Harvest Century September 22nd

Opinion: Sticking up for Sunday Parkways

Posted by on January 16th, 2012 at 10:22 am

Sunday Parkways SE-12-11

Yes it’s a party, but it’s not
all fun and games.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Remember the flap about Sunday Parkways at City Council last week? After listening to the full audio of the meeting, I feel like it deserves a second look — not only for the policy debate but for the way the story was covered and reacted to in the local media.

To quickly recap: A standard vendor contract relating to Sunday Parkways was on the agenda and Commissioner Dan Saltzman used it as an opportunity to debate budget priorities. He said that while Sunday Parkways is a “fun” event, it’s not more important than funding street paving or biking and walking improvements. (Note: The city doesn’t think so either, that’s why the proposed budget still includes millions in paving and road projects.)

Commissioner Dan Saltzman this morning questioned whether one of Mayor Sam Adams’ pet bike programs ought to be temporarily shelved: Sunday Parkways.
— Denis Theriault, The Portland Mercury

Mayor Adams (who was present via telephone due to illness) defended the events, saying that: “I do think that this [Sunday Parkways] is a core aspect of the Bureau of Transportation’s mission.” He also, thankfully, called Saltzman out for the way he framed his opposition: “I don’t agree with framing this as a choice between pedestrian safety improvements and pavement or Sunday Parkways,” he said, “I think that is setting up a false choice.”

Saltzman ultimately voted in favor of the contract (it passed 5-0) but he made it clear that his one-man battle against Sunday Parkways wasn’t over. “I’m by no means yet signalling my support [for next year],” Saltzman warned, “there are to me more critical priorities that I’ll be looking closely at and I’m not committing that this one will have my support for future funding.”

Saltzman initially mentioned that perhaps Sunday Parkways should take a “hiatus” next year (it’s already funded for 2012); but after hearing more about the event’s budget from PBOT staff and hearing several citizens speak strongly in support of it, he backpedaled in his closing remarks. “Maybe I spoke too strongly in saying hiatus; it may need to be scaled back to fewer events or sponsors will have to step up to the plate more.”

Not surprisingly, the exchange did not go unnoticed by the local media.

Despite Saltzman’s clear backpedal, The Portland Mercury seized on his “hiatus” comment. Here’s the opening to News Editor Denis Theriault’s blog post:

“Maybe you’ve heard. Portland’s transportation bureau is facing a $16 million budget sinkhole—and maybe can’t pay for things like street and sidewalk repairs. Seizing on that lousy news, Commissioner Dan Saltzman this morning questioned whether one of Mayor Sam Adams’ pet bike programs ought to be temporarily shelved: Sunday Parkways… The program is seen as a key way of spreading the bike/pedestrian gospel.”

“Pet bike program”? Really? And to my knowledge, the event is about promoting health, parks and community connections much more than “spreading the bike/pedestrian gospel” (that ends up happening naturally, since the best way to travel on the route is by bike or on foot).

Then The Oregonian’s Beth Slovic Tweeted her story with this headline:

“Should Portland pay for Sunday Parkways or road maintenance? The mayor says that’s a false choice.”

Slovic’s story also pitted funding for the events against “cuts to street maintenance,” “road maintenance on major city streets” and the “crisis” of “road safety problems.”

The battle lines were drawn. You’re either for Sunday Parkways or paved streets. Take your pick and choose your side.

“Sunday Parkways shouldn’t get public funding when the city says it can no longer afford to pave the streets.”
— Susan Nielsen, The Oregonian

The Oregonian then doubled down with a Sunday editorial by associate editor Susan Nielsen. The headline went straight for the false dichotomy: Portland’s fun street party wins; streets lose. In the article, Nielsen refers to the event as a “giant rolling party for bicyclists and walkers” and says it’s “worth sustaining” as long as the money comes from private sponsors only.

“Sunday Parkways shouldn’t get public funding,” declared Nielsen, “when the city says it can no longer afford to pave the streets.”

Nielsen also criticized the Mayor and used this as an example of the type of leadership she says is hurting Council’s credibility with taxpayers (to me it seems like a certain type of media coverage also plays a role). She also mocked the Mayor for suggesting that Sunday Parkways was a core part of PBOT’s mission: “That’s like calling an espresso machine a piece of survival gear.”

