Prize-winning Portland, USA

Portland is a top-rated American sustainable city which is friendly, sustainable, accessible and leads the way in green initiatives. It offers excellent examples of encouraging cycling, designing public space to cope with climate change and providing leadership for sustainable urban development.

Portland streetcar. Photo by Kim Walker.

Portland streetcar. Photo by Kim Walker.

A world-class cycling city

Sustainable towns and cities should encourage public transport, walking and cycling to deliver better health, enhance people's quality of life, reduce carbon emissions, create less congestion and improve air quality.

Portland leads US cities in encouraging people not to drive. It has a fully integrated transport system with buses, light rail, streetcars, a free rail zone and even an aerial tram linking the waterfront and university district. It is also one of the most bike-friendly cities in America, with 15 per cent of residents using a bike as their primary or secondary means of getting to work.

Not content with that, Portland wants to transform itself into a city where a quarter of all daily trips are taken by bicycle. The Portland bicycle plan will create a ‘low stress bikeways network’ where people of all ages and abilities feel happy to cycle around the city.

Green streets

Sustainable towns and cities are good at designing and managing public space to cope with change.

Portland gets a lot of rain – almost a metre a year. To manage run-off and protect water resources, the city uses attractive curbside planters that absorb flash flood water run-off. The planters provide a sustainable urban drainage system, capturing almost all of the street’s run-off, preventing flash floods and reducing the amount of water that the city’s drainage system has to deal with. They also hold attractive shrubs and trees that provide shade, air-cooling and colour to the street.

Read more about the Green Streets project.

A long-term vision for sustainability

Providing leadership for sustainable urban planning requires authorities to take a long term view and make brave decisions.

Portland has strict land-use policies. The urban growth boundary was created in the 1970s and promotes efficient use of land, public facilities and services inside Portland. The city's planners have adopted a long-range plan, the 2040 Growth Concept, which promotes high-quality development in town centres and along transport corridors. By making the most of a limited supply of land, Portland aims to accommodate a growing population, manage rising costs of public services, protect the environment and meet the needs of an aging population who drive less.

Tags: public space, transport, water, cities and towns

CABE and Urban Practitioners
with the cities of Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield