PORTLAND, Ore. -- You can tell a lot about a community by the parades they put on -- especially when smiles and laughter and good times take over the city streets.
I recently learned that neighbors drive the Sunday Parkway when city streets are closed to cars and buses so families can cycle without traffic for five hours.
“People want to get out and play, they want to enjoy their streets, they want to enjoy their neighborhoods, they want to connect with other people and this is the way to do it," City of Portland Transportation chief, Linda Ginenthal said. "Give people an opportunity to be riding and walking and enjoying their neighborhoods without a car.”
The Portland Sunday Parkway is organized by the city’s Bureau of Transportation, which partnered with private businesses, church groups and especially hundreds of volunteers, according to Neal Armstrong, the event’s Volunteer Manager.
“We have 205 people who are blocking the streets off to traffic and allow it to remain open to the bicyclists and pedestrians – without them we’d simply not be able to do it.”
Neighbor, volunteer and avid bike rider, Nancy Flynn keeps the parkway running smoothly. She lives just a block away and she wanted to help out.
She told me that she even has a nickname: "The name is ‘Intersection Super Hero’ and my - or rather our (there are 320 volunteers for each event) job is to keep everything safe for everybody. I love this idea– that we can have streets that people can play in – in a way – and the whole sense of community is great.”
Folks who participate are pleased to see how the five and a half mile Parkway route also integrates city parks where people can take a break, listen to some music, enjoy a snack and even let their kids try something dew – like a bicycle obstacle course.
Kaiser-Permanente’s (the event’s major private business donor – reportedly donating more than $100,000) Dave Northfield, noted that the Sunday Parkways is all about exercise and a healthier lifestyle:
“People are much more likely to participate in these healthy lifestyle activities if it’s fun, if the community is involved and if their friends and loved ones are there along with them. So, this is a perfect event for Kaiser to be involved in.”
Portland Sunday Parkways has grown fast! It began just two years ago with one summer event and last year there were three events in varied Portland neighborhoods.
This year, there are five events scheduled across Portland neighborhoods (one per month through September) and Portland’s Mayor Sam Adams hopes more than 50,000 people will show up and participate.
“Any city – no matter how big or small – in the Pacific Northwest, could put something like this on and I think they will have an amazing positive response – not just from participants, but local businesses and the neighborhoods – it’s exceeded our wildest expectations.”
The Portland Sunday Parkway is a parade of possibilities; for fun, for good health and set in the outdoors by embracing a spirit of community that’s uniquely Oregon.