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Intersection Repair

Ever dreamed of making the streets outside your abode more livable, pedestrian-friendly, and community-oriented?City Repair in Portland, Oregon hosts an annual Village Building Convergence where hundreds of people come together to build diverse projects for the benefit of their communites and to take back their streets via a process known as the Intersection Repair.This involves painting streets with a high-visiblity mural that creates a public square for residents to gather and one which gently encourages drivers to slow down when approaching these spaces. Over time the neighbors further enhance the transformation by adding amenities like benches, community bulletin boards, and introducing gardens & art. As you'll see, the possibilites are endless.StreetFilms visited three of the Intersection Repairs and spoke with Mark Lakeman co-founder of City Repair, Greg Raisman, the Portland DOT Liason, and scores of residents & volunteers about why they were doing it.

[intro music]

Mark: [00:16] So the village building convergence is a way where people come together for ten days and they do a myriad of different things, all of which talk about economy, ecology, community and power, where power is held. And they are very diverse, so there’s many different things focusing on many dimensions of civic life. We’ve done about 23 to 25 projects actually being built, and some of them are intersection interventions where people are embedding onto the street surface a graphic symbol of the community, where the community have said, well, we want to be symbolised by a tree, or we want to be symbolised by the ripples… a ripple effect as if we’re on a pond surface.


Marnie: [01:05] This year I’m the organiser of the Sunnyside Piazza painting. We are repainting the intersection which is a beautiful sunflower. And it’s just been a lot of fun just getting the neighbours involved and so many kids are out today and we do this every year, and every year the design is different.

Speaker: [01:22] I think the great thing about this type of project is that it brings the community together. I think, you know, often times today we’re very separated, we’re behind our computers and we’re behind our TV’s.

Speaker: [01:35] Often times, you know, everybody’s in their cars or they’re off at work or doing something else, but this something, somewhat centrally located for this, three, four, five blocks and people come and enjoy each other.

Lisa: [01:48] So we went through a lot of steps. We have to get neighbours within the four block radius to all sign off and agree on the design. So we have a revocable permit to paint this. But every year we have a block party to close off the street to get the neighbours to sign again.

Greg: [02:02] When City Repair comes to the Portland Office of Transportation, they need to work with us on design issues to make sure that we have designs that are safe, that function well for the street and I help them with conversations with the engineers and with permitting groups to make sure that all the design features work well for the public right-of-way.

Speaker: [02:23] A lot of these kids here are a group of home schooled and this is their community, so this project…

Speaker: [02:29] We just came out because we’d been learning about urban lifestyles and urban planning and we wanted to take ownership of something around us because we see a lot of people that kind of live in the cities but they kind of take it for granted.

Aaron: [02:41] Everything that I do is about making streets safer for children and making streets more accessible. And by slowing down the traffic, what you do is you make a street into a commons again, which it normally is not. So what this intersection does is by going and creating a very bright, very strong statement in the intersection, that this is different from every other intersection, people automatically see that there’s something to pay attention to.

Speaker: [03:08] Instead of having streets and intersections create dividing lines in the cities, these kind of things make it a community, it makes it a meeting point instead of a dividing point. And that’s one of the most important things about it as well. And as you can see, it works perfectly.

Marnie: [03:22] I think that one of the most interesting things about this intersection is that it has sparked other kinds of public artworks around this intersection. So for example, there’s a local artist in town who ties little toy horses to old horse tethering rings around town and so we’ve got a bunch of those here . Some people have spray painted some of the barrels that we planted, some plants in to decorate the intersection. It’s just become just like a safe place to create.

Lisa: [03:49] So this is our neighbourhood poetry garden. So we have a bench, a little lantern here, and this is our poetry box, inside here’s the poetry book and people just come by, kids, adults, they come by and read poems and leave notes here and draw pictures. I mean we have chalk so that people can come and write with chalk on the sidewalk, make poems.

Speaker: [04:11] This is community at its deepest roots. That’s why we need people in our lives.

Marnie: [04:17] I live right up there on that… that’s my balcony, and some nights I can hear… someone will come and play the flutes, sit and play the flutes right. I mean it’s just surreal.


