Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on June 22nd, 2009 at 10:32 am
North Portland yesterday.
(Photos © J. Maus)
Sunday Parkways made a triumphant return to North Portland yesterday when thousands turned out to take advantage of 7.5 miles of carfree streets.
Amid bright, warm sunshine and periodic rain showers, they came out on roller skates, on foot, and by every type of bicycle imaginable. At three major parks — Kenton, Arbor Lodge, and Peninsula — live music blared, people of all ages twirled hula hoops, and local restaurants turned sidestreets into food courts. It was a day to meet your neighbors, to learn about local organizations and projects, to explore new places, and most importantly to have fun and get inspired.
Speaking of inspiration. Chase Jones and his family came all the way from from Missoula Montana. He works for Missoula in Motion, a non-profit that promotes sustainable transportation. Jones said he’s working on a similar event and wanted to see how it works, first-hand. “Portland is leading he way,” he said, as he and his family settled in for a performance by the Sprockettes.
The Sprockettes, Portland’s all-female mini-bike dance team, entertained a huge and enthusiastic crowd at Peninsula Park. Dressed in their trademark black and pink, the ladies seemed to be having as much fun as the crowd. At the end of their performance they did a special photo shoot for a photographer from National Geographic Traveler magazine (she was also here for the Naked Bike Ride; watch the November/December issue for the coverage).
Here are a few more shots from their performance:
Peninsula Park was packed throughout the day. I noticed many people drove cars to the park, with their bikes on roof racks, and used it as a starting point for their adventures. And who can blame them? Once inside, activities abound and the park’s famous sunken rose garden (in full, glorious bloom) made a fine backdrop for picnics and tired pedalers.
Down the road at Arbor Lodge Park, volunteers had set up a temporary traffic circle at the intersection of N. Bryant and Delaware. Mayor Sam Adams led a parade from Kenton Park (near his home) to Arbor Lodge Park, and he hung out afterward, chatting with residents. (Prior to the event, someone scrawled “Recall Sam Adams — July 7th” in several places along the route.)
Also at Arbor Lodge was enterprising bicycle businessman Evan Ross. Ross had his old, yellow school-bus/bike repair shop going full force. He offered free bike tune-ups, rentals, and info about the local bike tours he leads as part of his Portland Bicycle Tours business.
North of Arbor Lodge is Kenton Park. All day I’d been hearing a buzz from people about the skills park that Northwest Trail Alliance (formerly known as PUMP) had set up so I had to check it out for myself. I was not disappointed. Skills park advocate Will Heiberg and his crew had set up a simple, fun course that consisted of narrow, balance-beam sections; a curvy track about 2-feet wide; and a few little teeter-totter ramps.
The kids were eating it up. Portland needs a permanent home for this type of thing. If we can have a network of skateparks, than surely we can find some space for bike skills parks. Sunday Parkways gave Heiberg a perfect lab to test his idea and it was a major success (please take note City Hall).
The parks were great, but it was the residential streets connecting them where much of the magic happened. From people on a porch yelling, “pop a wheelie!”, to backyard bar-b-ques and kids with lemonade stands, Sunday Parkways offered a constant stream of experience.
On N. Bryant Street I happened upon a trio of women playing old-timey music while selling beautiful paintings of Oregon landscapes. A bit further down the road a young boy was selling a few of his old toys. On the Bryant Bridge, local stencil artist Tiago DeJerk was laying down new work on the path as people streamed by.
There was a lot of talk about how crowds this year compared with 2008. I’d say turnout was very strong; similar, if not larger than last year. The event was several hours longer and there are also two more Parkways events planned for the coming months, so I think that had an impact on crowds.
Given the budget environment our City finds itself in, we are truly fortunate to have this outstanding community event. Sunday Parkways is gift to the city, from the City. It’s so much more than just a carfree event. It brings us together, it gets us outside and active, and it makes us all more conscious and connected with our neighborhoods and with our neighbors.
The event has also become the premier family biking event of the year. I would love to have a carfree event of this scale downtown next year. I think closing a major downtown street has important symbolism. But, what I love about these neighborhood-based routes, is that they attract droves of families.
My 6 year-old daughter has just recently started riding her own bike. She pedaled the course with a few friends and rode like she owned the streets (and yesterday, she pretty much did!). My wife and I had nothing to fear in letting her ride out of our sight.
When the streets are closed to motor vehicles, it’s suddenly as if the whole neighborhood is as safe as the sidewalk in front of our house.
See more photos in the slideshow below, or browse the gallery:
— Sunday Parkways comes to Northeast Portland in July and to Southeast in August. Learn more here.