BikePortland.org

Parkways showed what Portland looks like when we embrace our values

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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