Take It To The Streets

Reversing Course, Portland to Close Off Some Neighborhood Streets to Through Traffic

The move will create more space for walkers, joggers, and cyclists to safely social distance.

By Julia Silverman April 28, 2020

Some neighbors haven't waited for city officials to close streets, instead putting up their own makeshift barriers.

Portland will close a network of quiet, residential streets to through traffic in order to better allow for joggers, cyclists, and walkers to stay at least six feet away from each other, city commissioner Chloe Eudaly announced Tuesday. 

The move comes after weeks of steady pressure from local pedestrian and bicycling activists—and only after a number of other U.S. cities forged ahead with similar efforts, including Seattle, Oakland, and Philadelphia. 

Under the plan, Portland Bureau of Transportation workers will install temporary barricades closing some streets in the city’s 100+ mile network of “neighborhood greenway” to all but local traffic or to signal that traffic should slow down to allow for shared use of the road. There will also be signage to alert drivers to the changes, Eudaly said via press release.  

It's in keeping with a national trend toward taking a walk, one of the few outdoor recreation options left to many people, given the closure of hiking trails, beaches, and campgrounds. 

Some Portland streets that are busier will also get makeovers, with the installation of pop-up walking and biking lanes to encourage more people to leave their cars at home (this has the sneaky side effect of helping to comply with the state’s mandate for Oregonians to stay in their own neighborhoods whenever possible.) 

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent stay-home orders have caused big changes in traffic patterns citywide. Car trips are down almost 50 percent, according to PBOT data, and getting anywhere is a breeze, even at peak rush hour. But Portland Police have reported significant increases in speeding violations since mid-March, too.  

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