Car-free weekends begin in Portland's Old Town - KPTV - FOX 12

Car-free weekends begin in Portland's Old Town

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

A portion of Portland's Old Town went car-free Friday night as a three month pilot program got underway in an effort to improve safety.

Several streets were essentially shut down to traffic and parking beginning at 10 p.m. Tow trucks were spotted towing several cars away that were still parked in the car-free zones after 10 p.m. Friday.

The temporary closures affect the following streets:

Northwest Couch Street between Northwest 2nd and Northwest 4th Avenue.

Northwest Davis Street between Northwest 2nd and Northwest 4th Avenue.  

Northwest 3rd Avenue between Northwest Everett and West Burnside Street. 

The streets will be closed to traffic and parking between the hours of 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and major holidays through April 1, 2013. Drivers caught parking in the affected areas after 10 p.m. could have their cars towed.

Informational flyers about the new pilot program started appearing on car windshields in the area at around 7:30 p.m. Friday.

"I thought it was a ticket and it scared me," said Jacob Taylor, who was visiting Downtown Portland. 

The pilot program is designed to improve safety in the area, city leaders said.

Portland Police say five of the top six spots they get for help calls in entertainment district involve pedestrians getting hit by cars.

Caitlin Tischer, who lives nearby, has seen her share of close-calls over the past year.

"There's a lack of awareness on both pedestrians and the drivers," Tischer said. "But I'm not made of steel and those cars are."

Several business owners told FOX 12 off-camera that they worry about the safety of their employees. Some will be forced to park their cars even further away from work and walk.

Other business owners wonder what impact the pilot program will have on their bottom line, including employees at Taqueria Las Piedritas. They've been coming to Old Town for the past five years, they said.

"With the business, I think it's just gonna be a little bit less business until everyone gets used to finding where to park and stuff," said Liliana Barraza, Taqueria Las Piedritas.

During the pilot program, specific zones will be set aside for taxis and pedicabs.

The city plans to gather as much information as possible from the program over the next few months. Permanent changes may be implemented in the future.

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