On the Eastbank Esplanade with Gil Penalosa

Rollin’ on the Esplanade.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Yesterday, after the final day of programs at the Carfree Conference, I took a ride on the riverfront with Gil Penalosa (we were joined by Ian Stude, transportation options coordinator at Portland State University).

Penalosa was Bogota, Colombia’s parks commissioner when that city underwent a massive urban transformation and he is now sought worldwide for his expertise on how to create vibrant and successful public spaces. He has also observed the bikeways and urban design of many cities throughout the world (for more, read this bio).

We rode from PSU, over the Hawthorne Bridge, then north on the Eastbank Esplanade to the Steel Bridge.

“I find it amazing that there is so much conflict between bicyclists and pedestrians. We should be best friends.”

Penalosa — dressed in a coat and slacks — rode at a snail’s pace, snapping photos and stopping to observe things along the way.

As we rode, he directed a steady stream of questions at Ian Stude and I. It was as if he was trying to create a mental inventory, going down a checklist of things that would help him better understand the context of bicycling and public spaces in our city.

He wanted to know: if congestion on the Hawthorne and Esplanade paths was an issue (it is), when the Esplanade was built, why it was so narrow, if we allow drive-thrus (he said some cities have banned them), what kind of mayor Sam Adams will be, what the bike mode share is at PSU, whether or not the students get a parking subsidy, were homeless people a problem, was bike theft a problem, and so on.

At the end of our ride, I asked him about his impressions of the Eastbank Esplanade and about the perils of mixing bikes and pedestrians on such a high-volume facility.

Watch the short interview below:

For more on sharing the path with pedestrians, read Elly Blue’s article from December, 2006 — Passing etiquette: In defense of the bike bell.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter or — Get our headlines delivered to your inbox. — Please support this independent community media outlet with a one-time contribution or monthly subscription.
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