Neighborhood, city, move toward a carfree Last Thursday

“The city is allowing us to discourage cars from using Alberta with signs and posters asking them not to drive on the street during Last Thursday.”
–Magnus Johannesson, Alberta Street neighborhood activist and business owner.

The City of Portland, TriMet, and a neighborhood activist are moving forward on an effort to discourage cars from driving on NE Alberta Street during the monthly Last Thursday event.

Last month, Alberta Street neighborhood activist and business owner Magnus Johannesson drove two junker cars onto the street and created a temporary carfree zone before tow trucks and the Police Bureau showed up.

After that incident, Commissioner Adams’ office told me they were not interested in pursuing a carfree Last Thursday because of what they perceived as existing tensions from local residents that the event had gotten out of hand.

Alberta Last Thursday - July 07

A crowded Alberta Street during
Last Thursday in July 2007.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Adams’ Chief of Staff Tom Miller told me two weeks ago that, “A lot of work remains by those who seek to close the street before anything can happen”.

But in a complete reversal in recent days, Johannesson has been meeting with Commissioner Sam Adams’ public safety staffer Jane Ames, representatives from TriMet and the local police precinct, PDOT traffic engineers, and others to move toward a solution that works for the neighborhood, maintains public safety, and recognizes that the event is overflowing with pedestrian traffic and that car traffic could lead to a safety problem.

Bikes at Alberta Art Hop

Dingo knows how to ride in
crowds on Alberta.

Now things seem to have changed. This Thursday, TriMet has announced they will reroute their buses off of Alberta and will instead use NE Killingsworth from MLK Jr. Blvd. to NE 30th and Johannesson says that the city, while not backing a completely carfree solution this month, “the city is allowing us to discourage cars from using Alberta with signs and posters asking them not to drive on the street during Last Thursday.”

Johannesson also has a creative idea for dealing with any cars that do choose to drive down the street. He’ll put Alberta’s famous clowns to work, ferrying cars through the pedestrian traffic with tall bikes.

“I’m working with Dingo the Clown and he’s going to bring in his tall bikes and pilot the few cars left over down the street.”

In addition to the tall bikes, the plan is to have volunteer pedestrians walk ahead of the cars to make sure that not collisions or interactions take place between cars and people.

Johannesson will have “Pranksters for Pedestrians” shirts for sale and all proceeds will go toward funding a new Clown House.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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steve
steve
15 years ago

I am waiting to hear from all of you who were blathering on and on about how impossible a task this would be.

The only thing difficult is convincing our elected officials to do what we ask them to.

Refunk
15 years ago

Having exhibited in both businesses and on the sidewalk at Last Thursday as well as just liking to stroll around, I think making Alberta carfree for the evening is a great idea. The number of times I\’ve observed motorists driving stupid and specifically talking smack about the event, however, leads me to be concerned about the safety of any \”volunteer\” car shepherds, mounted or otherwise.

Just like the self-righteous who stand astride their ride to illegally block intersections while a host of bicyclists blow traffic control to cross a busy street, folks shepherding autos through the throng on Alberta would have zero legal standing to do so (i.e., hold up automotive traffic). I\’ve never seen a confrontation while someone was blocking for a stream of cyclists but I have seen numerous occurrences of verbal confrontation between \”locals\” in autos and pedestrians at Last Thursday. Y\’all be careful!

It\’ll be best when PDOT just drops off a few barriers and blocks the roadway at each end of the active stretch of Alberta.

Yes
Yes
15 years ago

I\’m a resident of the Alberta street neighborhood and I support a carfree Last Thursday. But I must confess I\’m tempted to pile my kids in the car for the free tall bike clown escort deal. They would love it. Maybe they can throw candy out the windows.

BURR
BURR
15 years ago

Yes – why don\’t you put them on bikes or in a rickshaw and have them help the clowns? That would be so much better than doing it in a car.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
15 years ago

Magnus said they could use some volunteers with bikes at the intersections of 15th and 30th. Show up if you can help.

Marc
Marc
15 years ago

Music to my ears!

We\’ll be having a talent show just south of Alberta on NE 22nd Ave. where we\’re going to transform the parking spaces in front of the house into community space!

Feel free to stop by and share any talents you have or give us a hand to re-route traffic. A easier way to re-route cars is to post signs a block away (for us NE 22nd & Wygant) advising cars to \”continue down the street for only local access.\”

jack
jack
15 years ago

and this has to do with biking in pdx how?

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
15 years ago

\”and this has to do with biking in pdx how?\”

wow. tough crowd.

jack. i\’ve covered carfree news and specifically events on Alberta for years now.

this has to do with the trend toward re-allocating public space away from private motor vehicle use and towards pedestrian and bicycle use.

thanks for your feedback.

