Guest Article: Want to spice up Sunday Parkways? Then step up

Guest Article: Want to spice up Sunday Parkways? Then step up

Sunday Parkways North Portland 2012-20

Sunday Parkways is great. It could be even better.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Last month we asked the community to share ideas on improving Sunday Parkways. This guest article was written by PBOT Program Manager Linda Ginenthal in response to that post.

Platinum celebration at City Hall-60.jpg

Linda Ginenthal (in 2008).

By Linda Ginenthal

As we gear up for this weekend’s Sunday Parkways (presented by Kaiser Permanente on August 24th) in southeast Portland, I wanted to thank all of you who shared your suggestions for how to make Sunday Parkways even better. I eagerly read all your comments. They were so positive and so creative about where we go next and what makes Sunday Parkways, Sunday Parkways.

What I read is people want more: more miles, more neighborhoods, more for walkers and more for experienced riders, more for the kids, more education and even more hours of Sunday Parkways.

As the program manager for this Portland Bureau of Transportation program, I can share that our PBOT team is delighted that you want to see more of a good thing.

Since 2008, when Sunday Parkways was an experimental single event, Sunday Parkways has expanded into a series of five events and become a Portland institution thanks to the thousands of people who come out and enjoy it and the hundreds of volunteers who make it happen. We even made it into the Lonely Planet Guide for what to do in Portland. How cool is that?

If we could dream even bigger, and I mean really big, we would have Sunday Parkways routes that span the entire city once a month May through September. That’s what Bogota, Colombia does. Every Sunday, 70 miles of streets are opened for biking and walking and running. Needless to say, to do what Bogota does, we would need lots more resources.

In fact, any expansion requires additional resources –volunteers, dollars and community involvement.

Volunteers: We would need hundreds and hundreds more volunteers stepping up to expand. Right now, we do a great job of turning out dedicated and fun-loving volunteers — 300 per event — but we would need to challenge the community to show that they want more by volunteering more. Would you be willing to volunteer (or volunteer more) to see Sunday Parkways in your neighborhood, to add a kids’ loop, to create an early evening event? I would love to hear from you.

Dollars: We are short of cash too. To save money while keeping the streets safe for participants, we have slimmed down the cost of our police presence from $80,000 per year to $50,000. Expanding Sunday Parkways means staffing more intersections. Expansion means more traffic flaggers/police, more volunteer management, more barricades, more mailers and door hangers to notify neighbors and more outreach to local organizations, places of worship and others who are integral to Sunday Parkways.

Sunday Parkways northeast 2014-15

Volunteers from Andando en Bicicleta en
Cully volunteered to staff a free bike repair
booth at the July event.

Right now, the City of Portland pitches in one-third of the costs. Presenting sponsor Kaiser Permanente kicks in $100,000 and other sponsors come in at around $140,000. Vendors pay $38,000. Our smallest pool is individual donations. We have some wonderful and steady donors that support Sunday Parkways (allowable as a tax deduction). Would you be willing to make a significant donation (or donate more) to see Sunday Parkways grow and diversify across the city?

I also heard people asking for more educational events. Education and other activities are always welcomed at Sunday Parkways. Our partners do lots of education and messaging already – maybe we need to communicate about it more. We have had big trucks on the route that folks could climb in to see just what a driver can see from their vantage point. We have had TriMet there with their bike racks so folks could practice using it. And just last month we had Hacienda ABC (Andando en Bicicleta en Cully or Bicycle Riding in Cully) holding a bike fair at Rigler School with all manner of education classes and rides including how to ride for kids and adults in Spanish and English. Yes, we need more and more promotion about these things.

People come to Sunday Parkways to experience the world they want to live in. What I would say here is that you don’t have to wait for the Sunday Parkways PBOT team to do some educational effort. Talk with your community group, your church, mosque, synagogue, your bike club and do it! We can probably make the space for you in the parks. Let’s work together to educate and activate Sunday Parkways.

As for the marketplaces, I loved the comment: “Fair’s not on the main route. Though the root beer floats were awesome, and frankly, I would have missed it if it wasn’t on the route.” Doesn’t that just say it all? People love the food, the activities in and along the parks, the give-aways, connecting with community groups, and checking out the vendors – and they want to ride too. We try to strike a nice balance with bustling (and economically successful) marketplaces for our local vendors, sponsors and community groups while also ensuring that participants can move along the route. Sometimes that means people have to walk their bikes at peak times during the day. CicLAvia (Sunday Parkways in Los Angeles) have whole “Walk Your Bike” zones. I don’t think that works for Portland. Maybe this just means more root beer floats (take note vendors and sponsors).

Lastly, I agree linking a movie night with Sunday Parkways would be great fun: Pee-wee’s Big Adventure!!! What about The Triplets of Belleville or The Bicycle Thief? Or it doesn’t have to even be a bikey movie. People who bike do watch Raiders of the Lost Ark.

So thank you, thank you, thank you for supporting Sunday Parkways with your participation, your volunteer hours, your donations and your ideas. Keep your ideas and participation coming. See you on Aug. 24th.

Contact PBOT about Sunday Parkways via Facebook, or contact Linda Ginenthal directly via email at

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