Three of Portland’s five city council members rode a bike in Sunday Parkways

(Photos on left and middle from social media posts. Mapps photo on right by Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

A majority of Portland city council attended Sunday Parkways last weekend. That might not seem like a big deal, but when you realize that the Parkways program is on the budget chopping block, it takes on a bit more significance.

Commissioners Mingus Mapps, Rene Gonzalez, and Mayor Ted Wheeler all ventured over to the hills of southwest Portland to take part in the last Parkways of the year. Mapps was there as part of his role as commissioner-in-charge of the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), but the other two seemed to show up simply because it was a nice excuse to enjoy a perfect Portland day with their family. Yes, both Gonzalez and Wheeler rode to the event with their kids.

Gonzalez posted a video riding (15 miles there and back) to the event with his young sons and then shared a photo of he and PBOT Director Millicent Williams at the event. And Wheeler posted a photo on social media of his stop at a sno-cone truck, then said at a meeting last night he did the event with his daughter.

For Sunday Parkways boosters, having these elected officials show up could not have come at a better time. Despite being almost universally beloved citywide, the Parkways program has had to fight for its funding several times since it began in 2008. Believe it or not the City of Portland had to crowdfund to keep the program going in 2009, 2010, and in 2012. And on several occasions, the program has been passed over for budget help because it was not seen as a “core service.”

In 2010, the City Budget Office recommended against funding for Sunday Parkways. And in 2012, former Commissioner Dan Saltzman opposed a contract between PBOT and the company that runs the event and the program was ultimately scaled back as a result.

With this year’s budget negotiations set to heat up amid the most daunting financial reality the agency has ever faced, it’s conventional wisdom that Sunday Parkways could be cut as PBOT addresses a mandate to slash about 30% — or $32 million — from their discretionary budget. A PBOT budget survey released last month included an ominous question that asked people to rank the importance of “community events like Sunday Parkways.”

While Parkways has several major sponsors, my best guess is that the City of Portland is on the hook for about $80-$100,000 per event. While it traditionally had five events per year, PBOT hosted just three events this year.

When Gonzalez, Wheeler, and Mapps sit down in City Council chambers for a PBOT budget work session on September 26th, they’ll be eager to share how they rode in Sunday Parkways. Whether that translates into an eagerness to fund it, remains to be seen.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Chris I
Chris I
9 days ago

That’s really impressive, especially Gonzalez riding all the way out there with his kids. Getting to that part of SW Portland is not for the faint of heart. It would be interesting to see the breakdown of ride vs. bike to Sunday Parkways, but from what I’ve observed, a huge chunk of people drive to the events.

Fred
Fred
8 days ago

I frankly don’t really care if Sunday Parkways is cut, since it doesn’t seem to have any impact on cycling in Portland generally.

If someone could show how Sunday Parkways leads to an uptick in cycling mode share in Portland, then I would say we should all fight to keep it.

But from what I can see – esp in SW – Sunday Parkways has NO impact on cycling mode share. What it mainly seems to do is give politicians a nice photo op and allow them to say, “Look at how much I support cycling!” Then they get right back in their cars and minivans Mon-Fri and drive around like everyone else. And – more crucially – they support the PBOT half-measures that ensure automotive transportation remains dominant in Portland. It’s the same old performative Portland BS we see year after year.

Sorry if this isn’t the rah-rah Sunday Parkways comment you wanted, but if we want to get to 25% mode share for cycling in this city, some hard truths need to be told.

Daniel Reimer
Daniel Reimer
8 days ago
Reply to  Fred

I disagree with your point of view that just because it doesn’t change mode share, then it is not wort doing.

Parkways is a community event with an oppurtunity for all the neighbors to come together and enjoy the parks and streets that are normally dominated by cars. I am sorry you fail to see it that way.

Fred
Fred
7 days ago
Reply to  Daniel Reimer

Daniel, people can already enjoy the parks without cars, and there are plenty of street fairs in Portland where streets are closed and vendors set up tents to hawk their wares. How is Sunday Parkways any different from those events?

If everyone – or even a fraction of the people – who rode in Sunday Parkways said, “This is great – I’m going to fight for these streets to be closed to everyone but cyclists,” then it would be doing something useful. But that doesn’t happen. The event makes everyone feel good for a few hours and then we all see what could be but will never be, and we all get depressed about what we can’t have (at least that was the effect on me).

Chris I
Chris I
8 days ago
Reply to  Fred

What would you spend the $200,000 per year on instead?

Fred
Fred
7 days ago
Reply to  Chris I

I would save up the $200k til we have enough to spend on a really transformative cycling project – say, a raised cycleway that runs from downtown through the west hills to Beaverton.

socially engineered
socially engineered
8 days ago

Wheeler has a lot of nerve showing up to a PBOT-sponsored event after his last-minute shenanigans to undercut their revenue:

https://www.portlandmercury.com/news/2023/05/24/46523056/pbot-is-on-life-support-inside-portlands-transportation-budget-crisis