In three short months 10 vacant schoolyards and parking lots in Portland have been transformed into miniature neighborhoods. These “traffic gardens” were created to give kids and families a place to pedal and roll together in a time when safe outdoor activities are in high demand.
Traffic gardens aren’t new, but they’ve flourished in Portland recently because of the work of a local physical education teacher and renewed interest from the City of Portland and Multnomah County.
Sam Balto is a phys-ed teacher at César Chávez School in north Portland; but his interest in getting people to be more active goes way beyond his day job. When we first met Balto he was placing red plastic cups in bike lanes to illustrate the need for more protected cycling space. He was honored with a Weston Award from nonprofit Oregon Walks in 2019 and called for more open streets in Portland in response to the COVID-19 pandemic long before the City of Portland got on board.