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It’s Park(ing) Day in Portland!

Posted by on September 21st, 2018 at 9:20 am

Ping-pong is just one of many more interesting things we could do with our valuable curb space than park people’s cars.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Official PBOT logo.

Despite what you’ve seen in the brochures or read about in the NY Times, the city of Portland is still overrun with cars. The socially awkward, poisonous, and dangerous personal transport vehicles take up the vast majority of our roadway space.

Park(ing) Day — which takes place today citywide — is a chance to ponder that tragedy and consider more sensible things to do with our public right-of-way.

The event is organized by Portland Bureau of Transportation. And while they can’t just directly throw shade at our unhealthy relationship with driving, it’s clear the event is intended to highlight our car abuse problem. According to official verbiage, the event, “Gives people the opportunity to re-envision how we use our public spaces… PBOT wants to encourage you to rethink how streets can be used.”

18 businesses and organizations have received permits to use the curb lane to install all sorts of cool stuff like small parks, art installations, lounge areas, and more. Find out if there’s one near your travels today. Here’s the map followed by a list of locations and descriptions:

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North Portland

Art Parking (on N Denver St between N Schofield St & N Kilpatrick St): Art for All. Come create art and display your work on the display racks provided.

Northeast Portland

Don’t Park, PUTT!! (on NE Multnomah St between NE 7th Ave and 9th Ave) : It’s National Putt Putt day, come and try out our mini putt-putt course, enjoy snacks and get some swag! For pedestrians and cyclists. By Go Lloyd.

Northwest Portland

Burst Your Bubble (on NW 17th Ave between NW Lovejoy St and NW Kearney St): Come and enjoy a public bubble park for kids of all ages! By Opsis Architecture.

CRES-tober-Fest (on NW Marshall St between NW 14th Ave and NW 15th Ave): CRES-tober-Fest will be a fall celebration theme park complete with apple cider, corn-hole, giant Jenga, and pretzels. By Cambridge Real Estate Services.

Future Prairie Mobile Podcasting Studio (on NW 11th Ave between NW Couch St and NW Davis St): Join this mobile podcasting studio and enjoy some complimentary tea. By Future Prairie (artist collective).

Public Art Park (on NW 17th Ave between NW Northrup St and NW Overton St): Public Art Installation with all surfaces vibrantly painted with colors and patterns. By Swift.

Street Carnival (on NW 11th Ave between NW Marshall St and NW Lovejoy St): Come check out a StreetCar Cutout and get your picture taken. There will be a spinning wheel and lots of StreetCar swag to go around! By Portland StreetCar, Inc.

Urban Transformation (on NW Everett St between NW 10th Ave and NW 9th Ave): This parklet is a mini urban transect, more constructed on one end and more natural on the other. Sit or move through the space and leave thoughts and ideas on a wishing tree. By Sera Architects.

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Southeast Portland

Bikes & Coffee (on SE 52nd Ave between SE Tibbetts St and SE Franklin St): Coffee for cyclists (and anyone who like a good cuppa), as well as various bike tools and part on hand. By a Portland resident.

Connections: Reclaiming Streets and Revisiting Public Art (on SE Hawthorne Blvd between SE Grand Ave and SE 6th Ave): On the Multnomah County Building there are two bronze bas reliefs entitled Connections. Come and get a good look at these beautiful pieces of art! By Multnomah County.

Getting to Know You: Hey Neighbor! (on SE Hawthorne Blvd between SE 35th Ave and SE 35th Pl): Seating and games outside of Metro Boutique. Come and engage in an activity to learn more about your neighbors and neighborhood. By SE Uplift.

Making Connections for Fun (on SE 18th Ave between SE Ash St and SE Ankeny St): Bring your indoor plant out for a day in the sun and connect with your neighbors for a game of connect four or puzzle solving! By PlusQA.

Teddy Bear Picnic (on SE Alder St between SE 16th Ave and SE 15th Ave): Come and take a tea break with panda bears while surrounded by bamboo plants. By a Portland resident.

The Write On Letter Writing Lounge (on SE Division St between SE 32nd Ave and SE 33rd Ave): Pull up a chair, grab a pen and take time for some slow communication. This installation transforms a parking space into a letter writing salon! By Egg Press.

Neighborhood to the River (on SE Hawthorne Blvd between SE 40th Ave and SE 41st Ave): BES, Friends of Trees and New Seasons Market bring you the stream. Enjoy salmon, streams and trees and learn more about watershed health and stormwater management. By the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services.

