Tuesday, September 26

Portland Car Free Day

Car Free Days was an amazing success. This celebration was part of World Car Free Day - an international campaign to encourage liveable streets and a pedestrian-friendly environment.
A huge amount of credit goes to Elly, Jackie, Carl, Sara, Adam, Steph, Kirsty, Dat, and several others. The two aspects which made this Car Free Day so successful was that it was next to Saturday Market, and it lasted more than one day.
The fact that the event was held next to Saturday Market meant that a huge number of people who wouldn't have come specifically for a Car-Free event, were exposed to the experience of pedestrian streets. And having Car Free Day last for the entire weekend meant that people who didn't hear about it beforehand, got word through sources like bikeportland. This meant that people were able to enjoy different aspects of Car Free Days depending on when they came.
For those who came on Friday, they found a fresh street which was filled with booths and hundreds of pamphlets about car-free living. There was a great doughnut eating contest which drew about 150 people with team BTA winning at 17 doughnuts in 5 minutes.
Of course the meistro of pastries was there to share the Breakfast love. Of course Mr. Timo also brought along his bike rack. Now that's not the little aluminum ones that go on a bike, this is a trimet bus rack so that bikey people like the lovely Bethany could try swingin their bike onto the rack.
We celebrated bikey fun with mocktails (that's cocktails without the alkihall) for pedestrians and bicyclists. Big thanks to Kirsty for bringing all that wonderful fare to the event. John was on task keeping the revelers well fed with his delicious raviolis and he donated half the proceeds to Shift's 'Get Lit' program.
We had plenty of great music and plenty of children playing in the newly freed public space. The true queen of the evening was Aurelia who took over the streets riding back and forth on Ankeny.
Then as dusk settled, our entertainment list included death defying fire juggling, and several movies. First was the cars that ate Paris, which was an odd British film about a town that took in car crash offerings. Then the next flick was Beijing by Bike which was very memorable.

Saturday brought bright sunshine and a new day of reveling for our celebration. We had yummy breakfast burritos and set up for information distribution geared toward Saturday Market. I had my car-less info booth working both Saturday and Sunday. Steven Kung got prepared for bike tune-ups as part of the Community Exchange bike school. The Trash Mountain Boys shared their eclectic tunes for the benefit of all. Then the music took a more amplified tone as groups like the Eclectic Bastards, the Underscore Orkestra, Johny Punchclock, and the 20 ft man.

What many people experienced as they traveled near Car Free Days was a distinctive shift in what a street can be. Those wandering in Saturday Market were safe and worried only about the occasional balloon puppet. Then they crossed 2nd Avenue which was scary, after that they were in the Car Free Days event and were safe again. Whether these people were interested or supportive made no difference. They experienced a strong message about what is comfortable and what is not. This was the most successful aspect of Car Free Days.
Just to see how pedestrian friendly environments affect foot traffic, I asked John to do some counts of people walking to the fair. On three seperate counts, we had around 120 people crossing 2nd Avenue in only 5 minutes. That's more than would pass through the Brewery Blocks in twice as long.
It's very clear: if you build it they will come, if you destroy it, they will leave. When our streets were once safe, there were many people walking throughout our neighborhoods. When the safety was destroyed by high-speed traffic, the pedestrians disapeared. And now as we create new pedestrian environments, the people come back outside.
Thanks to everyone who contributed, participated, and entertained.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just returned from a conference where Enrique Peñalosa, Former Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia spoke about his cities efforts related to car free days, TransMilenio (Bus Rapid Transit), and making a City more livable. It was fascinating to hear how Bogota was able to take incremental steps to move in the right direction. One of the elements he cited for reasons why they do car free days is to expose people to what it is like to be able to use the streets for cycling, walking, etc. Getting people to recognize how easy it is and how much fun it can be is really one incremental step towards the goal of making the city more livable, helping citizens be happy.