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BTA Alice Awards fundraiser: Here’s who will take home the honors

BTA Alice Awards fundraiser: Here’s who will take home the honors

BTA Fundraiser Alice Awards Gala-23.jpg

BTA Board Chair Justin Yuen at last year’s Alice Awards.
(Photos: J Maus/BikePortland)

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (soon to be known as The Street Trust) is getting ready for its biggest fundraiser of the year: The Alice Awards and auction.

The event happens Saturday night in north Portland. Beyond raising money for the organization’s advocacy work, the Alice Awards are a time to honor people in the community who are going above and beyond to “open minds and roads to bicycling” (as the inscription on the award reads).

Included with the $150 ticket this year is the new Encore after-party which will let local biking leaders and their dates dance well into the night while staying cozy around a bonfire. If you stay for the party you’ll also get first peek at the BTA’s new “Street Trust” logo.

Before the fun and fundraising starts, let’s take a look at this year’s four Alice Award winners…


Biketown bike share launch-3.jpg

This award will go to representatives from Nike, Motivate (Biketown’s operator), and the Portland Bureau of Transportation. Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the past few months you know how successful Portland’s bike share program has been. And its success is not a fluke. It was a long and hard road to endure for the City of Portland, who withstood controversy and a bit of ridicule for the multi-year process of finding a vendor and sponsors that would bring the plans all together. Challenges to ensure Biketown’s success still lie ahead, but it’s off to a great start and definitely worthy of recognition.

Oregon and SW Washington Families for Safe Streets

Powell protest ride-55.jpg

Kristi Finney.

Losing a loved one to a traffic crash seems like an impossible tragedy to most of us. Imagine having that happen to you and then having the fortitude to face it head-on and become a public figure that fights for safety improvements so it doesn’t happen to anyone else. That’s what the people behind Oregon and SW Washington Familes for Safe Streets have done for nearly a year now. Led by Kristi Finney, Susan Kubota and Kim Stone, the group provides a support network and advocacy platform for families of traffic crash victims. Their strength to re-live the tragedies that have so altered their lives is inspiring and admirable.

Hassalo on Eighth, Builders Award


Wade Lange.

As you’ve been learning about for years here on on the front page, Hassalo on Eighth is the name of a major development in the Lloyd District that bills itself as “Portland’s newest neighborhood.” This award will go to representatives of the real estate company (Wade Lange from American Assets Trust) and architecture firm (Kyle Andersen of GBD Architects) behind this three-building development that sits adjacent to the protected bike lane on Northeast Multnomah. Hassalo is also home to the Lloyd Cycle Station, a massive bike parking facility that has room for 600 bikes and includes showers, a repair station and valet parking. So civilized!

Meeky Blizzard, Bud Clark Lifetime Achievement Award


Meeky, the long-time former Livable Communities Advisor for U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer, goes way back. Over the past twenty years she’s been actively involved in local and regional transportation and land-use battles, such as the fight to stop the Western Bypass freeway project — a fight she continues even in retirement as co-chair of the Washington County Transportation Futures Committee. She was instrumental in pushing for light rail and streetcar extensions during her time on Blumenauer’s staff both on Capitol Hill and during his time on Portland City Council in the 1990s. We’re thrilled to see Meeky’s work recognized.

In other BTA news, two more staffers are leaving the organization. Washington County advocate Lisa Frank and Program Manager Nicole Davenport are both moving on. Frank shared her news in a blog post that recapped her three years working to improve road conditions on the west side. Davenport, who worked on the BTA’s Women Bike program, announced her decision in a blog post today. These staffing changes follow the departures of two senior staffers this year: Advocacy and Engagement Manager Carl Larson left in January and Deputy Director Stephanie Noll stepped down back in July.

Earlier this month the BTA released its 2014-2015 annual financial report. The organization brought in $1,287,397 dollars in revenue in FY 2015, that was up from $1,188,195 in revenue in 2014. Total expenses for 2015 were $516,806, up from $339,690 the previous year. Net income in 2015 was $46,629, down from $73,023 in 2014.

NOTE: This post has been updated with corrected financial figures after it was brought to our attention that the BTA had made a typographical error in their financial report. We regret any confusion.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

BikePortland is supported by the community (that means you!). Please become a subscriber or make a donation today.

