This is one of the most interesting projects I have ever come across, and I cannot wait to visit Portland someday and see it. The idea is for citizens to reclaim the streets as public places and not just auto-zones. The project, called Intersection Repair, is best explained by their website:
How do you create a public square out of an intersection?
The community works together to make the place special. They make it a place where people want to go to, where they feel safe and welcome. They make it beautiful and interesting. They make it meaningful, an expression of their own local culture.
Is it just painting the street, or something more?
Each Intersection Repair project is the work of neighborhood residents. It is the people who live in the neighborhood who decide that they want the public square, what it will look like, how it will function and how it will develop. One neighborhood may paint a giant mural on the intersection and stop there. Another may go through many phases: painting the street, installing a community bulletin board, building a mini-cafe on a corner, reconstructing the intersection with brick and cobblestones, opening businesses to make it a village center… and on and on!
Does this close the street to cars?
No. Many public squares throughout the world are in fact shared by cars and pedestrians. These spaces are designed in ways that make drivers move more slowly and expect pedestrians. Such design is one of the goals of an Intersection Repair.
Why would a neighborhood want an Intersection Repair?
It depends – each one is different. Maybe people want a focal point for their neighborhood, a place for community interaction and seasonal celebrations. Maybe they want to slow down traffic, and let pedestrians share the public space of the road equally with cars.
Check out the website and the photos of some of the projects happening in Portland. Unfortunately, there are not many places where this would fly with local NIMBIES… I mean residents, engineers, elected officials, and even planners. I guess all of us hippies need to move to Portland.