disturbed individual who has no business on the city payroll. I wish these links would be highlighted under \’the commanders\’ name whenever he is mentioned. He is an embarrasment to our city, and a shining example of what the cops (and our mayor) think of \’community policing\’.



    Shame on all of us for allowing this sad little man to be on the public payroll.

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  • Graham August 1, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    I could see it being hard to block off Alberta, because it\’s such a major traffic artery. It would be cool if it could happen (and I\’m all for it), but perhaps there\’s other options?

    Such as:

    There\’s a lot of street parking on Alberta. Could those parking spaces be roped off, making the busy blocks of Albert a \”no parking\” zone for the evening? Then people could spill off into the parking spaces, but not the street.

    Also, what if a block each of the intersecting side streets were closed off, effectively flanking Alberta with a series of block parties? It wouldn\’t make Alberta\’s sidewalks any wider, but it might give the vendors and crowds somewhere to go, and relieve the pressure a bit.

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  • steve August 1, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    How can Austin, located in the heart of car centric Texas pull this off-


    And yet here in bicycle utopia, we can\’t get a small street well outside of the city center, closed once a month?

    This is one of the most hypocritical cities I have ever lived in.

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  • steve August 1, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    Oops, here is the link again-


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  • Antonio Gramsci August 1, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    You are being silly. The ordinance requiring pedestrians to yield to motor vehicles when crossing the street can be amended to deal with the very specific instance of the sidewalk being too crowded to allow for proper mobility of pedestrians. In that case, it is the motor vehicles that should be required to yield. This is not rocket science: traffic wardens direct the flow of traffic around construction workers in the street all the time. It\’s not like it is an everyday occurrence for the sidewalk to become so crowded that it ceases to adequately support the flow of pedestrian traffic. And this is not exactly such a subjective measure that we couldn\’t use common sense to establish when this is the case. Cops could still give tickets to pedestrians for using the street when the sidewalk was adequate for pedestrian mobility. But in the event of something like Last Thursdays, it would be easy to establish that such a ticket was bogus.

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  • organic brian August 1, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    For anyone who is serious about working (yes, working, this will involve homework and legwork) towards getting Alberta closed to auto traffic on Last Thursdays, join this list and mention that you want to help:

    We were planning this last fall and earlier this year, but there just wasn\’t enough person-power to carry it through. We\’re real busy lately with planning for the world conference of Towards Car Free Cities 2008, which will be hosted by Portland!

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  • Matt Picio August 1, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    \”Respect is earned, and the police have not yet earned the respect of the \’bicycle community\’.\”

    Well, that\’s fine, BURR, but I wasn\’t speaking for you OR the \’bicycle community\’ – only myself. I have respect for the police because I have a fairly comprehensive view of their perspective, challenges and responsibilities. They\’ve earned my respect, individually and collectively.

    That does not excuse individual and collective bad behavior in the name of law and order, however – see my previous comment.

    BTW, thanks for backhandedly implying that I\’m not a member of the \’bicycling community\’. Said community is neither unified nor homogenous. Long may it be so.

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  • rixtir August 1, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    Dabby:You are being silly.

    Interesting accusation from someone who thinks he\’s going to pass legislation requiring the police to go out into the street and \”harass motorists.\”

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  • Minda August 1, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    \”Lots of positive changes have been made after many unsuccessful attempts. In fact the majority of changes in public policy are often difficult but they do happen.\” Exactly. I\’m going to join Organic Brian\’s list, because that\’s a good place to start. I\’ve already sent an email to someone I know in Commissioner Adams\’s office. This can be done. I don\’t believe in giving up, and I don\’t believe in fighting.

    And perhaps Portland is a \”hypocritical\” city because we have really high standards that we assume everyone else shares. There are always going to be those who act in their self-interest, especially when there is money involved. Where\’s the immediate profit in a car-free city or in NOT developing land? That\’s why we have to turn out in numbers to make our will known. And, no, it doesn\’t always work, and it can be extremely discouraging.

