Sunday Parkways returns to southwest, and PBOT leaders mark the occasion

Multnomah Village was buzzing! (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)
Route map

Southwest Portland welcomed Sunday Parkways yesterday in a festive event that was a perfect farewell to summer. The route was a two-mile stretch of streets, partially connected by a walking path (the first time a walking trail has been included) between Gabriel Park to the north and Spring Garden Park to the south. And in between? Capitol Highway, of course.

The Multnomah neighborhood cannot celebrate its newly redesigned Capitol Highway enough. Some neighbors sold lemonade, a trio of men played the music from the Nutcracker Suite from their front porch (on saxophones!) and hundreds of people hit the streets on all manner of wheels. Folks were really happy.

As has been the case for many years now, the event was sponsored by Kaiser Permanente and hosted by PBOT, who organized the first one in 2008. The entertainment lineup PBOT pulled together included live music at Gabriel Park and Multnomah Village. Not to be outdone, Portland Parks & Rec had Zumba happening at Spring Garden Park. Everywhere you pedaled or walked there was some sort of activity going on. The streets really come alive during these events and southwest Portlanders — who have fewer bike lanes and sidewalks than any other part of the city — were eager to take back their streets.

It’s been nearly a decade since a Sunday Parkway has taken place in southwest, so there was considerable pent-up energy for this one. Sunday Parkways in the southwest have had a shorter route than in flatter parts of the city because of the need for a route that minimizes elevation changes. But the distance was fine, the crowd turned out, and there were tons of kids.

Newly hired PBOT Director Millicent Williams and her boss, City Commissioner (and mayoral candidate) Mingus Mapps, added themselves to the crowds. They began their day at Gabriel Park by walking the marketplace and hob-nobbing with passersby. One of them was dedicated Portland cycling advocate David Stein, who just happened to be cycling by. Stein is one of the locals testing out the California-made Bike Lane Sweeper and both Williams and Mapps seemed very interested in it as he ran through its features and answered their questions.

Director Williams and Commissioner Mapps then hopped on bikes for a short jaunt to Multnomah Village. Williams was on a blue “HSD” e-bike sold by Tern Bicycles. Its a new addition to PBOT’s vehicle fleet, so it’s available for any employee to use. And Mapps was on a Specialized “Haul” e-bike, another cargo-centric model.

Given the unprecedentedly poor state of the PBOT budget, it’s notable that the two most powerful people at the agency showed up at Sunday Parkways. Many folks feel like this program is likely on the chopping block when budget proposals get hammered out later this month. In brief remarks, Williams mentioned the “hard” conversations that lie ahead. We’ll be watching closely as both of these leaders reveal how they plan to dig PBOT out of their funding hole. The fact that they attended together tells us they are fans of Sunday Parkways and that they have a solid working relationship — both of which are good signs if you want these events to continue next year.

PBOT Director Williams and Commissioner Mapps goofing around in a PBOT maintenance truck.

And Mapps wasn’t the only member of Portland City Council who biked at the event. Mayor Ted Wheeler also took advantage of the open street to have some fun on a perfect Portland Sunday…

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero is on the board of SWTrails PDX, and was the chair of her neighborhood association's transportation committee. A proud graduate of the PBOT/PSU transportation class, she got interested in local transportation issues because of service cuts to her bus, the 51. Lisa has lived in Portland for 23 years and can be reached at lisacaballero853@gmail.com.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

23 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Keith
Keith
5 months ago

Nice to have Sunday Parkways in SW again – especially with perfect weather. Thanks to all who made it possible.

Fred
Fred
5 months ago

I’m glad people enjoyed the event, but I’m sorry – a lame two-mile route isn’t worth the effort to put on my cycling boots.

It’s just like the Cap Hwy path: great for small kids but lame for everyone else.

Fred
Fred
5 months ago

Lisa, this Fred is gonna Fred some more and just note that you are conflating the new Cap Hwy sidewalk infrastructure with Sunday Parkways as a whole. Sunday Parkways doesn’t need off-road infrastructure since they close the streets anyway.