Then, to help her readers gain even greater context, Nielsen compared funding Sunday Parkways to a police bureau “boondoggle” and a “new arts tax.”

Here are her final paragraphs:

“Throw the street party, forget the streets.

To the city auditor, it raises big questions of sustainability. Or, as she put it, “the degree to which future taxpayers must pay for current policy decisions.”…

This is the dilemma behind signature events like Sunday Parkways, which the city promotes as free.”

While this coverage serves up plenty of red meat and serves the ongoing anti-Adams and “bikes vs. cars” narrative in the local press, it unfortunately doesn’t mesh with the facts.

PBOT is by no means going to “forget the streets.” While major re-paving projects are being put on pause, the city plans still plans to spend at least $10 million in “pavement preservation” and maintenance in 2012-2013 (that’s only an 11% cut from the current fiscal year).

Also while the stories above make it seem like the central issue for Saltzman was how the Sunday Parkways money would compete with street paving/maintenance, that’s not the full story. After listening to the audio from the Council meeting, it’s clear that Saltzman actually expressed more concerns over the lack of funding for biking and walking safety projects than for street paving. Here are some of his comments:

“We get a daily page about a pedestrian being struck, often fatally. We have a crisis in pedestrian safety, not to mention bicycle safety.

There are roads that are not going to be paved, there’s a million bicycle and pedestrian safety improvement projects that are important stuff

… it’s not as high priority for me as paving streets or putting in pedestrian or safety improvements.”

Unfortunately, Saltzman’s mentions of biking and walking projects — while they were more pronounced than street paving in his actual comments — weren’t represented as such in the ensuing media coverage. Why? Because Sunday Parkways/”party for bicyclists” vs. paving is a much more enticing narrative.

Our streets win when fewer cars use them and I think most Portlanders would agree that people are more important than pavement.

The other thing all this media coverage failed to point out is that the City of Portland is likely going to pay only about $165,000 for Sunday Parkways next year — only $50,000 of which will come out of general transportation revenue that could pay for street paving. What’s more, the City will fund only about 1/3 of the total cost of the five events (which will cost about $494,000 total) — the rest will come from private sponsors, donors, and individuals.

Nielsen’s argument — that spending $165,000 on five Sunday Parkways events that are funded 2/3 by private sponsors and that last year served 107,000 citizens — is an example of “shortsightedness,” or that it means our “streets lose,” just doesn’t hold water. Our streets win when fewer cars use them and I think most Portlanders would agree that people are more important than pavement.

Beyond the spin, the Mayor is absolutely right this time. Our transportation bureau has a formal policy goal of encouraging people to get out of their cars and do more bicycling and walking (there’s an entire division of PBOT devoted to that mission). Yes it’s a rolling party, yes it’s fun, but it’s also a serious marketing initiative that serves a key role in creating the type of city we are trying to become.

Not only that, but introducing Portlanders of all ages and races to a healthier lifestyle that includes less time spent in a car is a shrewd investment that will come back to us in reduced health care costs, savings in personal income, fewer city dollars spent on road maintenance and much more.

But alas, this is how it goes in Portland these days. The Mayor tries to stick up for something other than traditional auto-centric transportation (although he could be more convincing), the media does their spin, the controversy begins, the haters fill up the comments and the airwaves, the public narrative is set, the Mayor gets more complaints that he’s catering too much to “the bicyclists” and as a result (he is a politician after all) he becomes even more timid about bike-related initiatives and projects. It’s a vicious cycle and it has hurt the ability for bicycling to take big steps forward in Portland.

Sunday Parkways — and all that it stands for — makes perfect sense not just in our City budget but in our city’s future. I hope the local pundits and press will join the party someday.

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

48 Comments
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    Bjorn January 16, 2012 at 10:27 am

    I wish they would run a story about the real choice, “Do you want subsidized parking or paved streets?”

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    Will Vanlue (Staff Writer) January 16, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Like Bjorn said, the real question is why PBOT hasn’t adjusted parking rates to be competitive with other cities. Setting parking fees to current market rates would be a huge boost in revenue.

    Also, Sunday Parkways is hardly a “party for bicyclists.” It’s really a “party for families and taxpayers.” A lot of self-identified “cyclists” avoid Sunday Parkways because of the crowds. Most people I see at the event are people who don’t normally get out on a bicycle.

