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Today is Park(ing) Day, a celebratory reminder that streets are public space

Posted by on September 15th, 2017 at 9:30 am

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Today the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation is using our streets to their fullest potential. Instead of cheap storage for private vehicles, they’ve handed out special permits for creative placemaking installations as part of our local observance of International Park(ing) Day.

The idea behind Park(ing) Day is to transform metered parking spots into spaces where people can enjoy a bit of greenspace, entertainment, and relaxation. For PBOT, who has participated in the event since 2006, it’s a way to encourage people to re-think how we use public right-of-way. They granted special permits (for just $25) to anyone who wanted to take over a parking space (as long as their plans met specific guidelines of course).

Parking Day-16
A scene from a Park(ing) Day installation on SW Stark in 2013.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

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For their part, PBOT will put out their famous mini-golf course — a.k.a. Parkways Putt-Putt — on the street in front of City Hall from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. They’ll also have a Plinko game with prizes and drinks for those who stop by. PBOT’s involvement is part of their “Portland In The Streets” initiative which is a part of their Livable Streets Strategy, which they hope to present to City Council next month.

There are nine other installations throughout the central city. PBOT has published an interactive Google Map with a description of what to expect at each one.

Here’s what you’ll see on NW Glisan between 11th and 12th:

Make sure to check out some of the installations as you roll around town today. As you do, ask yourself why we allow so much of our publicly-owned street space to be devoted to private automobile storage. Imagine all the cool spaces we could enjoy year-round if we dared to use curbspace differently.

Learn more about all the local Park(ing) Day festivities here.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Bikeninja September 15, 2017 at 9:40 am

    A vision of what the future could be like without Karz.

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  • q September 15, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    This is great.

    On the other end of the spectrum, my neighbor just put up an official looking sign on a public telephone pole next to the public, on-street space in front of his illegal airbnb, stating, “TENANT PARKING ONLY–VIOLATORS WILL BE TOWED AT OWNER’S EXPENSE”.

    In other words, he views the public street as his private property, that he can reserve for his illegal business, with anyone else daring to park there being a “violator” that he feels comfortable with threatening with towing.

    So there’s a lot of education needed about what streets are for, and who has a right to use them, and for what.

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    • Brian September 15, 2017 at 1:30 pm

      That’s the first place I would park every time I came home.

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    • Chris I September 15, 2017 at 3:01 pm

      I tear signs like that down whenever I see them.

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    • Todd Boulanger September 18, 2017 at 3:00 pm

      This is becoming more common than one would think…from your local dry cleaners putting up official looking signs reserving parking for customers on the weekend (no parking enforcement on duty) to a more notorious situation when the City of Vancouver (WA) staff struggled to correct a case for over a year when a law office did this same thing for the street frontage in front of their westside office.

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  • mran1984 September 15, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    I prefer cars parked on the street to the litter piles of illegal camping. Every flat tire in 2017 has occurred in an illegal, and thoroughly disgusting, street campground. Your hatred of cars is funny. Uber and friends are okay for some reason, but they are not a viable method for excursions into the great outdoors. Portland was better 20 years ago. It gets worse everyday. Please go back and take your homeless friends with you. You don’t appreciate my opinion and I do not agree with your take on free parking. I have parked here longer than most of you have lived here.

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    • Chris I September 17, 2017 at 6:45 am

      Done with your nonsensical rant yet? Blaming bike advocates for the homeless problem is a new one. Where’d you get that idea?

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  • q September 15, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    It’s not just parking spaces whose real estate value needs to be re-evaluated, it’s entire street surfaces. Example–the “woonerf” concept. Instead of 80% of the right of way being reserved for driving and parking cars, with pedestrians shoved to narrow sidewalks on the edges, with bikes perhaps not really being welcome on either the road or sidewalk, the entire surface is shared.

    It’s not something that works everywhere, but on many streets there may be only a car or two every several minutes, it doesn’t make sense for 80% of the public street to be off-limits to people for walking, crossing mid-block or even kids playing.

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    • q September 15, 2017 at 4:24 pm

      Ironically, when SW Miles Place was re-worked a couple years ago as part of the Sellwood Bridge project, in anticipation of increased bike traffic, PBOT pushed harder than anyone (except maybe for the County) for creating separate narrow sidewalks, even though traffic counts showed only one car every several minutes during the day.

