Cutting through NW 3rd Avenue on weekend nights is a bonkers experience. In the space of a few blocks north of Burnside, rather intoxicated patrons of bars like the Barrel Room, Dirty, the Dixie Tavern, Tube, and Yes/No spill out into the street, talking, smoking, balancing on tiny heels, getting into fights, popping their collars, and occasionally getting hit by cars.
It's one of the busiest areas for the Portland Police, which has regular teams patrol the entertainment district as well as having a precinct outpost right next to some of the busiest bars. Now, the police are proposing to close NW 3rd to all vehicle traffic (including bikes) from 9pm-3am every Friday and Saturday night.
The city already closes off NW Couch between 3rd and 4th Avenue during those times, this new plan (PDF) would shut down all NW 3rd Avenue from Everett to Burnside, as well as Couch and Davis between 2nd and 4th Avenues. Taxis, limos, and pedicabs would be allowed in certain zones on the streets.
"We've got narrow sidewalks in that neighborhood to begin with, then you've got the newstands, the bike racks, trees, and queuing lines. A lot of the fights tend to start with people bumping into each other," says city Crime Prevention Coordinator Mike Boyer. "You take the cars out of the equation, you allow police to have a better interaction with the security staff there." Boyer notes that there haven't been any serious pedestrian-car crashes in the area in the past few years, but there have been some close calls and numerous conflicts.
There's no timeline for when or if this will actually happen. Next up, city officials are meeting with business owners and area residents to see what they think of the plan. One issue the police are eyeing is whether making more space for bar-goers would actually make the area noisier, affecting residents of the Union Gospel Mission and new Rich Block apartments.
"I hope people aren't freaking out, because we really just wanted to put this out there as an idea," says Boyer.
h/t to Portland Afoot!