Pedro: [04:47] In Share-It Square what we’re trying to do is recreate the village within the urban grid. You might notice the intersection repaired mural. So we’re taking the intersection, which is usually a place that divides people and is controlled by a transportation infrastructure, and we’re transforming that into an actual public meeting place. We have different places in Share-It Square that evoke the needs of the community. We have a place for the kids, a kids playhouse. It’s a place that has games and toys and neighbourhood kids will come and check it out, see if someone’s brought something there, maybe even meet some other kids in the neighbourhood. Welcome to the information station at Share-It Square. This is a village need to share information, kind of like the Town Cryer, and we have that ability here with the blackboard and various bulletin boards to post information. We also have a local newspaper here, it’s called The Selwood Bee, so we thought well, what better way to have, create a paper box to distribute The Bee and to create a beehive for The Selwood Bee. We started this out as kind of a produce exchange station, you know, you get so many zucchinis in the summertime, so here’s a place to put them to share with others. And it’s just transformed itself kind of into this free cycle distribution centre. We also have the neighbourhood library which works in the same fashion. If you have extra books you bring them, you want a book you take them. There have been studies done about people’s sitting behaviour. People like to have a variety of choices , so we’re trying to create as many sitting options as possible, even in this concentrated space of an intersection. This is a free water station and our neighbours keep it supplied with hot water, and all you have to do is put your water in your cup, a lot of cups available, teas and sweeteners, and you have yourself a free cup of tea. So the watering hole is something else that every village centre needs. You need a place to meet and here, like you get people who didn’t know each other and they get to meet around this structure.

John: [07:03] We did get married here in the intersection back in October.

Lyn: [07:06] That’s how much we love it.

John: [07:07] It was a phenomenal event. We got tremendous help from the community. Like 50 people contributed their talent and time and energy to help us get married in our community.

Lyn: [07:18] It felt so much more than a wedding, you know. I wasn’t wearing a white dress, I was wearing something pink with fake fur and balls on it and it was just exciting. It was a community event and we just wanted everybody to feel like they were, you know, it was a love fest and everybody was getting married. People are still now just like hi, it’s amazing.

John: [07:38] We’re going to get married next year.

Lyn: [07:41] Yeah, come.

John: [07:42] You’re all invited.


Speaker: [07:58] You said that you knew Freda.

Speaker: [07:59] Aha.

Speaker: [08:00] And what would she probably think about this tribute?

Speaker: [08:03] Oh, she would be delighted. Absolutely delighted. She loved people. She was a lovely, lovely lady, friends to everyone.

Thad: [08:10] The neighbourhood is very excited about this, like we’ve been excited for a long time. And it all started mainly because we were concerned about traffic and speeding cars going through here. There’s been a few accidents and there are a lot of kids on the block.

Ed: [08:24] Yeah, we’re just trying to make it a safer neighbourhood. We’ve got another crop of young kids coming up and we love our kids and we want to have a safe and happy community for them.

Linda: [08:34] I figured by this time in the afternoon everybody would be sort of scattering or going home. It’s amazing.

Marnie: [08:44] Some of the most amazing wonderful people I’ve ever met, some of the closest friends that I have, I’ve met while repainting this intersection. So it really does build community and it’s just a great thing.

Pedro: [08:53] We find that when you have a neighbourhood place where there are people on the streets, the cars will slow down. So this kind of colour, even though we don’t have Stop signs on these streets, it encourages people to slow down.

Lyn: [09:08] Share-It Square being the first intersection repair has like inspired so many others.

Lisa: [09:13] A big community event. It’s great for families and kids and just for creating a sense of place.

Ed: [09:18] I know that the neighbours on the next intersection were here and they… we have talked about that maybe next year and they’re all pumped up about it, so I think we may see a much [unintelligible 09:27] around the neighbourhood.

Linda: [09:28] Some of these neighbours I’ve known for 30 years and a lot of them are new and about the third generation of little kids since I’ve been here so way fun day.

Speaker: [09:38] I think there’s something really special happening in Portland because a lot of socially aware, socially and environmentally sensitive people that are, you know, flocking here and it’s creating quite a unique special community.

Speaker: [09:49] Portland I think is a city that really respects community involvement, so projects like this, a lot of people get involved.

Mark: [09:59] Conversion of a sustainable society that’s I’m interested in is one that is characterised by more ease, more time with children and family, friends, more time for myself and my partner. So that’s the kind of sustainable society that I’m interested in.



Clarence Eckerson Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • Barbara

    I want this in my neighborhood right now!!

  • adam white

    A wonderfully inspirational, visionary and moving peice. The conversion of intersections to communal plazas is simple yet brilliant. Kudos to the folks in Portland and to Clarence for sharing the images with us NYC dwellers.

