Driving Towards a “Carfree City”

The Event: Six miles of North Portland roads closed off to car traffic Sunday to allow pedestrians and bikers to occupy the middle of the road

The Cause: To encourage walking, biking and rollerblading and discourage driving

The Procedure: Three simple steps

1. Drive your car up to the edge of the carfree zone.
2. Park your car and take the bike off your car roof.
3. Ride the bike and get entertained for free.

The Cost: $150,000 (including a major grant from the Environmental Protection Agency)

The Result: The Oregonian devotes more than a full page, including the first page, to celebrating Portland’s first “carfree” day.

The Lesson: Such expensive events only work on SUNDAYS.


Sreya Sarkar is Director of the Asset Ownership Project at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s premier public policy research center.

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Posted by at 06:12 | Posted in Measure 37 | 25 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Bob Clark

    I dread the thought of city planners imposing more of these experiments on folks just wanting to get somewhere in an expeditious manner, not wanting to have to get permission from what are an essence hall monitors.

  • Terry Parker

    Streets blocked off to the motorists who are taxed to pay for them so bicyclists can have a care free day freeloading about. This is yet another demonstration of bicyclists wanting more (exclusive infrastructure and specialized services) as long as someone else pays for it – and why bicyclists need to be directly taxed, pay license and registration fees, instead of poaching the funds for their for all their wants and wishes from motorist paid taxes and other sources. Thousands of dollars could have been raised for road maintenance if fees were charged to the bicyclists riding in this area closed off to cars.

    Not that I am in any way complaining about the delivery service, but as for the all Oregonian’s one-sided editorialized hoopla and lip service celebrating Portland’s first “carfree” day – the newspaper of the same name that lands on my front porch, including the Sunday edition, the Monday edition with all rhetoric, and every other day arrives by a carrier in a motor vehicle, not on a bicycle. So much for the O spouting off (again)!

  • Jerry

    Can’t everyone just get along? Cars are evil. They are made by corporations who make profits (sometimes) and they hurt Mother Earth in so many ways. If we could live where we work we would not need them. And, like Europe, if we wanted to go somewhere we could take the train. So, days like these are great as the show everyone what life would be like if we were smart and did not have a bunch of cars running around all the time.
    Walk when you can. If you must ride – use a bike.
    Sell your car. Help the earth. Take the train.
    Before it is too late.
    We must all accept that our actions up to now have been bad and wrong and hurtful.
    I have – won’t you?

  • Jed Williams

    Oh quit complaining. I’d bet 80 percent of participants rode bikes or took transit to attend this event. Every person who is given a chance to safely bike and walk- and a majority of Portlanders actually want this- means fewer people on the road so you whiners can drive to your hearts content (or until you have spent all your disposable income on gasoline).

    We spend much more money on civic events like the Rose Parade that lack the constructive end of encouraging people to be more physically active and to reduce car traffic congestion. More importantly Sunday Parkways a hellva good time and staffed mostly by volunteers. Most of the expense was for police which helpful but not needed for the events success.

    This is 150K well spent on the civic and human health of our city.

    Jed Williams

    • dean

      Terry…streets are public rights of way that in most cases were deeded to a local government at the time of a subdivision plat. Rights of way have multiple functions, including transport and utilities. They were built by developers, not by tax funds. And they certainly were not “paid for” by gas taxes, which did not even exist back when older Portland neighborhoods were built. If anything, we could say that “streetcars” paid for those roads. at most, the present suface layer of pavement was laid down or is partly maintained by gas taxes.

      If a community wants to close a street or area to cars, either temporarily or permanently, that is their perrogative because they own the right of way. You, Sreya, Bob and Jerry are free to live in a community that favors cars over pedestrians, but don’t insist on imposing your lifestyle on those who choose a different way to live.

      • cc

        “You, Sreya, Bob and Jerry are free to live in a community that favors cars over pedestrians, but don’t insist on imposing your lifestyle on those who choose a different way to live.”

        More drivel from dean…

        If anyone should refrain from castigating others about “…imposing (their) lifestyle on those who choose a different way to live.”, it’s you, dean.

        And why are you chiming in on a Portland issue – aren’t you busy screwing up your bucolic Damascus? As I recall, you questioned the legitimacy of Don McIntyre’s comments, on a previous “Portland” post, based on his residence in Gresham. Doesn’t that cut both ways? Oh, I forgot, the rules don’t apply to the enlightened.

