Joe Bike

Portland parks bureau bans driving in 10 parks

Posted by on March 25th, 2020 at 10:24 am

Council Crest is on the list.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland Parks & Recreation bureau has taken a big step to reduce crowding and help create more distance between people in public spaces.

Effective Thursday morning March 26th gates will be closed at 10 popular local parks. The gates will prevent car and truck drivers from accessing the parks with their vehicles, “to help promote safe social distancing practices and discourage overcrowding.”

“The closure of park road gates will help ensure we maintain a healthy balance of visitors in our parks and natural areas,” says a Parks bureau statement. People using bicycles, their own feet, and other mobility devices, will still be welcome.

Here’s the list of closures:

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— Pittock Mansion
— Washington Park (SW Kingston Drive – the road through the park – will be closed; other roads open for Water Bureau project)
— Hoyt Arboretum (Fisher Lane closed)
— Council Crest
— Kelley Point Park
— Sellwood Riverfront Park
— Mt. Tabor Park
— Hillside Park
— Sellwood Park
— Powell Butte (already closed in partnership with the Portland Water Bureau)

Parks says more parks that currently allow motor vehicle access could be closed in the coming days. They also make it clear that all parks, “remain open to those walking, rolling, or strolling.” There’s no end date on the closures at this time.

Several of these parks are very popular cycling destinations and the absence of drivers and their large vehicles is likely to make them even more so.

On Monday PP&R announced that all playgrounds, outdoor sports courts and fields (including basketball courts, skateparks, tennis courts, soccer fields) are closed and “should be avoided” to adhere to Governor Kate Brown’s order to stay home and slow the spread of coronavirus.

Despite narrow sidewalks and bike lanes that make social distancing impossible for vulnerable road users, Portland’s transportation bureau has not reduced driving space on any road. At a press conference yesterday, PBOT Director Chris Warner acknowledged the surge in people biking and walking on our streets and urged people to drive more safely. “Assume every street is a shared street. Watch out for fellow portlanders. Drive safely, especially in our neighborhoods.”

***Browse all our coronavirus coverage here.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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49 Comments
  • Avatar
    Alex March 25, 2020 at 10:38 am

    Would love to see them shut down parking at Forest Park.

    Recommended Thumb up 18

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      Middle of the Road Guy March 25, 2020 at 5:51 pm

      One can park a block away.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

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        Alex March 26, 2020 at 10:54 am

        Yea – thanks, really helpful comment. I think the act of shutting down parking can act as somewhat of a deterrent.

        Probably should shut down all the hiking trails or make them one way, too.

        Recommended Thumb up 5

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          Middle of the Road Guy March 26, 2020 at 12:00 pm

          Reality sucks sometimes.

          Recommended Thumb up 1

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            Alex March 27, 2020 at 2:13 pm

            And you are always there to remind us of that.

            Recommended Thumb up 2

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      GlowBoy March 26, 2020 at 7:35 pm

      Why shut down parking at Forest Park? Parking isn’t allowed in the actual park, so this won’t free up more room on the trails and firelanes. You just trying to have the park to yourself?

      I usually visited Forest Park by bike, without a car, when I lived there, and even I think that would be an elitist policy.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

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      GlowBoy March 26, 2020 at 7:38 pm

      Middle of the Road Guy
      DWK, idealists need to realize that their well-intentioned ideas are quite frequently fraught with flaws.Recommended 2

      I think the replies to your question about cars and disabilities show that your perspective is the flawed one here, MORG.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

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    Jason March 25, 2020 at 10:44 am

    Woooo!! Car free Tabor days for … days. Months even. Get those hill laps in! All these great environmental improvements, all it took was the end of the world. Good time to get on the soap box and point out the vast improvements in air quality and lack of road fatalities.

    Recommended Thumb up 21

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      Jason March 25, 2020 at 10:45 am

      * lack of road fatalities… I can hope at least. I know the event on 3/19 is still fresh, sorry if it came off insensitively.

