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Taking It To The Streets, Portland Style

It’s always inspiring to see what a few small groups can create when taking matters of their community into their own hands. Portland recently caught a great view of this, when Better Block PDX joined forces with the Broadway-Weidler Alliance and Northeast Broadway Business Association to run an actual test of a street redesign. They took one of the city’s busier streets — Inner Northeast Broadway — and transformed it with a protected bike lane, a floating bus stop, extra sidewalk space, and marked crosswalks. The project was implemented by these groups with the help of local businesses and AARP, as it is as much a draw for community members who would like to see the street become more pedestrian-friendly, as it is for the businesses who would benefit from said pedestrians.

While this was mostly a community effort, the city partook by approving the designs and collecting data on traffic counts and travel time. This info, combined with Better Block PDX’s surveys and feedback, will enable all to address issues (parking concerns came up, for example) and adjust the proposal. The synthesis of actors and interests in these plans is nothing short of impressive and serves as an example of what can be done in communities where average folks want to initiate changes in transportation planning, rather than waiting for the city.

Personally, I would love to see more of these projects around the country – after all, who better to develop and implement changes in their communities than the people who live there, and even more specifically, the people on those very blocks? Not only does this lead to better received changes but it can allow cities to focus on more pressing projects, without delaying development. Similar “testing” projects have seen success in Minneapolis, Baltimore, and Oakland, just to name a few. It can be done with as little as a few hundred dollars, some passionate volunteers, and solid plans, so we anticipate seeing more of these projects in the near future.

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