And I never said the Cap Hwy sidewalk infra is bad as a sidewalk. It’s great and it has been needed for many years. What’s disappointing is the cycling part of that infra. We would have been much better off with a regular marked bike lane going downhill, but for some reason no one thought that anyone would want to ride downhill quickly and efficiently and safely, I guess. Better to make every cyclist slow down and potentially stop at every driveway and crossing street.

In summary:

  • Cap Hwy sidewalk: Good
  • Cap Hwy bike-sidewalk: Disappointing
  • Sunday Parkways: Great for kids and parents but lame for everyone else.
Michael Mann
Michael Mann
5 months ago
Reply to  Fred

I enjoyed the route. Rode to it from Montavilla, and back and forth on the route a couple times. 45 miles by the time I got back home.
Sorry your “not worth the effort” attitude kept you from joining us, but it sounds like you wouldn’t have liked it anyway.

Chris I
Chris I
5 months ago
Reply to  Michael Mann

Freds are gonna Fred.

Stephanie
Stephanie
5 months ago

It was magical to see families enjoying the beautiful streets of SW. We saw classmates and neighbors everywhere… I didn’t even know all those people had bikes! A glimpse of the powerful asset our streets could be if we hadn’t made all the decisions we have over the last 75 years.

The cutest thing ever was the tiny kids on scooters meandering along with the full width of the street to explore. Not efficient, not fast, not convenient, simply glorious. Thanks to everyone who contributed to the event and helped us experience some different priorities being allowed to reign for a couple of hours.

blumdrew
5 months ago

I had a lovely time at this event, but I just can’t go to an event like this without thinking “why aren’t we doing more of this?”. It’s so frustrating that Sunday Parkways has been deemed as some frivolous 3 times a year event. Our entire city council is crying wolf about the city going downhill, yet events that are obviously hugely popular (and beneficial for the city) are seemingly on the chopping block? Make it make sense.

I guarantee Sunday Parkways does more to spur economic activity than spending $6 million on parking garage security, or any amount of money funneled into Downtown Clean and Safe. How can the mayor go to an event like this and not think, “hey opening up the streets to people really seems to bring people together, maybe we should have a weekly event like this downtown?”.

John
John
5 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I wonder, if you use the most pessimistic accounting, how much this Sunday Parkways event cost the city. I can’t imagine it’s much, and really it seems like it could be accomplished mostly with volunteer work (not that they should rely on that). It just seems like a no brainer. Do it every weekend. Maybe in different places on some rotating schedule (for now), I don’t know. It seems like it doesn’t really cost anything, it’s just permission to do it.

A weekly event like this downtown sounds not that unlike Saturday Market, but in the streets, which seems really cool. I think you’d need to focus on vendors etc if you do it downtown, otherwise there aren’t as many local neighbors to go there.

blumdrew
5 months ago
Reply to  John

Well let’s take a look at the budget (on page 176)

PBOT receives an annual allocation of the $122,834 to support Sunday Parkways events. Sunday Parkways offers five opportunities every year for neighbors to get out and stroll, bike, skateboard, or roll without car traffic.

So they got 122k per year from the general fund before the 21-22 budget, and floated a 5% reduction. I’m under the impression that is the entire budget, though I guess Parks also spends some money on it. But considering that “Active Transport and Safety” gets a total of ~$6.5 million in that same budget, and that Sunday Parkways is a subset of that I’d say it’s in the neighborhood of a few hundred thousand.

And this was back when they still did 5! So if we can spend $200k/year on 5 Sunday Parkways, we could probably spend ~$2mil/year on weekly ones. Ballpark estimates, but I think it’s instructive – that’s a very achievable amount of money!

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  John

Part of the reason so many people turn out for events like this is that they are uncommon. If they were held every week, many people would go “next week” or go once or twice, and attendance (and volunteer labor) at any particular event would be a lot lower.

I have no problem with making these events weekly, but they wouldn’t be the same.

Jed
Jed
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

San Luis Obispo has wildly popular “farmers market” every week. It’s really a street fair where you can buy veggies. It is so packed you can hardly walk. Also PSU farmers is always popular. What you talking bout

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Jed

What you talking bout

I’m talking about a closed course bike ride, not a farmer’s market.

socially engineered
socially engineered
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Saturday Market happens downtown literally every weekend for half the year and is always packed but go off lol

Watts
Watts
5 months ago

is always packed

Also a market and not a recurring bike ride.

blumdrew
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

There are examples of popular, weekly, open street/bike rides as well. Like the Bogota ciclovia! But are farmer’s markets less popular because of their weekly schedule, or more popular?