      Recommended Thumb up 6

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      SilkySlim March 25, 2020 at 12:04 pm

      Came here to say exact same thing. A rare silver lining in this crisis.

      I’ve always thought they had it flipped for Tabor: should be 6 days blocking cars, 1 allowing them (for accessibility sake).

      Recommended Thumb up 7

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        Middle of the Road Guy March 25, 2020 at 2:01 pm

        So the disabled can only go one day a week?

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          maxD March 25, 2020 at 2:33 pm

          No- people with limited sight and hearing would be safer using the roads and paths without motor vehicle access, as would people with cognitive disabilities and people using motorized mobility devices. Maintaining universal access to our parks is extremely important, but it is not the same thing as having our parks open to people driving. An accessibility plan should include ADA parking at the gates and improved/accessible access around the gates. Removing cars from the parks could improve recreational opportunities for many people experiencing a disability if done sensitively.

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            Middle of the Road Guy March 25, 2020 at 7:25 pm

            They’d be even safer without bikes on the roads those days also, no?

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              Jason March 25, 2020 at 7:58 pm

              If I was alter abled, I would be insulted that some Normy was going around saying all handicaps need cars. It’s simply not true. You are artificially reducing the conversation to a binary argument. It’s questionable at best. Why do feel the need to trapse around with this motif. Are you legitimately an advocate for alter able rights, or just an agitator?

              Recommended Thumb up 9

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              dwk March 25, 2020 at 8:02 pm

              Your contrariness on every issue here is becoming boring and useless.
              Stop.

              Recommended Thumb up 13

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                Middle of the Road Guy March 26, 2020 at 12:05 pm

                DWK, idealists need to realize that their well-intentioned ideas are quite frequently fraught with flaws.

                Recommended Thumb up 4

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                Alex March 27, 2020 at 6:01 pm

                @MOTRG – you are hurting more than helping. Reality sucks.

                Recommended Thumb up 1

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              q March 25, 2020 at 8:33 pm

              Many people with disabilities ride bikes in parks.

              Recommended Thumb up 6

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              Chris I March 26, 2020 at 6:44 am

              There is no indication that cyclist pose a risk to pedestrians and/or the disabled.

              Do you have any studies you would like to share that show there is a risk?

              Recommended Thumb up 5

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          Fred March 25, 2020 at 6:30 pm

          Wait: disabled people get around exclusively by car? I don’t think so.

          Recommended Thumb up 10

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          dwk March 25, 2020 at 8:10 pm

          So as a cyclist, you are arguing for cars on Mt. Tabor?
          Really Middle of the Road Guy? That sounds like an extreme position.
          Very extreme actually, most Mt Tabor neighborhood residents would like it closed…..
          But you know best or at least, want to disagree., because…….

          Recommended Thumb up 5

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            Middle of the Road Guy March 26, 2020 at 12:04 pm

            I’m arguing for no vehicles and no bikes, so the handicapable people can have their own freedom without concern 🙂

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    axoplasm March 25, 2020 at 11:12 am

    I realized this weekend at my neighborhood park (Sellwood) that the park was full, but I didn’t see any of my neighbors (which is very weird). Then I noticed the overflowing parking lot. Same problem with Forest Park, gorge destinations, beaches etc.

    The message we have been getting is “stay home, except for taking a walk outside” when the message we SHOULD be getting is “no unnecessary driving”

    Recommended Thumb up 24

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      q March 25, 2020 at 11:56 am

      You took the words right out of my mouth. The main message from Parks should be, “Stop driving to Parks to take a walk. Walk out your front door to take a walk.”

      The main result with closing a few parks to driving without accompanying it with that message–or with closing ALL parks to driving–will be that people will just drive to the other parks, and concentrating the same number of people in fewer places. Does Parks think people who were driving to a park that gets closed won’t just drive to the next closest one?

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        Fred March 25, 2020 at 6:35 pm

        And people will park in neighborhoods and walk to these closed parks also. If PPB were to patrol and give a citation to anyone getting out of a car to visit a park, that might have some impact. But knowing how passive PPB is (except when bikes rolled thru stop signs in Ladd’s last year), I won’t hold my breath.