Southwest Portland

Future of Transportation (on SW 2nd Ave between SW Taylor St and SW Yamhill St): An installation designed to provoke conversation about the future of transportation in Portland, including electric bikes, scooters and cars, rideshare and more. Enjoy trivia and prizes, a voting board and snacks while checking out an e-bike or scooter. By Forth Empowering Mobility.

What Will You Miss? (on SW Park Ave between SW Taylor St and SW Yamhill St): Sharing Mercy Corp’s vision that resilience is possible with climate change. What will you miss when we are further impacted by climate change? By Mercy Corps.

Skylab Installation (on SW 13th Ave between SW Burnside St and SW Washington St): Our PARK(ing) Installation seeks to give people a reason to take a break and pay more attention to their surroundings. Our unique ground surface will hopefully cause people to engage with the site and participate in thought provoking activities. By Skylab Architecture.

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

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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

36 Comments
  • Travis September 21, 2018 at 10:34 am

    Playing ping-pong in the street might be interesting. But why is it better than parking a car there? I ride a bike almost everywhere. But I also own a car, which I drive from time to time. I would rather use the street in front of my house for parking that car than playing ping pong. I really don’t get it. Please explain.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 21, 2018 at 10:52 am

      Hi Travis. The idea behind the event is to re-imagine what curb space and our right-of-way could be used for.

      That’s nice that you’d rather park your car in front on your house than put a ping-pong table there. You are very fortunate to have that option. While I think there’s a fun debate to be had about residential on-street car parking, this Park(ing) Day idea is really focused more on central city/commercial corridor locations.

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    • Dan A September 21, 2018 at 10:58 am

      Sounds to me like you don’t like ping pong. There are lots of good uses for the space between our buildings besides leaving large hunks of metal in them.

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      • Sigma September 21, 2018 at 11:15 am

        Because that’s what a car is: a hunk of metal, with no useful function.

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        • bikeninja September 21, 2018 at 11:25 am

          It does have other functions besides being an innocent hunk of metal. It spews greenhouse gases thus dooming us and our children to a future of rising sea levels, super storms and heat waves, it leaks oil and other fluids that get in to the storm water drains and kill fish, it has reserved for it use other parking spots around town that could go for better uses, it endangers, wounds and kills countless other humans and animals on a daily basis, and it makes its rolling inmates, weak, sick and overweight from excessive use. It also absorbs large portions of the citizens income that could go to other purposes. Many Many functions indeed.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty September 21, 2018 at 12:31 pm

            It’s hard to imagine why so many people would want something like that. Are you sure it serves no useful function?

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        • idlebytes September 21, 2018 at 11:33 am

          As a conveyor of a single person to and from work it’s not very well designed for its function. It takes up way more space then it needs to, pollutes a lot, requires a ridiculous amount of energy to move, and is fairly dangerous for everyone else around it.

          Also it’s only utilized for this purpose about 3% of the time the rest of the time it sits unused like a big hunk of metal.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty September 21, 2018 at 12:34 pm

            And yet… a majority think it serves this function better than any existing alternative. So let’s work on a more appealing way to get around that works for more people than the 6 percenters.

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            • idlebytes September 21, 2018 at 12:54 pm

              The demands for space, autonomy, and speed by the remaining 94% are unreasonable and make it impossible to provide that alternative. A big part of changing how people convey themselves is convincing them their current method is a waste.

              Imagine if we had a national carpool to work day and everyone that could carpool did. It’s easy to conceive that a majority of people would see a reduced commute time by nearly having the number of cars on the road. The next day a lot of them may do it again but eventually enough people are going to start driving alone that congestion will be bad enough to convince the remaining carpoolers that it’s not worth it. People are going to act selfishly even when it’s against their own interests.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty September 21, 2018 at 1:01 pm

                How do you convince people that what they’ve enjoyed for generations is now unreasonable? The rhetoric I hear around here will convince no one. Not even me, and I’m already convinced.

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              • idlebytes September 21, 2018 at 1:12 pm

                The fact that they enjoy driving is an irrational reason to continue to do it during peak commute times. I don’t think there is a way to convince irrational people of something other then to continue to provide them with facts and evidence and wait until they’re ready to accept it.

                I think what PBOT is doing to make other options more appealing and driving less appealing is a way to accelerate this process but it will still be very slow and painful. Especially since the people we’re trying to convince will hamper the process as much as they can.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty September 21, 2018 at 1:22 pm

                It’s not about “enjoying”, it’s about utility. If your position is that anyone who drives to work is just being irrational, you’re not going to get far.