        Never mind, we all know you’re paid to deposit your nuggets of wisdom here to supplement the, no doubt, vast income from your literary and landscaping pursuits. I imagine all the folks in the Damascus/Happy Valley area seek you out. I imagine most of them are carrying torches and pitchforks, though.

        It must be special to be special.

  • Tom

    The penny-wise and pound foolish market ideologues at Cascade Policy Institute clearly know nothing of the value of community building. This event was an incredibly positive for kids and families. For a first run at such an event, it was done on the cheap with an enormous amount of volunteer support.

    • Chris McMullen

      Great. Community building. What makes you think everybody wants to be part of the community? I’m very selective about with whom I associate. I don’t need government forcing me to interact with the rest of the neighborhood.

      • dean

        Chris..why does that not surprise me about you? And what makes you think “government” was forcing anybody to interact with the rest of the neighborhood? All they did was put cars on a short leash for 5 bloody hours on a Sunday. Interacting or not it was left up to individuals. If they wanted to get in their cars and drive to the coast or a shopping mall to get away from their neighbors…they had that freedom. Chill out.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    At the end of the day, some things are known.

    We know how much it costs to build a square foot of road. We know how many square feet of bike lanes there are, and thus their cost. We also know the cost to build bike paths.

    It is about time to determine, using what we know, how much money is devoted to roads and paths built for bicycles. Its time to start simply licensing bikes and charging them for the cost of this sort of thing.

    But bikes are good, and nice to the environment.

    Big whoop, so are motorcycles. They take up no more space than a bicycle in terms of road and are more friendly to the environment than a Prius. They are far more practical as a commuting vehicle than a bicycle as well.

    If you are for the current system of making others pay for the bicyclists road use, then fine, no gasoline taxes for motorcycles, no licensing and no registration.

    • dean

      Rupert…not that a 5 hour street closure has anything at all to do withh bicycle use taxation…but I’m curious. What makes a motorcycle “far more practical” than a bicycle for the purpose of commuting? And since gas taxes are well….taxes on gas…why would we want to equate a MOTORcycle, which burns gas, with a bicycle, which does not?

      Lastly…would you require every 10 year old with a bicycle to have license and registration? I thought you were a small government advocate?

      • dean

        Addition: why don’t we charge pedestrians for walking on the sidewalks? I imagine most people at the North Portland event were pedestrians after all.

        • Rupert in Springfield

          >What makes a motorcycle “far more practical” than a bicycle for the purpose of commuting?

          You really need an answer to this? Come on.

          >And since gas taxes are well….taxes on gas…why would we want to equate a MOTORcycle, which burns gas, with a bicycle, which does not?

          Is this just all train of thought or is it a simple case of a poorly thought out knee jerk reaction?

          Whether or not something burns gas has no bearing on road use. I’m simply trying to find a mechanism for charging bicycles for the roads they use. Using your logic, if I switch my car to propane, then it would be wrong to compare it to a gasoline burning car for the purpose of taxes to maintain roads.

          >Lastly…would you require every 10 year old with a bicycle to have license and registration?

          If they use the roads, sure I would. If they ride it around on their own property or off road, no I wouldn’t. Same thing as cars. My parents had a beach house where the neighboring town had just this sort of requirement. Worked out fine.

          >I thought you were a small government advocate?

          I sure am, thus I see no interest in expanding government to tax one group, gas users, to pay for another groups pleasure in the form of bike lanes and paths.

          >Addition: why don’t we charge pedestrians for walking on the sidewalks? I imagine most people at the North Portland event were pedestrians after all.

          Ok, so judging from the time span between your two posts I can now see how long you thought about this.

          I don’t know about North Portland, but virtually every other city I have lived in has required property owners at the very least to maintain the sidewalk in front of their property, and quite possibly put it in in the first place. They may be considered city owned, or city right of ways, but generally it has been my experience that they are not city maintained. Thus everyone subsidizes and is subsidized in regard to sidewalk use, therefore its not an issue.

          • dean

            I’ve owned both motorcycles and bicycles. Less than 5 miles and a relatively safe flat route and I would say a bike beats a motorcycle for convenience. Paticularly factoring in parking.

            How about pedestrians crossing streets at striped crosswalks paid for by our gas taxes? Doesn’t that just get your goat? There should be a toll charged.

          • Rupert in Springfield

            >What makes a motorcycle “far more practical” than a bicycle for the purpose of commuting?

            You really need an answer to this? Come on.

