Fish warns of auto congestion as Council passes ‘Livable Streets Strategy’

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
City's rendering for the new Ankeny Plaza, a prototype of their new Livable Streets Strategy.
City’s rendering for the new Ankeny Plaza, a prototype of their new Livable Streets Strategy.

The City of Portland’s transportation bureau got past a key milestone on Wednesday when City Council voted to move forward with their Livable Streets Strategy.

Specifically, council supported the city’s $149,158 contract with consulting firm Nelson/Nygaard to come up with the framework of the strategy and set into motion what we’ve called “a new era of open streets.”

But during Wednesday’s otherwise uneventful council session we got a unexpected preview of the political debate that might lie ahead.

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Welcome to Portland’s new era of open streets

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Our streets could thrive if we let them.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Something big is happening in Portland: We’re entering an era where streets are seen as places for much more than private vehicle travel and storage. An era where the public right-of-way can reach its potential as a thriving place that adds to the vitality and energy of our city.

Livable streets are in Portland’s DNA, but a combination of factors have recently come together to energize and formalize the movement and soon it could be enshrined in official city policy.

The City of Portland Bureau of Transportation is in the process of selecting a private firm to develop a “Livable Streets Strategy.” According to the request for proposals (PDF), the city is, “looking at innovative ways to open Portland’s streets, parking spaces, plazas, and alleys to a range of events, programming, and physical infrastructure that reinforce the idea that public streets are public places to be enjoyed by all ages and abilities.”

We knew something special was afoot ever since Transportation Commissioner began literally jumping up-and-down and chanting “Bet-ter Block! Bet-ter Block!” at the opening of the Better Naito project in 2015. The three-way romance between City Hall, the Bureau of Transportation and Better Block PDX has helped create the political and public momentum neede to re-think how we use our streets. But it didn’t start there.

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First New York City, now the nation: Introducing the Streetsblog Network

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Screenshot of the new Streetsblog
Network home page.

The team behind the New York City-based Livable Streets Network that includes the Streetsblog.org blog, Streetfilms, and other tools, has launched their latest project — the Streetsblog Network.

The network aims to bring together and present the best online sources for transportation and livable streets content on the web, all into one place. When it launched Tuesday there were 100 blogs in the network (including BikePortland.org) and in just a few days that number has jumped to nearly 150.

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A video and a visit from NYC’s DOT Commissioner

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

The city famously known for blaring horns, torrential traffic and crazy cabbies has become a national leader in creating livable streets. Leading that charge is Janette Sadik-Khan, head of the NYC Department of Transportation.

Sadik-Khan is fast-becoming a rock star in transportation circles.

Supported by effective advocacy, Sadik-Khan has begun to establish a new transportation hierarchy in her city where she has “revamped streetscapes designed to encourage carfree movement and foster social activity.” (according to Streetfilms).

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