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.
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.
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.