Bicycles are very popular here in Portland. Not just to play with, but for people to get to work and school. The city makes this easier by designating some streets as greenways in the neighborhoods, where bikes are the main traffic and cars are discouraged.
But riding downtown or along busy streets like Division is still hard because there are just so many cars. So since 2007, the city and local businesses and hospitals have organized a fun way to enjoy riding in different parts of town. It is called Sunday Parkways.
For the five warmest months of the year, one Sunday a month, in one section of the city, streets are closed to car traffic in a loop from 7 to 10 miles long. Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett got to ride in our Sunnyside/Belmont neighborhood in May. Grandpa Nelson and I rode through the industrial and downtown area this past Sunday.
We started with coffee and pastries at Trifecta on 6th street, because every good day starts with third breakfast. I got to chat with a delivery person for B Line, a company that delivers Trifecta’s baked goods to restaurants and stores by bike! He said he liked being “in the middle of the future.”
When we saw other cyclists passing by (dozens of them, right in the middle of street!) we knew it was time, and off we went. The path for us was marked with signs and helpful folks willing to provide shade, water, directions and advice.
We rode up to the Moda Center, an indoor sports arena, where a bike fair was happening. There were booths for registering your bike, music, food, and a huge event with the Portland Trailblazers basketball team. It was so crowded, we had to get off and walk our bikes through the people.
When we were past that, we continued ACROSS THE STEEL BRIDGE. It couldn’t be closed to traffic, since it is so busy, but we got one lane to share for the bikes going in both directions. Downtown it was crowded again, with booths and so many people. Think of it like when you go for a Sunday drive and everyone else in town does, too.
But the joy of riding with thousands of other people on a warm sunny day is no small thing. Last year, over 74,000 people rode on some part of the Sunday Parkways. That is about half the population of all of Salinas!
In an unexpected historical moment, we passed the Simon Benson House. Mr. Benson was a lumberman from the 1800s and 1900s whose good works have lived after him. He donated money for Benson Polytechnic high school, the land where Multnomah Falls is, and the wonderful always-running water fountains called bubblers. One of them in right in front of his house!
Coming home, we rode over the Tilikum Crossing Bridge. This is the newest bridge in the city and is just for trains, buses, pedestrians and bikes. NO CARS, ever. We stopped to enjoy the view and chatted with some folks riding with three generations of family, and took each other’s pictures.
Back on the east side of the river we rode on the Vera Katz Esplanade, created by a former mayor and named for her. There was a band on a barge playing music, more treats and happy people.
The last part of the ride (as it often is) is coming back up the hill to our house. You understand that rivers are always at the lowest part of the land, and that we are 33 streets up from that. It adds up to about 150 feet of elevation change, which feels like an awful lot at the end of an 8 mile ride!
Finally home, we drank lots of water and enjoyed the wonderful cool rest of knowing we had done something very special, and very Portland.