Esplanade closure begins February 1st

Downtown basks in Sunday Parkways spotlight

Posted by on July 25th, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Portlanders jumped at the chance to enjoy sun and carfree streets.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Like a living concept drawing sprung from the pages of a visionary planning document, or scene stolen from a transportation activists’ dream, Portlanders got a taste of downtown’s potential at Sunday Parkways yesterday.

SW Naito Parkway, usually dominated by four lanes of motor vehicle traffic, became a peaceful extension of Waterfront Park.

Sunday Parkways NW 2011-48-47

In the Pearl District, NW 13th Street once again demonstrated that it’s one of Portland’s best candidates for a future carfree shopping plaza.

Director Park — a relative newbie in the Portland public space line-up — embraced the carfree limelight by turning SW Park Ave into the relaxing, strollable, carfree plaza that it should be.

This block SW Park Avenue throuh Director Park would be a great candidate for a carfree plaza.

For the second time in as many months, the weather fully cooperated with the City’s schedule and delivered a nearly-ideal day for the event. Northwest Portland neighborhoods boast some of the best trees and most beautiful homes in the entire city and Sunday was a great time to discover them.

Sunday Parkways NW 2011-20-19

The turnout was much bigger than last year (though still nothing like last month’s record crowds in North Portland), when grey skies kept some people at home and the route was constrained due to unrelated police activity. I saw a lot of families, many of whom rode into downtown just for the event if the heavy bike traffic back into the neighborhoods afterwards were any indication.

The high point for me was Salmon Street Fountain. It was as full of life as I’d ever seen it. And, to cap it all off, the Sprockettes kids campers performed for a big crowd.

Sunday Parkways NW 2011-59-59


Naito was another highlight. That street has so much potential; but I’m afraid it won’t be realized until make it more inviting for foot traffic. Having a direct north-south option for bicycling also reminded me how inadequate the Waterfront multi-use path is. Seeing Naito and Front split into car traffic on one side and two-way bike traffic on the other is a vision for the future I won’t soon forget.

Sunday Parkways NW 2011-2-1

One thing I was a bit surprised about was the lack of activity from many downtown businesses. With thousands of people spending the day downtown, I figured businesses would be pulling out the stops to get them in. Most of the carts at the pod at Washington and 9th were closed. Cafes that were open seemed to do well, but it would have been cool to see big sidewalk sales and “10% for Sunday Parkways!” deals.

I saw PBOT Director Tom Miller walking the route. He was in the park adjacent to Naito. “Walking gives me a different perspective on the event,” he said.

Miller and I chatted about how to get businesses more excited and engaged in the event. One thing I suggested was to brand the downtown edition of the event differently than the neighborhood ones. Instead of promoting the active, healthy, explore-your-parks message, perhaps PBOT should use a “Discover Downtown” message. The idea would be to encourage stopping and browsing at galleries, boutiques, and shops. PBOT’s Options Division could host clinics on shopping with your bike, how to not wear lycra, and so on.

Of all the Sunday Parkways locations, the downtown edition holds the greatest potential in terms of opening the eyes of Portlanders — and our elected and civic leaders — to the vision of what our City could look like if we put people first.

Sunday Parkways NW 2011-18-17

Sunday Parkways NW 2011-3-2

And finally, one of the reasons Sunday Parkways inspires me is that it proves if you give people a comfortable environment to ride in, it’s much easier to resist the “allure of the automobile”…

People don’t even seem to notice the Portland Art Museum’s latest exhibit.

Where you out there on Sunday? What did you see? What did you enjoy most? What could be improved?

