Better Block PDX
What do Better Naito, the SW 3rd/Ankeny plaza, and new bus lanes on SW Madison and the Burnside Bridge have in common? They all started as ideas from students and activists and ended up as real projects on the ground.
If you have an idea to make streets and public space work better, now is your chance to give it some wings.
As we shared last spring, tactical urbanism organization Better Block PDX and Portland State University have joined forces to help great ideas become reality. Through PSU’s Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC), they’ve created a program that aligns PSU transportation, engineering, and planning students with activists and community organizations to create official plans for pop-up projects.[Read more…]
This story was written by Malia Knapp-Rossi, a Master of Urban and Regional Planning candidate at Portland State University and intern with Better Block PDX.
Most close watchers of the Portland transportation world have heard of Better Block PDX. They’re the scrappy group of tactical urbanism activists who burst onto the scene by creating a public plaza in auto parking spaces along a block of SW Harvey Milk Street in 2013. They went on to lead successful projects on SW 3rd Avenue and Naito Parkway that led to permanent changes in our streetscape.
What you might not realize is the reason they’ve been quiet for the past few years isn’t because they’ve gone away. It’s because, instead of classic tactical urbanism that often involves rogue actions like human-protected bike lanes and the unsanctioned deployment of traffic cones to slow drivers down, they’ve been working behind-the-scenes.
It’s that time of year when Portland’s tactical urbanist group Better Block PDX considers your requests on how best to re-invent streets and public spaces.
What is Better Block? Inspired by a national nonprofit, it’s a group founded in 2013 by volunteer planners, engineers, students and activists. Among their accomplishments is lighting the fires under the Portland Bureau of Transportation that led the agency to construct the SW 3rd Ave/Ankeny Street plaza and Better Naito just to name a few. Their approach is simple, yet profound: To create temporary “pop-up projects” that re-imagine streets and public spaces to be human-centered, inviting and fun. When done correctly, these exciting pop-ups might even become permanent (as was the case with the two aforementioned examples).
The official opening date for the 2019 BBPDX RFP begins this Friday February 1st and runs through March 1st. According to BBPDX, “The projects selected will go through Portland State University’s Project Pathway program where urban planning, civil engineering, and communication students produce public engagement, traffic analysis, and design plans for the projects.” In other words, they can take your idea and vision and turn it into reality.
As the City of Portland prepares to remove the temporary protected bike lane along its downtown waterfront, some Portlanders see a one-time chance to grab the public imagination.
A group of residents and others who support protected bike lanes in the central city and elsewhere are planning to line up along the soon-to-be removed Naito Parkway protected bike lanes at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 28, to touch arms and create a half-hour “human-protected bike lane,” complete with music, then capture the image for a crowdfunded advertising campaign in support of permanent bike lane protections.
“I think it’s gonna be awesome,” said Emily Guise, the co-chair of advocacy group BikeLoudPDX. “We’re taking inspiration from people who have done them around the globe: Dublin, San Francisco, New York. … It’s going to be a really positive event.”
Physical separation is to bicycling what reliability is to transit. If we don’t have it, the masses will never switch from driving and our transportation system will never reach its potential.
That’s why an idea for a “pop-up” bus-only lane is worthy of your attention.
Our friends at the all-volunteer Portland Bus Lane Project have pitched an idea to Better Block PDX that would reconfigure SW Madison Street between 5th and the Hawthorne Bridge. Their idea comes in response a request for proposals that Better Block launched back in July.
PBLP was hatched in May by a group of transit advocates that are frustrated with how auto-congestion during peak hours is killing bus reliability. Their solution is to create dedicated bus-only lanes which they see as an inexpensive way to prioritize mass transit and improve bus reliability while getting more people to their destinations on time.
Their proposal is currently being vetted and considered by Better Block and they’ve given me permission to share it with you.[Read more…]
Ever since Better Block PDX popped onto the scene in 2013, this all-volunteer group of tactical urbanists has captured our imagination. Their daring and creative street transformation projects have had a real impact on how we experience transportation. And more importantly, their projects have influenced hearts and minds of thousands of Portlanders, including many of whom work at 1221 SW Fourth Avenue.
Long before Better Naito became a City Hall darling, the idea was hatched by Better Block volunteers over beers and pizza. In years past, the group would choose its projects based on an internal and informal process.
Now for the first time they’ve opened up the decision-making to the public. If you have an idea for how to make a section of streetscape better, Better Block wants to hear from you.
From now until the end of September, all Portlanders will benefit from a much more humane Naito Parkway. Along a busy section of our marquee riverfront street usually held hostage by speeding motor vehicles spewing toxic fumes into the air we breathe, people will drive more slowly and there will be much more room to walk and bike and roll.
As I type this, transportation bureau crews are installing the plastic wands and other elements that will help re-allocate space on the northbound (east) side of Naito for about 3/4 of a mile between SW Main and NW Couch. The $350,000 project was supported by City Council last October. Former Mayor Charlie Hales was an ardent supporter of improving vehicle access on Naito. Prior to voting on it last fall he said, “Expanding the public realm for bicycles in this city, and is something we’re still committed to.”