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The Street Trust (formerly the BTA) is planning a rally tomorrow to “End unsafe streets”

The Street Trust (formerly the BTA) is planning a rally tomorrow to “End unsafe streets”

“It is all of our responsibility to drive, bike, and walk as if it is our own child, grandchild, or grandparent who will be crossing the road at the next intersection. Simply put, we must slow down and we must be vigilant.”
— Rob Sadowsky, executive director of the Street Trust

The Street Trust (formerly the Bicycle Transportation Alliance) has made a public statement about the death of young Fallon Smart and the serious collision yesterday that left 15-year-old Bradley Fortner with a brain injury.

“We need action now,” says Street Trust Executive Director Rob Sadowsky. “I am deeply saddened each time I hear about another road death. It is all of our responsibility to drive, bike, and walk as if it is our own child, grandchild, or grandparent who will be crossing the road at the next intersection. Simply put, we must slow down and we must be vigilant.”

The statement comes with an announcement of a rally that will be held tomorrow (Thursday, September 1st) at the north end of the North Park Blocks. The rally is being coordinated with — and will include representatives from — Oregon Walks, Oregon and SW Washington Families for Safe Streets, the Portland Bureau of Transportation, and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Here’s more about the rally from the Street Trust:

“… Outraged residents will rally together to express sorrow about recent road fatalities and to showcase what can be done collaboratively today by road users to save lives now. A group of speakers will speak for a short 30 minutes and be available to answer questions.”

And here’s more from their statement about the recent collisions:

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance is incredibly saddened to learn about the most recent tragedy after Bradley Fortner, a freshman at Roosevelt High School, was hit early Tuesday morning on his way to his first day of school. The teen was hit on North Columbia Boulevard at a location with a 40mph speed limit.

But this is not an isolated incident. Less than two weeks has passed since 15 year old Fallon Smart was hit and killed trying to cross Hawthorne Blvd. Fallon was the 30th person killed on Portland streets this year. Our unsafe streets have reached crisis level.

Tuesday’s crash was entirely preventable. In fact, we believe that crashes are preventable. We have called upon the state, our cities, and our counties to embrace this same belief and embrace Vision Zero now as a new way of approaching transportation. It is time to move from injuring, maiming, and killing people on the road to a place where traffic fatalities are no longer an assumed consequence.

The Portland region needs to be safe for kids, families, pets, people walking, people using wheelchairs, people bicycling, and people driving. And safe means you don’t take your life in your hands when you cross the street. It is time for Vision Zero today! Real change now starts with people on the road and in the driver’s seat, slowing down, being alert, and traveling with care.

Earlier today Noel Mickelberry, executive director of Oregon Walks also published a statement, saying, “Each crash reminds us that a true change to the status quo on our streets is required to provide solutions… We need innovation, we need political leadership, we need money on the ground to make needed street safety fixes, and we need meaningful community input and support. We are talking about hate crimes, about devastated families, about historic underinvestment, about kids not knowing if they will get to school safely. This is not easy work, and we don’t have all of the answers.”

Tomorrow’s rally will start at 10:30 am at NW Glisan between 8th and Park. More information on their website.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

BikePortland is supported by the community (that means you!). Please become a subscriber or make a donation today.

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The BTA has changed its name to “The Street Trust”

The BTA has changed its name to “The Street Trust”

BTA members voting on the new name last night at Velo Cult in northeast Portland. (Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

BTA members voting on the new name last night at Velo Cult in northeast Portland.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Seeking to “break through to the next level” of effectiveness and political power, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance officially changed their name last night.

The new moniker, “The Street Trust,” was ratified by members by a wide majority at the the organization’s annual meeting last night in northeast Portland.

Board President Justin Yuen said the new name will enable the BTA to, “Fundamentally get to the next level of change we are all seeking,” and to, “Be able to influence the conversation in the region.”

“So much of executing on protected bikeways,” he continued, referencing the bike-related investments around TriMet’s Orange Line MAX project, “Is intertwined with investments in pedestrian and transit.”

BTA Board President Justin Yuen (at the mic) with Executive Director Rob Sadowsky and a Spanish language interpreter (sorry I don't have her name yet).

BTA Board President Justin Yuen (at the mic) with Executive Director Rob Sadowsky and Ivonne Rivero, a Spanish language interpreter.

In addition to new name for their core advocacy work under a 501(c)3, BTA Executive Director Rob Sadowsky confirmed last night that they will also form a new 501(c)4 corportation that will focus on political lobbying. The details behind how exactly that new entity will operate are still being hashed out. The new (c)4 won’t be ready to influence the 2016 election but it will be up and running for the 2018 contest.

For Sadowsky, the name change is the result of asking the question, “How do we expand our community and political clout in order to get the big things we want in the street?” He also sought to reassure members that just because “bicycle” is no longer in their name and their expanded mission now officially includes walking and transit advocacy, it doesn’t mean bikes will take a back seat.

