Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Sunday Parkways success: Thousands enjoy gift of carfree streets

Posted by on June 22nd, 2009 at 10:32 am

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It was a (car)free-for-all in
North Portland yesterday.
Slideshow below/Gallery
(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.

Story continues below


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A huge crowd for 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:

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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.

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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.)

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The scene near Arbor Lodge Park.

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.

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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.

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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.

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My daughter Eleni and her friend
lead the way.

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.

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  • boriskat June 22, 2009 at 10:45 am

    While I was biking down the street with my trusty doggie in tow, I passed a family with a little boy about 7 years old. He stated with great enthusiasm as I rode by, “We should do things like this more often!” It made me smile.

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  • Scott Mizée June 22, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Fantastic! again! Thanks to all who worked hard and volunteered to pull it off! Looking forward to two more Sundays this summer!

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  • Jessica Roberts June 22, 2009 at 10:49 am

    I was an intersection volunteer at Ainsworth at the corner of Peninsula Park. I was impressed at how many people (including families with small children) biked to and from the event.

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  • Paul Tay June 22, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Recall Sam Adams….cute. Courtesy of Freaky Uppity Cycling Kids?

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  • Zaphod June 22, 2009 at 11:02 am

    The event was amazing and extremely well run. The food vendors were buried around lunchtime. This tells me that there’s room for more vendors!

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  • K'Tesh June 22, 2009 at 11:11 am

    Ran into a few people that I knew, and a few who knew me…

    Had fun, but alas, it was too short.

    I’ll be uploading images soon…

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  • Will June 22, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Great coverage, Jonathon! The first Sunday Parkways made for a fantastic father’s day, We had a great time. Thanks to everyone who stopped by the NWTA skills area. We would love to see Portland embrace this idea and build these in public spaces.

    Amazing to see kids swarm the area and even more amazing at how quickly they were able to ride across even the more challenging sections with a few tries.


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  • minister June 22, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    I rode the route last year on a bike – meh. This year on a longboard – blast.

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  • David Guettler June 22, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    What a great Father’s day- getting to ride safely through the streets with my 13 year old, not-too-confident daughter.
    Thanks, Portland. See you for the other two.

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  • Lisa G June 22, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Remember there are three Car-Free Sundays scheduled this summer, this was only the first. Northeast Sunday Parkways wil be held on July 19th and Southeast on August 16th. Volunteers are still needed. http://www.gettingaroundportland.org

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  • dobrien June 22, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    excellent post, jonathan… Parkways is such a great event in so many ways, like one continuous interactive fun parade where everyone *can’t not* participate. my only disappoitment? the lack of local coverage. granted, The Oregonian is short-staffed, but any time you have thousands of neighbors gathering for smiles and fresh air, it’s BIG news and people far and wide need to hear and see it (if only as a respite from all the mayhem and sadness and dysfunction). (full disclosure: wife and i were volunteers yesterday. giddily so.)

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  • peejay June 22, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    I loved it, too. Lots of kids and families, lots of overheard conversations to the tune of “we should do this more often”. Didn’t check, but what was the local TV news coverage like? Last year, the KATU people did an utterly dishonest smear job. Since then, I don’t watch their news anymore.

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  • BigD June 22, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    “someone scrawled “Recall Sam Adams — July 7th”

    give it up wurster, you won’t win this one.

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  • anon June 22, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    I too, had a lovely time. However, I chose to walk this one rather than ride. It was disappointing to see the near-complete disregard of crosswalks and stop signs shown by those on bikes, especially as I was waiting, sometimes for quite a while, to cross. Otherwise, what an incredible event.

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  • freaky & uppity June 22, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Hey Paul Tay (#4),
    Sorry you couldn’t make it for the Rigoletto Ride, the Santacon in June, etc. Was looking forward to doing 4 rides at once.
    But please don’t besmirch the good name of the Freaky Uppity Cycling Kids like that.

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  • peejay June 22, 2009 at 4:09 pm


    Get over it. Consider for a moment that people could ride around without worrying about getting killed by a car, that maybe the joy of that idea went to their heads. Maybe, with traffic controlled by volunteers at every important intersection, that there was no point to the stop signs. Maybe, you might have asked one of those volunteers for help in getting across. Maybe, the grinch ended up giving all the toys back to the kids in Whoville, and you can lighten up.

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  • ScottG June 22, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    I just realized my parents will be visiting during the NE Portland SP. I’m gonna have to line up a couple of pedicab rides to show them around this magical event.

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  • Hart June 22, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Recall Sam Adams? Yes. I recall him fondly every time I’m out on a bike and marvel at the ever-growing cycling community that he supports.

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  • Greg Raisman June 22, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Sunday Parkways just feels like a smile factory to me.

    Can’t wait til next month!

    Here’s some photos and videos:


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  • Frank Selker June 22, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    Northwest Trail Alliance (NWTA) Skills park was great fun, and people voted with their wheels: when I was there it had a long line that was filled with kids from 6 to 60 trying to make it through the challenges.

    Thanks Will!

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  • Hart June 22, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    In addition to thanking all the volunteers, I noticed everyone thanking the uniformed officers blocking cager traffic as well. Great PR for the cops and the cycling community.

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  • Andrew Berkowitz June 23, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    What a fantastic event! Thanks to all the volunteers. I can’t wait for the next two.

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  • janis June 23, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Hello Portland, it is great to read all the love from the community. We spent a lot of time organizing this event, BUT in all honesty, we could not have done it without all the people that supported Sunday Parkways – the volunteers, the donors, the particpants

    We truly appreciate all the effort that everyone has put forth to make Sunday Parkways a fun, successful event.

    See you in Northeast on July 19th. And if you want to volunteer we still have space.

    Cheers, Janis

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  • janis June 23, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Another thank you to the police that spent the entire time on their feet and motorcycles.

    Cheers, Janis

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