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      maxD March 25, 2020 at 2:35 pm

      this highlights the unequal distribution of parks and recreational opportunities in the City. I hope this spurs Portland to make greater investments in parks and safe recreational connections to them

      Recommended Thumb up 7

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        q March 25, 2020 at 2:46 pm

        Yes. Everyone should have a park within walking distance, and along a safe route. Especially now that kids don’t have nearly as many large yards, vacant lots or quiet streets to play on as in the past.

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        Jason March 25, 2020 at 3:47 pm

        Parks are well distributed through the city. See the map I’m linking. Very prominent parks are also distributed, not as widely. But this map has many parks on it throughout the city. Maybe we have tunnel vision for the few really epic parks and forget that every couple of blocks there is a park.

        https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/article/728682

        You can also try the park finder.

        https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/finder/

        Recommended Thumb up 4

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          q March 25, 2020 at 4:43 pm

          They’re distributed, but some areas have much more than others, and “every couple of blocks there is a park” isn’t true. I see several places on the map that are much further from a park, and involve crossing very busy streets or highways.

          Also, parks with particular activities may be much further. Someone may be 10 blocks from “a park” but miles from a dog park, a basketball court, a large field, etc. Portland is better than many cities, though.

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        raktajino March 25, 2020 at 4:52 pm

        I spent a chunk of 2019 hiking exclusively from transit-accessible trailheads. SO many ths on oregonhikers dot org were technically within a mile of a bus stop, but not actually “accessible” even to an able-bodied pedestrian. Infrequent service, no sidewalks, long walk up a road without so much as a shoulder, un-crossable streets…I basically stuck to a handful at Forest Park. I love having so much greenspace nearby but without a car it might as well be in Salem.

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        Chris I March 26, 2020 at 6:46 am

        I think the city has been doing a great job to add parks in outer-East Portland. Some of the best, fanciest, newest parks are in outer NE and E Portland.

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          Jason March 26, 2020 at 10:08 am

          While it’s true that explicit withholding is not happening, implicit restrictions do occur. As q has outlined, there are several talking points to highlight this. I agree with you, parks and rec aren’t strictly withholding access to people, just cars. This shouldn’t strictly be considered a fact, but it gets fuzzy when you dig deeper.

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    Laura March 25, 2020 at 11:27 am

    Also of note, Oaks Park is closed for all activities, including folks using the area for Springwater Path parking, dog walking (beach acces is locked), CX riding. Gate Guard is only allowing select employees or building tenants in.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

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    Bryan March 25, 2020 at 11:56 am

    was up at tabor last week. took the kids up there on bikes. could not get over how many cars were parked up there. could barely ride down the road cars were parked all over the place. was more worried about cars and the kids in tabor then the ride there from woodstock.

    Recommended Thumb up 7

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    z March 25, 2020 at 1:39 pm

    Wow. Not bad. Thank you Portland Parks Bureau.

    Recommended Thumb up 8

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    Chris I March 25, 2020 at 1:51 pm

    Excited about many of these. Was riding out near Kelly Point on Sunday, and the amount of traffic in/out of there was shocking. Most things are terrible right now, but the increased cycling access in the city is a notable silver lining.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

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      Alain March 25, 2020 at 2:55 pm

      I too was at KPP on Sunday, it was nuts. Like the warmest of summer days! The Slough path, Smith and Bybee, all the way out to KPP was full of people on bikes. Way more than I am used to seeing this time of year (or any time really). Under the circumstances, it was nice to see everyone pedaling with smiles. Delighted to hear of the closure to KPP parking. And no easy curbside parking outside the gate will help to enforce. I know where I’m going March 26.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

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        X March 26, 2020 at 1:02 pm

        Downtown Portland is approximately a woonerf right now. Go do some hot laps.

        One thing about Covid 19, it’s now possible to cross MLK without counting to 187 at a beg button. Leftrightleft, go.

