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Portland invites bikers, walkers into streets starting on May 19 for annual events inspired by Bogota.

PHOTO COURTESY OF PBOT - The first Sunday Parkways of the year will be held on May 19 in Southeast Portland. Becasue of its steep terrain and lack of streets that connect, Southwest Portland will not have a Sunday Parkways this year.Sunday Parkways, Portland's enduring annual series of street closures in which bicyclists and walkers take back the pavement from motorized vehicles, begins this year in Southeast Portland on May 19.

The seven-mile route is the first of five Sunday Parkways this summer, only one of which will get anywhere near Southwest Portland. That would be the Green Loop route on August 25, when a 7-mile route will cross the Tillikum Crossing Bridge before heading north to downtown Portland.

The last time a Sunday Parkways was staged in Southwest Portland was in September 2014. The route that September took bicyclists from Hillsdale Shopping Center south to a hilly route that ran through Multnomah Village to the south side of Gabriel Park. All streets were closed to cars and trucks that morning.

To anyone who watched bicyclists of all ages struggle up some of the hills along that route, there's no mystery about why the Sunday Parkway in 2015 was moved to a loop that included level streets and the newly-opened Tillikum Bridge.

"In general, the steep terrain and lack of connectivity make Southwest Portland a challenging place to introduce beginning riders to the joys of bicycling during Sunday Parkways," according to Hannah Schaefer, a communications coordinator with the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT).

In its official report on the event that year, PBOT noted that, "Even with significant topography issues (hills), 10,600 Portland area residents biked and walked the routes. This event had a higher percentage of walkers than any other (40%)."

The first Portland Sunday Parkways was held in June 2008. It was an idea borrowed from Bogota, Colombia, which closes off huge sections of that city to all motorized traffic occasionally. The first event in Southwest was held in September 2012. In September 2013, the event was rained out in Southwest. The 2014 Southwest Sunday Parkways was the last held here.

According to Schaefer, it's not just those hills that make Southwest Portland unsuitable for Sunday Parkways. Based on conversations with PBOT planners, Schaefer writes there were other issues as well.

"One thing I would add that they mentioned to me is that not only is establishing a route in Southwest challenging because of the lack of continuous streets, but it's also challenging for the same reason from a traffic control perspective. Many of the streets we used were also primary routes for people driving through Southwest and shutting down those streets for a day for the event, while also trying to maintain access for neighbors, was another challenge."

Schaefer says PBOT hopes Southwest cyclists and walkers will check out the August 25 Sunday Parkway.

"We'd love for people from Southwest Portland to join us for the Green Loop this year, or any of our other routes. We may not have a route through Southwest this year, but all five Sunday Parkways events are for ALL Portlanders, no matter what part of the city you call home," she wrote.

The dates and routes for the rest of this year's Sunday Parkways can be found at www.sundayparkways.org

This article originally appeared in the Tribune's sister paper, the Southwest Connection.

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