“If bikes don’t win [in a policy or project context], we don’t win. We will seek win-win-win opportunities.”

Prior to the vote, Sadowsky also promised the 60 or so members in attendance that the expanded mission will add resources to the bicycle-related work they do.

The new name, Sadowsky said, is modeled after existing non-profit organizations like the Freshwater Trust and the Trust for Public Lands.

To help understand this change in direction, here’s a comparison of the BTA’s new mission and vision statements.

Old mission statement:

The BTA creates healthy, sustainable communities by making bicycling safe, convenient, and accessible.

New mission statement

We advocate for healthy and thriving communities where it is safe and easy for people to bike, walk, and ride public transit.

Old vision statement:

Bicycling transforms communities by reinventing transportation and offering solutions for the universal challenges facing health, livability, and the environment.

New vision statement

We envision a region where all those who call our community home embrace walking, bicycling, and riding transit.

Before the vote, Sadowsky also shared a few slides. One of them listed the goals behind the new name: “denote trust and strength; embody a strong sense of pride and love for great, healthy strees; and a need for stewardship, responsibility, accountability and reward of our transportation networks for all.”

The BTA plans to launch a new strategic visioning process on October 1st.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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BTA deputy director will leave organization at the end of this week

BTA deputy director will leave organization at the end of this week

Stephanie Noll.(Photo: BTA)

Stephanie Noll
(Photo: Tanja Olson Images)

Stephanie Noll plans to leave the staff of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance this Friday.

Noll is the organization’s No. 2 employee and has been on the staff since 2007, longer than all but one other employee. She began her tenure as part of what was then a fairly new Safe Routes to School team and is currently serving as the BTA’s deputy director.

Noll’s departure comes a few weeks before the BTA announces a new name at its Aug. 10 members meeting that will mark a new, broader focus on walking and mass transit as well as bike transportation.

“Steph has had an amazing impact on the BTA,” Executive Director Rob Sadowsky said in an interview today. “She has expanded our support base with foundations, allowing us to expand our staff. She launched our Women Bike program, took the Bike More Challenge and Vision Zero to new levels and helped launch Families for Safe Streets.” Sadowsky added that the BTA will evaluate all staffing needs after their strategic planning reboot and big fundraising event in the fall.

Here’s the email Noll sent out to friends and colleagues this morning:

Dear Friends,

At the end of this week, I’m leaving the staff of the BTA.

It has truly been a joy to work alongside the passionate, hard-working staff (past and present!) of this organization.

I also am grateful to have gotten the chance to work with and learn from all of you. Thank you so much for your dedication to a better future for our communities and for your leadership, partnership, advocacy, volunteerism, support, and mentorship.

I am excited about what’s ahead for the BTA, and about being a part of that work from a different vantage point, as an engaged member and volunteer.

In the near term, I’m particularly excited to see the BTA and other partners build on the recent success of the For Every Kid Coalition by launching a campaign for Safe Routes to School For Every Kid statewide: work that is near and dear to my heart. You can provide crucial support for the great team at the BTA to keep doing that work by donating at

I hope to see many of you at the BTA Member meeting August 10th. I’ll be there to raise a glass to the future and to the awesome staff, volunteers, partners, and supporters boldly reimagining our streets to better serve the people that use them.

In gratitude!

Reached today via email Noll said she plans to continue working in the community as a volunteer for the grassroots group Oregon/SW Washington Families for Safe Streets and other related causes. She didn’t outline any future career plans but did say her immediate plan is, “To spend some quality time with my kids in the month before they start kindergarten.” Noll had already been working four days a week since her twin boys were born.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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BTA will ask members to ratify name change at annual meeting

BTA will ask members to ratify name change at annual meeting

BTA Annual meeting-2

BTA head Rob Sadowsky at the member’s meeting in 2012.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland-based biking advocacy group that is transitioning into a biking-walking-transit advocacy group plans to unveil its proposed new name on Wednesday, Aug. 10.

It’ll happen at the organization’s annual members meeting, which will be 5:30 to 7:30 at Velo Cult Bike Shop, 1969 NE 42nd Avenue.

Bicycle Transportation Alliance Executive Director Rob Sadowsky said Monday that the organization’s board and staff will then ask members present for an up-or-down vote on the name proposal.

Because the BTA is a member-led nonprofit under Oregon law and section 501(c)3 of the federal tax code, the vote will be binding. State law requires two-thirds of members present to vote “yes.”