                I am 100% in favor of improving non-driving transportation options, even if those improvements come at the cost of car access, and I think that’s the way we move forward, and should do so quickly and aggressively.

                But don’t dismiss people who drive as being irrational: Most are being exactly rational. They may (or may not) have other options, but driving works the best for them, otherwise they wouldn’t do it.

                When people have to chain several trips together (leave work, pick up kids, stop by the store, head home), transit will rarely work well, carpooling won’t at all, and bikes may not either, depending on distances, weather, time available, carrying capacity, and confidence. Maybe we need new options; maybe we need simpler lives. But, given where we are right now, cars simply work best for many people.

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              • idlebytes September 21, 2018 at 1:40 pm

                “It’s not about “enjoying”, it’s about utility.” You used the word enjoy not me that’s why I responded to it. Most of their other reasons are irrational too. Especially when you consider my thought experiment and how we could very likely reduce most peoples commute times tomorrow by just carpooling. Driving works best for them except it doesn’t because they’re stuck in traffic. If people made their transportation choices from a completely rational view congestion would largely disappear. They’re not considering how they lengthen their commute and when you point out to them the various ways they do they dismiss it and make excuses for why they have to drive and drive the way they do.

                I get that you’re trying to paint drivers as a group in a better light that needs to be reached out to with new and fresh ideas that will change their minds but I don’t think those ideas exist. Do you have some rhetoric that will convince them? Cause as far as I can tell their decisions are based on a selfish desire for speed and autonomy that largely doesn’t exist because there isn’t enough space to accommodate it and when you point that out to them they irrationally blame other infrastructure and insist the space is there we just have to build it.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty September 21, 2018 at 3:08 pm

                Sorry — you are right; the connotations of the way you used it seemed different, but I accept responsibility for causing the confusion. The fault lies with me.

                People act individually, not as a collective. It may be true that we would all benefit if everyone carpooled, but we’d benefit almost as much if everyone but I did. In that context, it’s not at all irrational for me to drive alone; I get more benefit than I cause harm. Unfortunately, when everyone follows that logic, the system falls apart.

                I have no rhetoric to convince, but I don’t think this is about convincing people. It’s about solving a problem. Even with getting stuck in traffic, we know driving works better. If it didn’t, people would do something else.

                I think building light rail to Vancouver would be a big benefit (and I suspect it would be heavily used), and, as I’ve said many times in these pages, I think robot cars will transform our transportation system (not without cost, but for the better overall, reducing the need for parking, allowing repurposing of that space). They would still be cars in some sense, but cars provide a combination of benefits that no other mode does, so I think they’ll be with us in some form for a long time.

                Other than that, we need to keep pressing forward with smaller projects; perhaps bus only lanes through specially congested areas, better bike infrastructure, etc.

                And we need a hefty carbon tax.

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    • Mick O September 21, 2018 at 11:39 am

      While this is not the only answer to your question… at a very basic level – you getting pleasure from storing your car there benefits you. Ping-pong, at its core, theoretically gives joy to twice as many people. 🙂

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      • Chris I September 21, 2018 at 12:33 pm

        4 times, if you play doubles.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty September 21, 2018 at 12:36 pm

        If you’ve ever ponged much, you’ll know why the table pictured provides an awful playing environment. Most people will be better off parking their car on the street and playing in their garage.

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      • Johnny Bye Carter September 24, 2018 at 2:48 pm

        An average car can carry 5 people, and you can convert a ping pong table to single player. So the car wins for capacity (let’s not go into 7 seat SUVs).

        However, the average capacity at a ping pong table is probably steady at around 2 while the average occupancy for a motor vehicle is a little over 1.5 people.

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  • bikeninja September 21, 2018 at 10:44 am

    But how are the folks supposed to get there and see these cool installations if there is no parking when they arrive in their Gas Jalopies because it has all been turned in to nice human scaled stuff.

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    • Travis September 21, 2018 at 11:49 pm

      This is an interesting conversation.

      Bikeninja: I would get to those cool installations using my bike. I also take my daughter to school, and I buy a week’s worth of groceries, using my bike. I don’t commute, because I work from home. But when I need to haul home 300 pounds of mulch for the yard, take my family camping, or take my 62-year-old mother in law across town on a rainy night, I use the car. The car has utility that is not easily replaced. So I’m more in favor of parking it in the street than playing ping pong in the street.