    Despite what some people say, Portland is by far and wide the most progressive city I have ever lived in. Oregon has a history of being polarized. You have ultra-conservative and ultra-liberals. We\’re basically living on a goldmine — our natural resources — that attract those who want to save it and those who want to exploit it. So consensus — or even compromise — is not easy. And neither will EVER happen without respect. Does respect have to be earned? I don\’t treat you like shit or call you a name just because I don\’t know you. Guilty until proven innocent? There is a basic respect I give EVERYONE merely because you are alive on this planet. TRUST is another thing entirely. Trust has to be earned.

    Ok, I\’m done.

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  • Walter Bumsack August 1, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    Here here Minda! I like your attitude. I am also joining Organic Brian\’s list. Thanks Brian and Minda.

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  • rixtir August 1, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    Organic Brian is spot on.

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  • Antonio Gramsci August 1, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    rixtir: since when did you observe the police finding it hard to harass motorists? I hardly think we need legislation for that.

    We need legislation to tell them NOT to harass people who are immobilized on the sidewalk when they need to use the street to bypass impassable sidewalk obstacles. What is so outrageous, novel, or revolutionary about this concept?

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  • rixtir August 1, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    It\’s that part about passing legislation to allow people to take over the street when the sidewalk is crowded, and requiring police to harass passing motorists, that seems, shall we say, unlikely to garner much support.

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  • Elly August 1, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    Hey everyone, cross-posting here from the Shift list and the Carfree Day list (that\’s the one Organic Brian just turned you all on to):

    Art on Alberta (the org. representing the Alberta galleries, not including the street vendors) is spearheading the current effort (ongoing for about a year now) at street closure for Last Thursdays. Several of us have been to various meetings of theirs, including one in Sam Adams\’ office that also included representatives from TriMet, the Police, and the city transportation department. It is a difficult process to get a permit to close such a large area of street, but there seems to be plenty of will and volunteer power, and none of these groups, including police, TriMet, and the City, seem likely to present obstacles.

    What I gather from AonA is that the reason the street closure plan isn\’t moving forward is that many neighborhood residents are starting to be really (and understandably) unhappy with Last Thursday. They object to the later-night partying, dancing in the street, part that\’s been growing lately, not the longer standing, First-Thursdaylike art walk component that pretty much ends by sundown. AonA is reasonably wary of going over these folks\’ heads by trying for a street closure that will make the party even bigger.

    It sounds like people have been (understandably) conflating these two components of art walk and street party, and that one has in fact been growing into the other. I wonder if it might be a good idea in general to try for a street closure that ends at, say 8:30pm, and then make a concerted effort by everyone interested to frontload all the in-the-street fun and craziness for 6-8:30 — and to make it good, clean, all-ages, less-drunken but no-less-awesome fun. Dancing in the street and everything. And then either go home, or sit quietly with beers and friends in a local bar. It seems like the bike community could be major in helping make this happen, if there\’s a will for changing the culture of the event to a more daytime theme. What do you all think?

    The great news is that AonA has committed to working on a street closure for the Alberta Street Fair on September 15th. This will be a great test run for Last Thurs, and doesn\’t seem as politically iffy, since it\’s a daytime event, and has the Mississippi Street Fair major closure for precedent. It may prove to local residents that a monthly street closure will actually help not hurt the neighborhood — we\’ll see. I\’m sure they\’ll need a ton of volunteers — the best contact info for that is info@albertastreetfair.com

    Take care,

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  • Antonio Gramsci August 1, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    It seems to me that it would be attractive to business associations or motorists as another alternative short of closing down streets altogether at events. Why wouldn\’t businesses or individuals who want automotive access to a street prefer slow, traffic warden-controlled traffic on a street to NO access to the street at all? The whole point of the idea I\’m proposing, which I still fail to see the outrageousness of, is to allow BOTH pedestrians and automobiles to be able to make use of the street in an orderly manner. Surely the police possess enough intelligence to evaluate street and sidewalk conditions to detect the existence of such a scenario and mobilize the appropriate traffic coordination.

