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Portland wins bid to host 2016 National Open Streets Summit

Posted by on September 28th, 2015 at 1:42 pm

openstreetslead

Hot off the presses!
(Photo by Linda Ginenthal)

Next August the open streets movement will come to Portland.

Over the weekend we heard the news that Portland has been granted the right to host the 2016 National Open Streets Summit. Bureau of Transportation staffer Linda Ginenthal attended the 2015 event in Atlanta, Georgia over the weekend and shared the news with us yesterday after she flew back to oversee Sunday Parkways.

2016 will be third annual Open Streets Summit. The event is organized by the non-profit Open Streets Project in partnership with DC-based advocacy group the Alliance for Biking and Walking. The goal of the event is to bring together national and international leaders working to implement events like Portland’s Sunday Parkways, where streets are “opened” to people and closed to auto use. The Atlanta event over the weekend drew 125 leaders in the movement. The first summit was held in Los Angeles in 2014.

In the past 5-10 years, the number of open streets events in North America has skyrocketed. Portland got on the bandwagon in 2008 and today there are over 90 similar events across the continent.

Ginenthal said the 2016 Summit in Portland will take place in early August. Attendees will get the chance to attend both Bridge Pedal and the August Sunday Parkways event, as well as a host of professional development workshops and plenary speeches by notables in the field.

The last time Portland played host to an event like this was in 2008 when we were chosen to host the Towards Carfree Cities conference.

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Sunday Parkways North 2011-54-53

Sunday Parkways in June 2011.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

In some ways that event helped pave the way for Sunday Parkways in Portland. It was most memorable for the rousing speech given by Gil Peñalosa, former commissioner of Parks, Sport, and Recreation for the city of Bogotá, Colombia and current executive director of 8-80 Cities. Peńalosa gave Portland a reality check on its complacency and told us, “The reality is that Portland is far from being great, you have to realize that.”

Ginenthal was at that event and it’s no mystery that Bogotá’s famous Ciclovía events inspired her and her PBOT colleagues to start Sunday Parkways.

It was Gil’s brother, former Bogotá Mayor Enrique Peñalosa who told a Portland crowd nearly nine years ago that it all comes down to “cars versus people.”

“The essence of the conflict today, really, is cars versus people,” he said during an event at the Bagdad Theater on SE Hawthorne. “We can have a city that is very friendly to cars, or a city that is very friendly to people. We cannot have both.”

Is Portland ready to follow the lead of other great cities like Oslo and Paris who are starting to wrestle their downtowns away from automobiles and back to people? Will 2016 finally be the year that Portland decides to take Sunday Parkways to the next level and route the event on major streets and thoroughfares?

With Portland once again looking to regain our momentum around biking and walking after years of silence from City Hall and the period of stagnation that followed, this summit next year could be coming at a perfect time. We’ll also be in the heat of a mayoral race where it appears (so far at least) as if both candidates are trying to outdo each other when it comes to progressive transportation policies.

— Stay tuned for more details on the 2016 National Open Streets Summit.

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33 Comments
  • 9watts September 28, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    “We can have a city that is very friendly to cars, or a city that is very friendly to people. We cannot have both.”

    Wise Words. And Still True.

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  • Adam Herstein September 28, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    Summits are great for Portland politicians, considering how much they love talking and promoting the city nationally without actually implementing anything!

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    • Adam Herstein September 28, 2015 at 2:06 pm

      In all seriousness though, I do hope something good comes out of this. Sunday Parkways is great, but flawed, and it will be a nice wake-up call when people like Gil Peñalosa ride here and call out all of our shortcomings that seem to be invisible to our policy-makers.

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 28, 2015 at 2:09 pm

        on that note i’ll never forget when I rode with Gil on the Esplanade after the carfree conference. We see it as a gem and his first words were essentially.. “Why is this so narrow?!” http://bikeportland.org/2008/06/20/on-the-eastbank-esplanade-with-gil-penalosa-7951

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        • Adam Herstein September 28, 2015 at 2:34 pm

          All of our bike infrastructure save for a few examples has built-in conflict. This is easy to see for anyone who knows what they are looking for.

