Sullivan’s Gulch artists paint a safer street

A painted intersection. A safer intersection.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

When a busy street bisects your neighborhood and drivers make it unsafe, sometimes a paint brush is your best weapon.

When you’re admiring an intersection and one of the artists rides by on her bike.

Last week I came across one of Portland’s most beautiful intersections: Northeast 21st and Clackamas Street. I’m the type of person who thinks street infrastructure can be beautiful all by itself. Add unusual (for a street) colors and an artistic flair and I’ll stop to take photos and then Google it when I come home.

When I rolled up to this intersection on Thursday, I happened to meet one of the artists responsible for it. Eugenia Pardue is an artist and a Sullivan’s Gulch resident who’s lived a few blocks away for over 20 years. According to Pardue, this is the first “pedestrian priority corridor” (designated in the City’s PedPDX plan) in Portland to receive the artistic treatment. Pardue worked with Anya Drapkin and a crew of volunteers to complete the project.

The neighborhood paid for the project through a grant they won from PBOT’s Portland in the Streets program. It was one of 11 projects totaling $100,000 in grants awarded by PBOT citywide last year.

“Creating public art creates community!” Pardue wrote on her personal blog earlier this month. “Public art has been shown to increase pride in our surroundings, bringing people together, creating an identity, and reminding people that choose to drive through our neighborhood that we care deeply about the people that are walking across our streets.”


As for the inspiration, Pardue said it came to her during a walk. “I was inspired by the gorgeous blooming camellias, and they became the center piece of the four corners of a safe crossing in the heart of the densest east side neighborhood in Portland.”

The painting is similar to intersection paintings we’ve covered here before; but it’s got added safety oomph thanks to its integration with crossing treatments and plastic delineator wands. The corners are essentially cheap, DIY-style curb extensions. They shorten the crossing distance while providing a visual cue to drivers to slow down for the narrowed street.

Bicycle rider avoids the painted bulb-outs and shares a lane with drivers.

One downside is that I saw several bicycle riders (21st is a popular north-south bikeway with a bridge over I-84 and connection to NE Tillamook and Broadway) forced into the middle of the lane into a shared environment with drivers at the intersection. PBOT likely expects most people to follow the 20s five blocks east on 26th or to take NE Multnomah through the Lloyd.

It was great to see this example of partnership between an artist, a neighborhood, and PBOT to make a street safer. Have you ridden or walked by this yet? What do you think?

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

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