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  • BURR August 1, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    \”BTW, thanks for backhandedly implying that I\’m not a member of the \’bicycling community\’. Said community is neither unified nor homogenous. Long may it be so.\”

    whatever, you\’re taking it way too personally, I was talking in general terms and nothing in that post was specifically directed at you.

    BTW, The person that is able to unify all the disparate elements that make up \’bike culture\’ in portland has a good shot at becoming the next mayor of the city.

    Seriously, the ridiculous and arbitrary subdivisions between all the different types of cyclists in Portland does more to hold cyclists back as a political force than anything else. Unified, who knows what can be accomplished???

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  • rixtir August 1, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    You seem to be backpedaling substantially from what you first proposed:

    an ordinance allowing pedestrians to use the street when the sidewalk does not afford them resaonable mobility…it is only simple justice and logic that pedestrians should be able to use the street when their mobility requires it.

    But let\’s say that you really meant \”during events\” and not just \”whenever.\” What is an \”event\”? What sort of \”event\” triggers the law? A festival? An art show? A street party? A house party? Christmas shopping? The Rose Parade (keeping in mind that people are kept off the Max tracks, even though their \”mobility\” requires the full use of the street.)?

    And why is an ordinance like that preferable to somebody just getting a permit to close the street when conditions warrant? (Note that I\’m supportive of what Organic Brian and Elly are proposing.).

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  • Matt Picio August 1, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    \”whatever, you\’re taking it way too personally, I was talking in general terms and nothing in that post was specifically directed at you.\”

    Sorry, BURR – I think I let a little too much work stress leak into my forum post. Consider this a public apology for my public comment.

    Next time I\’ll post *after* work.

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  • Becky August 1, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    Elly, I\’m a neighborhood resident and what you\’ve written is exactly what I\’m concerned about. My daughter sells lemonaide and drawings on Last Thursday and it\’s fun for her and us. But we clear out before things get too nutty. (seems like the crowds have been increasing after dark rather than decreasing. not sure how they\’re seeing the art in the dark?)

    But, the late night noise and the litter and the road/sidewalk rage we\’ve seen are not very pleasant at all. I know it\’s just \”once a month\” but as you get older, time moves faster and once a month of not being able to get to sleep because there\’s a dance party/riot gets tiresome.

    Alberta Street isn\’t at all like Austin\’s 6th Avenue. It\’s a residential neighborhood, not a commercial district where few people will be disturbed by late night partying.

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  • Antonio Gramsci August 1, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    Anytime that the sidewalk is way too crowded for a pedestrian to enjoy normal mobility they should be able to use the street. When have you ever seen that condition occur that wasn\’t during an \”event\” of some kind? I don\’t think a special \”event certification\” process would be necessary to identify such scenarios. If there are some percentage of cases in which there is a dispute about whether such conditions obtain, and cops decided to give out tickets, then it would be left to the courts to decide. How is that any different than numberous other laws, such as the section of the vehicle code forbidding \”unsafe lane changes\” or the \”basic speed rule\”? What worries you so much about this concept?

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  • rixtir August 1, 2007 at 8:46 pm

    You\’ve never seen a house party that had a lot of people out front? I have. It\’s not too hard to come up with lots of different situations where \”mobility requires\” people to take over the street.

    What you are proposing is that anytime somebody somewhere has the subjective notion that they need more mobility, they automatically have the right to take over the street.

    As I said, you\’re not likely to garner much support for that one. But if you think you can, then go for it. I think it would be a good learning experience.

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  • Antonio Gramsci August 1, 2007 at 8:57 pm

    Currently, police have an open-ended pretext for selectively enforcing the vehicle code against pedestrians anytime they step off the pavement, even when it\’s obscene (as on Last Thursdays, where huge numbers of people are cruelly crowded into an impossibly tight space for the convenience of a handful of motorists). And I\’m arguing that it is NOT fair nor reasonable to give automobiles such a high priority that officers are entitled to ticket people at any time for stepping off the sidewalk unless they do so in a crosswalk, or have gone through the paperwork of anticipating the scenario in advance and filed extensive paperwork for getting the street entirely to themselves.