Sadowsky said he’s pretty confident that the new name will be approved.

“Those that show up create a quorum,” Sadowsky said. “If we can’t get 2/3 of people there excited about it, then what are we doing?”

The up-or-down vote will be binding. Sadowsky said the organization’s leaders are currently down to a “No. 1 choice” and a “No. 2 choice.”

Sadowsky said the organization’s leaders are currently down to a “No. 1 choice” and a “No. 2 choice,” both of which are available as corporate names in the state of Oregon. He said an intellectual property lawyer is currently working pro bono to make sure the names aren’t under trademark somewhere else.

Why not announce the name ahead of time, or conduct a mail-in vote? Sadowsky said it’s to make sure nobody squats on the relevant URLs and social media handles while the organization is waiting to see if members approve.

“The No. 1 name right now would cost us $2,000 to buy,” he said.

He also said the BTA “may have a new logo for the annual meeting, if it is done in time.” If not, he said, the new logo will be unveiled at the BTA’s Alice Awards fundraiser Sept. 24.

Also at the members’ meeting, the BTA will recognize people for its annual volunteer awards:

• Rookie Volunteer of the Year
• Under the Radar
• Advocacy Volunteer of the Year
• Scott Lieuallen Award
• Volunteer of the Year

The BTA has some recent experience with brand transitions. Since 2014, it’s been using the name “Healthy Streets” and the URL to refer to “multimodal work that engage[s] partners in deep collaboration,” as Sadowsky put it in a February email. For example, the BTA’s Vision Zero traffic safety advocacy, the Active Transportation Summit event and the For Every Kid Coalition that has pushed for regional Safe Routes to School funding were all done under that sub-brand.

Once the name is changed, the BTA will also be wrapping more direct political work into its mission by forming a 501(c)4 organization, which is allowed to spend more money on political lobbying, and maybe subsequently a political action committee that could directly endorse candidates and raise money for them.

The BTA also plans to reorganize into a 501(c)3 arm, focused on education and organizing, and a 501(c)4 arm focused on political advocacy.

Sadowsky said there’s a possibility of merging with another existing PAC, but that he couldn’t legally discuss details because he’s employed by a c(3). That’s a good example of why the BTA wants to create a c(4), he said.

Terry Dublinski-Milton, a volunteer for Portland’s existing Bike Walk Vote PAC, wrote in an email “there is an ongoing conversation” about merging with the new BTA.

“No decision has been made at this time,” Dublinski-Milton said.

There are various other complications to having both a 501(c)3 arm, focused on education and organizing, and a 501(c)4 focused on political advocacy. For example, the BTA will need to recruit a separate board for each with no more than three shared members.

For the BTA’s existing (c)3, it isn’t currently planning to change its member-led structure that requires members to vote on board members, name changes and so forth.

Tomorrow, he said, BTA staff are traveling to Seattle to meet with the Cascade Bicycle Club and Washington Bikes, two organizations that merged in December. Today, Cascade Bicycle Club is the name of the group’s (c)3, with Washington Bikes as the name of the group’s (c)4.

Sadowsky added that they’ll also meet with Rob Johnson, the former executive director of the Seattle-based multimodal Transportation Choices Coalition 501(c)3 organization. Johnson was elected to city council last year.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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#WorkzoneFTW? City may require walking and biking routes around building sites

#WorkzoneFTW? City may require walking and biking routes around building sites

brian rod

A proposed city policy would require builders to look for a way around.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

A proposed policy before the city council Wednesday would withhold city permits from builders that block sidewalks or bike lanes around their work sites without first considering reuse of parking and travel lanes.

The action comes after a months-long social media campaign from Oregon Walks and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, which evolved out of a years-long behind-the-scenes effort by the BTA.

The city’s draft policy stops short of saying that walking, biking or traveling by mobility device are always higher priorities in work zones than traveling by car. Instead, it says that walking and biking routes should only be blocked if no other option is “practicable.” Here’s some other relevant language:

A temporary pedestrian route should be given priority over other facilities. A temporary pedestrian route should be given priority over vehicular traffic except when resulting in excessive delay to transit, excessive congestion in violation of mobility standards, or a pedestrian route that is less safe.

When sidewalks must be closed, the policy seems to recommend merging bike and foot traffic in a bike lane or bike and car traffic in a general travel lane before restricting auto access to a travel lane.

Here’s the ordered list of contingencies for a sidewalk closure:

priority list

There’s no indication here of what a “multi-use path” needs to consist of, other than trying to prompt people walking and biking to share space. And for whatever reason, there’s no explicit mention of narrowing lanes in that list.