            >I’ve owned both motorcycles and bicycles. Less than 5 miles and a relatively safe flat route and I would say a bike beats a motorcycle for convenience.

            Congratulations, you have reached the first plateau in thinking this one through.

            >How about pedestrians crossing streets at striped crosswalks paid for by our gas taxes? Doesn’t that just get your goat? There should be a toll charged.

            Lurching into the absurd case rarely helps out a weak argument. It didn’t work with the sidewalks, I am surprised you think it would work with this example. Sorry, all use crosswalks, thus all are subsidized, same as sidewalks.

        • dmf

          I had to buy a license for my bicycle when I was ten. So what?

        • Joanne Rigutto

          Dean, property owners in Portland do pay for the sidewalks. My father has a house in SE Portland. When there is a problem with the sidewalk, such as cracks with enough lippage to pose a tripping hazard to pedestrians, the city comes and says fix it yourself or we’ll fix it for you and bill you. The property owner’s options are litterally to do the tear out and pour themselves or hire a contractor to do the work. When you’re done you call the city for an inspection. I don’t know if you have to get a permit to do the repair, but I’m pretty sure you have to call for an inspection.

          Also, the cross street a block up from his house used to be gravel when I was a kid. I have fond memories of stomping the ice in the whopper puddles coming home from school as a kid. When the street was eventually paved, I believe the homeowners on the street had to pay for the paving themselves, although it may have been city crews that did the paving. It was rather expensive at the time – it always is… – and I remember people being worried that the pavement would encourage the drivers to travel too fast down the road, thus placing kids playing in the street at risk.

  • David

    What whiners! The city closes off a couple of roads for a mere 6 hours on as a one-time experiment. And you act like they’ve outlawed automobiles and you had no choice but to sit in your driveway stewing because they wouldn’t allow you on the road.

    Some people will whine about anything.

    • Rupert in Springfield

      Nah, some car drivers just get tired of being told how great bicycles are and how evil their cars are, while at the same time being forced to subsidize those bicycles. Seems a pretty natural reaction to me.

      • cc

        Don’t forget to consider that the vast, vast majority of bicycle miles are recreational in nature while I seriously doubt that’s the case for cars. My needs are subsumed by their wants.

        License ’em.

        Require insurance.

        Require helmets.

        Require real lights.

        No headphones (a friend of mine was killed because she didn’t hear the F-350 that mowed her down at an intersection on the Springwater).

        Enforce traffic laws.

        If they want to play in the street, they’d better watch out for cars.

        …or ride on bike paths where cars aren’t allowed. Nothing pisses me off more than seeing Subaru’s full Lycra clad Lances parking at Skyline & Cornell to indulge in a little scenic ride on Skyline. Nothing like finding a twisty road with NO shoulders and a 40 MPH speed limit to “impose your will” on others…

        • Linda in No Po

          I am a No Po resident, neighborhood association chair and a volunteer for Sunday Parkways. I must say I’m prety surprised and disappointed to see all the negativity surrounding this event. My neighborhood was thrilled to be a part of it. My church cancelled service that day to participate and serve the community.

          I doubt that most of you that are complaining were there but since I actually was what I saw was people coming together as a community. Most everyone I know walked or biked (I walked) from home to the event which was not entirely a bike event. Yes, there were more bikes than walkers but there were lots of walkers, many with their dogs. People were happy, people were thankful, residents were respectful and couteous when they drove through closed streets. I saw families riding bikes together, kids able to not worry about cars, something most of us enjoyed in our childhood that kids don’t get to enjoy now.

          This event was well planned and donor supported meant to both demonstrate that we CAN get around by other means than cars and to bring a diverse community together. I feel it was sucessful.

          It was one day, 5 hours in a community that you probably don’t live in so I don’t get the complaining.

          • dean

            Linda…thanks for your efforts. I suspect what some of the negative posters fear is success and potential spread of this effort. They seem to have a car fetish and pedestriaphobia. I say get over yourselves.

          • Joanne Rigutto

            Linda,

            I think one of the reasons that people get aggrivated over events like the car free day in N. Portland is that they see it as a test for eliminating vehicles all together or severely limiting their use in Portland. While I don’t think that a total ban on cars in Portland is practical, it would probably destroy the city, I do think that the city will continue to discourage driving, through tolling schemes, reengineering the streets to make them less vehicle friendly, etc.. The writing’s on the wall and the political leadership in Portland has not tried to hide their annimosity towards passenger vehicles and their discresionary use by the residents and visitors to the city. So when people see an event like the car free day there in your neighborhood, they are understandably spooked.

