Tips for Making Your Alley Less Attractive to Alley Sweeper Riders

There’s been a lot of interest from residents living on alleys to know more about ways to prevent motorcycles and dirt bikes from riding through their alleys. Recently, the topic was covered in the Oregonian as the previous organizer of the event pulled out of the project and it was picked up by unspecified other organizers. The current date of the event is April 18th, 2015 and it appears that it will start in alleys in Southeast Portland (more details here). Most of these alleys are in the Foster-Powell, Mt Scott-Arleta, Woodstock neighborhoods. To be clear, alleys are part of Portland’s public right-of-way system, and as such, residents would need a permit to prevent people traveling through them on a regular basis. (Note: The riders should keep their speed to the 15 mph limit.) If you’re an alley sweeper participant, send us an email – we’d like to hear from you.

Poll Results

The majority (59.3%) of people responding to our survey who live on alleys said they “don’t like” the event.

Starting with the publication of an Oregonian article about this year’s Alley Sweeper event, we decided to run a poll to see what visitors to our site thought about the event. Over the last two years, we heard only negative comments about the event, and wrote this post to provide residents some legal ways to deal with their frustrations. Over the month we had the poll open 38 people responded to the survey. The full results through Friday, April 10th are shown below.

Note: We have excluded results from Saturday (4/11) when this article was posted to an Adventure Rider forum for Alley Sweeper riders and it appears that 15 or so Alley Sweeper participants decided to vote as residents living on alleys. My apologies if some of the riders do in fact live on alleys, but my assumption is that most of these are people trying to distort the results to make it seem like the event is largely supported by residents.

Full Results Including Those Not Living on Alleys

Alley Sweeper Poll Pie

There area a few options for preventing your alley from being attractive as a segment for the Alley Sweeper event should it still happen…

Organize an Alley Clean Up – No Permit Required

A truck being loaded during a recent alley clean up on a NE Portland Alley. Learn more about that project here.

The alleys’ original function was to allow access to the adjacent properties. If you live on the alley and want to clean up your alley or do yard work that requires access through the alley at the same time as the event, it is within your right to do so. Cars temporarily parked in the alley for loading and unloading, people shoveling or working in the alley, and other activities will make the alley a lot less interesting for those trying to ride through it at 15 mph. For those living in the Concordia Neighborhood, you can start the alley cleaning early on April 11th, when the Concordia Neighborhood Association, Concordia University and SOLVE are hosting an alley cleaning day. More info on that event here.

Throw an Alley Party – Block Party Permit Required


An alley party thrown during the Alley7172 project in SE Portland. Learn more about the project here.

When we were doing community outreach to create the Alley Allies Toolkit, the most popular idea residents had was organizing parties in the alley including barbecues, birthday parties and wine tasting events. There is nothing stopping residents from applying for a block party permit and closing off their alley to through traffic temporarily for these kinds of parties. PSU capstone students did just that as a part of the Alley7172 project (pictured above) and reported the permit process was very simple and quick. Learn more about these permits on the Office of Neighborhood Involvement and Portland Bureau of Transportation sites. Check out page 42 of the Toolkit for more details.

Make More Permanent Changes to the Function of Your Alley – Various Permits Required


A rendering from the Alley Allies Toolkit showing the improvements a group of neighbors wanted for their alley in the Lents Neighborhood. Such a project could be built in any residential alley in Portland.

The Alley Allies Toolkit was designed to help residents turn their alley into a community resource. This can be through a community garden with a play structure (as shown above), an improved bike path and wildlife area, or whatever else the residents feel is needed in their neighborhood. Read through the Alley Allies Toolkit to organize your project and use the resources in the back to learn about permits (an example diagram is shown below), hosting a meeting to organize your neighbors, establish a skills and tools inventory to see what everyone has to contribute, and design your project. An added benefit of utilizing your alley is that it will eliminate the mud, trash and overgrowth that has made for such enjoyable riding by Alley Sweeper participants.

Page 85 from the Alley Allies Toolkit shows permit processes for alleys:


3 responses to “Tips for Making Your Alley Less Attractive to Alley Sweeper Riders

  1. Why would you want to make your alleys less attractive as a public thoroughfare? The idea of the Alley Sweeper ride was, and is, to remind people that the alleys are public, public, PUBLIC rights-of-way, and as such they are not for the exclusive private use of residents who live adjacent to a particular alley.

    Instead of feeling threatened by the Alley Sweeper, why not embrace it by decorating your alley-side property line, throwing a party in your back yard, etc.? Even the poll above shows that a clear majority of the respondents are supportive of the Alley Sweeper ride. It’s one of those things that makes Portland, well, Portland.

    • Thanks for your comment John. A few corrections and commments for you…

      The first correction is your understanding (and others who are part of the Alley Sweeper event) of the purpose of alleys. While they are part of the public right-of-way system and we don’t support making them private, the city defines their function as primarily serving the adjacent properties (full definition below) – whether these be residential or commercial. They are not intended to be thoroughfares, so the Alley Sweeper is less in keeping with what they’re intended for than residents temporarily parking in them to access their yards.

      Second, I’d be interested in knowing more about how the Alley Sweeper event decided that it needed to “remind people the alleys are public”. It seems like the Alley Sweeper started because they were muddy and fun for riding, not because they were being closed off by private residents. I’ve walked hundreds of alleys and never seen anyone trying to close them off to others permanently, so I have a real hard time understanding this new idea.

      Finally, there have always been residents unhappy with the event, but also we’ve heard from residents who support it (see the poll results above). I expect a few will choose to close off their alley and we hope they will do so legally (the point of my post), but the vast majority will do nothing and a few may show support. For the Alley Sweeper riders, there isn’t that much to be concerned about. If in the future, the majority of residents come out against the Alley Sweeper, then I think that’s a good time for participants to rethink the impact their actions are having on their fellow Portlanders.

      A facility primarily intended to provide access to the rear or side of lots or buildings in urban areas and not intended for through vehicular movement. Publicly owned alleys are a part of a city’s public right-of-way.

  2. Pingback: The Fate of Portland's Alley Sweeper Urban Enduro – Moto Lady·

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