If you had to pick a single person to thank for the wave of live on-street demos that’s been spreading rapidly around the country — most recently, today’s pop-up protected bike lane on Southwest Broadway — it’d probably be Jason Roberts.
In 2010, the Dallas-based planner co-created what’s now The Better Block Foundation by raising $1,000 for a semi-legal weekend demo of bike lanes, street flowerpots, cafe seating and pedestrian space in the city’s Oak Cliff neighborhood. From there, Roberts has spun the concept into a group that has lent its name to disciples around the country and last month received a $775,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to enshrine live community-led demos as a legitimate part of American urban planning.
As we wrote on Tuesday, Roberts is visiting Portland this week for a talk at City Hall on Friday. We caught up with him for an interview about how to run a great street demo, how these projects can improve cities and why they were developed in Dallas, of all places.