And the hard won award goes to….

Portland. Yes, that’s the Portland in Oregon. You know, the one that many in the city planning field rave about. America’s leading cycle city, and with all the great light rail and transit oriented development and urban renewal. No, really. One could be forgiven for assuming they just do it easy, but it turns out, as I learnt on our current Green Shoe Travel poster child cities tour, that’s not the case.

In fact, it is the opposite. Pretty much everything they have achieved, from the roll out of the MAX light rail rapid transit:

to the magnificent Pearl District (still one of the best urban renewal precincts I’ve seen):

to South Waterfront and its aerial tram

to the transit mall:

have all been hotly contested issues in the local community.

The light rail extensions got voted down in public votes, but they found other ways to deliver it. The cycle lanes have been referred to as the “white lines of gentrification” by some.

And it has taken a long time, over 40 years, to get where they are. Those involved have worked hard to build partnerships with the private sector and build community support.

So it turns out that city leaders and planners in Portland don’t just wake up one morning with a good idea, snap their fingers and hey presto, everything falls into place. For me, that just makes it all so much more impressive.

Greg Vann

December 2013


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