    I think you should explain why you think it is more reasonable to either require people to stay entirely off the street except in designated crosswalks, or to successfully obtain exclusive access to the street in advance via a permitting process. That hardly sounds like a reasonable or practical approach to me, compared to creating a legal safe harbor that would allow pedestrians to use the street when their mobility is otherwise so diminished that normal foot traffic is impossible.

    This entire discussion would not be necessary if the police applied their discretion in cases such as Alberta St\’s Last Thursdays reasonably. The only reason an ordinance like the one I\’m describing is necessary is so that something which people do routinely everyday (step off the sidewalk when it becomes impassable) is not always a pretext for selective police harassment. You seem, on the other hand, to wish for police to retain maximal discretion for hassling pedestrians (whether on behalf of motorists, or their neighbors, or their own agenda).

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  • rixtir August 1, 2007 at 9:01 pm

    Why are you trying to convince me? I don\’t decide any of this stuff. The city council does, or the voters do. If you think they\’re hot for your idea, take it to them. Run for office on that platform.

    While you\’re at it, please tell them to sell off their cars and send me the money; I need it.

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  • Antonio Gramsci August 1, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    You don\’t think that a cop — or a judge — could possibly figure out a way to distinguish between someone walking down the street to bypass an obstacle on the sidewalk vs trying to \”take it over for a party\”?? In that case, how are they able to determine when someone is trying to cross the street to get to the other side vs \”take it over for a party\”?? Maybe we better get rid of crosswalks, too!

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  • rixtir August 1, 2007 at 9:15 pm

    I\’m well aware of how legal arguments are constructed, and how they\’re defeated. I\’m also well aware of how subjective a proposed law is that allows anyone anywhere to use the street for any reason at any time they feel the subjective need to do so.

    I\’m not on the city council, and I\’m only one voter, so i don\’t decide this anyway. I don\’t think your proposal has any chance at all of being enacted by either the city council or the voters. If you think that it does, you have no need to try to convince me that it\’s a good idea.

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  • SKiDmark August 2, 2007 at 12:12 am

    The sidewalk gets too crowded? Like we\’re in Tokyo or something. Us Americans have weird concepts about personal space.

    They should close Alberta St. to cars for Last Thursday. They should close the streets with most of the art galleries downtown for first Thursday as well.

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  • SKiDmark August 2, 2007 at 12:15 am

    They should also go look for drug dealers, theives, rapists, and murderers instead of worrying about tipsy art patrons tying up traffic walking in the street. Of course the chances of someone at Last Thursday shooting at them are pretty slim.

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  • Scott August 2, 2007 at 12:57 am

    I\’ve said it before…

    1. Most of the people I hear pushing for the street closure don\’t actually live in this immediate neighborhood. Remember, the buses are back, from what I understand, largely because bus riders, some of whom are not able to walk the extra blocks, complained that they were being inconvenienced to make a certain sliver of Portland\’s population happy. This is primarily a residential area and the local residents must take priority over the visitors.

    2. The police presence might seem like too much, but \”we\” brought it on ourselves. If a portion of the attendees treat Alberta as a giant frat party, don\’t be surprised if the police are needed. As someone that lives a 1/2 block from Alberta, I wish they would do more to run the loud drunk littering assholes off the street after hours. The vendors are mostly gone by 9 pm.

    To be blunt, I\’m kinda over Last Thursday. What was a mellow street arts festival is turning into something rowdier that\’s making this neighborhood less pleasant, not better. It\’s unfortunate to see.

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  • steve August 2, 2007 at 8:46 am


    I live just off Alberta, and I think you need to move to the suburbs. Nice, quiet and homogenous out there. Maybe you can join an HOA so you can help force everyone to be just like you!

