Portland has lots of little sections of carfree streets. Usually just a block or two. I want to share more about them here in hopes that it inspires us to create more of them.
The other day I came across a brand new one: NW 24th between Westover/Flanders and Glisan.
This is a neat little block that was never really a major thoroughfare for drivers, but it’s still nice to have it officially set aside as a quiet carfree space. It’s amazing how a few concrete barricades can transform a potentially hostile environment into a serene one.
This is a gorgeous part of Portland that feels historic because it has very old paving stones still in tact and it’s surrounded by huge mature trees and old stately homes. While just one block in size, the space feels larger because there’s also a sidewalk and a hillside adjacent to Westover that adds some square footage.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) grabbed the opportunity to make this block carfree as part of a larger effort to establish NW 24th as a safe neighborhood greenway route as envisioned in the Northwest In Motion plan.
When I rolled through a few days ago I noticed that the block was a magnet for walkers, runners, and bike riders. It was beautiful! Whenever we reclaim streets for people, it becomes immediately clear that it was the presence of cars that prevents our streets from reaching their full potential.
Stay tuned for more of these little profiles of Portland’s many carfree spaces.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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A whole block of car free riding?! I feel more strong and confident already! Portland is platinum again, baby!!! (Snark fully intended – also, be careful braking on that combination of cobbles and wet leaves.)
I appreciate the enthusiasm, Jonathan but we have to stop accepting these little bones thrown our way as progress to celebrate. When PBOT puts an arterial like Broadway or Sandy or MLK on a road diet with a full car width lanes in each direction dedicated to bikes, then they are serious and should be praised. We have always needed ways to get around faster on bikes to make it competitive with car travel. PBOT gives us little out-of-the-way boutique blocks in neighborhoods where our wealthiest citizens live but would never dream of riding a bike or having a safer walk to the bus.
Oh relax lazy spinner. I’m not accepting anything. Just sharing a little thing that I like.
It’s these little gems that most amplify how pathetic the rest of the system is.
Wealthy neighborhoods get all the perks!
I love this little block! I use it all the time to get from my apartment to Washington Park. The cobblestones with bike sized paved lanes are one of my favorite road types in Portland. NW Marshall between 12th and 13th has this combination and it allows bikes to ride though easily but limits car speed since it’s so bumpy for them.
It’s cool how in some spots PBOT has maintained the cobblestones but added the concrete strips for bikes. It’s like default rumble strips for cars and then smooth sailing for two wheels. NW Marshall is one of my favorites.
A bit of history. Those basalt cobbles came from a quarry near St. Helens and were laid down in the late 1800s on Portland’s unpaved streets to keep them from washing away and to provide footing for horses. No, they did not arrive as ballast in sailing ships as widely claimed. What did arrive as ballast are the granite curbs you occasionally see around town.
This reminds me of one you wrote about some time ago in N or NE–a stretch of a block or two that didn’t allow cars and created a route that felt special.
What I love about these isn’t just that people biking and walking are protected from vehicle traffic. It’s that they create routes that are only available to experience if you’re not driving. It’s the same reason I like public stairways, Tilikum Crossing, the Flanders and Blumenauer bridges, etc.
You may be thinking of the Klickitat Street Mall, which way back in the 70s closed Klickitat to cars from Irving Park (11th) through 14th. I walk it all the time. It’s a neighborhood gem.
I don’t think it was that, but wow, that looks great.
And one more special thing I just saw about that one–unlike streets, you can’t take that route on Google street views.
There’s no tact to these types of gram mar comments. Don’t you have a derailleur to ad just or some thing?
If the NW in Motion plan gets even one of the greenways in NW to meet city standards for (low) motor vehicle volume and speed it will be these two planters plus a few speed humps.
Nice fall glam shot! Though the street has brick pavers from the look of the photos. And as for “rich vs poor”…we should just embrace that PBoT has made this ‘crazy’ pre 1900 intersection a little bit simpler and hopefully safer given the speeds that horseless carriages now travel at. A street closure that could be a model for all neighborhoods. Sadly, it looks like a 1950s sewer / utility line project took out half the brick work. ;-(
I like the bike and rider on the back of the FedEx truck driving up the hill from the cover pic.
This is great. For years the only practical way to get to the Stearns rd entrance to WA park from downtown was to ride up this against traffic (or on the sidewalk I suppose, but that required riding on the wrong side of the street)
The Flanders crossing has negated this from one direction, but it’s nice to have options and it’s pretty good demonstration of how changing a block or two here or there can have impacts for cycling that extend for miles in all directions.
Nice space! I’ll check it out next time I am over there.
I noticed some blocks got blocked out with business reclaiming some of the street space. I think I saw that on one block on NW 13th and perhaps on SW Harvey between 12th and 13th. What’s nice about these blocks is that they show how car-free spaces can be complementary with business. It would be great if you could present one of these blocks in the next week.
Aloha MUTCD sign geeks wonks etc….does anyone know if the sign on the right with the circle cross out arrow sign (‘no vehicles other than bikes’ entry…is in the MUTCD? I did a quick search and could not find it…perhaps the CoP sign crew made up a new sign based on Euro sign or a No left/ right turn type sign?
I think you should have a comma after “intact”, and a period after “in tact”.
Caution! The street pavement is very uneven and hazardous on this block. I crashed on my road bike trying to get out of the ruts and uneven bad pavement coming uphill on the right side.
The great thing about this improvement is now it is much safer going south on 24th to Washington park. This one block section was a oneway going north so if I had to ride it before I would take the sidewalk.