    Sunday Parkways is the only chance some people have to fully enjoy the streets their taxes pay for, without having to worry about the danger presented by motor vehicle traffic.

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    James Sherbondy January 16, 2012 at 10:39 am

    “We get a daily page about a pedestrian being struck, often fatally. We have a crisis in pedestrian safety, not to mention bicycle safety.”

    Gee, if only we had some kind of police force or something that could single out the drivers who create these dangerous conditions and give them some kind of a fine or something. I guess I’ll just keep dreaming of that day.

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      matt picio January 16, 2012 at 11:33 am

      Are you willing to pay for that? Traffic Division is out there working every day – there just aren’t enough police to catch all bad behavior, and there never will be without turning the city of Portland into a true police state.

      If only people were willing to obey the laws that they theoretically agree to obey by virtue of living here. Society is a construct – it exists only because we agree it does. Many in our society only obey traffic laws when its convenient to. Until that attitude changes, or until we pay for draconian enforcement measures, this is what we have – and despite the understandable desire to get to zero deaths, what we have actually isn’t that bad. Cycling and walking are extremely safe here – we just have the perception they are not, a perception spread by local and national media. Look at the figures and see for yourself.

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        Arem January 16, 2012 at 3:54 pm

        You missed the sarcasm, methinks. Start using (sarcasm) in your posts, peeps!

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          matt picio January 16, 2012 at 4:15 pm

          No, I definitely caught the sarcasm. The implication is that the police aren’t doing their job. I’ve seen a number of the bureau’s officers at work, and collaborated with them a number of times on bike-related events. They’re definitely working.

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        middle of the road guy January 19, 2012 at 11:47 am

        Very good post, Matt.

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    Patrick January 16, 2012 at 10:52 am

    I would much rather see the city put scarce money into things that really help us like more bike infrastructure/smooth street to ride on that Sunday Parkways. It seems like a good thing, but choices have to be made and I’m more in favor of things that help make biking and walking safer over the long term than having a few fun days.

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      Lazy Spinner January 16, 2012 at 11:14 am

      I agree. Use funds to “reward” those that have already committed to alternative transportation rather than events that MIGHT get a handful of “interested but concerned” to join the ranks. Increased traffic congestion and higher fuel prices will motivate more folks to bikes and busses than a handful of fun events.

      This seems to me the struggle within our ranks: Do we want higher quality, safer infrastructure built now or do we want more people to join our club? I’ll take safer streets in the near future rather than good feelings and aspirational planning for a day 20 years from now.

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      chelsea January 17, 2012 at 9:32 am

      I think, in the long run at least, that Sunday Parways does improve safety. It gets people out there, interacting with neighbors, having fun, and hopefully seeing bikes as a normal, viable, form of transport and a pleasant alternative to driving everywhere.

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    browse January 16, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Perhaps Saltzman should take a hiatus next year. I see his term goes through 2014. Maybe we can arrange for him to take a break after that.

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    wsbob January 16, 2012 at 11:24 am

    It’s probably not hard to persuade people that riding Sunday Parkways can be a lot of fun…despite the sizeable PR budget that’s spent on doing just that. The originally reported, but not broken down into public/private percentages $100,000 per event, was a big sticker shock. Being able to tell people ‘Hey…$30,000 is the amount per event that’s coming out of public/city money’, helps a lot to put the cost of the event in perspective.

    The ‘false choice’ analogy is kind of silly. It’s everyone’s money. If the public seriously wants these events, all it need do is speak up and say so. Saltzman’s kind of stuck on this deal. He’s got an obligation to be fiscally responsible. So here he is, having to take an unpopular position. At least he’s having the courage to do so, and in so doing, is giving the public a better opportunity to think over what is the significance is of committing this money to this particular use.

    “Like Bjorn said, the real question is why PBOT hasn’t adjusted parking rates to be competitive with other cities. …” vanlue/bikeportland

    Part of the real question is why the city, rather than PBOT, hasn’t raised parking rates to be similar to that charged in other cities. I think a big reason the city hasn’t raised parking rates, is that it’s trying to not drive people away from downtown. Sure…easy for people to say ‘Raise the parking rates!!’, when they’re not the ones paying.