        Recommended Thumb up 5

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    Joe March 25, 2020 at 2:03 pm

    Withholding access to people with disabilitys is just another way Portland Parks discriminates and holds back those who would exercise to stay healthy.

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      Brian March 25, 2020 at 3:26 pm

      Can you give us an example of what you mean by this?

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        q March 25, 2020 at 8:31 pm

        A few examples, based just one what I’ve seen at one park I’m familiar with, and only mentioning things that have been done in the past few years:

        –brand new park entrance that has several non-compliant/unsafe features (sharp signs at eye level, handrails that aren’t graspable, tight turns, sharp drop-offs at path edges…)
        –park entrance new a couple years ago with new guardrails rendered ungraspable by adding anti-skateboard rings, slope way too steep
        –new trail and new sidewalks with missing tactile warnings at vehicle area crossings
        –new plantings that eliminated views of the river for people in wheelchairs
        –new plantings and pylons that block views between oncoming vehicles and people crossing, especially people in wheelchairs
        –new signage that isn’t readable by anyone who can’t walk well to get close enough to read it

        It’s a combination of things that are basic ADA code violations, plus things (like blocking views) that give people with disabilities a second-class experience. Some Parks staff are great, but my experience asking for corrections (during planning and after building) has often been abysmal.

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          Jason March 25, 2020 at 9:24 pm

          These are very perceptive points. I instinctively recoil from Joe’s word “withholding”, but I can’t rationalize a counterpoint. How you’ve explained the excruciating details seals the deal though. I can’t disagree that these are shortcomings. And you provide constructive framework to develop the conversation. Thank you.

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          Brian March 26, 2020 at 8:16 am

          Thanks, q. I guess I wasn’t clear. My question was focused on the subject of this article, temporarily banning vehicles in some parks.

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      Chris I March 26, 2020 at 6:48 am

      How is access being withheld? All park entrances are accessible to wheelchairs, bikes, walkers, etc.

      ADA doesn’t mean you get to drive your car wherever you want.

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        q March 26, 2020 at 12:03 pm

        Unfortunately, many park entrances are not accessible, including new ones. Also, in hilly neighborhoods, the route from any entrance to the location of the flat areas where the play areas, picnic tables, flat walking areas, etc. are may be a long steep hill, or a long route without sidewalks.

        I like that Parks is restricting vehicles in some parks, but it’s definitely going to cut some people needing accessibility from being able to use them. Long term, I hope it’s a reminder to Parks that people coming to them (including those needing accessibility) don’t all drive, and making accessible routes from entrances to the activity areas is important.

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    Jason McHuff March 25, 2020 at 10:19 pm

    Kelley Point Park spelling is wrong (“two e’s please” as I think the book Wild in the City says)

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 26, 2020 at 7:19 am

      Thanks for catching that Jason! Funny I overlooked that because I’m a stickler for proper place spellings and have given Kelley that extra “e” many times in the past. In my defense, I copy/pasted the list from the Parks Bureau!

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    GlowBoy March 26, 2020 at 3:44 pm

    We are starting to do this in Minneapolis too. A lot of the paths are getting pretty busy.

    https://www.startribune.com/minneapolis-to-close-some-parkways-so-runners-walkers-can-spread-out/569137802/

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    Jason March 27, 2020 at 11:29 am

    Middle of the Road Guy
    I’m arguing for no vehicles and no bikes, so the handicapable people can have their own freedom without concern Recommended 1

    But you said that handicaps could only go to the park one day a week if cars were restricted to one day a week. So, which is it? Handicaps need freedom from cars or handicaps can’t go to the park if they can’t drive?


    SilkySlim March 25, 2020 at 12:04 pm
    “I’ve always thought they had it flipped for Tabor: should be 6 days blocking cars, 1 allowing them (for accessibility sake).”


    Middle of the Road Guy March 25, 2020 at 2:01 pm

    “So the disabled can only go one day a week?”

    Recommended Thumb up 0

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