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.
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.