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Late night Old Town street closure plan would prohibit bike traffic

Posted by on September 27th, 2012 at 3:03 pm

A plan being proposed by the Portland Police Bureau (through the Office of Neighborhood Involvement) to improve safety on the streets of Old Town/Chinatown would come with seven blocks of downtown streets being closed to, “all vehicular traffic, including bicycles and skateboards.” The plan aims to create a carfree “Entertainment District”.

The plan is “at the very early stages” says Mike Boyer, the Crime Prevention Coordinator with the Office of Neighborhood Involvement (ONI). An outline of the plan was shared today on the Active Right of Way email list. According to a PDF from the Office of Neighborhood Involvement (uploaded by Portland Afoot) the closure zone would be active only on Friday and Saturday nights from 9:00 pm to 3:00 am and on selected major holidays.

The streets that would be included in this closure would be:

  • NW 3rd Ave between Burnside and Everett
  • NW Couch from 2nd to 4th
  • NW Davis from 2nd to 4th

During the closure periods, only walking traffic will be allowed in the area. Parking will be prohibited as well. There would be a “Pedicab zone” on 3rd between Burnside and Couch as well as a taxi and limo zone on NW Davis between 3rd and 4th.

Here’s more from ONI:

“The pilot program to establish an expanded pedestrian-only Entertainment Area is a vital first step in moving forward to a dedicated Entertainment District for the City of Portland. In addition to enhancing public safety by establishing formal boundaries and reducing incidents, establishing a true Entertainment District has the potential to increase patronage, draw new business, and act as a catalyst to revitalize Portland’s Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood. Businesses within and nearby the pedestrian area will benefit from increased visibility by pedestrian traffic and additional draw of out-of-town visitors to the area.”

The City implemented a similar closure in the area back in 2009. This effort would expand that closure.

Boyer at ONI says they’ll be having more community meetings about the proposal. As far as when it could take effect, he said it’s too early to say (he also said it’s too early to say how it would be funded).

If you have feedback on this proposal please contact Boyer via email (michael.boyer@portlandoregon.gov) or phone 503-823-5852.

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  • Mark Allyn September 27, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    I am assuming that you can walk your bike in this area 🙂

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  • Hart Noecker September 27, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    Splendid idea. Perhaps we can pull in some actual Portlanders into downtown on the weekends with this plan.

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    • Bike-Max-Bike September 27, 2012 at 3:59 pm

      Hey, the pop-collars from Beaverton will LOVE this. Excluding bikes will only add to their sense of entitlement.

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      • Uncle Muscles September 28, 2012 at 3:30 pm

        Gotta love the class snobbery directed toward people from the ‘burbs. I know we all dislike Affliction shirts and cologne but let’s try not to be such outright assholes toward other members of the community. We’ve got enough self-congratulatory artisanal bullshit going on in Portland that is completely equivalent on the douchery scale to the “popped collars” from Beaverton, Tigard or god forbid, Vancouver.

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  • Tim September 27, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    I am assuming the police will still drive their cruisers on the streets.

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    • Bike-Max-Bike September 27, 2012 at 4:00 pm

      Beat patrol for meet-n-greet would really be a much better idea.

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      • Indy September 27, 2012 at 4:15 pm

        I have a great idea! How about downtown Clean&Safe cops on bikes that ride on sidewalks telling people on bikes not to enter!

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  • dennis September 27, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    I’m OK with this, provided ample bicycle parking is provided nearby.

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    • Chris I September 27, 2012 at 4:00 pm

      You can leave it with one of the “attendants” waiting on the corner of 3rd and Burnside…

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  • NW Biker September 27, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    I think this is a fine idea. When I’ve traveled in Europe, I’ve found that the pedestrian-only areas are the most enjoyable, for all of the obvious reasons.

    Budapest, for instance, has a pedestrian-only area that must be a mile long, if not longer, and wider than most streets, and it’s very pleasant. They’ve even built an underpass where the pedestrian area crosses a major street, rather than making people cross that street. Judging from the numbers of people taking advantage of the space, the businesses along that entire stretch and the market hall at the end must be very happy and healthy.

    Of course, that’s 24/7/365, but even a temporary reprieve from traffic of all sorts would make the area discussed in this article a good place to spend an evening.

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    • AlanG24 September 27, 2012 at 9:35 pm

      I’m with you on this. I lived for some years in a town of 20,000 outside of Barcelona. Their “old town” featured a 1000 year old monastery and church along with centuries-old buildings. When we first moved there, all the streets in the vicinity were open to cars and motor scooters – it was a overwhelming. Parking was awful, the old, narrow streets were dangerous to walk and it was loud.

      The city started blocking all vehicles (cars, bikes, etc.) from an area of several blocks around the old town on just Fridays and Saturdays much like this Portland plan. It was so successful at bringing people out for dinner, shopping, and paseos (long strolls) that it soon moved to 24/7/365 They actually tore up the asphalt and put down cobblestones and built a parking garage nearby to handle the cars.

      It made the entire area a fun, safe environment. Parents could let their kids run around, cafe tables poured into what had been streets, and shops were full of patrons.