  • http://www.bikefilmawards.org Andy

    Inspired film Clarence - Sweet Street & People - Intersection Insurrection Reclaiming the Street in style.

  • http://www.crankmychain.com Dan Kaufman

    A truly amazing video! Thanks for making it.

    There is definitely a "Eugene" vibe (a good thing in my book) but each neighborhood had it's own feel. As this concept takes off it will be interesting to see the different flavors particular neighborhoods bring.

  • Mark Lakeman

    What a wonderful effort in making this video, it really captures the experience of being in Portland during the Village Building Convergence! Great, great work!


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  • http://www.rakuloren.com raku

    Clarence, sweet!
    Thank you so much for sharing some of what makes Portland such an invigorating place to LIVE. While watching, I felt engaged, inspired, and hopeful that these seeds of peace that are being cast-out will sprout all over the world!

  • Linda

    Great job, Clarence! It was so exciting to have you filming our efforts at the Freda's Tree intersection, and I hope our project will continue to inspire others.

  • Andree

    Thanks, Clarence---It's so exciting to see our little neighborhood project captured so well and shared with like-minded folks. Great work!

  • Chris Marco

    Clarence, what an outstanding job you did in 4 days! And it was up just days after the VBC ended! Next up should be Clarence: The Movie-Making-Maniac-Sasquatch (Sassie sits at a computer as his furry hands blaze across the keyboard in a blur...yes folks, it's a rare sighting of the movie-making-maniac!)

    Yesterday, after some mild culture shock transitioning from the streets, stories, and hugs of the VBC to the bluetoothed, laptopped, mean airport, I left Portland. As soon as I got home, I watched this. It made me so happy to be transported back there! You really did a great job of capturing the spirit of joy and optimistic energy that is the VBC. Thanks so much for your hard work and even more for sharing it with all of us.

    I had planned to take a few days off to rest, but your film has so inspired me that now I just want to get to work. Great work Clarence! Really, you're awesome. Whose streets? Our streets!

  • Darla

    My nabe in Queens could use some of these. I am already friends with my neighbors. We could do this!

    Once we had a tag sale on every corner of our intersection.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/trorb/ Clarence

    Thank you so much everyone here who posted (and those who emailed too.)

    I have been very touched by the highly emotional feedback I have gotten. I was moved very much when putting this together, and am so glad that many others were equally so. Please keep the comments coming....

  • http://www.uas.coop Sue B.

    Clarence, what a great job you did and so quickly! You captured the spirit of the people and place so well, it moved me to tears - especially seeing Lyn and John. Ah, VBC...I miss it so much already and can't wait for VBC8 (and Chris' film, too). Thank you, thank you!

  • http://cityrepair.org pedro, adri, and santiago

    wow, clarence-- super job! we are totally impressed with how you plugged right into what we are doing here in portland, shot some film, and edited it into this real beautiful, on-point, inspiring film.

    EVERYONE in the world knows-- when they search the deepest places of their heart--that the time has come to re-connect to ourselves, to each other, and to our common source of creation. who would have thought that we are the revolution embodied?! thanks for sharing our process of becoming in portland.

    what's next?!

  • Shirley

    Bravo Clarence, brilliant! I got a lump in my throat watching, it is so inspiring. Great for traffic safety, great for community, great for place. If only NYC would follow suit.

  • http://randomdude.com/blog/ Dustin

    Great video! I would love to see this idea spread to cities everywhere.

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  • http://urbanplanningblog.com Pratik

    Great video. Tried embedding on my Urban Planning Blog but somehow didn't work. Would be great if you could upload your videos to YouTube as well. Might get more 'eyeballs' and will spread the word.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/trorb/ Clarence Eckerson, Jr.


    Might just do that for a few of our videos. We have in the past but haven't put up many since the begining of the year.


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  • Joyce

    There is the perfect neighborhood for this in my city! I love the whole idea! Great!

  • Stan

    This would do best to go out to every Chamber of Commerce across the nation..God Bless America!!

  • http://ciclovia.org Greg Cantori

    Does everyone see the wonderful 'intersection' of Ciclovia, a regular Sunday streets for the people event, and intersection repair? The communities hosting Ciclovia can leave a permanent symbol of their welcome all week as well as on Sunday! You are on to something big here.

