Saturday, June 2, 2012

Radical idea: people-way/ park beltway in Portland

In life and all of the hustle-and-bustle it's often difficult to find time to get in touch with nature.  We much too often do not take the time to smell the flowers.  Plus, if you live in a city, you may have to travel a ways to find quality public natural space and it's one of the most pleasurable experiences.  If you are like me, you find that you're blood pressure drops and you get a sense of peacefulness in the natural settings.

And if you're a child living in the city you must often be driven around.  Many people like Gil Peñalosa talk about the importance of making cities safe for children and "vulnerable" citizens - 8:80 he calls it.  We make our cities work for people who are 8 years old and those who are 80 and it works well for everybody.  He discusses the concept in this video.  Most people in the planning profession I talk with accept the idea.

In Portland, bicycling has become a more mainstream form and transportation.  This has not happened in a vacuum.  The City has made very concerted efforts over the past 20 years to improve bicycle infrastructure and has moved from 1% of trips by bicycle up to nearly 10% by some estimates.  It's a case of "if you build it they will come."

Now, with that in mind, I make a proposal that will probably be very controversial to some.  I fully understand reality and the post Jane Jacobs world of not touching anything (mostly from people's interpretations of her writings and not her actual writings).  However, we must consider that cities change all of the time and, sometimes, big projects can bring much more happiness to the citizens.  It's with that in mind that I make the following proposal.

Why not create a very large park/people-way loop in the inner SE part of Portland?  Think about how this sort of improvement would benefit your life.  You could enter the area and be totally secluded from the noise and pollution from the city and enjoy nature.  You could bring your children there and it would be safe to ride their bikes.  It would be a safe and pleasant area for your grandmother to walk (I love my grandmother, who doesn't).  This could not only improve life, but help save lives.  This could be part of a bigger picture to protect our quality of life for future generations.

We've done this sort of thing before with the City Beautiful movement around the turn of the 19th/20th century and we're very happy with it.  We have a long history of these sorts of projects.  With that, here is a visual proposal:

We can create this (greenbelt people-way park):

From what we already have:

Inside the people-way could look like this:

This is just a first proposal and, of course, would need much refining.  But why not think about it?  Think about how much it would improve your life. 


  1. I think giving people a reason to take time out of their day to enjoy nature is essential. You could use this as a place for a lunch break in the middle of the work day, or a meeting place to catch up with someone, or just as a SAFE place to walk.

    1. Thank for commenting. I agree. It can certainly be all of those things with destinations and homes / businesses facing the park(s). People could use it for generations to come. It'd just take political skill to implement.