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Northeast neighborhoods shine in Sunday Parkways spotlight

Posted by on July 20th, 2009 at 3:05 pm

Sunday Parkways Northeast 2009-52

A cul-de-sac near Fernhill Park saw a lot of
action Sunday.
-Slideshow below/Gallery
(Photos © J. Maus)

On Sunday, thousands of Portlanders got a chance to explore Northeast Portland in a way they’ve never done so before. From the gorgeous homes on the Alameda bluffs to the outskirts of the Alberta Arts district, they walked, jogged and biked like they owned the street (and for six hours, they did).

The second of three Sunday Parkways events planned by the Bureau of Transportation this year, the Northeast edition boasted nearly seven miles of carfree streets. Three parks (Alberta, Fernhill, and Wilshire) were connected via a steady stream of Portlanders of all shapes, sizes, and colors.

Sunday Parkways Northeast 2009-40

Sunday Parkways Northeast 2009-8

My family and I connected with the route on NE 17th. A few blocks later we were being anointed with holy water (hose with a mister attachment) by Pasture Ted of the Bike Temple. Ted and his cohort Deacon Amos had taken over an intersection. There was also a pew bench, a harpist, and volunteer Joe Adamski was dressed in a robe to bless bikes as they passed by.

A bit further up the road we came upon a street performance by local band, Keep Your Fork There’s Pie. The band was fully mobile, thanks to a massive Dutch cargo bike (where the drummer sat and played) and several locally made bikes from Metrofiets.

Sunday Parkways Northeast 2009-25

Big crowds, on bikes mostly.

The turnout was very high and many of the streets had steady traffic in both directions. On more narrow streets, this meant a bit of congestion. With the vast majority of people on bicycles, local blogger Jack Bogdanski has wondered if the popular event can remain pedestrian friendly.

I didn’t notice any particular problems (of course, I was on a bicycle), but there was one thing that comes to mind. While biking down NE 37th en route to Fernhill Park, a woman and her small child on a tricycle were trying to cross the street. I watches dozens of people stream by without noticing them. When I stopped (and made sure everyone behind me stopped) to let them by she smiled in thanks and let out a sigh of relief.

Local transportation expert and citizen activist superman Chris Smith wondered on his blog this morning about how over-popularity might impact the event:

“But I wonder if there were not almost too many folks out there? … Could this event go the way of Bridge Pedal and choke on its own success? Perhaps the answer is to do them every Sunday, and take the pressure off just three days a year!”

The crowds might be getting thick, but for me, that’s a very small price to pay. With each Sunday Parkways event our city becomes more connected — not just through people-friendly streets, but through face-to-face interactions and through the magic of human-powered neighborhood explorations.

What these crowds show us is that Portland has a severe, pent-up demand for carfree streets (been to Last Thursday lately?). The answer is more of them, more often, in more parts of the city.

The last Sunday Parkways of the year is slated for August 16th in Southeast Portland.

See more scenes from the streets in the slideshow below or browse the photo gallery.

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  • amos July 20, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    We had a blast! Never seen so many happy people using a public road before.

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  • flowb33 July 20, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    For me, the most striking aspect of the NE event was the transformation Ainsworth takes from a bike-hostile street (normally, not enough room between street and parked cars) to a beautiful, natural bike parkway. Plus, neighbors could actually use those vast, grass-filled medians if the street closed once a month. Hope people liked that vision enough to want to see it again.

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  • Tony Fuentes July 20, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    It was crazy busy – in a good way – for much of the day. As far as I could tell there were more folks out than last month.

    A lot of the food vendors ran out of goods, I put on 100 + temp tattoos per hour when I was working the Milagros booth.

    Needless to say, I would love to see MORE and, economy be damned, we will be signing on as a sponsor again next year.

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  • are July 20, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    if they had required people to move parked cars off the streets, things would not have been nearly so congested

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  • fredlf July 20, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    “A few blocks later we were being anointed with holy water (hose with a mister attachment)”

    The first time I read this I thought it said “(hose with a minister attachment)”, which I thought was pretty funny.

    Took the dog for a few miles on the route. It was loads of fun.

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  • Burk July 20, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Right on about Ainsworth, talk about a transformation, it felt like one long park. The turn out for this was way bigger than I was expecting.

    The thing I probably noticed the most was how quiet it was. What a great way to explore the city.

    Oh, and if somebody could get a beer garden going at one of these things they would make one hundred billion dollars!

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  • Gabe July 20, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    My wife and four-year-old daughter and I had a great time. Events like this just reinforce our decision to move down here from Seattle. Portland is a beautiful place to live.

    It was a perfect way to spend a summer’s day. We’ll be regular supporters of the Parkways, and I hope they can be expanded even further to something like once a weekend during the nice months.

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  • Metrofiets July 20, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    WOW! We had a great time with the rolling band.

    Thanks Clever Cycles for loaning us the big three wheel!

