Harvest Century September 22nd

Parkways showed what Portland looks like when we embrace our values

Posted by on August 26th, 2019 at 11:17 am

For five precious hours yesterday, the City of Portland gave us a gift: They prohibited the use of cars on a loop of roads through downtown and the Central Eastside.

Without the presence of so many toxic, loud, scary, socially isolating, and deadly vehicles, our city was able to flourish. The full potential of our streets was on display as thousands of kids, senior citizens, families, and Portlanders of all social, physical, racial, and economic stripes came out and shared the day together.

It was a beautiful sight to see.

We could breathe easily as we cycled over bridges with plenty of space to ride slowly and take in the view…

We could let children (and their caregivers) explore the city with the same independence and confidence they’d have on the sidewalk of their own neighborhood…

We could enjoy parks and outdoor cafes in peace and quiet without having to breathe tailpipe exhaust or look over our shoulders to make sure we wouldn’t be hit and killed by someone in a 4,000 pound steel vehicle…

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And we could ride many abreast in the road with the respect we deserve, without being bullied to ride in the gutter or door zone…

And then just a few hours later, the barricades came down and the menace returned. Now our streets are once again dominated by inefficient, toxic vehicles that bring out the worst in people and in our city.

It makes no sense to create this type of experience for just five out of 8,760 hours every year. Cars are a menace that hold us hostage and should be treated as such.

Is it any more unrealistic or preposterous to embrace the experience we had yesterday than it is to encourage and allow the daily and deadly insanity of car-choked streets? Sunday showed us a version of the Portland we could have if we dared to fully embrace our values. I’d take it over the status quo any day.

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

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37 Comments
  • Avatar
    Jim Lee August 26, 2019 at 11:45 am

    Great pics, as always, JM.

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    bikeninja August 26, 2019 at 12:28 pm

    I wish these were the values of the average American, but I am afraid that they are more like cruising the highways with a bag of chips in one hand and a big gulp in the other. Sad, because the values of which you speak are the ones we need to have if we are to survive as a species in to the next millennium.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 26, 2019 at 12:41 pm

      well, they might not be the values of the average American (yet), but I believe they are the values held by a strong majority of Portlanders. We’ve got to start somewhere and I’ve always thought Portland should and could be a leader (which is why I get so happy when we do great things… and so bummed when we do mediocre things).

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    Cory P August 26, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    Great article! Thanks to the many volunteers that make the Sunday parkways happen. We could never enjoy these scenes without the hard work of hundreds of volunteers. If you’ve never volunteered for one of these events I would highly recommend giving it a try!

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson August 26, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    I rode over from my place via Tillamook (stop signs still in place at 13th & 10th!) to Lloyd District, hoping PBOT would have some info about the 7th Avenue Bridge where the route hits Lloyd Blvd at the Gulch. No luck! What’s the latest?
    Lots of folks snaking through the District…a wonderful sight. Rode home up Multnomah playing tag with the 70 bus…just like in the good old days.

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  • Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
    Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike) August 26, 2019 at 2:37 pm

    Some great pictures of a great event. There is actually a plan to make this a more permanent feature. Perhaps you have heard of it? It is called the Green Loop and it has the possibility of being something more than just a marketing tool for freeway expansions but it will take smart advocates getting involved to make it so. Get involved here http://www.pdxgreenloop.org/about-the-green-loop/

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    Holtz August 26, 2019 at 3:48 pm

    On Saturday, the Oregonian ran a headline saying, “Sunday Parkways will tie up streets”. I sent a letter to the editor noting that a more accurate headline would have been “Sunday Parkways free up streets.”

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    Toby Keith August 26, 2019 at 4:33 pm

    Ageism is alive and well here so it’s great to see older folks out there enjoying themselves.

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    Linda Ginenthal August 26, 2019 at 4:40 pm

    This looks amazing. I’m so happy to see Sunday Parkways grow and change. At the first Sunday Parkways you said we should make it every Sunday. I can’t disagree.

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      Nathan Hinkle August 27, 2019 at 7:01 pm

      I miss seeing your warm smile at Sunday Parkways, Linda! Hope you’re doing well. We are all proud to carry on the Parkways torch you lit for us.

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    Brian Hardman August 26, 2019 at 10:23 pm

    If you want the roads then pony up the money to pay for them. Anytime the suggestion of cyclists paying for even the current infrastructure provided for you, you howl like banshees. You want the roads to yourselves but you don’t want to pay for them, and why you will never be taken seriously.

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      Eric August 27, 2019 at 9:25 am

      I’m a little surprised it’s taken so long for someone to respond to this.
      Is this an honest reply or sarcasm?