          Any chance we can invite Mikael Colville-Andersen to the summit? 😉

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          • BeavertonRider September 30, 2015 at 9:10 pm

            But, of course, there’s an inherent conflict. Is there anyone suggesting that there is not?

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  • Alan 1.0 September 28, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Now we know why Linda Ginenthal was extra happy!

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  • Endo September 28, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    “The essence of the conflict today, really, is cars versus people,”

    I agree 1000%! Every road interaction is cars vs. people and until everybody understands that people will continue to die at the hands of “progress.” We need a visionary who’s willing to state the obvious: most city streets should be closed to vehicle traffic and open to cyclists and peds.

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    • 9watts September 28, 2015 at 2:14 pm

      “most city streets should be closed to vehicle traffic”

      In our lifetimes. But not because anyone decreed it from above.

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    • canuck September 28, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      Actually it is people in cars vs people not in cars. Without people cars are inanimate objects.

      You will never get a car to understand anything, but you may get a driver to understand what it is like to be a pedestrian by getting them out of their car.

      To make this a man vs machine conflict is misdirected.

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      • 9watts September 28, 2015 at 2:21 pm

        Sure, but really we’re talking about the two *systems* – automobility-as-a-system vs. human-powered-transport-as-a-system.

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    • BeavertonRider September 30, 2015 at 9:13 pm

      Most streets should be closed to vehicles? Why?

      I really am interested in this proposition and what economic, social, and political interests it evaluates.

      Streets exist for a reason and it ain’t so people can ride their bikes. Cars exist for a reason and it ain’t to kill people on their bikes. But that’s how it seems many people here on this blog approach the question regarding how to best integrate biking into contemporary cities.

      So, please help me understand…how have you evaluated the situation to arrive at the conclusion that streets just need to be closed to cars?

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  • Tom Hardy September 28, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    Bridge Pedal and Parkways need to be combined into at least a 2 day blowout. This would cover All of the bridges and ALL of the Parkways celebration into an all day Saturday, until Sunday at Sunset event. This would cover all 5 corners of Portland and maybe even the surrounding boroughs. I know Clackamas would never agree but at least the rest of Greater Portland could do it. Just lock up the cars but let ambulances, and emergency vehicles through. This would require blocking all exits for I-84, I-5, I-205, I-405, and 26, Maybe even blocking all exits from Powell for cars and trucks.

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    • Mao September 28, 2015 at 4:05 pm

      Ugh. Please please please no. I would never be able to do my volunteer work or see my parents then. That’s half way to putting the city under some kind of quarantine.

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    • BeavertonRider September 30, 2015 at 9:14 pm

      Notice that this isn’t to make riding more fun, but to penalize people who dare use a vehicle to transport themselves or their things by car.

      I just want to point that out.

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  • Paul H September 28, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    Maybe it’s cars vs. people. Maybe.

    I’m inclined to think it’s thoroughfares vs. streets.

    There’s nothing wrong with including roadways (and rails and bike paths) to move traffic across town or through the countryside. Thoroughfares free local streets from freight trucks, folks heading across (or out of) town, hordes of fast-moving cyclists in spandex, etc.

    Just don’t try to make them streets. Streets are how homes connect to other homes, parks, schools, churches, local commerce, and other bits of city life. People socialize in them. They’re essential to the concept of “neighborhood.”

    Trouble comes when those concepts mix, like those awful 1970s era stadiums that hosted both baseball and football. Let streets be for people. Provide thoroughfares necessary for commerce. And keep them separate.

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  • Bald One September 28, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    Sunday Parkway yesterday was nice, although the traffic management at the route crossings for cars continued to give cars the priority. Why were the intersection managers holding up dozens (100’s) of cyclists to let one car through and not making the car wait more than one minute. I was trying to get across one of these minor crossings and waited for my kids who were a few people behind me, as I paused in the intersection the controller/attendant started yelling at me to get out of there so the one car who had been waiting for less than one minute could be allowed through. I got separated from my group of 9 people 3 times trying to cross at intersections where a few cars were waiting. Why not give the priority to the huge crowds of people on the SP ride instead of the handful of folks trying to cross?

