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.
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Love the idea of new ideas for a bigger/better Sunday Parkways! Night Parkways, Broadway East and West Parkways, Runners Lane on Parkways, St Johns Parkways. What are your ideas?
I wish there was a group or person in town pushing for better Parkways. I feel like it’s on everyone’s mind but no one has time or priority for it yet.
Personally, I’d really love to see larger streets on the routes. It’s silly to keep us on backstreets where there are no destinations and where it already feels pretty safe and easy to ride. Imagine how much more influential these events would be if they were on streets like NE 42nd, Williams, Broadway, Hawthorne, Burnside, and so on.
I’d also like to see them go longer into the night. Summers are getting hotter and it makes no sense to go 11-4 which is the peak heat of the day. Imagine the parks filled with dancing and live music at 8-9 pm!
In general, I’d like to see more emphasis on larger streets and using the streets for the activities, in addition to the parks. Imagine doing Bhangra on Burnside!
I was looking forward to this, in part because the route came within a couple miles of my house this year. But I reluctantly decided to stay in because the heat was an actual health risk for me. I hope the August event will be cooler.
I’m largely satisfied with the “neighborhood street” aspect of the event, but I can see real merit to putting future parkway segments along streets like Alberta or Hawthorne or Mississippi that already get closed off once a year for a street fair. We already know what traffic and transit adjustments need to be made for public events.
my personal fantasy is that we’d keep and expand sunday parkways on the neighborhood greenways but then add an additional “saturday streets” program that was focused on opening up the busy arterials. The programming could be a bit qualitatively different to focus more on nearby small businesses as opposed to linking all of the parks together.