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      matt picio January 16, 2012 at 11:41 am

      Saltzman’s got a good point – like you said, he has an obligation to be fiscally responsible, and he’s looking for what is the biggest bang for the least buck. This argument seems to me to be the same one many of us make when complaining about PPB traffic enforcement – why enforce Ladd’s Addition (which is basically safe) when they could be out doing enforcement actions at Powell & 82nd, or 122nd & Division? He’s got a point. The question is, given that Sunday Parkways pulls in a bunch of private money, is the benefit derived from Sunday Parkways in terms of community investment and payoff worth more than the safety improvements that could be generated with the lesser amount of purely city-provided money that could be diverted into other projects? That’s probably a judgement call, but it’s a discussion worth having. The economy sucks right now, and the funding environment for any project is in jeopardy. It’s definitely time to start asking the hard questions, and being prepared to make some tough decisions on popular programs. That includes the popular program of Road Maintenance. There are roads in the city which we perhaps *shouldn’t* maintain any longer – revert them back to gravel.

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        wsbob January 16, 2012 at 1:06 pm

        “…why enforce Ladd’s Addition (which is basically safe) …?…” matt picio

        ‘Neighborhood Livability’, which, on a larger, community scale, is also one of the reasons to support Sunday Parkways.

        Note to readers: (With “…enforce…”, picio is referring to compliance with the neighborhood’s approximately 7 stop signs on the bike route through Ladd’s.)

        Really, it seems to me that the appeal of Sunday Parkways is broad and easy to recognize as worthwhile. As long as the city is very forthcoming about the expense, and very vigilant about not letting spending on it get out of control, the public probably will speak in favor of it.

        Budget for street maintenance and improvement will still have to be maintained, but some concession to activities that help engage people with their neighborhood and community are critical to sustaining their support for basic, essential, but not as fun stuff.

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          matt picio January 16, 2012 at 4:17 pm

          Are you saying neighborhood livability trumps actual safety concerns? I’m not sure what point you’re arguing.

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            wsbob January 16, 2012 at 5:07 pm

            “…Are you saying neighborhood livability trumps actual safety concerns? …” picio

            Addressing safety concerns is essential to livability. I also think though, that events allowing people to experience their streets up close in an enjoyable, comfortable, recreational setting can reinforce their willingness to make efforts necessary to budget for safety measures.

            We have to keep streets fixed up if they’re to be usable, but if the only way people are going to be able use them is with a car, that’s turning away a lot of people that probably have some very good ideas about how their city can be used in better ways. They’re going to say, ‘Just forget it’. They have been already…for decades. I think part of what the function of SP is hoped to be, is a turn-a-round of that paradigm. It’s a public implementation of the ‘Our Streets’ sensibility.

            Before having events like SP, should the city go on an entire fun event austerity budget until every neighborhood’s street is paved? Maybe with sidewalks and bike lanes too? I couldn’t answer that question, at least, not easily.

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        Machu Picchu January 16, 2012 at 3:03 pm

        matt picio- I’m not familiar with the concept of retrograding (not sure of the term, that’s a pun, huh?) roads back to gravel. Has this been tried elsewhere? Also what roads, or at least what kinds of roads would you reccommend for this treatment?

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          matt picio January 16, 2012 at 4:24 pm

          It’s practiced almost everywhere, just usually not in a controlled fashion. Portland actually already practices it to some extent already, since there’s been a paving backlog for over a decade. Basically, an agency catalogs its existing road infrastructure, classifies it by purpose, use, age of pavement, etc, and develops a ranking system to determine what gets new pavement treatments. The less-maintained roads naturally degrade to a lower category of service. Beyond a certain point, the pavement surface would become un-drivable, so some agencies have actually removed pavement back to gravel / dirt. Re-grading a gravel road is far cheaper than re-paving. The best candidates are residential streets.

          No matter what, it won’t be a popular option, for multiple reasons. But we’ve gotten used to an ever-expanding pie to pull the budget from. That appears to be at an end, at least for the next decade – and if you believe in limits to growth and an eventual transition to a steady-state economy, then it could become a permanent condition – in which case priorities will have to be set at some point. There just isn’t enough money to maintain everything we have at current taxing levels. Either do less, or charge more – those are the options we have.