When bike lanes are affected, though, narrowing lanes does come up as an option. Here’s the contingency list for bike lane closures:

priority list for biking

In that list, there’s no discussion of repurposing a parking lane.

In their proposal to the city, Oregon Walks and the BTA had specified “on-street parking or additional vehicle lanes” as possible places to find the space for continuous walking and biking routes. (Their proposal was built on research by former BTA intern Ruben Montes.)

In separate clauses, the city’s proposed policy says that “pedestrians should be separated from motor vehicular traffic and cycles” and that “cyclists should be separated from motor vehicle traffic and pedestrians.”

Throughout the proposed city policy, the word “should” refers to actions builders would take under “normal conditions.” City transportation staff would interpret this standard. The transportation director would have the right to revoke a permit for a site that’s failing to comply with the new policy or with the traffic control plans that builders will have to provide in advance.

A few other significant sentences from the policy proposal:

• “Pedestrian detours should not last more than 3 days in Pedestrian Districts & Pedestrian Walkways, or 1 week on a local service street.”

• “Both sidewalks on a block should not be closed simultaneously.”

• “If the work zone affects an accessible and ADA compliant pedestrian route, the accessibility and ADA compliant features along a temporary route shall be provided in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.”

Seattle adopted a similar set of rules for pedestrian access last year, but hasn’t yet assembled its policy for bike access. Here’s a useful chart by Seattle Bike Blog’s Tom Fucoloro that shows a recommended order in which street space could be repurposed if necessary for walking space:

Even if the various ambiguities here aren’t clarified, Portland’s proposed policy would represent a significant victory for walking and biking advocates. Until now, there’s been no single point of reference for work zone plans that the city’s various bureaus, most of which report to different city commissioners, can consult. The result has been a range of designs from the excellent to the impassable.

In March, Oregon Walks and the BTA launched a campaign they called “WorkzoneWTF,” urging people to share terrible work zone designs on Instagram and Twitter. A few examples:

But there have been good examples, too, which people sometimes labeled with the rearranged hashtag “WorkzoneFTW” — “for the win.”

Some people also shared examples from other cities:

Portland is growing up — that’s why most of these work zones are here, after all. As a city becomes denser and people don’t have to travel as far to reach things they need, traffic from walking (and, in some cases, biking) eventually reach the point where a sidewalk or bike lane closure will disrupt auto traffic with or without a plan. It’s good to see city leaders making efforts to force these conversations before the conflicts happen rather than afterward.

Thanks to Elliot Njus at The Oregonian for first reporting on Wednesday’s council action.

Update 6/29: The policy passed the city council unanimously.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Over 11,000 people took the ‘Bike More Challenge’ last month

Over 11,000 people took the ‘Bike More Challenge’ last month

The team from Daimler Trucks NA.(Photo: B-line Sustainable Urban Delivery)

The team from Daimler Trucks NA.
(Photo: B-line Sustainable Urban Delivery)

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) wrapped up their 19th annual Bike More Challenge with a big party last night in southeast Portland.

This was the first year the friendly competition was held in May instead of September. The BTA made the move to encourage more people to keep biking through the summer, but it looks like the warm and sunny weather also boosted overall participation. A look at the final numbers shows that about 1,000 more participants were coaxed into the event than in previous years.

This year’s Challenge had 11,741 total riders who biked 1,656,098 miles. That’s up from 10,722 riders and 1,247,886 miles in 2015 and 10,350 riders and 1,212,271 miles in 2014.

Of course a major difference this year was that participants could log all trips, not just work commutes.

The Challenge is also about encouraging people to give daily biking a try for the first time. 1,959 participants said they were new bike riders this year, that’s up from just over 1,300 last year. Participants were also given extra points if they encouraged a new rider to sign up and log trips. The winner of the new Top Encourager Award, Sierra Callahan, persuaded 38 new riders. Just imagine if everyone who works at a big company did that.

Here are the other teams and individuals who took home top honors at the awards ceremony last night:

Team with the most points, 500+ staff: Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), 221,149 points
Team with the most points, 200-499 staff: Quantum Spacial, 55,259 points
Team with the most points, 50-199 staff: SERA Architects, 36,131 points
Team with the most points, 20-49 staff: Alta Planning + Design, 21,756 points
Team with the most points, 7-19 staff: Portland Pedal Power, 10,077 points
Team with the most points, 3-6 staff: Metropolis Cycle Repair, 5,942 points
Female with the most miles: Jessica Wesling, 1,215 miles
Male with the most miles: Chuck Swanda, 4,190 miles
New Female rider with the most miles: Darcie McIntosh, 417 miles
New Male rider with the most miles: Michael Turnauer, 928 miles
Top Encourager: Sierra Callahan, 38 people encouraged
Brad Buchanan Team Captain of the Year: Zachary Horowitz, Kittleson and Associates, Inc.