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  • squeaky wheel September 21, 2018 at 11:53 am

    Jonathan, would you classify your first paragraph as opinion or news (or, if you want to tie yourself into a bit of a pretzel, both)? I wonder what kind of tone you want to set for Parking Day. I came to read a news article (or, feel free to correct me, is this an unlabeled opinion piece?) about an undeniably quirky and idiosyncratic community event. But I unexpectedly had to trudge through your increasingly common relitigation on the merits of automobiles before I could get to the meat and potatoes, and by then, to be completely honest with you, I’d lost my appetite.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 21, 2018 at 12:00 pm

      i hear you squeaky wheel. that’s good feedback and i appreciate you saying it.

      as for “increasingly common relitigation on the merits of automobiles”…. I feel like people need to hear how bad cars are more often. Sorry it ruined your appetite.. But cars ruin so many things that I’m increasingly not comfortable with sitting idly by and acting like its normal.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty September 21, 2018 at 12:45 pm

        The problem that by demonizing cars, we make it harder to understand why getting rid of them is so difficult. Cars aren’t going away, so a realistic appraisal of their costs and benefits will allow us to have a much more rational discussion about how to mitigate their harms, and make our city more accessible to non-drivers.

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      • sikoler September 21, 2018 at 10:00 pm

        “people need to hear how bad cars are ”

        is this really the problem?

        I think this is a fundamental error many bike activists make: the idea that people would just start biking if only they knew it was an option. People’s lives are difficult and complex and no one here can claim to know what is best for everyone when it comes to transportation.

        Car drivers are not some ignorant mass who need truth shoved in their face, they need to get where they are going just like us.

        We have to work together, not perpetuate turf war mentality…these protests look like fun but they just serve to annoy people we are trying to convert.

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        • Johnny Bye Carter September 25, 2018 at 9:07 am

          MADD shoved the issue of drunk driving in our faces and it seemed to work a bit.

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    • Guy Fieri September 21, 2018 at 12:13 pm

      I’m LOVING all the food metaphors here!

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    • Chris I September 21, 2018 at 12:38 pm

      This is a blog. You may have heard of them. If you want high-quality, unbiased news, you should read The Oregonian.

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  • Jim Lee September 21, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    “…awkward, poisonous, and dangerous…”

    YES! YES! YES!

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  • sikoler September 21, 2018 at 9:56 pm

    Annoying everyday people just trying to park is not helping, it’s counterproductive.

    A turf war mentality helps no one.

    Drivers are not our enemy. Commuters are not our enemy…hell *cars* aren’t even the enemy!

    Bad urban design, burning fossil fuels, people who act like selfish assholes…these are the enemies we should be fighting…not occupying parking spaces.

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    • Chris I September 24, 2018 at 9:26 am

      So the selfish assholes storing their fossil-fuel burning automobiles in free street space provided by the city are not part of the problem? I’m not sure I follow your logic here.

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    • Clicky Freewheel September 24, 2018 at 10:00 am

      There is plenty of car parking in Portland, most of it available for free. This was one day. It’s really not that big of a deal.

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    • Johnny Bye Carter September 25, 2018 at 9:10 am

      It’s helpful. Annoy people enough and they’ll do something else.

      I got so annoyed trying to park when I went to NW 23rd that I started busing there from Lloyd Center.

      I got so annoyed by drivers in commute traffic that I started taking the train and bus to work. Then I started biking sometimes.

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  • S September 24, 2018 at 8:48 am

    This event wasn’t citywide as you stated. Stating that close-in/downtown events are citywide continues to ignore the outer areas even exist. Seems an event like this in outer Portland would be more beneficial.. But, I guess outer SE isn’t a part of the city..

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    • Clicky Freewheel September 24, 2018 at 9:57 am

      The event was open for anyone to apply and the permits were free. If there were no events in East Portland, it’s because no one out there applied.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 24, 2018 at 1:09 pm

      Hi S,

      The permits were offered citywide, but yes you are correct that there weren’t parklets installed in all areas of the city.

      if you are trying to insinuate that I don’t care about outer areas of Portland and that my use of the term “citywide” was an illustration of that fact … you are very much mistaken. I have taken great pains to use inclusive geographic language for years now. For instance, I don’t capitalize quadrant names and I often won’t even put a geographic qualifier before “Portland” precisely because I want to encourage a more unified city. but that’s just one tiny thing i do/have done.

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    • Johnny Bye Carter September 25, 2018 at 9:13 am

      When the city offers participation in a city-wide event and nobody in the outer areas participates that says to us that we still have a lot of work in those areas to get people to appreciate alternative transportation.

      You seem surprised that nobody in the suburbs wanted to give over a parking space to people.

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