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      Bjorn January 16, 2012 at 11:59 am

      Increasing parking rates downtown will not drive people away from downtown if they add meters to other commercial areas (where they are needed by the way as currently parking can be challenging because they are giving it away for free). Also the idea that having to pay a small price for parking will drive people away from downtowns has been proven wrong over and over again. See Donald Shoup’s research.

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        wsbob January 17, 2012 at 10:50 am

        Raising parking rates does drive people from downtown. Nevertheless, parking on the street does seem to continue to be filled though, which probably indicates a change in people that are willing to pay the rates.

        If the city’s priority in terms of use of its street parking, and maybe parking structures too, is to generate revenue, as you and some other people commenting here seem to think it should be, then sure…boost those parking rates right up as high as the market will bear.

        To determine how high to set the rates, raise them until a drop-off in parking becomes apparent. Maybe city parking rates on both street and in structures should be set higher in parts of town where demand is greater and people are willing or forced by circumstance to pay more for it.

        The city could also start charging people to park bikes in the bike corrals its been installing on what formerly was revenue generating street parking. In fact… a percentage of the money produced from bike corral parking could perhaps be somehow specifically designated to fund the Sunday Parkways budget. That type incentive might persuade people to continue parking their bikes in bike corrals, even if they had to pay to do so.

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        middle of the road guy January 19, 2012 at 11:48 am

        Time for meters on hawthorne!

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    NF January 16, 2012 at 11:33 am

    The Sunday Editorial seemed to pit livable neighborhoods against street paving. I’d much rather have a great neighborhood and crappy streets than a crappy neighborhood and great streets.

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      davemess January 16, 2012 at 1:03 pm

      see comment below about crappy streets.

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    Jon January 16, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    Like it or not our country has been living the credit card dream and now it is time to pay up. From now on it is probably going to be a simple choice: fewer government services or more taxes and fees. I do a lot of bicycling and I much rather see better maintained bike lanes or lower taxes than Sunday Parkways.

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      davemess January 16, 2012 at 1:03 pm

      I agree. It’s an important program, but no within the city’s responsibility.

      I will reiterate what I said last week on the subject. We have so many streets in Portland (esp. E. Portland) that don’t even have pavement or sidewalks). Shouldn’t that be a priority? WHere is the chance for those people to ride?

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    q`Tzal January 16, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    This article seems to address two problems: bureaucratic funding tunnel vision and good old fashioned Yellow journalism.

    Yellow journalism is easier to explain and the Wikipedia page is concise.

    Yellow journalism
    Yellow journalism or the yellow press is a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers.

    It’s like translating a simple demographic statistic about white supremacists predominately registering as Republican against Obama and typing up the headline as “EXTRA!!! EXTRA!!! READ ALL ABOUT IT!!! WHITE SUPREMACISTS SUPPORT REPUBLICAN FRONT RUNNER!!!”

    The “bureaucratic funding tunnel vision” is a bit more complicated. People are not elected for their brains and it is these same elected officials that are charged with comprehending beyond the scope of their job.
    Sunday Parkways and Ciclovía-like programs are more than a simple transportation expense.
    Spending on Sunday Parkways effects public health positively thereby decreasing public health expenditures.
    Spending on Sunday Parkways is highly beneficial to many functions and systems of urban life.
    But one of the things Sunday Parkways doesn’t do is directly and obviously benefit those in the community that don’t participate but contribute funding through taxes.
    If it was direct and obvious we would be arguing to convince, instead we are arguing to educate.

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    Alan 1.0 January 16, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    So, that $165,000 would pave almost 55 feet of the Waud’s Bluff trail. Only $50K of that is from the ‘roads’ pot; what’s their annual budget? As one of the Carls commented last week, “Sunday Parkways is pocket change,” and for that pittance Portland gets tax dollars, tourist dollars, health benefits, encourages bikes and peds, builds community and gets promotional mention all over the place. S.P. is a heckuva bargain.

    Great second-to-last paragraph, Jonathon. Thanks for reframing the discussion.

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    Zaphod January 16, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Sunday Parkways is far more than a party. It’s helps a cultural shift towards livable cities.

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    Arem January 16, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Here’s the partial media simplification on matters of how they want to see things. To quote comedian Brian Regan: “[…]No more happiness!”

