Spirit of Portland Award honors Better Block PDX, Better Naito

Better Block PDX accepts a Spirit of Portland Award from Commissioner Steve Novick, second from right, in December 2016 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Portland. Pictured are Gwen Shaw, with award; Ryan Hashagen, in hat; and Ben Chaney, right.

Better Block PDX, a nonprofit dedicated to revatilizing urban spaces, won a Spirit of Portland Award for work on projects including the Better Natio project. Better Naito, which repurposed a lane of Portland’s Natio Parkway to preserve bicycle and pedestrian access, grew out of a Portland State University engineering capstone project in 2015.

Gwen Shaw was then a senior at Portland State. Her work gained the attention of city leaders, with then-Commissioner Steve Novick singling out the quality of the project’s traffic control plan.

It began as a temporary demonstration project, but the city brought back Better Naito in 2016 and left the configuration in place for three months, as reported in BikePortland.

Shaw, who is still involved with Better Block PDX, the experience served as an introduction to transportation. “It’s the most educational experience you can get,” Shaw said.

“You’re meeting with the city traffic engineer and he stamps your report and asks you if you know what the MUTCD is,” she said. “It’s fun to get that experience.”

Shaw built that experience into a profession: she’s now a transportation analyst with Lancaster Engineering.

The formality of the Spirit of Portland impressed upon Shaw the accomplishments of Better Block PDX, an all-volunteer organization she called “the most unstructured group of people.” They were recognized in a formal ceremony in December alongside other groups and individuals (a full list is on the city site).

“The groups at that ceremony were amazing,” Shaw said.

Novick chose Better Block PDX for the organizational award and Mychal Tettah of the Community Cycling Center for the individual award.

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