      The myth that cyclists don’t pay for public infrastructure has been shown to be just that: a myth. Do a quick Google search.

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      El Biciclero August 27, 2019 at 10:22 am

      “…the current infrastructure provided for you…”

      Well, now wait a minute—that infrastructure is provided for you, too. If you decide not to use it, then that’s your decision. But even if you don’t use it, does it not help you anyway? Doesn’t it make the street safer even for drivers? Doesn’t it keep people traveling by bike out of the “middle of the road” and out of your way? Also, there are sidewalks everywhere, are there not? Which pedestrians pay for those? If people living in a neighborhood next to a fast, busy road “complain” about a lack of sidewalks, are they being unreasonable? Should they “pony up the money” to pay for them?

      The taxes and fees paid by drivers “for roads” do not pay for those roads; they help to offset the vast amounts of damage that driving a car everywhere does to the roads and the surrounding people, buildings, and other infrastructure. Riding a bicycle on roads does about 1/64th (that’s being generous) the damage that cars do to the actual road, and negligible or zero damage to the surroundings. So, let’s see: in Multnomah County, you would pay 55.4 cents per gallon for gas tax, which if your vehicle gets 25mpg, is .554 / 25 or about 2.25 cents per mile. Let’s bump it up to 3 cents just to (generously) account for registration fees. Now sure, if you drive 15000 miles in a year, that works out to .03 * 15000 = 450 dollars per year you might pay “for roads” to account for the damage a heavy motor vehicle does. Now a bicycle does about, as I say, 1/64th the damage of a car, so should I pay 1/64th the per-mile fee? OK, that’s
      .03 / 64 = .00047 dollars, or about half a cent per mile; in fact, let’s just bump it up to half a cent. I might ride about 50 miles per week to work and back (so I’m not just playing on the roads). If I skip a week or two due to illness or vacation let’s say I ride 50 miles times 50 weeks, or 2500 miles per year—and that’s being generous. So 2500 * .00047 = 1.17.

      One dollar and seventeen cents.

      I pay about 50 times that much in registration each year just to let my car sit in the driveway, whether I drive it or not. So who’s getting the better deal? Should I have to double-pay for both my car, which damages roads, and again for my bike, which really doesn’t?

      And before you mention insurance, I’ve left that out because it doesn’t help pay for roads, it merely offsets the costs that cars impose on other people when they are used inappropriately and dangerously—again, something that it is very difficult for a bicycle to achieve.

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        El Biciclero August 27, 2019 at 12:59 pm

        Sorry, my “half a cent” should have been .05 cents or 1/20th of a cent

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          Dan A August 27, 2019 at 1:49 pm

          1/64th the amt of damage is very generous. The chart here suggests it’s more like 1/200,000th:

          https://streets.mn/2016/07/07/chart-of-the-day-vehicle-weight-vs-road-damage-levels/

          That’s .0375 cents per year. If I pay a nickle for road wear from my bike, that’s got me covered for 133 years.

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            El Biciclero August 28, 2019 at 8:04 am

            Well, there’s something to keeping the numbers in the realm of comprehensible. I saw that same chart, but opted to keep things fairly unassailable. Up next: Space usage per person of cars vs. bikes/other… How much public space does a car require—and for how long?

            Dun-dun-duuuuuhn!

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              Dan A August 28, 2019 at 8:46 am

              First you need to chip in a nickle, you freeloader!

              🙂

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              jamie August 29, 2019 at 3:05 pm

              “How much public space does a car require—and for how long?”

              This has always been one of my primary concerns.

              “how much space of the public right of way do you feel entitled to?”

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        Ryan August 29, 2019 at 1:19 pm

        Yep, insurance doesn’t even come close to cover the costs you as a driver could cause by hitting someone/something. It’s just a way of subsidizing the worst drivers. According to “http://www.rmiia.org/auto/traffic_safety/Cost_of_crashes.asp” –

        “Overall, those not directly involved in crashes pay for nearly three-quarters of all crash costs, primarily through insurance premiums, taxes and travel delay”

        Note that “taxes and travel delay” are incurred by those who may not even own a car (because it’s much more than just driver-related taxes that are used). And this doesn’t even include the $60+ billion of medical costs and productivity losses the CDC says happens each year due to injury and death caused by motor vehicle crashes. Not to mention the costs added to things like rent and groceries to subsidize free/cheap parking nearly everywhere, subsidies to reduce gas prices (again, added to taxes that aren’t strictly driver-related), costs of the military/military contractors defending and maintaining oil reserves and shipping lanes in hostile areas of the world (more taxes)…

        But yeah, it’s a travesty that I’m not forced to pay an extra few cents a year for the honor of getting some unprotected 3-4 foot (sometimes less of ride-able space) door-zone bike lanes that may or may not end suddenly or force me onto a sidewalk, and are often blocked with trash cans, mounds of wet leaves, broken glass, branches, construction signs, and oh yeah – more cars

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      Cory P August 27, 2019 at 12:20 pm

      Get off my lawn you pesky kids!