See how your company stacked up in the full results at

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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BTA will change name, expand mission to walking, transit and political action

BTA will change name, expand mission to walking, transit and political action

2013 BTA Alice Awards-17

BTA Executive Director Rob Sadowsky says the changes will usher in a new era of progress.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Change is afoot once again at the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. The Portland-based nonprofit organization announced today that they’ve embarked on a major transition that will result in a new name, a new mission, and a new entity that will allow them to be more engaged in political lobbying.

“This is about building a broad political tent that can move policymakers.”
— Rob Sadowsky, executive director

The organization plans to no longer focus solely on bicycling and will expand their mission to include advocacy for better transit and walking. In addition, the BTA board has voted in favor of creating a 501c4 alongside the 501c3, a move that would give the BTA more tools to influence elections and politics through endorsements, direct political lobbying, phone-banking for candidates, and so on. The 501c4 would also offer memberships to other organizations with aligned missions: like Oregon Walks, the Community Cycling Center, 1000 Friends of Oregon, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, and others. After the reorganization is complete the BTA could lead a new political action committee (PAC) that could have wide-ranging impacts on elections and policy measures statewide.

In an interview with BTA leadership last week I learned that this change has been in the works for many years.

When the BTA hired current Executive Director Rob Sadowsky in 2010 he said, “We’re going to try to build a movement not just around pedal-power, but around how we relate to the streets.” This type of reorganization isn’t new to Sadowsky. As leader of the major bike advocacy group in Chicago in 2008 (prior to coming to Portland) he shepherded an organization through a very similar change. The Chicagoland Bicycle Federation changed their name to the Active Transportation Alliance and expanded beyond a bike-focused mission. Justin Yuen, a software business owner and current chair of the BTA’s Board of Directors said conversations ramped up at a board retreat in 2013.

“This is about building a broad political tent that can move policymakers,” Sadowsky says.

It’s also about keeping up with the times. The national bike movement has for years been moving beyond a bike-only narrative: The once-named Oregon Bike Summit is now the Oregon Active Transportation Summit. Agencies like the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Portland Bureau of Transportation aren’t hiring “bike coordinators,” they’re hiring “active transportation coordinators.” Some of that reflects the reality of the work being done — a more holistic, “complete streets” approach. But this is also about optics and the cultural baggage cycling carries (a.k.a. “bikelash”).

Sadowsky and one of his top advocacy staffers Leanne Ferguson say starting a conversation with bicycling first often makes it harder to win respect and buy-in from key partners.

Ferguson works with partners ranging from the public health sector to affordable housing advocates. “I think we’ve been working to overcome that [negative reaction to cycling]… We’re starting from a place of weakenss of having to only focus on this one form of transporation and for the work we’re doing with safe routes that starts us a step back. So this is going to make the story line up with the work and that’s going to bring more people along.”

“Coming at it from an advocacy perspective as a silo can sometimes set you back,” Sadowsky added. “We want to be looking at how our streets serve everyone who uses them not in a car.”

For Ferguson, who heads the BTA’s Safe Routes to School programs, the changes can’t happen fast enough. “I’m super excited because the work I’ve been doing with safe routes for the last 10 years has always been multimodal,” she says. “For me, this is our mission finally incorporating the work that I love. This is a really big moment for me and our work at the BTA to really embrace the multimodalness of the work we do.”

Think of it this way: Instead of the BTA pushing for a bikeway through a neighborhood, they’ll be working to make sure the neighborhood itself is a great place to be. “It’s not about the bike, it’s about transforming communities,” Sadowsky says, “‘Twenty-minute neighborhoods’ [a planning phrase championed by the City of Portland] is really the end goal.”

Infographic showing key differences between a 501c3 and a 501c4.(Courtesy League of American Bicyclists - Download larger version)

Infographic showing key differences between a 501c3 and a 501c4.
(Courtesy League of American Bicyclists – Download larger version)

In many ways, the changes will only enshrine the type of approach the BTA has already been taking. At a meeting last week Sadowsky shared an internal BTA document that lays out their 12 guiding principles. The reorganization would only slightly change four of them. In two of them the word “bicycling” is simply deleted and replaced with “active transportation.” And in another, the words “walking and transit” have been added to a sentence that reads, “We work for…. incentives for bicycling, walking and transit.” A guiding principle that used to read, “The ride is just as important as the destination,” gets changed to, “The or the stroll is just…”.

