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Sunday Parkways

May 23, 2010

I love this summer program! During the Portland Sunday Parkways, a route of streets are closed to car traffic, creating a temporary bike/wagon/skate/ only zone. Each Sunday of the program takes place in a different quadrant of the city, connecting a series of parks and neighborhoods.

The kickoff took place in NE Portland. It was a warm day; warm enough for my first sunburn of the year. (boo.) Last year Bennie rode in the bike seat on the back of my bike, but this year she wanted to join the “bike parade” on her little balance bike. Not surprisingly, she took it all very seriously, with just a little bit of help from Daddy to get up the occasional hill, and pulling over to park by the curb to take a sip of water, then back to the parade! We made pitstops at the parks for snacks and entertainment, and stopped at a roadside booth to tape paper streamers onto her handlebars. 4 hours of sunny pedaling madness, Daddy chasing after her when she bombed down hills, and mama lagging behind pulling the red support wagon.

We test rode an extracycle, oogled the electric assist bikes (I could sure use a boost biking up hills around town), cargobikes, tallbikes, tandems, recumbents, fixies and other custom contraptions that find a home here in our fun little city.

It was so relaxing to be on a street without cars, to not have to stop at every intersection and assist up and down curbs, and simply not WORRY about my child’s safety while we rode for nearly all 4 hours through our city. Lately we’ve been reading about traditional cities and really longing for spaces that are created for people rather than cars. Think old Europe:  narrow cobbled streets, dense and beautiful housing, places people visit as tourists, streets made for wandering and living in, city squares where people gather and feel the sense of “place”, and permanent pedestrian zones. Imagine a city that is truly walkable, rather than stretched out islands of suburban hell where you don’t want to walk, even if anything was close by. Portland is a fabulous city, but it is still a grid designed for cars. It is very bike-able compared to other American cities, but bikers still die every year, my child feels afraid (and validly so) when we go out on our bikes, and the wide streets interfere with a sense of place and commons. I love the Sunday Parkways program, but it also makes me realize we still have much work to do to make our city a more livable place.

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