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    John Beaston January 16, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    Every Sunday. 41 miles. 400,000 people. Guadalajara’s figured how to do it!
    http://vimeo.com/34649520

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    Brooklynite January 16, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    As a New Yorker who lived through the great NYC Bikelash of 2010/1, it’s actually somewhat refreshing to hear that Portland’s desperately conflict-driven mainstream local media is just as moronic as ours.

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    dan January 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    I couldn’t care less about the survival of Sunday Parkways. I don’t care about 5x per year riders having an opportunity to ride on city streets without traffic. They can go to the Springwater Corridor for that experience, at 0 additional cost to the city.

    Sunday Parkways, in my view, trivialize cycling, making it easy for people to view it as a leisure activity, not a transportation mode deserving of equal time/space (and funding) with motorized vehicles.

    Remove city funding, put the funds towards additional traffic enforcement, and be done with it. If there’s really substantial demand for this event, let it be funded by private/corporate donations, or a $2 per head participation fee.

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      sorebore January 16, 2012 at 5:23 pm

      Hey Dan, perhaps the point just above you by Mr. Zaphod could best address your concerns.

      “Sunday Parkways is far more than a party. It’s helps a cultural shift towards livable cities.”

      Sunday drives in a 56 Packard convertible were considered a “leisure activity” by my family for 3 decades. Lots of things could be perceived as such. As others have pointed out, the amount of funds to run S.P. are minimal, and take little away from true infrastructure it seems.

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    Paul Tay January 16, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    Admit it, already. It’s all ’bout da par-taaaaaaaaaaay! Way cheaper than pavement, right?

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      Carl January 17, 2012 at 10:37 am

      Nope. It’s all ’bout da PAUL TAAAAAAAY! I have missed you, Paul Tay. I wish The Oregonian would replace Beth Slovic AND Joe Rose with you.

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    Rebecca January 16, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    We need broad support across a wide range of demographics – not just the “Bicycle Rights!” folk* – to generate the political support necessary to build the biking and walking infrastructure we want to see in this city.

    I see Sunday Parkways as the best possible way to recruit that kind of support. Giving +30,000 people an extremely positive way to experience active transportation and low-car life is important. It is building support among the people who will be voting on bike/ped projects for the rest of their life.

    *I reference this stereotype with sincere affection.

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      oliver January 17, 2012 at 9:20 am

      The anti-active transport folks understand this full well.

      It’s analogous to what Paul Weyrich said…”our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down”

      If people see alternatives to driving to the mall, or “tailgating” as something ‘normal’ people do, they lose their main argument against walking or bicycling as an attack on their freedom.

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    jim January 16, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    how much does a single sunday parkway cost?

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    Brett January 17, 2012 at 1:04 am

    Jonathan: how about condensing your post to Oregonian op-Ed length and submitting it as a response to Nielsen’s column?

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      A.K. January 17, 2012 at 9:02 am

      That is an awesome idea!

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    Jeremy Cohen January 17, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Although I think the Sunday Parkways is a completely appropriate use of funding (even as small as it is) the bigger issue here, which is magnified in the national debate over revenue/spending, is about the FALSE choice made between Sunday Parkways and paving streets.
    As others on this site have noted, there are a number of programs the city fund that ALSO draw on the general pot of money. What Jonathan was noting, and I agree with, is that pitting SP against paving misses the reality of funding and sets up a hostile environment where we WRONGLY believe we have to pick one of the two.
    We could, for instance, have SP and more bike infrastructure while dipping instead into another budget item. I don’t know enough about the details of the city budget, but on the national scale the same dichotomy is replicated–we are WRONGLY led to believe that we have to have EITHER good schools or support struggling families, when in fact we can have BOTH by reducing the expenditures on the military (by far the largest expense in the overall budget) This is NOT about money, but instead about how we talk about priorities.
    Sunday Parkways is, in many ways advertisement for the kind of city I want to live in–and most successful organizations realize spending some money on advertising (money that could go to production) makes a good long term investment.

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    beth January 17, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Sunday Parkways is under deliberate attack by those who are trying to prop up the car culture for as long as they can. They understand that it is a marketing tool. They understand that the goal is to get people out of their cars. They fear that more people will catch on. So they make sure that there are elected officials and journalists in place who help, in ways large and small, to promote their car-centric vision.
    Does this sound like a conspiracy? Yeah, well, sorry about that.

