I rode through the Sunday Parkways route twice today. On my first trip through at SE 100th & Holgate, I was stopped by a guy who was pulling the bikes out of the garage. He hollered over as I was passing by, "Do you have a pump?" I was carrying one today since I was out for a longer ride and so I stopped and offered him my small pump. At first he said, "It looks like it's for smaller valves" and then I showed him how it worked and he was happy to have the opportunity to get the bike ready for himself and his wife. He added color commentary while working on the bike: "wife needs a little more air since she's a little heavier than me". He had a modest house with camping chairs in the front and three cars in the driveway. He was definitely not a spandex wearing Lance Armstrong type, a Bicycle Transportation Alliance member, or your daily commuting cyclist. He seemed more like most of the 500,000 or so residents who doesn't think twice about people on bicycles that he passes by every day. One of the reasons Sunday Parkways is so important for the City is that it gets community members that wouldn't otherwise be on their bikes today to try it out. It helps them experience life on two wheels, to feel how vulnerable a person is on a bicycle when crossing major intersections, and perhaps remind them of some of their joys of a childhood. It may just take them back to a time when they could bike to a friends house or around the block with the freedom afforded when a City makes streets safe for all users, prioritizing the citizens rather than the ones travelling through it.
He also said (unsolicited) that he thought the City was doing a great thing for the neighborhood. He liked the police presence and the community aspect that the event brought to this area. "This neighborhood could go straight down the tubes, this sort of thing seems to cheer everyone up a bit, making us appreciate what we have". It's that sort of spirit that Portland could use more of.
My second trip through, I ran into several friends on the route that were enjoying the day. They were happy to see so many people, even on a day that turned a bit cold. I especially enjoyed seeing some of my colleagues who aren't always on their bikes, but are exposing their children to cycling. It is my hope that are community values will be shared with them and we will have continued our emphasis on healthier communities in the years to come.