For a glimpse into the future of the BTA, look no future than the For Every Kid campaign that was just in the headlines last month. In that work the BTA led a coalition of partners (with a diverse variety of missions) under the Our Healthy Streets banner order to solidify support for safe routes to school funding at Metro.

Internally, Sadowsky says “It feels like a natural transition point.” But for members, existing partners and the broader public, he acknowledged “We have a lot of translating to do.”

When it comes to the BTA’s existing work plan the changes are also relatively minor. Their Vision Zero and Safe Routes to School work are already multimodal by nature. Their Women Bike initiative would remain, as would the Bike More Challenge (although Sadowsky said they could do a “Take Transit More” challenge in fall). When advocating for new infrastructure on big streets like SW Barbur, instead of pushing for a protected bike lane, the BTA would work for a complete street with transit and walking facilities too.

BTA Fundraiser Alice Awards Gala-23.jpg

BTA Board Chair Justin Yuen backs the changes because he feels it will help build stronger coalitions.

“If a protected bike lane gets put on a street, but at the expense of pedestrian infrastructure or access to transit,” Ferguson says, “It’s not a win.”

Realizing that some members might cringe at the thought of the BTA without the “bicycle,” Sadowsky says the organization is making two key promises: “We won’t accept a partial win if bikes are cut out.” For example, he continued, “If 82nd ends up with bus rapid transit but no protected bikeways, we would not call it a win. Bikes will always be a high priority.” And the second promise: “We won’t take resources away from our current bike advocacy work and put it towards transit or walking.”

A big part of this change is about raising more money for the organization. With a broader mission that includes walking and transit the BTA will be able to talk to a wider range of potential donors. Sadowsky recalls that after Chicago went through a similar change, “A lot more resources came to the table.”

From his experiences in Chicago and knowledge of New York City’s nonprofit Transportation Alternatives, Sadowsky says a multimodal approach is the only way to create real and lasting change. “The bicyclists bring the energy and the individuals, the transit and pedestrians work brings the institutions — and a successful political movement needs both.”

When it comes to politics, the creation of a 501c4 could give the BTA wide-ranging political powers. As a 501c3, they are not legally permitted to directly engage in partisan political lobbying. Sadowsky says he wants to form a leadership training program to develop the next era of politicians and train existing ones. As a c4, the BTA could also phone-bank and directly lobby for their preferred candidate. In local and regional elections that are often decided by just a few thousands votes, this could prove pivotal. If the BTA could flex its membership — and the membership of affiliated organizations through a new 501c4 — to vote for a specific candidate they could help win majority support for active transportation projects and policies in Portland and across the region.

Sadowsky expresses regret about the BTA’s inability to directly influence Portland’s mayoral election four years ago. “When Charlie [Hales] ran, we would have loved to have been more involved. And I think the result that all of us got was kind of a weak mayor.” And now, with incumbent City Commissioner Steve Novick in a runoff, the BTA has to sit on the sidelines. They’d prefer to support him after he successfully won a gas tax increase, but their 501c3 status prevents them from jumping into the race.

These changes could also help the BTA define who they are. The organization has struggled to find their identity since the tumult in 2009 when they abruptly let go their advocacy director and executive director much to the chagrin of many members. At the end of 2009 the BTA was at a turning point. And the changes kept coming in 2010. Just months after the arrival of Sadowsky the BTA’s finance director and development director resigned and eight new board members were elected.

As the seas continued to shift, the BTA launched a $50,000 branding and communications makeover in late 2010. Then in 2012, the BTA weathered harsh criticisms from their founder Rex Burkholder. (Reached for comment today Burkholder said he wasn’t yet fully aware of the changes and had no opinion on the matter.)

Much of the tension has centered around how aggressive the BTA should be.

A group that rose to prominence for a gutsy lawsuit against the City of Portland in the early 1990s hasn’t shown that kind of fight in years. And Sadowsky says that’s by design. In Salem for instance, he wants the BTA to focus on big funding battles and high-level policy changes and, “A lot less bicycling rights.”

“I don’t really want to get involved on what an intersection design on Ankeny and 15th should look like,” Sadowsky says, “I want to be on big policy wins that are going to bring more resources down. We want to see if we can shift the dynamics of politics, that’s very different that shifting the dynamics on the street.”

