Go Play in the Street!

Twelve car-free miles, 20,000 happy people!

We woke up Sunday morning with a sense of happy anticipation. Sunday Parkways was happening, right in our neighborhood! Our Sunday Parkways are modeled after Bogota, Colombia's, Ciclovia, where 70 miles of city streets are closed to car traffic every Sunday in order for people to get out and move, via bicycle, skates, walking, running, dancing, or any other non-motorized means of transportation. In Portland we had a perfect day and twelve wonderful miles of blocked off streets, with volunteers (and some police) at intersections to keep things safe and civil. And we were delighted to live right on the route of the third and last Sunday Parkways shindig of the summer.

After pancakes Georgia and I went out to write in the street. She drew hearts and I wrote, “What are you thankful for?” We chalked our own thankful things, sun, rain, no cars, love, and got out of the way while a throng of bikes passed by, some people shouting their thankful things too. Bikes! My dog! Yoga! We left the chalk there in case others felt creative or thankful and joined the crowd.

We don’t have bikes yet, but we decided to walk along some of the route to see what it was all about. Hova was a little concerned about walking on the road, feeling like the bicyclists might be more dangerous than drivers, but then he realized the event was for everyone, and we walked happily in the street. It’s an odd, freeing thing to walk that far in the middle of the street. Well, to the right, actually, and mindful to shove over a bit for those on wheels. At one point a young boy yelled, “Look out, a big crowd of bikes is coming!” and we reminded him cheerfully that we had the right to be there too. Sunday Parkways was for everyone. And we saw lots of people, using many different means of transportation:

Two wheels, three wheels, tandem bikes, a wild leaning bike thing that needed a skiing motion to propel it

A costumed bride and groom on a tandem bike

An unsmiling power rollerblader, hilarious in skintight bright yellow spandex with ski poles

More than one "Just Married" sign

Smiles everywhere

An older couple with walking poles

Kids on bikes, kids on skates, kids on skateboards

A volunteer with fairy wings who, very solemnly granted Georgia one wish (she wished for a real fairy, the wish grantor cautioned that she might not be able to actually see the fairy)

Garage sales that had the same amount of stuff on the way out as they did when we came back (I guess most people didn’t want to be burdened with stuff)

Lemonade stands, free hot dogs, free root beer, protesters

We didn’t get far, only about two miles and to only one of the three parks on the route. We missed the band and the puppet show, and if we’d had bikes we could have zipped to another park for more festivities. But we had a fun time! When we got back home, people had written more thankful things (the list includes: my family, E+J, good questions—better discussions, people who say hi, sunshine, nature, Sunday Parkways) and a great drawing of a T-rex. Next year Portland will have five Sunday Parkways celebrations. Chicago has one, so do Oakland and New York City. If you don’t have one near you, rally some support and see if you can get the party started. It was a joyous way to connect with the city, paced slow and car-free!

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