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    Chief August 27, 2019 at 9:52 am

    Imagine if we just got rid of cars!?!? Let’s do it and see if everyone can ride faster than Mt hood when it erupts. Let’s just make cars illegal and tell everyone to evacuate the coast by bike when a tsunami hits.

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      Stacy Winch August 27, 2019 at 12:08 pm

      Imagine reading the post, and THIS is your takeaway.

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      Chris I August 27, 2019 at 12:09 pm

      Considering that motoring culture in the US kills over 40,000 people EVERY YEAR, I don’t think your natural disaster argument is going to go very far. Also, cars don’t seem to be great in urgent evacuation situations as it is:
      https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article170038877.html

      If disaster evacuation is important to you, I would suggest advocating for a robust mass transit system with established disaster response protocols. That said, my family could easily evacuate Portland by bike, covering 100 miles per day if needed (and if the roads were not jammed full of cars that have run out of gas). How far can you go in your car on any given day if you can’t get into a gas station to fill up first?

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      Dan A August 27, 2019 at 12:10 pm

      I suppose you think everybody will be able to load up in every car they own and drive away from the tsunami at the same time. They won’t. Try driving home from Seaside on a Sunday, and then magnify that by 20.

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        Ryan August 29, 2019 at 1:24 pm

        Imagine if it happened on Hood 2 Coast weekend…

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      Chris August 27, 2019 at 4:23 pm

      Official guidance is to not drive during a tsunami evacuation anyway. When the big one hits, many trees and power lines will fall, blocking roadways, so they advise to run. You’ve got 15-20 minutes once the shaking starts before a tsunami is expected to hit land.

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    Lee RidesABike August 27, 2019 at 12:51 pm

    Love Portland Bikeways? Help them out by volunteering! It is super fun, and kids of any age can help.
    Remember riding Critical Mass? This is one step toward what we had hoped for, car free streets.
    Cork it!
    https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/51516?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

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      Beth H August 30, 2019 at 6:21 pm

      Except the streets on a Parkways route aren’t necessarily truly carfree.
      People who live along the route are allowed to drive on it to get to or from where they live.
      This happens a lot more than you might realize, and for that reason the route is not truly carfree.

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    danny August 27, 2019 at 8:03 pm

    It was indeed wonderful to see everyone on their bikes enjoying the day and the safety and security of being away from cars. I’m willing to mix it up with cars — which is challenging even in bike lanes when buses and other vehicles go past doing 50 mph just a foot or two away — but so many people I know refuse to do so even with Portland’s comparatively decent bike infrastructure (at least for the USofA). Provide people with alternatives that make them feel secure and people will take advantage of them. Let’s ditch as many cars as possible!

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    Serenity August 28, 2019 at 5:28 pm

    Brian Hardman
    If you want the roads then pony up the money to pay for them. Anytime the suggestion of cyclists paying for even the current infrastructure provided for you, you howl like banshees. You want the roads to yourselves but you don’t want to pay for them, and why you will never be taken seriously.Recommended 1

    HaHa! You think most cyclists don’t? Most own cars & pay taxes. Just like you presumably do

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    9watts August 29, 2019 at 1:18 am

    “cyclists paying for even the current infrastructure provided for you…”

    Let’s take a closer look at that statement. Infrastructure provided for you; I am going to assume you mean what we often refer to as bike infrastructure: lanes, boxes, the occasional signal. All that stuff is defensive, is only needed, only has meaning because of the threat of the ubiquitous auto. Without those cars – no need for bike lanes or boxes or special signals. So your idea that we who bike should pay for this stuff doesn’t really make any sense, quite apart from the well known math that shows that those who drive generally underpay for the infrastructure their mode choice requires and destroys.
    Some light reading for you: https://www.vtpi.org/whoserd.pdf

    (Todd Litman’s excellent report: Whose Roads?)

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    Serenity August 29, 2019 at 3:19 pm

    jamie
    “How much public space does a car require—and for how long?”This has always been one of my primary concerns.“how much space of the public right of way do you feel entitled to?”Recommended 0

    I don’t have exact measurements…. but it’s a lot more than a bike, or a trike. Unless you’re talking about one of those tiny electric cars.

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