      During holidays and festivals, the zone was the go-to place to be. Suffice it to say I’d be very supportive and happy if something like this evolved in Portland. – Alan

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  • Joseph E September 27, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    I think it’s great, if bikes are given a good alternative route when Couch is closed. Taking Burnside at 10 PM isn’t my idea of a good time. Perhaps pedicab and bike access could be maintained east-west on Couch, but only thru a one-lane area in the center of the street? Or better yet, one lane each way of Burnside could be turned into a bike lane, from the bridge to Park. If this solution is implemented, I would support making the closure to vehicles permanent and at all hours.

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    • xsnairx September 28, 2012 at 8:09 pm

      COP has redic plans for West Burnside.

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  • Rick September 27, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Good to know as I turn off of Broadway onto Davis to get to the waterfront. But honestly, you’d never catch me in that area after dark. I don’t feel safe there.

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    • bun September 28, 2012 at 1:47 pm

      really? you feel unsafe in portland?

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    • Kurt Kemmerer September 29, 2012 at 3:07 pm

      Are you serious? Why?

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  • Indy September 27, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    My dislike of cars far exceeds my love of being able to bike everywhere.

    I’m always a pedestrian first.


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    • Vance Longwell September 29, 2012 at 8:17 am

      Indy: “Cars”, have human beings in them. So you dislike these people that drive cars, not the cars themselves. And I’ll bet you sit around, spending a ton of time trying to figure out why there is a conflict between motorists, and bicycle-riders.

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  • pixelgate September 27, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Good, and I agree. This area during this time should be pedestrians only. You do not want to be a cyclist weaving through drunk revelers in this area, trust me.

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  • Spiffy September 27, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    they’re finally giving it the Red Light District treatment that it’s already been enjoying… but now it’s official…

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  • Hugh Johnson September 27, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    No problem with this at all. No reason to be riding a bike through there.

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  • Zach September 27, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    This area is already dangerous and sometime nearly impassable during these times. This is a fine idea.

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  • Rol September 27, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    I should be happy about any car-free zone, but this one rubs me the wrong way, because it’s
    co-located with…
    temporally coincident with…
    for the express purposes of…
    centered on…
    designed to support and facilitate…
    and an inadvertent reward for…
    …rampant douchebaggerie.

    How about a car-free district for like, normal people? I guess we need to show up en masse somewhere and make a nuisance of ourselves week after week to be rewarded with anything like that.

    What happens if Occupy Portland starts showing up somewhere on a weekly basis and pulls the same kind of stuff these “entertainment patrons” pull on a weekly basis? Do they then get their own pedestrian-only zone? No, they get pepper-sprayed and pushed along. I guess because they’re not spending money?

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    • Scott September 28, 2012 at 2:09 pm

      Rol, I say this with total respect, you need to travel more. Douchebaggery is the norm. Don’t forget you live in a bubble and just a few steps away are vast masses that have no idea what vegan or vegan-friendly mean and that phrases like “legitamate rape” can actually be used.

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    • Chris I September 28, 2012 at 8:32 pm

      It would probably be okay, provided the Occupy folks lay down $8 for drinks.

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  • Oliver September 27, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    I think it’s a great idea. Though there’s quite a bit of parking that will be lost in those blocks.

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  • Rebecca September 27, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    I’m glad to see the lanes closed to car traffic – it’s a Mardi Gras out there. But Everett -> 3rd Ave -> Burnside is a cyclist’s safest route to the Burnside Bridge. I’m less excited about re-directing bike traffic to Burnside from 5th Ave down to the bridge – major arterial, no bike lanes, high traffic, etc.

    It’s a short section but would be pretty uncomfortable – fine for “confident and enthused,” not so great for the “interested but concerned”. An alternate route for bikes to access the Burnside Bridge would be appreciated.

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  • Alex Reed September 27, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    Also, this proposal is lacking an alternate bike route from points west to the Waterfront Park path. I’m a stubborn “interested but concerned” cyclist. Currently I take Davis or Couch because Everett ends at a scary intersection at Naito. I would have to walk my bike under this proposal. I could get behind this proposal if improvements for bikes were made to the Everett/Steel Bridge/Naito area so I could get through there safely and comfortably.

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  • Aaron September 27, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    my response is -wow, if this a major austerity measure. Sure the city will use tax money to create a car-free zone so you can have your party night, but don’t worry you wont have to walk too far. The same tax-money will pay for a party bus pickup so rich folks can have your stretch SUV nearby.
    It’s much more expensive to create temporary car-free zones where police (pulled from regular duty) have to enforce traffic changes, parking changes and towing each week.
    I don’t know of many average young people in Portland who can spend $$ on a full evening of ‘entertainment’ in that area

    Why not just make it a 24/7 *carfree* area??
    Businesses like carfree when they’re making money but not during the day when everyone wants to park?
    The reason I see through this is because the much tauted one-block length of SW Ankeny which was closed to vehicles and became 3/4 outdoor restaurant and 1/4 walkway

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  • resopmok September 27, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Car free zones are a great idea, and I think they could do a lot to revitalize our city, but we really do need to look at motivations here and not just applaud because it’s “good.” I think the real purpose behind a car free zone is to bring back the old, original definition of a road – “an open way for vehicles, persons, and animals.” This isn’t investment in our city, this is use of public services for the profit of some downtown businesses. If all these cops and hardware are being paid for by the businesses that are profiting, then all the power to them. But if it’s on the public dime and not for the public good, then I guess I’ll get to watch my tax dollars find another route to some rich dude’s pockets.