      Ultimately, the street was left as it had been–a surface shared by people walking, driving and biking–but it was a battle against the County and PBOT the whole way.

      So it’s nice to see PBOT being on the progressive side this time. PBOT was doing progressive things back then, too, just apparently not with the Miles project.

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    • Kyle Banerjee September 17, 2017 at 7:05 am

      In all fairness, it’s not. You’ll see people doing all these things on sleepy streets.

      On a personal level, I always walk in the street rather than on the sidewalk once the traffic gets to a manageable level because I find occasional cars to be a small price to pay for the improved space and sightlines.

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  • q September 17, 2017 at 11:12 am

    If you’re referring to people walking in the street, playing etc., yes, people do do it all the time on quiet streets, which is great. But it’s still more dangerous than it should be, since not everyone driving through watches for it or acknowledges their right to be there (and they often DON’T have a legal right).

    When SW Miles Place was being redesigned, and residents and trail users wanted the street to be shared, they used the argument that people aren’t going to restrict themselves to narrow sidewalks after decades of walking and running down the middle of the street. The response from PBOT and the County was that then those people are going face enforcement, because they have no right to be in the street. That response blew everyone away.

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    • Kyle Banerjee September 18, 2017 at 5:56 am

      That sounds like bluster. A huge percentage of the time when I’m walking in the street, I have no right because there is an obvious sidewalk I can take. I encounter cops from time to time who have never stopped me for that though they have stopped me for questioning on other matters a few times. I’m not familiar with SW Miles Place and can’t speak to it.

      I don’t agree that it is excessively dangerous. On these streets, you should regard yourself to be totally invisible. Car comes, you make sure you’re in position not to get hit and you’re fine whether or not they drive well which most of them do.

      Part of the reason I do it (especially at night) is because I think it’s safer than walking near features that could set up an ambush. Runners virtually everywhere take the streets because concrete sidewalks are hard on the knees.

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      • q September 18, 2017 at 10:38 am

        I didn’t say it was “excessively dangerous”, I said it was more dangerous than it should be, and that’s true. Maybe not for runners, or someone fit and aware like you. I’m talking about everyone, including (as I said) kids playing.

        When people have a legal right to be in the street, and drivers know that through signage and experience, it’s safer than if they’re there informally. Even if that weren’t true, it’s a perception people have, which keeps those people from using the street.

        Also, most drivers are fine with people in the street say, on their neighborhood street. They expect for instance, kids playing or groups of walkers in certain places at certain times. But then you get the cut-through drivers whose attitude is that they don’t need to slow down for people who are in front of them illegally.

        Plus, once it’s established that people should be able to use a street for walking or playing, then the street can be altered to support that, instead of the current makeshift situation where people are using a place clearly designed for cars to drive and park, and nothing else.

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        • Kyle Banerjee September 19, 2017 at 5:45 am

          In my mind, what makes the street most dangerous isn’t the cars that are moving, but the cars that are not.

          The parked cars totally obscure what’s going happening at the sides of the roadway (i.e. kids, animals, or anyone else). This not only increases the danger presented by cut through drivers, but emergency vehicles (which move scary fast sometimes) and even fast cyclists.

          I frequently encounter the dynamic you describe with the cut through drivers — particularly when I’m walking to the store in the dark. I’d still describe the overall situation as fairly decent. Anyone who cuts through knows to expect it’s likely they’ll get slowed down.

          What people actually do is much more important than signage. Take Steel Bridge for example. I ride on the the upper roadway. There’s a sign clearly indicating to drivers to watch out for cyclists in the roadway. Even as the only explicitly designated way for cyclists to cross the bridge, I assure you drivers act like cyclists don’t belong much worse than many other roads that are faster and have no markings indicating they are suitable for bikes. If more cyclists took it, that would change.

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          • q September 19, 2017 at 11:42 am

            I agree with much of that. I’d still like to see the next step, which would acknowledge that people do use streets for walking, running, playing, etc. and then legalize it and start changing street design to accommodate it.

            As one example, on quiet streets, instead of building unpleasant, narrow sidewalks that are hidden behind cars, as you pointed out, it can be safer to skip building sidewalks, put the cars on the edges, and let people walk in the street where they prefer anyway. That’s how some of the nicest neighborhoods for walking are set up, and often those residents fight efforts to build sidewalks.

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