MURP Students Present Planning Projects

Masters of Urban and Regional Planning student Amy Hesse presents her group's plan to increase bike ridership in Redmond.

Every year, graduate and undergraduate students from Portland State University’s Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning perform projects to aid urban planning efforts in local communities. On Tuesday, May 31, several students from PSU’s Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) program took to the podium to present what they had accomplished after nearly six months of hard work.

When Amy Hesse, a graduate student in the MURP program, traveled to Redmond to learn more about efforts to encourage bicycling in the eastern Oregon community, she found plenty of people interested biking. But she also found that many were not doing so because they felt unsafe. Hesse, along with students April Cutter, Reza Farhoodi and Spencer Williams, developed a project called B-Spoke which sought to create a bicycle refinement plan for the city of Redmond.

“Our goal was to build off the city’s existing transportation system plan by identifying assets and barriers to increased ridership,” said Hesse. “People told me, ‘I don’t feel safe’ and we looked for new ways to overcome that. It wasn’t so much telling (Redmond locals) what they should do, but seeing what we could learn from them.”

While Redmond had many assets to cycling, including existing bike trail systems, a lack of east-west connectivity and dangerous highway crossings prevented many from biking more frequently, or at all, outside of recreation. Women were the gender with the most interest in cycling, but were less likely to do so because they felt unsafe. Similarly, parents would like their children to bike more, but did not feel safe allowing them to do so.

“The issue of safety needed to be overcome to attract new riders,” said Hesse.

After extensive community outreach, including polling, visiting local schools and holding community forums on biking, the team concluded that the city of Redmond should continue with the goals of its existing transportation system plan and keep building bike lanes. With more lanes, people would feel safer and more likely to get on their bikes and ride. ‘Reinventing The Wheel’ will be presented to Redmond’s planning commission this week and to Redmond City Council on June 14.

Students involved in the Environmental Justice Group learned that environmental justice extends beyond issues of sustainability. Students Paul Comery, Jackie Le, Chelsea Parrett, Rebekah Mende, Amanda Vail, Andy Lackner, Abby Marren, and Emily Dore started off working with OPAL, a local nonprofit, on a campaign to change Trimet’s fee structure and transfer rules. After a breakdown of communication between the nonprofit and the students, the group organized a community forum on issues around environmental justice. Speakers included Alan Hipólito, Executive Director of Verde NW and Jeri Williams, neighborhood program coordinator with the city of Portland’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement. The forum attracted over 120 people, including a special visit from Rep. Lew Fredericks.

“Environmental justice is not about saving trees,” said Comery. “It’s about thinking along terms of equity and institutional racism in urban planning and access to transportation.”

Another student group, LOCI, worked on behalf of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance to develop Vision Zero Oregon, a community-oriented approach to encouraging the public to make streets safer for all users. That group included students Marielle Brown, Nick Falbo, Brandy Steffen,Michelle van Tijen, and Ben Weber.

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