Feb 01, 2021
Photos by Sam Balto

Since 2013, local transportation activist group Better Block PDX has developed partnerships with organizations across the Portland Metro area. Most notable were the connections that emerged between the communities’ needs for tactical urbanism solutions and the expertise of Portland State University (PSU) transportation students.

Over the last few years, that collaboration evolved and formalized into Better Block PSU, a pathway program that integrates tactical urbanism into the engineering and planning curriculum at PSU. Now led by PSU’s Transportation Research and Education Center, the latest project to advance through the program is Re-imagining a Safer Route to the César Chávez School: N. Willis Blvd. & N. Portsmouth Ave.

A number of teams worked with PSU Urban Planning students in the Fall of 2020, and this project from the César Chávez K-8 School community and the Community Cycling Center was chosen to move onto the second phase with the Spring 2021 PSU Civil Engineering course.

César Chávez PE teacher and project lead Sam Balto shared more about the motivation behind the project, “Not only is this intersection incredibly uninviting for the students and families walking to school, it’s...

Read more
Feb 03, 2017

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...

Read more