Michael Mann
Michael Mann
5 months ago
Reply to  John

“I don’t know. It seems like it doesn’t really cost anything, it’s just permission to do it.”

I’ve been volunteering at (and working) Sunday Parkways since event #1 sixteen years ago. I don’t know if you have ever volunteered, but I highly recommend it. You’d get an inside look at the amount of effort and planning and manpower it takes to pull one of these events off. Yes much of the work is done by volunteers (who are perpetually in short supply, even for “only” three events) but it can’t be done without paid staff, equipment rentals, etc, etc.
It’s not just a matter of tossing out some barricades and inviting the bikes.

Chris I
Chris I
5 months ago
Reply to  Michael Mann

The cost is primarily on the front end. It’s all the planning and coordination, even though most of the labor hours do end up being volunteers. An event like this will never be free, but volunteers help make it possible with tight budgets!

Fred
Fred
5 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

One reason we aren’t doing more of this is that drivers, who are the predominant species in SW Portland, complain bitterly about events that take away their precious driving space. I did the very first Sunday Parkways in SW and I’ll never forget the whining, bitching, and moaning by drivers who had to drive a different route on a Sunday. I’ve never seen such abuse directed at volunteers.

I’m sure the vitriol from 10+ years ago factored into the city’s decision to pick such a short and off-beat route for this year’s event. I can say for a fact that businesses in the village were NOT happy about this year’s event and took great pains to let their clients know about the event in advance – in many cases even telling them to stay away. They wouldn’t tolerate having to do that every Sunday, or even two Sundays a year.

I know, I know – people could get on their bikes and ride, but they would rather complain, and our city leaders prioritize the complaining over cycling and its many benefits. So we get the once-a-year performative “Oh how much we value cycling” effort.

Michael Mann
Michael Mann
5 months ago
Reply to  Fred

“I can say for a fact that businesses in the village were NOT happy about this year’s event and took great pains to let their clients know about the event in advance – in many cases even telling them to stay away.”

I’m just going to come out and call Bulls*** on this. I was on the ground, in the village yesterday, and every business was open and busy. I made it a point to ask several business owners during the event how business was and they all – each one I asked – said it was great.

You already said you weren’t there so you obviously don’t know what you’re talking about.
And yet that doesn’t stop you.

blumdrew
5 months ago
Reply to  Fred

My impression of events like this, or any street fair is that they are wildly popular and usually benefit the businesses a great deal. The summer program in Montreal comes to mind. Our issue is primarily that no one in the city has any sort of transportation related vision. Every one of our city councilors is content with making absolutely no changes to the way we interact with our streets, and it really shows.

Visionary leadership would be looking at Montreal as a clear indicator that closing streets to cars increases commercial activity and thinking “let’s try that here”. But instead we have a bunch of “leaders” who are shackled to business interests who only care about the status quo, or who recognize that Portland is struggling in places and think the only solution is more cops.

Lenny Anderson
Lenny Anderson
5 months ago

Hey, what’s not to like about a fest on my old home turf. Started biking at the ripe old age of 6 on SW Hume between 35th and 37th…rocks, dust, pot holes, but no speeding cars. Still not paved. Eventually my biking range expanded to Hillsdale and Lewis & Clark College, not to mention jaunts down the OR coast in ’60 and ’61 and up to Vancouver, BC in ’62. And we walked a lot, to Multnomah school, on early AM paper routes for a half dozen years, and to the Village (did we call it that?) for just about anything you needed.
My late father had open heart surgery in the 60’s and the doc, in addition to blood thinner, prescribed three miles of walking per day. He started his day walking over to Lewis & Clark for his 8 AM classes. And we took the bus…Dad once exclaimed when I asked for the keys to the car, “What’s wrong with public transportation?” It wasn’t a question!

Fred
Fred
5 months ago
Reply to  Lenny Anderson

Thanks for the memories!

(Don’t know if you still live here but SW is changing fast – getting built-out with extremely dense new housing that is adding many cars to the roads, with little to no improvement in transportation infrastructure. I’m getting out as soon as I can.)