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    • Adam Herstein September 28, 2015 at 4:21 pm

      Why not give the priority to the huge crowds of people on the SP ride instead of the handful of folks trying to cross?

      Because car culture.

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  • B. Carfree September 28, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    “Will 2016 finally be the year that Portland decides to take Sunday Parkways to the next level and route the event on major streets and thoroughfares?”

    With the build up of going to the next level, I was more than a little disappointed that your vision involved such a tiny step. These wee little demonstrations, while better than the day-to-day status quo, aren’t much to write home about.

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  • Scott D September 28, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    I have a couple of issues with this article

    First it feeds into the negativity so often seen on BikePortland. In my experience the city spends some money to improve cycling and the response is often a rant by cyclist as to why this change isn’t good enough. Can we celebrate some of the wonderful things Portland does have?

    Secondly, I really object to the “cars versus people” rhetoric. I’ve seen so many hateful comments (OK mostly by motorists commenting in the Oregonian). We need to find a new way to engage on this issue so that it is more cooperative instead of adversarial.

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    • 9watts September 28, 2015 at 4:18 pm

      We could just as easily look at this 180 degrees off: By studiously avoiding acknowledging any modal tradeoffs, any zero-sum, our leaders do everyone a disservice by pretending we can somehow miraculously solve these myriad problems with our transportation system (funding, capacity, safety, environment) without ever touching the sacred cow of automobility.
      I too would like to imagine that we could somehow go easy on the people still in cars, but after seven or eight years of reading bikeportland (just about) every day, I’ve grown doubtful.

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      • BeavertonRider September 30, 2015 at 9:20 pm

        But our leaders are not doing this. They are not avoiding acknowledging modal conflict and the need for trade-offs; that solutions cannot be win-win in order to argue (though how do you argue by avoiding saying at all?) that current transportation problems without affecting auto use.

        Seriously, we don’t have to unfairly malign those we disagree with, use your manners. We also don’t have to argue in bad faith by attributing false motives to others and mischaracterizing their views.

        You, like many others here, seem to believe that there’s no adverse impact to limiting the use of cars either for individuals or businesses. You further imply that those who don’t see it your way engage in hocus-pocus magical thinking.

        This is what the poster above you was referring to.

        If we just used our manners, we could have a civil debate about this. But when one group of people consistently yells at the other side that they simply want greater opportunity to use their cars as weapons, well, why do you think the general public basically ignores you?

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    • gutterbunnybikes September 28, 2015 at 5:06 pm

      I prefer “unlawful” or “dangerous drivers” to “cars” when I talk. Because everyone – even the unlawful and dangerous drivers (since no one thinks that it is actually them) will agree that they need to be removed from the roads.

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      • Mark September 29, 2015 at 9:21 am

        That’s true. The vast majority of people driving cars are courteous, kind and patient. It’s the minority that post on Facebook and the Oregonian in anger.

        It is the few that will be happy with nothing short of an Austin, Texas freeway and road system. Thankfully the leaders of Portland are elected by everyone else. Still…they are people who don’t want a room full of angry Lars Larson syncophants or angry “business people”. Just look at what boulder is going through. They got blindsided by the angry car people.

        I am not s fan of making most streets peds only or closing it to cars. That can result in bikes being banned. Also…it cuts down on accessibility for everyone. 1 lane through each way at low, low speed is fine. Kind of like Europe. Slow cars are fun to watch. Slow streets are fun to drive. Slow cars are fun to bike with on occasion.

        Portland knows it wants to go a mix of Amsterdam and Europe…. But just can’t say that. Instead they do thing like parkways, open streets….bridge pedal…. Etc.

