It almost felt like old times on Sunday: The live music, the freebies and food from vendors in the parks, smiling families where everyone is on a bike. Sunday Parkways made a big comeback yesterday after a two-year hiatus and thousands of Portlanders showed us once again that when given a safe place to ride a bike, they will turn out in droves.
The route stretched from NE 37th to 72nd, and from NE Mason in the south to Holman in the north. The two most popular parks along the route, Fernhill and Khunamokwst (“K Park” I heard someone call it), were popping right from the start. With 90+ temps forecast, it was clear most people showed up right at the 11:00 am opening to try and squeeze in some fun before the heat became unbearable.
Given the heat and hiatus, I was actually surprised how well-attended the event was. Maybe it’s just me, but as cool as Sunday Parkways is, I feel like it has stagnated a bit since it first happened in 2008. If you would have told me at that first one 15 years ago that we’d still be doing exactly the same thing in the same way, I’d have scoffed and chided you for being so pessimistic. “We’ll be rolling on major streets!” I’d have said back then. “The city will keep them closed to drivers all day and into the night. You just wait and see. We’ll have so much fun!”
That hasn’t happened. I hope we can push to make Sunday Parkways even bigger and better in future years, but I digress.
Yesterday it was clear PBOT hasn’t forgotten how to make streets and parks a lot of fun!
In Khunamokwst Park, I watched a few dozen folks dance Bhangra (traditional folk dance of Punjab region in India) and even more wait in line for sno-cones. Folks seemed to relish the chance to talk to nonprofits and other groups that had set up tables and tents. Our friends at Shift were there to quiz people on local bike fun trivia. So were Oregon Walks, where I scored a cool walking kit with a fanny pack, water bottle, mask, and tote bag.
At Fernhill Park, ODOT’s Urban Mobility Office had a booth and somehow the staffers who worked it managed to make the I-205-Abernethy Bridge freeway widening project to interesting that lots of folks stopped in to chat about it. A bit later in the day, the Jumptown Big Band took over the main stage and — despite sweltering heat — did a fantastic rendition of Ella Fitzgerald’s very apropos tune, Too Darn Hot.
But what’s most special about Sunday Parkways are the little nuggets of joy you see scattered in lesser-known spots along the route.
Business at household lemonade stands was brisk and there seemed to be misters and sprinklers pointed into the street every few tenths of a mile.
As I turned onto NE 72nd and the lush Roseway Parkway, an opera singer’s voice pierced so sharply through the heavy air it instantly felt 5-degrees cooler. It was Opera a la Cart (thanks Portland Opera!) and there were no seats to be had under the viewing tent as folks took full advantage of this artistic respite from the route.
If you missed it, you’ve got just one more chance this year. The final Sunday Parkways of the season is on August 21st. See PBOT’s website for all the details.