Joe Bike

Portland’s ‘Peacock Lane’ holiday light show will go car-free on busy nights

Posted by on October 29th, 2014 at 10:15 am

More bike visits mean less trouble for the neighborhood.

First, it was the Last Thursday art festival. Then, Old Town’s weekend nightlife district.

Now, Portland’s 90-year-old holiday light tradition is also dealing with crowded streets by going car-free on certain nights.

The catch: It looks as if the car-free nights this December on Peacock Lane, which is one block east of SE Chavez Boulevard between Stark and Belmont, won’t be announced in advance.

That’s the word this month from the Peacock Lane Neighborhood Association:

Due to record breaking crowds in recent years, the Portland Police Department has decided to take a more active role this year in managing vehicle access to the Lane and on surrounding streets. “Our goal is to maximize safety, and any time the crowds cannot be contained to sidewalks, we will redirect vehicles in order to protect pedestrians and prevent traffic backups throughout the neighborhood,” says Portland Cadet and Reserve Coordinator Officer John Shadron. Traffic management may include closing the street to motor vehicles, or allowing right turns only onto and from Peacock Lane during peak viewing hours. Peacock Lane residents will be sending out live updates on weather and traffic via Twitter and Facebook.


As always, residents will be serving free hot cocoa and cider from the handmade booth in the center of Peacock Lane. Any optional donations collected at the cocoa booth are used to cover the costs of the event (cocoa and cider supplies, street maintenance and cleanup). In years when donations have exceeded event costs, a donation is made to a local charity selected by Lane residents. Vendors, performers, and other organizations are asked to refrain from soliciting or fundraising during viewing hours. Peacock Lane president Becky Patterson explains, “We’ve always felt that this should be a free event for the community. We will continue to appreciate everyone’s cooperation in keeping Peacock Lane festive and community-focused, rather than a commercial endeavor.”

The spectacular light displays are on from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. every night from Dec. 15-31, with the lightest crowds after Christmas and before 8 p.m.

This is a perfect example of why car-free spaces can work: not out of any crusading anti-car agenda, but because when a bunch of people want to enjoy the same space at the same time, you just run out of room if everybody tries to bring a car with them.

Maybe organizers and police will even consider publicizing these nights in advance, the way Crater Lake National Park did after its impromptu car-free weekend turned out to be a roaring success, in order to give people a cue that it’ll be a perfect night to roll over on a bike. That’d be another local holiday tradition worth looking forward to.

Thanks to reader Tony Jordan, president of the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association, for the tip.

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    Spiffy October 29, 2014 at 10:23 am

    when a bunch of people want to enjoy the same space at the same time, you just run out of room if everybody tries to bring a car with them.

    so why isn’t downtown car-free yet? seems like the same excuse…

    did Peacock Lane get a special permit to close the street on demand rather than at a specific time? if not, then why selectively choose this location to censure motor vehicles rather than write tickets to pedestrians?

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      TJ October 29, 2014 at 12:25 pm

      Granted fewer cars would make west of the river more enjoyable, I don’t go to work everyday for the sake of enjoyment. A bit more complicated than the same excuse.

      However, for a festive rockwellian holiday evening, restricting cars downtown would be magic. Otherwise there are snow “storms” to count on.

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      paikiala October 29, 2014 at 1:17 pm

      Insufficient density. If you recall, the ‘bus mall’ didn’t always have cars, and the businesses had difficulties. Many pedestrian malls created in the 70’s reverted to auto use after a decade or so. Some have gone the other direction, as in Santa Monica, but still permit trucks in the early AM for deliveries. Few cities in the US have the density to support car-free zones.

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    peejay October 29, 2014 at 11:35 am

    It’s a good start, but it means all those cars still drive into my neighborhood and park.

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    Todd Boulanger October 29, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Sweet! (Perhaps there needs to be a marketing campaign with Trimet advertising this event and its service as a nice way for car driving families to try out its service).

    I remember the first time going to Peacock Lane and chocking on the fumes…I was so shocked at the air quality and its impact on the event. The car free nights have been so much better. Way to go expanding it.

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    Christopher Sanderson October 29, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    I live just around the corner, and at that time of year it is simply mayhem in the neighborhood.

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    lahar legar October 29, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    I love the car (e) free nights at Peacock Lane but especially at PRI Winter Wonderland. I love riding around the track with family, friends and schnaps. And I just saw that it will be held on:

    December 8, 2014
    The Bike Gallery The 6th Annual Bike Gallery “Bike the Lights”

    Monday Dec. 8th, 2014 – 5-9 PM. $6 per person – Children under 13 are free.

    A benefit for the BTA, Bicycle Transportation Alliance. $1.00 from each paid admission, on-site sales, all special raffle tickets and all cash donations go to BTA.

    Bring the family to a fun night dedicated to bicycle riding and the bicycle community (no cars or motorized vehicles allowed on track).

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    Dan October 29, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    I want my neighborhood to do this for Halloween. We have a lot of folks drive in from out of the area, and there are hundreds of people walking around in a 1/4 mile section, crossing back & forth over the road in the dark. There are only sidewalks on one side of the road & leaves on both shoulders as part of our leaf collection plan. Curious what kind of loops we need to jump through to block it off for 2 hours.

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    TonyJ October 29, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    I can’t decide if this is really a good thing, honestly. I don’t see how the uncertainty of whether the street will be closed will be beneficial to anybody. Last year, with two car-free nights, we were able to plan to visit the street on a car-free evening. Conversely, with all the random shut downs, many drivers (and purchasers of things like horse rides) were frustrated and inconvenienced.

    I was hoping that, after last year, they’d decide to make the weekend (high traffic) evenings car free. The biggest impact to the neighborhood was probably on the planned car-free evenings when, quite obviously, most people wanted to visit. Having MORE car-free nights should have reduced the impacts to the neighborhood by allowing people to spread out that demand.

    Now, I anticipate that on the busiest nights, the street will get shut down, leading to confusion and frustration and more erratic behavior on surrounding streets. On the other hand, if you plan to attend on a busy night with the hopes of it ending up car-free, you might just end up sucking gas fumes on the crowded sidewalk. Ironically, if enough people heed the warning and take the bus or park and walk, the traffic might just be “not terrible” enough to keep it open for cars and lead to max crowding.

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      Bill Stites October 29, 2014 at 7:08 pm

      I couldn’t agree more.

      PLNA has been toying with carfree nights for, what, 6 or 7 years now? Have they not been a huge success? We love them! It’s shocking to me that the very positive feedback is not enough to simply increase the number of carfree nights. Carry on with a good trend – carfree nights are not the problem.

      While it’s a good thing that the police will make on-the-fly changes to traffic to maintain safety, I think many people plan around the car-free nights and that is apparently lost.
      It strikes me that PLNA is ceding a high level of control over the event to police … rarely a good idea.

      So many reasons for more carfree nights – safety, relaxation and livability, no fumes [I really wish fossil fuel emissions were orange].

      Overall seems like a big mistake. Consider bringing back the designated carfree nights. More than one, please.

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    Dwaine Dibbly October 29, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    Sure would be nice to know in advance, though. Folks who show up with cars on car-free night will be upset and people who show up walking/biking on a night with cars will be at least as upset.

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    Mark Allyn October 31, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    I might have bad news about Peacock Lane. I might not be able to provide my bicycle and fashion lighting because my mother is in hospice here in Massachusetts and I don’t know what may be happening during the holiday season in December.

    However, I am glad to hear this news about traffic control.

    This will give me more room to do my twirls and piroulets in my longer skirted lighted outfits if I am able to make it here.


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