    More photo’s at the link below if you want to see them.


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  • lesismore July 20, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    my husband, son (in his stroller) and i might have been one of the two pedestrians i saw during the entire thing. we tried to stay on the sidewalk out of the way!

    i definitely have some burley jealousy going on but it was just so great to have something happening in our neighborhood that we could walk to!

    loved the traveling band. was cracking up at their song lyrics, “she dropped that F bomb-oh no she didn’t!”

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  • Alan July 20, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Jonathon mentioned Chris Smith’s blog and over there he wrote, “They should keep it in the same place and then expand the route each time…” I want to voice my support for moving it around. I enjoy seeing different streets, neighborhoods, and parks, and learning new ways around. Neighbors living along the route, while many obviously celebrated Sunday’s festivity, might get burned out hosting it repeatedly. And different groups of drivers get an eyeful (and hopefully a bit of education) when it moves around. Spread the wealth!

    BTW, the Portland police did a great job, from cruisers blocking big intersections to officers efficiently flagging traffic and motorcycle cops responding as needed…even service dogs! Well done.

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  • Chris Shaffer July 20, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    My daughter and I had a *great* time. Many thanks to all the volunteers, sponsors and vendors who made it happen. Events like this are the reason I wanted to live in Portland. Absolutely can’t wait for the next one in Southeast.

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  • revphil July 20, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    Any info from the CRC tabling? both pro and con were there mixing it up so i hear.

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  • Tony Fuentes July 21, 2009 at 7:54 am


    I was wondering the same thing.

    The NO CRC booth was just a stone throw (or frisbee toss – to keep it peaceful) from the CRC booth at Fernhill.

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  • E July 21, 2009 at 8:10 am

    I got to the route pretty late so I think I missed a lot of the fun, what with the food vendors sold out and a lot of other folks packing up by the time I went by. Even so, the event was AWESOME!! I admired the enterprising youngsters selling lemonade; appreciated the neighbors misting the crowd with garden hoses; enjoyed the quiet streets and the friendliness. 100% awesome.

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  • Metrofiets July 21, 2009 at 8:34 am

    Posted some video of the band as we rolled between “concert venues”.

    Ahhhh, what a wonderful day.


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  • mabsf July 21, 2009 at 10:53 am

    I love the idea of different Parkways perhaps not every weekend, but at least once a month during the summer.
    It might be also nice to close some of the bigger parks for cars permanently w/ access for special needs only…

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  • Dabby July 21, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    I personally did not have the time to ride around the route.
    Was busy doing something else, I forget what…


    I was however quite annoyed at the amount of cars parked in, and being driven through, Alberta Park.

    I mean, really, just carry the stuff to the car…

    Suck it up, Buttercup!

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  • Allison July 21, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    I can’t believe I hadn’t been to one before. I overheard someone saying, “This is Portland. This is the essence of the city.” I got all misty and verklempt (Michael and I are moving up to Seattle in the fall).

    We loved it – we got on the recumbent tandem, I got to blow bubbles from the stoker seat… and although I think the pedestrians weren’t in a position to see each other, we saw tons – children in strollers, parents walking while their kids were on training wheels, after noon came around we saw younger adults walking in groups of 5 or more, a roller blader or two – I saw one woman with a baby backpack and a pump scooter. I also really enjoyed seeing the myriad way that people haul the kiddos. Trailers, seats, backpacks, trailabikes, xtracycles, it was awesome. We got some admiring comments about our bike and got to make some comments of our own. Michael kept saying, “Now there’s an SUV for you” – looking at bikes that carried two or more children.

    I’m glad they move it around – this one was near my father-in-law’s house, and the next one will be in my neighborhood. I’m going to host a brunch and a departure en masse. I’ll be riding my recumbent trike and blowing bubbles again. If you want to come to my breakfast (we’re doing bring your own filling crepes and I live about a quarter mile off the route for next month) just send me a PM on the forums. 🙂

    Love you all, love this town, love to ride my bike.

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  • […] district, they walked, jogged and biked like they owned the street (and for six hours, they did). READ MORE SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: “Northeast neighborhoods shine in Sunday Parkways spotlight”, url: […]

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  • hanmade July 21, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    I volunteered as an intersection superhero in the morning, which means I had an excuse to say howdy to everyone that came by! Then it was ride whole loop twice with a friend while stopping and enjoying all of the activities in the parks and the local yards who had garage sales, played guitars, sold goodies, sprayed us with water, and basically had a blast. Definitely the best game in town that day!

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  • Tasha July 23, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    I has so much fun-made it time to eat some food before they ran out, appreciated the misters, and loved seeing some neighbors out on their bikes and walking with their kids.

    I’d love this to happen more often, it’s a good way for people to get out of their houses and yards and get to know one another, along with encouraging more people to explore their neighborhoods by bike/foot/skateboard.

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