If you had the chance to bring “one of the greatest community events ever created” to Seattle—wouldn’t you? Seattle Neighborhood Greenways has long advocated to bring these fun and inspiring events to Seattle, and why we traveled to Portland with 18 Seattle leaders, including Cascade Bicycle Club staff, Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, SDOT and Seattle Parks managers, and local advocates to see and learn about the magic of “Sunday Parkways” first-hand.
So much to do at Portland Sunday Parkways!
"Sunday Parkways," you may be thinking. "Don’t we already have something like that?” And while Seattle does have Bicycle Sundays, Portland’s Sunday Parkways are a different animal. On Bicycle Sundays, Lake Washington Boulevard is closed to cars, and bikers can enjoy both the lakeside views and the safety of a few miles of car-free road. In contrast, Sunday Parkways connects eight to 10 miles of car-free neighborhood streets to local parks and schools, where family-friendly activities turn the day into a moving street festival, a party where everyone has a smile on their face.
Seattle Bike Blog's Tom Fucoloro, who joined us on our Sunday Parkway Study Trip, points out, "by copying the Bicycle Sunday idea and placing it in the middle of a neighborhood, it could become so much more than a wonderful trail along the water. It becomes about celebrating the center of the neighborhood, the places where people live and play and get groceries and go out to eat.”
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw gets a bike blessing on the Sunday Parkways route.
If you’ve never been to a Portland Sunday Parkway, you’re missing out. This past one, in Portland’s Northeast neighborhood, brought 27,817 people out into the streets for a day of outdoor activity, community, and fun. An 8.5-mile car-free loop quickly filled with people of all ages on bikes, trikes, unicycles, walking, and one lumbering 8-person multi-bike contraption. The route, placed mostly on quiet residential streets, including several neighborhood greenways, knitted together four parks and an elementary school, each fully booked with vendors, food trucks, and activities from bike repair stations to Bollywood dancing.
The Study Trip included an exclusive tour of the Sunday Parkways route with Linda Ginenthal, Active Transportation Manager at the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), who spoke about the planning, partnerships, and people that make the event such a rousing success. One important feature is the public-private partnership between the City of Portland and the event sponsors, particularly presenting sponsor, Kaiser Permanente. With the healthcare giant’s focus on preventative care and active living, Sunday Parkways is a natural fit.
Another key to the event’s success is the willingness of the City of Portland, and especially the Portland Bureau of Transportation, to make the event their own. Thankfully, we now have some strong allies in the City of Seattle. Fucoloro reports, "Councilmember Bagshaw, who chairs the City Council’s Neighborhoods Committee, did not mince words on the trip. She loves the idea and wants to help make it happen in Seattle.”
“We are determined to” make Sunday Parkways a priority in Seattle, Bagshaw told BikePortland’s Michael Anderson.
It won’t happen with Bagshaw alone—it will require a coordinated effort by City staff, advocacy groups, public money, sponsors, local vendors, and an army of volunteers. But here’s one thing we know for sure: it will be worth the effort!