PBOT Launches New Plan To Help Portland Businesses Reopen Safely With More Space

Portland, Ore. – The Portland Bureau of Transportation is launching a new program to help Portland safely reopen from the Coronavirus pandemic. It’s called the Safe Streets | Healthy Businesses program. The idea is to allow local shops to use more space on sidewalks and streets around their buildings for social distancing, and give people the space they need to stay safe. Businesses have to apply for a permit, which is free to do. PBOT officials will review the applications to make sure there is indeed enough space to use at the business, before they approve an area for the program. PBOT says it’s up to the businesses to apply for the program, and you can help by spreading the word and telling your favorite stores about it. Interested organizations can learn about how to apply here.

We want to know what you think of the idea? Do you like it? We’ve already been getting some feedback on the idea. Some say it’s a good idea, they want Portland to start reopening, and they want to feel safe if they go out to support their favorite stores. Others say they don’t like the idea, specifically some drivers. One driver says car drivers paid for those streets and now they’re upset they would be kicked off the streets they paid to drive on. Tell us what you think on our KXL Facebook page.

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The Portland Bureau of Transportation launches the Safe Streets|Healthy Businesses program to help local businesses operate safely as Portland gradually reopens 

Program makes it simple for businesses to apply to use space on sidewalks and streets to make physical distancing easier for customers and staff 

Bureau also releases strategic framework for adapting streets as city restarts public life 

Safe Streets Healthy Businesses

(Thursday, May 28Today, the Portland Bureau of Transportation launched Safe Streets|Healthy Businesses, the next phase in its efforts to support the safe restart to public life in Portland. The program provides a one-stop permit application process for businesses that would like to use space on city sidewalks or streets to operate while preserving physical distancing for customers and staff. The applications and permits are free.  

“Cities around the world are reallocating streets for people to support safe physical distancing,” said Transportation Commissioner Chloe Eudaly. “Portland started with 100 miles of slow streets on our Neighborhood Greenways, closing them to through traffic to create more space for pedestrians and cyclists. Our next phase is working with our local business community to support their reopening and reimagine public space.”

Curb Zone

Through the program, businesses can apply to designate space on sidewalks and the street for commercial uses such as dining, retail, portable hygiene stations, and merchandise displays. In areas where the demand for space is high, the program will allow entire streets to be closed to create temporary plazas. On busy commercial corridors, the bureau encourages businesses to work together to coordinate their requests for space. 

Neighborhood Plaza

Neighborhood Plaza: use of parking spaces with side street partially closed for part of the block.

“Normally, at this time of year, we would be getting ready to issue permits for street fairs, farmers markets and block parties,” said PBOT Director Chris Warner. “Instead, we’re adapting to find creative ways to adapt our streets and help Portland safely get moving again. That is what Safe Streets|Healthy Businesses and our strategic framework are all about. 

Mini Neighborhood Plaza

Mini neighborhood plaza: use of parking spaces with side street partially closed for part of a block.

Participating business will be responsible for obtaining and maintaining the equipment to designate their temporary commercial spacesIn evaluating applications, the bureau will balance the needs of businesses with traffic safety, pedestrian access, public transit, and emergency response needs. The program will also follow the guidance from the Governor’s Office and public health officials regarding the timing and extent of reopening. Permits will be valid through October 1, 2020. Applications will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Along with more information about the program, applications can be found here. 

Full Main Street

Full main street closure: PBOT will not allow full street closures on emergency routes or transit routes.

The program is part of PBOT’s Safe Streets Initiative. Through this initiative, PBOT is making temporary changes to city streets to give people more space to walk, bike, roll, do business, and get around in their neighborhood.  

Along with the Healthy Businesses program, the bureau also released the initiative’s strategic framework. An extensive plan, it details the full range of steps the bureau foresees taking in the coming months to adapt city streets to facilitate a safe, healthy and robust reopening in Portland. The plan can be found hereIn the coming days, Portlanders are invited to provide feedback via a survey and digital open houses.  

To support these efforts, PBOT’s Equity and Inclusion program has established the COVID-19 Frontline Communities Partnership. This partnership opportunity will provide funding to groups interested in shaping Safe Streets priorities and engaging their networks on transportation issues specific to the COVID-19 public health pandemic. Interested organizations can learn about how to apply here.


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