For five glorious months each year, Naito Parkway transforms into a safe multi-use path so that people can stroll, walk, run, jog, cycle, roller-blade, and skateboard along the waterfront. This two-way track is called Better Naito, a street transformation project that occurs during the months of May to September designed to address the influx of people that Tom McCall Waterfront Park receives during the summer months. According to PBOT, an additional 15,000 more people per day visit the waterfront during the months of April to November. This is probably a result of the constant sunshine, scenic vistas of the Willamette River, and popular festivals like the Waterfront Blues Fest and the Oregon Blues Festival.
In a press release by PBOT, Art Pearce—Group Manager of Policy, Planning and Projects for PBOT— commented that: "The waterfront is the heart and soul of Portland. Whether walking to a festival, taking a bike ride on the esplanade, or going on a lunch-hour run, we want to make sure Portlanders and visitors can enjoy the waterfront in safety and comfort."
Better Naito began four years ago as a part of a pilot project created by Better Block PDX and students from Portland State University to address how overcrowded Tom McCall Waterfront Park became during the summer months. In 2017, The Portland City Council decided to make Better Naito into a city program.
Not everyone has been thrilled about this project though. Some car commuters who utilize Naito Parkway on a daily basis think that Better Naito’s closure of one lane of traffic significantly impacts their commute times. However, according to observations and analysis conducted by PBOT, there was a very minimal impact on motor vehicle travel times along Naito Parkway last summer. PBOT reported that at most, commuters only faced an additional 1 minute and 33 seconds more of waiting in traffic than usual.
This slight inconvenience seems minimal especially when compared to how much the Better Naito two-way track is utilized. Last summer, PBOT found that more than 12,000 pedestrians used Better Naito to access the Waterfront Blues Fest and more than 393,000 one-way trips were taken by cyclists on Better Naito over the five-month period that the corridor was open.
Those numbers will probably increase this year since BIKETOWN has allowed all new and existing users 90 minutes of free time per day during the month of May in honor of Bike Month. So make sure to take advantage of this sunny weather we’ve been experiencing by cycling for free during the month of May with a BIKETOWN bike along Better Naito’s recently reopened multi-use path!