Alberta Resident
Alberta Resident
15 years ago

We could use some volunteers to usher the loud drunken idiots to their own homes at a reasonable hour as well? Show up if you can help.

Sodapop Johnson
Sodapop Johnson
15 years ago

Exciting. The crowds have gotten so relatively massive at Last Thursdays that it\’s a hassle just to be there. Making more space for pedestrians is a no-brainer.

n8m
n8m
15 years ago

Thanks Magnus for making some power moves. Last Thurs should have been car free (esp during the summer) years ago. I can\’t wait till a car-free Last Thurs. It will enhance the event in an enormous way.

steve
steve
15 years ago

Alberta resident-

Perhaps you should practice gentrification in another part of town? I am sure you would enjoy the suburbs. I hear they have plenty of room in Texas.

I will even help ya pack.

Joe
Joe
15 years ago

Hopefully the po-po will not be forcing pedestrians onto the cramped sidewalks this weekend..

revphil
15 years ago

thanks Magnus!

Support human friendly space. Buy a shirt, or make one of your own.

toddistic
toddistic
15 years ago

about time! if i wasnt out of town this weekend i would surely help \”encourage\” cars to go down a different street.

Hilary Pfeifer
15 years ago

As President of Art on Alberta, the only Alberta Street organization who has successfully gone through all the procedures to close down Alberta Street for our daylong events, I feel the need to speak up. I know how great it is to cut off traffic for these kinds of events and want people to understand why the city has its rules in place.

Alberta Street is a major bus route in Portland. It serves the people who live, work, and go to school in this neighborhood, people who participate in this community not just on Last Thursday, Art Hop, or Street Fair. Many of the people who use that bus line are the low-income residents, and it can be a major disservice to them to reroute that bus line for even a few hours.

There are many organizations in the Alberta neighborhood who are working together with the city to find a solution for Last Thursday\’s safety concerns. This includes Art on Alberta, the Alberta Business Association, and neighborhood associations like Vernon and Concordia.

We are looking for longtime residents (10 yrs.+) who live in the Alberta neighborhood and street vendors who participate in Last Thursday to be a part of the solution and lend their voice to this conversation with the city. If you are interested, please contact Art on Alberta at vendors@artonalberta.org

Violet
Violet
15 years ago

I have heard your excuse of \’legal\’ means before. It seems that the time of the even (last thursday) is well past the time when commuters are on their way home. The busses rerouting doesn\’t seem to add that much time to a ride that would most likely be a halting one due to the pedestrian traffic. Inconveniance is no excuse for safety of people whether they have lived on Alberta street for 50 years or 2 months. You should feel more inclined to protect the lives of all people and not just the 15 minutes neccessary to make it to the relocated stop.

Aaron
Aaron
15 years ago

\”car traffic could lead to a safety problem\”
Wow, who would have thought that anyone would consider cars to be a safety problem.
😛
I definitely look forward to being there on Thursday

joe
joe
15 years ago

it will be interesting to see what happens when a driver is late for their dinner reservations or whatever and runs down a few volunteers. I think the city would be responsible for that…$1500 per month will seem cheap.

woohoo for responsive city government!

Magnus
Magnus
15 years ago

Thanks for all the support for closing down Alberta Street for Last Thursday during the summer months. From the way things appear there is plenty of reason to think that we will have a formal closure starting next season. For the rest of this season we will need to settle for encouraging car drivers to stay off the street during the event, but in a gentle non hostile way. Enough press about cyclists vs. car drivers recently by the print press. Let’s not add fuel to the fire.

In more general terms our goal is to self manage the event. We want to create a crazy, fun exciting PG rather then Marti Gras or Frat party flavor. One can have fun sober, and for the drinkers there are plenty of bars and taverns on the street. Open containers never had a place during the event; now less then ever. We also need to be respectful to the neighbors. Many people want to party all night, which doesn’t work for the neighbors. Friday is a work day for many. The event needs to wrap up at 10 PM and the party needs to move somewhere else. Every month someone urinates in a neighbor’s yard which seems pretty disgusting to me. Garbage is everywhere the next morning, which is another big issue. We are actively working to address these and other issues.

For tonights Last Thursday a number of monitors will help the participants remember what is cool, and what is not. Using peer pressure feels better then running to the authorities with all the small stuff. If you see someone with a beer on the sidewalk or someone doing something else that does not fit in, feel free to remind them about what is OK and what is not.

There are still two weak areas in our plan. We will need a number of volunteers on 30th, 15th and 12th to hold up signs asking car drivers to choose an alternate route. We also need a few more people to pilot the few cars that still want to drive on the street. The bike pilots will start by 15th and 30th. If you want to volunteer for either, just show up or come to a “training” meeting at 2407 NE Alberta at 6 PM. We have a number of monitors but if you want to be one you’d need to come to the training meeting.

Peace,

Magnus