    How can you complain about an event that happens once a month and is only large a few months out of the year? It dwindles substantially during the winter months.

    The cops blazing up and down Killingsworth, the airplanes buzzing overhead, Alberta is not some quiet sanctuary!

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  • Matt Picio August 2, 2007 at 8:47 am

    \”This is primarily a residential area and the local residents must take priority over the visitors.\”

    That\’s up to the reisdents and the local business owners – it\’s their decision, not anyone else\’s.

    Alberta is just like Hawthorne and Belmont – Metro defines them as \”Main Streets\”, and they\’re exactly what the New Urbanist planning movement is trying to emulate – a commercial strip of local businesses which are pedestrian and transit-oriented (since the original development was 80+ years ago, everything was ped and streetcar oriented), with housing adjacent to it. There are few dedicated commercial segements in inner Portland – these areas where street events occur are nearly always in \”residential\” neighborhoods. The only sizeable commercial-only center on the east side is the warehouse district out to 12th Ave.

    I\’m curious as to where most of the visitors are coming from. (particularly the \”rowdy\” ones that are being identified as \”problems\”) Are they coming from other N / NE Portland neighborhoods nearby, or from further out? Is there any way to even tell? With all the gentrification going on up in that area, the demographics are changing significantly – even in just the last 5 years. Those changes mean changes for the neighborhood. Not all of those changes will be welcomed.

    I\’m glad to see that those who are interested in having a street closure are looking into who to talk to, and getting neighborhood involvement.

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  • jeff August 2, 2007 at 9:27 am

    I\’m with Scott, the scene has devolved and the police presence was brought on because of the frat-boy party \’tude. Though, as an Alberta resident I would like to see the street closed.

    \”Are they coming from other N/NE Portland neighborhoods nearby, or from further out? Is there any way to even tell?\”

    All I know, is that I live at the far end of the Alberta street comotion, and our block is packed with cars, litter, and loud drunkards every time. My guess is that we get a lot of folks driving in from the burbs.

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  • Dabby August 2, 2007 at 10:46 am

    I would like to say that the bad seed comes from out of town (or out of the neighborhood), but also from right down the block, as many people are moving here simply because of the draw of events like this.

    It is a sad state of affairs when something that could be fun is ruined by too much fun. The ultimate oxy-moron.

    Unless you count Jumbo Shrimp.

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  • Scott August 2, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    It\’s kind of odd that asking people to not piss in your yard, litter their lazy debris everywhere, and to not make noise at all hours would be seen as asking too much. Is it unreasonable to ask people to have a shred of personal responsibility and act with a modicum of respect towards their fellow human beings? Is it unreasonable to expect there to be repercussions if they don\’t? I do not believe that I am asking for a sanitized Alberta or Portland.

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  • Scott August 2, 2007 at 4:02 pm


    \”That\’s up to the reisdents and the local business owners – it\’s their decision, not anyone else\’s.\”

    Yes. Most definitely. This is one of the challenges we face as a neighborhood. After the mayhem with the police in April(?), there were many meetings, informal and formal, amongst local businesses and residents. Generally, the business owners are apparently not interested in taking any responsibility. Most, of course, don\’t live here and for many of them Last Thursday is what keeps their businesses afloat. Amongst the residents, it\’s an interesting mix. There is, as you know, a deep seated distrust of the police amongst the more established residents (some of whom still refer to Last Thursday as \”White Night\”). This is contrasted by the newcomers. And then dividing it more is the difference of view between the renters, who may be renting here specifically for the \’party\’, and the homeowners who are trying to put down long term roots here.

    It\’s a tough nut. I hope we can get more of the locals involved. I also hope we can come closer to agreeing on what we\’d like Last Thursday to be in the long term (assuming we have any real power to steer this thing).

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  • Dabby August 3, 2007 at 10:14 am

    Let\’s move Last Thursday to the Pearl, and away from Alberta.
    Let them deal with it.

    I like the nice, quiet, mellow Alberta of the past.

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