    Maybe we could spend some money on public education about the rules of the road rather than cops to babysit a bunch of drunks?

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  • Scott Batchelar September 28, 2012 at 1:28 am

    I agree with Rebecca, as a resident and FREQUENT user of 3rd street to access downtown Portland from the Pearl District there are VERY FEW safe alternatives to 3rd street on Friday or Saturday Evening plus it makes 4th street even more risky as this would force more cars onto either 2nd or 4th making for an already stressful biking situation.

    I definitely like the idea of a car free district but this IS NOT the area to be considering for this type of treatment.

    A much better possibility in my opinion would be Stark street from 13th to 10th or even 9th as most of the users of this area are less likely to abuse the priviledge like the typical people I regularly run into in this area on the evenings in question.

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  • Steve September 28, 2012 at 6:15 am

    Good luck with this. Beyond the people who don’t mind going without a vehicle (myself included) -It’s not going to be easy getting people excited about no parking/driving/biking in my opinion. Who is going to come downtown in winter weather if they know they are going to have to park and walk-in to where they want to be? I don’t drive, I don’t even own a car, but I am trying to think like a suburbanite here. I don’t picture the throngs of suburbanites who flood downtown each weekend hopping on MAX trains, or their bicycles to come into downtown/Old Town. Are they going to drive in, struggle to find parking, and then walk to where they want to be? Or are they just going to stick in suburibia where parking is practically limitless and they can drive to everything-while staying warm/dry? -I do hope this is successful however-I do think it is a decent start. If it does work, I think it will be a great car-free/walkable area to have a good time without the hassle of traffic.

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    • Scott September 28, 2012 at 9:03 am

      Go down to this part of town and look at what is offered. Barracuda’s, the Dixie Tavern, Dirty Night Life? C’mon. These places are packed and there is absolutely no reason outside of people hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the Blazers. The miracle is not in getting people to continue to patronize these places, but rather in the fact that they do in the first place.

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    • naess September 29, 2012 at 5:59 pm

      obviously you’ve never been to this area on the nights in question. street closure or no street closure, you have to park and walk in anyways.

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  • Scott September 28, 2012 at 9:00 am

    I exclude this zone 100% on Friday and Saturday. They can do anything they want with it. I don’t live in the suburbs so it won’t affect me.

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  • q`Tzal September 28, 2012 at 9:42 am

    Simple solution:
    Stage Occupy Portland inside this pedestrian zone consistently.
    It’ll irk the higher concentration of 1%’ers out carousing and douchebaggering but the only way to stop it is to shut down the car free zone.

    Go be an annoying hybrid of hare krishnas, telemarketers and survey takers.

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    • q`Tzal September 28, 2012 at 9:43 am

      This was supposed to be a reply to Rol’s comment above.

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  • osmill September 28, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    I’m pleased that this would mean WNBR would never again be able to try to squeeze 10,000 naked cyclists through the gauntlet of leering drunks.

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  • Paul Smith September 28, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    A corral for the suburban brotards? I say let them have it!

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  • mark kenseth September 28, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    I guess I can’t do an Amsterdam left after coming down the Burnside Bridge to head south on 5th. Maybe the bus turn lane will allow bikes?

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  • Kurt Kemmerer September 28, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    I do love all the ridiculous cardboard cliches. Everyone must above everyone else. All right, for those who don’t need to look down on others to feel good about themselves, this seems like a fine idea.

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  • Michael M. September 29, 2012 at 1:56 am

    The motivations for this proposal are pedestrian safety and reducing police calls because of conflicts. PPD’s stats indicate a high incidence of calls to this area that result from overcrowded sidewalks and collisions and near-misses between drivers & pedestrians that result in fights. It doesn’t really have anything to do with trying to create pedestrian zones for the sake of whatever benefits pedestrian zones might bring, so alternate locations aren’t really pertinent to this particular proposal. The issue is that this area is already drawing more people than the current infrastructure set-up can handle safely, and the police are trying to come up with a way to remedy the situation. The police think the project would save money, ultimately. They are drawing heavily on the model that the Vancouver, B.C., police dept. used in remedying similar problems in the Granville Entertainment District, which is described in this report [PDF]. Regarding parking, this would result in the loss of 60-65 on-street parking spots for those 12 hours. The police don’t think this would have a big impact on congestion because significant traffic in this area during these hours results from people cruising around and around these same blocks. PBOT is looking at this, though, and hasn’t weighed in.

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  • Joe October 1, 2012 at 11:47 am

    * “Amsterdam left after coming down the Burnside Bridge” * haha awesome

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