Please support BikePortland.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • roger noehren July 25, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    I was patrolling NW 13th between Johnson and Overton to prevent cars from crossing or driving on the route.
    This section which should have been filled with people was practically deserted, because all the people riding or walking north were directed up Johnson and those coming down Overton had already been on the southern part of the route, so they continued on down towards Naito.
    Sisters Coffee was offering $2 iced coffee as a Sunday Parkways special. When I went in to get mine, they asked why there were so few people participating this year…
    I’m not sure why people were directed up the steeper and longer hill on Johnson, unless it was so they wouldn’t be going too fast coming down. I generally go up Overton when I’m going to NW and ride down Johnson. But all those kids seemed to have boundless energy and now they’re all that much stronger.
    Great coverage (as usual) Jonathan. I especially appreciate your pointing out that certain streets (Park, ninth & 13th) would be good candidates for pedestrian zones and that the east side of Naito could be turned over to bikes (at least on summer weekends to start with?).

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  • daverave July 25, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    BIG THANK YOU to the Sprockettes for hosting the day camp…my daughter had a great time.
    I did not get to ride the route but enjoyed walking it and hanging at the fountain, it was great day.

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  • Scott Mizée July 25, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    yeah, I was pretty surprised that the vast majority of food carts were closed. We had to scrounge to even find a food cart open for lunch!

    o I thought the expanded route downtown this year was fantastic!
    o I loved the free Popsicle at the top of the hill on SW Columbia!
    o getting my “UNDRIVER LICENSE” was a kick for my girls and I.

    …and I hope the event gets even better next year!

    Thanks again to PBOT and all of the volunteers who make this such a fantastic event!

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  • Alex July 25, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    I second the Natio cycletrack idea. The park is too congested to ride in and the west bike lane has dooring and right-hook hazards all over.

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  • Spiffy July 25, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    points already made that I agree with:
    * the route on 13th between Overton and Johnson was pointless…
    * lots of closed food carts of the route (hello 9th?!)

    other things I noticed:
    * Naito still had cars driving on it and barely any bikes/peds… this was at 11am and there were more people following, so I’m guess it got more crowded…
    * too many cars crossing the route… maybe I’m just used to SE versions but I had to spend too much time worrying if the street I was crossing was blocked or just police controlled…
    * there was no live music… from 11am to 1pm I didn’t see/hear any live music…
    * intersections with SuperHeroes weren’t as lively as I’d seen at past ones… (SE thing again?)

    it was still nice to ride on the car-free streets… however, besides Naito they were pretty much all streets that I ride on regularly anyway… they need to close more main streets, and not have as many crossings…

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  • Joe Rowe July 25, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Great photos. Thanks for the article. I most love the “sponsored” car museum exhibit. Exactly where it all belongs.

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    • Scott Mizée July 25, 2011 at 2:05 pm

      ditto, Joe! I also thought that was rather ironic!

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  • jonny a July 25, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    that last shot is awesome

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  • indy July 25, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Took my kids all the way from home in Multnomah Village, something I’ve been petrified to do up until yesterday. It went great (we went down Terwilliger, such a breeze route. [Terwilliger in SW hills is another street that could be reasonably car-free minus ambulances for the two hospitals and it would get along juuust fine.]

    We rode 10-15 miles. Kids were absolutely exhausted by the end of it but we acquired “undrivers” licenses! Woot!

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  • Carl July 25, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    I agree that they should shake things up with the downtown Sunday Parkways. It felt like Wallace Park and Director Park were overcrowded (hard to find a place to park my bike) while Waterfront Park was very quiet. They should move all the events and vendors to waterfront park where there is more room. I would love to see a stage with some live music too.

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  • Paul Hanrahan July 25, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Spiffy: Yes, we need more lively superheroes! I expect to see you as a volunteer at the next Sunday Parkways, leading the charge!

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  • Lisping Hibiscus July 25, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    I’m honored to have volunteered as an (prepares his brawny interflection) “Intersection Superhero!” (tones down inflection) yesterday over at Northwest 20th & Overton Street! ^__^

    Yep, that’s right………I was photoSYNTHesissy, the Dancing Butterfly, encouraging Portland to keep moving! =D

    I’d really like to help make the push to bring Sunday Parkways to St. Johns in 2012 and beyond.