            I remember my father telling be about when he grew up during the depression. Not may had cars, many more people traveled around the city via the street car, walked or biked. No one went to the beach, no one went to Mt. Hood, etc., or at least not as many people did as do now. What people see in activities like the car free day is a push toward limiting individual mobility. It’s one thing to limit one’s own mobility, it’s quite another for the government to limit one’s mobility.

            While I think that if a person want’s to walk, bike or bus to get around that’s their business, but I do think that the bike density in the city is getting to the point that they need to be licensed and carry liability insurance. Remember, cars didn’t have to be licensed and drivers didn’t have to carry insurance at one time too. The bicycles need to be licensed for the same reasons that auto drivers were made to be licensed and they need to carry insurance for the same reasons that automobile drivers need to carry insurance. Also, a biker education and test should be implemented. Apparently there is a significant percentage of bike riders who aren’t aware of the vehicle laws that apply to them. When I drive around Portland about half of the bike riders I see are not obeying the traffic laws, signaling, etc. If the same percentage of auto drivers flouted those laws there would be a lot of dead people and the city would be in terminal gridlock.

            On another note, the bike riders could really do a better job of marketing their agenda regarding bike use, and I’m talking about the bike organizations’ leadership now, not the rank and file bike riders although they could do their part as well. What do I mean by that? Well, look at it this way, the bike associations would like to get more people out of their cars and onto bikes, the city would like to get more people out of their cars and onto bikes, the bus, or get more people to use Shank’s Mare. Going around and flouting the law, looking down on auto drivers, essentially telling us that we are evil and/or selfish for driving is not necessarily the best way to go about marketing your ‘product’, that product being a behavioral change in as many drivers as possible. In my opinion they’ve done a deplorable job of marketing.

          • dean

            Joanne,

            As always you make some good points, particularly on the need for safe cycle training and respecting the rules of the road. On the need for licensing and insurance, I’m not convinced we are there yet.

            2 things I take issue with.
            1) Portland politial leadership reflects the will of the citizens. People in Portland since the 1970s have consistently supported efforts to tame the automobile. This has made a city that is harder to drive in, particularly through neighborhoods. But it has also made a city way easier to get around in by alternative means, including walking.
            People who live outside Portland (us included) should respect the right of people living inside to manage their local streets as they see fit, even at our inconvenience. That includes occasional multi block closures on a Sunday.

            2) From all evidence it appears those marketing the agenda of cycling in Portland have exceeded all measures of sucess. Portland ranks as the most bicycle-friendly large city in America, and ranks 2nd in the world behind only Amsterdam, which is in a class by itself. Your own experience of increasing “bike density in the city” suggests that “marketing” has succeeded.

            I’ve cycled in Portland since long before the new safer infrastructure was built, maps printed, and so forth. Though I no longer live in the city I still cycle there, sometimes for business and sometimes for pleasure. I am so proud of what has happened over the last 2 decades.

          • Linda in No Po

            Joanne,

            I totally understand drivers frustration with inconsiderate bikers and visa versa. I agree that bike riders should be licensed. I agree that they need to follow the laws of the road and should be ticketed when they don’t. I do take exception though to people making assumptions about this particular event based on their feelings toward bike riders, especially all of those that weren’t there and didn’t participate in or observe what Sunday Parkways was about.

            This was not, nor intended to be solely a bike event. Let me say that again…This was not, nor intended to be solely a bike event. Many of the bike riders that participated were people that dusted off their old bikes and shouldn’t be riding around cars until they get better at it. There were tons of families with small children, also shouldn’t be driving in traffic. There was also lots of walkers, runners, street skiers and skateboard riders.

            Portland residents are very different than those in the burbs. They tend to spend more time and money in their local area. This event promoted community and brought people through many neighborhoods, possibly to areas they’ve not ventured into. For my neighborhood people were able to see an I-5 pedestrian bridge that many didn’t know existed and brought people, many who had never been to Penninsula Park to our amazing rose garden. Also, there were tons of activities planned at the parks and along the route that included local businesses, vendors and artisans.

            Like many of you I get frustrated with the angry bike events that happen downtown….hundreds of bike riders purposely blocking traffic in protest or hate for auto drivers….not a way to bridge the gap between the sides. This was not such an event.

            Linda

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