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  • Fran

    What a beautiful film! The music perfectly captures the warmth and friendship fostered by these community gathering places. I want to do this myself!

  • http://www.asmithphotography.com Angela

    Inspirational! It's wonderful for a community to come together!

  • joe adamski

    As a Portlander, I have enjoyed the benefits of City Repair and the place building they do. One thing I have noticed is that such efforts inspire folks who perhaps would not have thought of taking place building into their own hands to do so. my elderly neighbors heard about the work of city repair over the years and included a bench and a shade spot in their yard as they redid their front garden. When asked,they said they got the idea from the Village Buiding convergence.

    Positive energy can inspire more positive energy.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/dysprosio Joao Lacerda

    Inspirational... Despite having watched it so many times, I always feel like watching it again. Maybe the urge to watch it will end when I finally get to do this in my neighborhood.


  • Steve

    Mark, why don't you get a haircut or wash that head once in a while!

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  • Gcantori

    Two completed in Baltimore! More to come......

  • Nick Berardi

    This is a genuine change of consciousness that our world needs. Touche!

  • Slpartistphotghr

    This is a major, positive breakthrough in trying to make streets more pleasant & safer for pedestrians. Especially needed in high traffic zones, peak traffic streets. Not just in USA but everywhere worldwide.

    I would like to see this approach implemented into many of Australias' Metropolitan & Regional Streets across every state. Not just coming into Capital Regions, but other Regions, Rural areas including Lake Macquarie~Newcastle~Hunter Valley Region NSW, Australia.
    Which is the 2nd largest Region in NSW, 2nd to Sydney Capital NSW Region...

    In fact I want to also add something that is vital & in direct relation to this.
    Being the constant dis-respect/overlooking of needs of pedestrians walking on pedestrian crossings with/without street lights. 

    So many times in my local & other regions in NSW Australia, I have had to as a pedestrian, along with other pedestrians be on a tight gard when approaching/walking on pedestrian crossing. Because of impatient, arrogant drivers who think they shouldn't have to slow down when approaching a pedestrian crossing, or are reluctant to stop to give way for pedestrians to safely walk across.

    Then when myself/other pedestrians go to/do walk across you can sometimes feel their impatient expressions on their face. And can see their hurried, bad attitude by the way they are driving their cars. 

    Not good enough, not acceptable, just downright wrong. As all pedestrians & this goes for bicycle riders too have just as much right to walk on roads/paths designated for pedestrians, bicycle riders etc.  Mind you some bicycle riders can be disrespectful to pedestrians. Then some car/truck drivers
    dis-respectful to bicycle riders & pedestrians.

    So something must be done to wakeup the often bad, arrogant attitudes of many car drivers in relation to how they sometimes view, treat pedestrians/pedestrian crossings.

    And what's more all people from a human baby to the most senior person { in some cases } are pedestrians. And many pedestrians are also vehicle drivers. So this shows again the hypocricy, stupidity of many people.

    There ought to be more signage displaying rules vehicle drivers must respect/obey to allow pedestrians to walk safely not having to hurry across p. crossings & not feel intimidated by drivers in anyway.
    Not that I feel intimidated no way, but nor should we have to feel like thanking them { via signalling etc } for stopping to let us pedestrians cross in areas that pedestrians have right of way in first place... That's why the p. crossing are there for pedestrians to use/right of way.  Penalties/Fees ought to come in towards rule breaking/disrespectful vehicle driver.

    Hey another valid idea what about cameras too, to detect/ fine those vehicle drivers who don't slow down/stop ahead before crossing when pedestrians are approaching or already walking on pedestrians crossings, regardless of which type they are.

    If police departments can place speed cameras, then they ought think about placing other detection cameras for detection for other purposes to help implement safer pedestrian crossings via helping to deter vehicle drivers from doing the wrong thing at p. crossings & if they're vehicle is caught on camera breaking the p. crossing rules etc then they are given a penalty ticket/fee just as people receive when caught driving under or over the speed limit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mark-Sharp/1165272061 Mark Sharp

    That looks great. I would like to do something like this in my neighborhood, however, I live in a mixed-income, racially diverse neighborhood where the majority are renters, myself included. Homelessness is an occasional problem. The impression I got from the video is that these Portland neighborhoods are primarily filled with homeowners who share several commonalities. I definitely know that some of that stuff wouldn't last a week. So I'm wondering if something like this could work in my neighborhood as well? What do you think? Are there any examples?

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