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    • middle of the road guy July 26, 2011 at 8:59 am

      Son, there was nothing brawny about you.

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  • Alan 1.0 July 25, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Naito. Was. Excellent.! Open enough to go for the big ring and hammer down (thus learning my BB is due for overhaul) until I came to a crosswalk with…

    Pedestrians. C’mon, bikers, y’all are s’pos’ta know that they have ROW. Give it to ’em. And PDX pedestrians, go ahead and walk; don’t make everyone stop for blocks around! A biker going 0.5mph isn’t going to hit you. (Not just along the waterfront…saw that conflict throughout the route.)

    The rail crossing at Naito & Glisan is evil and vicious, even as tracks go. It should be fixed. Superheroes there did a great job of warning every biker of the hazard, but still I heard one go down near me (not serious, fortunately).

    I liked the round-abouts at a few intersections. Those Superheroes earned their t-shirts, though, keeping plenty of befuddled bikers going around the right way.

    I saw lots of food sellers at the different parks. Makes sense that the downtown carts weren’t competing with all the S.P. food vendors.

    Some of the blocks in NW had been completely cleared of cars, making a really nice, wide roadway for the crowd of various speeds. What would have made it even nicer would be a sweeper truck cleaning the parking lane; it was kinda messy with glass, gravel, etc., in places.

    Thanks for the blessing, Bike Temple!

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  • Chris Smith July 25, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    I love that my every-day, work-a-day neighborhood greenway on Overton got featured!

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  • Ted Buehler July 25, 2011 at 3:18 pm


    The crowds were out early, probably because of the forecast for a hot afternoon.

    Motorists seemed chill and familiar with the scene. Last year at 17th and Johnson we had some frustrated motorists trying to get in through the parking lot, and tempers flared a couple times. This year, same corner, no problems at all.

    Motorists seem to be getting familiar with the Sunday Parkways scene. This makes it a lot easier for the superheros, and maybe someday if Parkways becomes commonplace motorists will simply respect the signs and it won’t take as much volunteer recruitment.

    Thanks PBOT, City Council, police, and all the volunteers.

    Ted Buehler

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    • middle of the road guy July 26, 2011 at 9:00 am

      I had to deal with one ding dong who felt I should find her a parking spot because all of the street parking was taken on Overton.

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  • Ted Buehler July 25, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    It’s so impressive to see thousands of kids on bikes at these events. It’s wonderful how these events cater so precisely to the needs of kids, families, and newbies, getting them out on two wheels and having a fabulous time. Giving them the experience of riding in a bicycle utopia.

    I’m excited to see what sort of a new youth demographic Portland is growing. How will high schools function when 1/3 of the kids have grown up being experienced cyclists with cycling parents? It will be a whole new social experiment. And will release a much needed jolt of bicycle energy into the world as they grow up and fan out.

    Ted Buehler

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    • dmc July 25, 2011 at 3:59 pm

      Ted, yes! Exactly! Our community is only going to get more safe and more environmentally friendly. It is going to be amazing what our great grandchildren do.

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  • bumblebee July 25, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    I agree with most of the comments thus far. This was my first Sunday Parkways, and it was–for the most part–enjoyable and relaxing. But I guess I’m going to be the first to kvetch about too many kids not being taught by their parents about basic safety and cycling etiquette (apparently the helmet is their only consideration). I was cycling at a very leisurely pace, yet still found myself having close encounters with kids weaving back and forth across the roadway as if no one else existed. It seems to me that instead of looking at Parkways as a “free-for-all,” parents might use it as a forum for teaching their children proper navigation skills.

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    • Chris I July 25, 2011 at 6:22 pm

      We saw a kid doing that and then he bit it right in front of us. Lesson learned, apparently.

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    • Schrauf July 25, 2011 at 9:47 pm

      There are a whole lot of bad parents out there. And some of them attend Sunday Parkways.

      But the event is kind of geared to kids, and even if every parent did their job, there would be a lot of weaving and dodging to the the sheer number of people.