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        • Tom Hardy October 2, 2015 at 6:46 pm

          Mark.
          Speaking of Boulder! Boulder is where the Sheriff decided to cite riders for indecent exposure at a WNBR event.

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  • Brad September 28, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    Oh, boy! Another wonk conference?! This is awesome since it will lead to more discussions resulting in more fact finding trips to vision more policy notions that imagine inspired infrastructure ideas. One day, my future great-grandchildren will finally have safe places to ride their self guided, fusion powered hoverbikes in Portland!!!

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  • Mark September 29, 2015 at 9:23 am

    Scott D
    I have a couple of issues with this articleFirst it feeds into the negativity so often seen on BikePortland. In my experience the city spends some money to improve cycling and the response is often a rant by cyclist as to why this change isn’t good enough. Can we celebrate some of the wonderful things Portland does have?Secondly, I really object to the “cars versus people” rhetoric. I’ve seen so many hateful comments (OK mostly by motorists commenting in the Oregonian). We need to find a new way to engage on this issue so that it is more cooperative instead of adversarial.Recommended 2

    Here is the quote you are objecting to. I see far better writing here than in the Oregonian.
    It was Gil’s brother, former Bogotá Mayor Enrique Peñalosa who told a Portland crowd nearly nine years ago that it all comes down to “cars versus people.”

    “The essence of the conflict today, really, is cars versus people,” he said during an event at the Bagdad Theater on SE Hawthorne. “We can have a city that is very friendly to cars, or a city that is very friendly to people. We cannot have both.”

    Is Portland ready to follow the lead of other great cities like Oslo and Paris who are starting to wrestle their downtowns away from automobiles and back to people? Will 2016 finally be the year that Portland decides to take Sunday Parkways to the next level and route the event on major streets and thoroughfares?

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • BeavertonRider September 30, 2015 at 9:25 pm

      Oslo and Paris are vastly different types of cities that contemporary American cities.

      Why do so many people ignore this very basic, very obvious fact whenever they passionately argue, well, we should just do what x does? It’s the same nonsensical argument that is made by pro-train people in the US when they appeal to the fast trains of Europe.

      There are very few places in the US that are modeled after Europe’s great cities, NYC, DC, Boston and that’s about it.Even then there are significant limitations to the comparisons for intermodal transportation.

      Yeah, lets see how well wrestling cars away from people will work in huge cities like LA, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, etc. Sounds brilliant! We can bike across 100s of square miles of city…no problem.

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  • Mark September 29, 2015 at 9:25 am

    Mao
    Ugh. Please please please no. I would never be able to do my volunteer work or see my parents then. That’s half way to putting the city under some kind of quarantine.Recommended 0

    Really? There is no alternative to needing those arterials in a car?

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    • Mao September 29, 2015 at 6:08 pm

      “This would cover All of the bridges ”
      Taking streets isn’t a problem, it’s taking the bridges. Typically a few are closed so we get to bike on them and it’s great. It causes some clogs and delays but you can get around those by going places early/returning late.

      A two day 48hour event that takes the weekend would be really cool to see downtown as an experiment. But taking all the bridges then locks people to their side of the river if they cannot
      – Bike the distance for one reason or another
      – Travel before the event and have a place to sleep
      – Travel a long way around
      Assuming all bridges includes the Sellwood AND i-5/405 “This would require blocking all exits for I-84, I-5, I-205, I-405, and 26” , you would need to take the 99E to Oregon City then take the 205 to the i-5 and loopback (I don’t drive enough to know if there is a shorter route, this is just from looking at a map).

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      • BeavertonRider September 30, 2015 at 9:26 pm

        Hence, it’s clear that it was not a serious proposal for a great and fun city-wide event, but really only seeks to punish people for wanting to use their cars.

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        • Tom Hardy October 2, 2015 at 6:56 pm

          Just a proposal to stimulate an idea of a possibility. If far east (east of 205) wanted in on it, I would have no objections all the way out to Corbett. Of course Corbett is where half of the Clackamas county Sheriff’s horse patrol lives.

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