    Until we can find elected officials with the political will to make some REAL change happen — in the form of legislation making it more expensive and inconvenient to drive a car; and requiring developers and planners in every city and town in this country to make a lot more space for expanded transit, pedestrian and bicycle amenities in all new construction (business and residential) — Sunday Parkways, weak marketing tool as it is, may be all that is available for now.
    Sad.

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    Jack E. Savage January 17, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    It’s even worse, I think, in NYC…here, there’s an active effort by the auto industry to marginalize bikers, assisted by local news channels (whose ad revenue depends on car dealerships, automakers, etc.). The worst, up here, is the local CBS affiliate. Every summer they run this ridiculous “investigative” series about how “dangerous” NYC has become since the advent of bike lanes…it has to be seen to be believed. I think it’s called “Bike Bedlam” or something…But I’m surprised in Portland this argument is going on…isn’t Portland sort of a bike-Utopia?

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    velvetackbar January 17, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    So when is Saltzman’s term up?

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    Patrick January 17, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    This thread is starting to sounds as conspiratorial minded as a Tea Party meeting. Biking in Portland is not under attack. All that was brought up was eliminating a thing that while fun does not change the day to day reality of biking. I bike every day (including today in the wintery mix) and could care less about Sunday Parkways. It is a fun day for families but is not really a pilar of Portland bike culture. Safe streets, bike lanes, green streets, safe bike parking are what make people bike in this town. Let’s not blow this out of proportion. Portland has a budget problem and this seems like a small program that’s demise would not effect biking in Portland at all. Are we really so sensitive that questioning anything bike related is perceived as mortal threat?

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    OnTheRoad January 17, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    I kind of equate Parkways with BridgePedal. In order to get people to drag their squeaky-chain bikes out of the garage, the organizers have to promise car-free safety.

    This may tip the scales for some to think about using their bike for every-day transportation (the 60% “interested but concerned”). But these events only help reinforce and play on this group’s fears – I can’t ride unless streets are blocked off to autos and police stop traffic so I can cross a major street.

    The rides work great to get people on their bikes for an event, but whether that translates to more bicycle commuters.is not at all clear.

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    KYouell January 29, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    As a car-free, bakfiets pedaling Mom, I loved Sunday Parkways and Bridge Pedal. I think the future of biking is in the kids & that means getting more families on bikes. So yeah, getting the cars out of the way is a big deal. Even if it’s just for a few hours, it’s beautiful. Don’t get me wrong. We bike almost everyday and love it. We use the streets and we use the Esplanade and we use the Springwater Trail, and we use the sidewalk sometimes when I need to push that monster up a hill. I’m glad to read this wonderful piece that clears up the mess that traditional media made out of reporting this meeting. I’m sad to see so many comments that seem not to have read Jonathan’s excellent analysis at all.

    Get families out on bikes, even for a day, and some of them will see families like mine. We’ll chat, and then there will be more families like us who are raising children that will grow up to use their own energy as their main form of daily transportation.

    You really want to help us have more bicyclists and support for biking and invest in the future? Come join us for Kidical Mass (kidicalmasspdx.org). It tends to be the 3rd Saturday of the month. You don’t have to be or have kids, just agree that kids are traffic too. As far as I know it doesn’t cost the city a dime.

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    julie January 30, 2012 at 8:39 am

    I’m not interested in furthering “car culture” as I only have one to get out of the city. However, is there any evidence that Sunday Parkways creates more commuters? Any evidence that the family that drives their car full of bicycles from Hillsboro or Vancouver or Gresham or Camas to experience a fun, safe event in Portland one day (or 5) of the year…changes their behavior after their Sunday Parkways experience?

    I would rather see funding go to a network of unpaved bike paths for people to get around Portland on bicycles (even mountain bikes, whoa!) so that all of these new bike-riding converts can continue to feel safe and not “compete” with drivers on cell phones (yep, they’re still doing that) and drunk, unlicensed drivers (yep, they still do that too) on city streets. Take a look at Madison, WI and Bellingham, WA and many more worldwide. We need to earn the Platinum Status with more opportunites that blur the lines between transportation and recreation.

    Sunday Parkways is a nice event, but we should be thinking long-term change.

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