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    • Ted Buehler July 26, 2011 at 1:27 pm

      bumblebee —
      I prefer having all kids able to ride a bike out on Sunday Parkways. Get them while they’re young. Adults can dodge kids — adults have highly developed motor skills and can use their brakes judiciously if necessary.

      Why deny a kid the opportunity to ride downtown without getting run over? It’s the coolest thing ever for a kid…

      My opinion,
      Ted Buehler

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  • dwainedibbly July 25, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    First Sunday Parkways for Mrs Dibbly & me. It was a lot of fun and Mrs Dibbly played “bike flowers Lady” and gave out probably 50 bouquets of silk roses for people to put on their bikes. Some of the looks she got were interesting, but at least she was able to do something good with all of the leftovers from an earlier project and it contributed just a little to the general festive atmosphere. (Tip: When ordering silk flowers on-line, make sure you’re not ordering dozens when you mean to order “each”!)

    Lots of little kids, but I did overhear several parents telling kids about staying to the right, riding in a straight line “because it scares people when they see you swerving”, etc.

    Agreed about rail crossing at Naito & Glisan! HUGE gaps between the rails & pavement.

    Any estimates of turnout? We started at 11am, heading downhill on Columbia from Park, and it was pretty light until we got maybe to the Morrison bridge.

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  • Hart Noecker July 25, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    There is something deeply wrong when that many people show up to Sunday Parkways still wearing a helmet.

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  • Aperture July 25, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    Thanks for the wonderful coverage Jonathan. It was a terrific day, perfectly captured. If people relied on the Oregonian, they may not have even known it happened.

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  • fw July 25, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    Where were all the volunteers?! So much confusion at many of the intersections. Do I go? Do I let the car go? Should I run the red light? The pedestrians have a walk signal, but everyone else is going through the red light. What should I do?

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    • Mark McClure July 26, 2011 at 8:05 am

      I was one of the volunteers. At my intersection (SW Naito Pkwy & SW Salmon St), it was particularly busy during my shift. Fortunately, all of the streets at the intersection were closed off to motorized traffic, so my focus was primarily to ensure safe pedestrian crossings.

      From what I saw, most folks seem to understand that the streetlights and crosswalk signals were to be disregarded, even though they were operational. I am not sure if it is possible to “turn off” selected streetlights and crosswalk signals, but that might have been helpful in this case to avoid confusion.

      A few times I had to assist pedestrians cross SW Naito when bikers would not yield/slow down, so at the end of my shift I suggested to one of the volunteer coordinators that it might be helpful in the future to have “Slow – Pedestrian Crossing” signs mid-block prior to busy intersections. Another suggestion would be to equip the volunteer(s) with hand-held crosswalk signs, like crossing guards use at school intersections.

      Finally, if you have not done so, I encourage you to volunteer for one of the Parkways events. It is a great way to get actively engaged, and there always seems to be a need for more help. Sign-up details can be found at


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      • Ted Buehler July 26, 2011 at 1:30 pm

        Mark — “stop” and “go” hand-held signs to let pedestrians cross — great idea.

        Ted Buehler

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    • middle of the road guy July 26, 2011 at 9:01 am

      yeah, where were you?

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  • bikeyvol July 26, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Have to say that sunday parkways was the best bike commute I’ve ever had into my downtown office (the route went right past my building). There were plenty of folks enjoying the route around noon – and yes, I did see quite a few people riding in from inner NE over the Broadway and into the Pearl. That was pretty neat actually. I also agree with Jonathan – brand it differently as more of a “come explore our shops” thing.
    It was just great to see tons of families and kidlets out enjoying the route!

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  • Ted Buehler October 31, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    I have to say — fabulous photos!

    Ted Buehler

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  • bike rider August 27, 2012 at 11:46 am

    had so much fun riding and loved visiting with Mayor Sam Adams at the Franz tent. Free Organic Bread. Thanks!!

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