What started as a vision of a few tactical urbanists is now officially ensconced in City of Portland policy.
A few minutes ago Portland City Council unanimously agreed to to pass the fall supplemental budget package that included $350,000 for a seasonal version of the Better Naito project. The budget also includes $1 million for upgrades to outer Northeast Halsey Street — funding that will trigger a $1 million match in funds from the Bureau of Transportation to complete the project.
As we reported earlier this week, these two projects emerged from a list of six requests made by the Bureau of Transportation in an attempt to get a piece of a $4 million piece of the General Fund that was up for grabs.
“We’ve killed 34 of our fellow citizens with cars [this year], and that’s the #1 threat to public safety in our city.”
— Charlie Hales, Mayor
It was the last budget-related act for outgoing Mayor Charlie Hales, and he was motivated to make good on promises about making cycling on Naito Parkway easier and safer. During his pre-vote remarks in City Hall this morning Hales has strong words of support for both the projects. He spoke directly about hearing from many Portlanders who supported the Naito project.
Hales rode a bike on Naito’s temporary protected lane in July and implored advocates to get loud if they wanted the city to fund it.
“I’m very happy about Better Naito,” he said this morning, “And in terms of community involvement, I want to thank the hundreds of people who let us know it was a priority for them. It really helped us make the case that having more safe places to bike, and expanding the public realm for bicycles in this city, and is something we’re still committed too.”
And perhaps alluding to permanent, year-round changes to Naito, Hales added, “This is a step in the right direction.”
The seasonal version of Better Naito will reconfigure the lanes on the east side of the street during the busy summer festival season in Waterfront Park. For the next five years, city crews will screw in flexible plastic bollards to protect a wide space for walking and biking in both directions. The project also institutionalizes the tactical urbanism approach to street management popularized by Better Block PDX, the nonprofit group who first deployed the project in 2015. This more nimble, flexible, and cheaper approach to re-imagining streets bodes very well for the city’s new Livable Streets Strategy initiative.
“People should have an absolute right to the safe use of our streets and it’s a goal we’ll get closer to if we make these types of investments.”
— Nick Fish, Commissioner
Hales also spoke forcefully today about the need for safety upgrades on Halsey, a project that lines up with the city’s vision zero committment and its need to invest in safety upgrades east of I-205. “Gang violence is still a serious problem in this city, we’ve had 15 homicides so far this year,” he said. “But we’ve killed 34 of our fellow citizens with cars, and that’s the #1 threat to public safety in our city.” Hales also mentioned testimony he heard last month from the mother of Fallon Smart, the 15-year-old killed by a reckless driver while walking across Hawthorne Blvd earlier this year. “We had Fawn Lengvenis here, talking about the hole in her heart from her daughter’s death… So vision zero is real and it’s human and it matters… Budgets are how you put values into action, and this is good action and I’m very proud of it.”
Commissioner Nick Fish also voiced strong support for both projects. Back in July, Fish decried Better Naito because it made it harder for him to drive on the street. “When I am in a car and trying to get from point a to point b,” he said during a Council meeting on July 29th. “There are huge consequences when we take a lane out of Naito or we close a street, and effectively what it means is that you just can’t get from here to there.”
Thankfully Fish has changed his tune. “Thanks to everyone who educated me about the benefits of Better Naito,” he said, before voting “aye” this morning. And about the Halsey vision zero project, Fish said, “Vision zero has to be at the center of what we do as a city. People should have an absolute right to the safe use of our streets and it’s a goal we’ll get closer to if we make these types of investments.”
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – email@example.com