Does the BTA’s shift in direction open up an opportunity for a more bike-centric group to emerge? Perhaps one like BikeLoudPDX (which doesn’t have its nonprofit standing yet)?

“We bless and encourage a group like BikeLouder[sic] to do things in a way that we don’t do and have a different set of values and principles that guide their work. They’re both equally important but the BTA has intentionally moved away from that work because we wanted to see $3.5 million for Safe Routes to School,” Sadowsky explained, referring to their recent work at Metro and the need for the BTA to focus on a major campaign instead of reacting to every bike issue that pops up.

Times have changed, Sadowsy says, and a biking-only lens on the issues is “too narrow.” In fact, if the BTA was formed today, “We would not form as a bike-only organization,” he says. “We’ve gone beyond that unimodal need, when bikers were really crazy wearing really bright gear made by the Burley Cooperative in Eugene on bikes that maybe we built ourselves ’cause there weren’t enough shops around.”

“Which was awesome, like 20 years ago,” Ferguson interjected, “But we don’t have to do that anymore.”

The BTA wants their membership to rise from its current level of 3,400 households to 10,000 households by 2021. Sadowsky feels, “The only way to get there is to go multimodal.”

He recalls that in Chicago, prior to the big name change, support for cycling seemed to reach a ceiling. “There are just only many people who are willing to write a check and say, ‘I’m a member and I’m willing to wear a bike tattoo on my arm. As biking got more successful people saw themselves as less in a club or needing to be in a club.”

It’s important to note that nothing has officially changed at the BTA yet. Today’s announcement will be followed by a series of listening sessions to gain feedback from members about how exactly the organization should be structured. There are a lot of unknowns at this point — including what the new name will be — but the BTA’s board has voted that the changes can move forward. Structural changes and a new name are expected to be in place by this fall.

Amid such major change and with many decisions still to come, Sadowsky is sure this is the right step to take. “I’m confident we’re right and that this transition is going to make a big shift for us. It’s going to make a big shift politically and that it’s going to increase our clout. When we’re proven right, you will see more things on the ground.”

We’ll have more on this story in the coming days and weeks. Stay tuned.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Big changes in store as BTA sets to launch new ‘Bike More Challenge’ in May

Big changes in store as BTA sets to launch new ‘Bike More Challenge’ in May

BTA staff promoting Bike Commute Challenge-2

A rainy day for the commute challenge in September 2014.
(Photos: J.Maus/BikePortland)

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s popular and friendly competition among Oregon and Southwest Washington workplaces is shifting to springtime and making some big changes.

It’s now called the “Bike More Challenge” and it starts next month instead of in September.

Other big changes for 2016: The BTA now invites participants to log all bike trips, not just work commutes; the entire contest runs on a new software platform, and you can get extra points for encouraging someone else to sign up.

“You can log your ride to the grocery store, your recreational ride, whatever,” BTA spokeswoman Sarah Newsum said Thursday. “Sometimes the bike commute is a big leap for some people, having to show up for work after biking.”

bike more challenge

The new website at

Moving to May also puts the newly renamed Bike More Challenge in line with National Bike Month, which in many cities includes an organized Bike to Work Week.

The change comes after 10 years of the BTA’s Bike Commute Challenge. Largely funded by regional government Metro, the annual Challenge is one of the most visible events of the year for the Portland-based statewide advocacy group. But it’s seen the number of participants slip 11 percent since 2011.

The new system, which scraps the BTA’s custom-built software in favor of a package provided by the New Zealand-based website, will make it much easier to log trips. If you already log bike trips with any of four apps — Strava, Moves, MapMyRide, and Endomondo — you can register your account with the site and they’ll be automatically entered into the database. (Unfortunately, the Portland-based Ride Report and RideWithGPS apps aren’t supported yet.)

Instead of ranking local workplaces by percentage of commutes, workplaces will be scored with an entirely new point system customized by the BTA:

point system

“You actually get a lot of points for encouraging new riders to join,” Newsum observed. “If I join and I’m like “Michael Andersen told me to join” — it prompts me to put your name in — you actually get points.”

That seems appropriate for a challenge intended to introduce more people to the basics of bike transportation. (I say this every year: the commute challenge is what got me to make the jump to bike commuting, back in 2011.)

Workplaces will continue to be broken out by size category: 500+ staff, 200-499 staff, 50-199 staff, 20-49 staff, 7-19 staff, and 3-6 staff.

BTA staff promoting Bike Commute Challenge-1

BTA staffers Sarah Newsum and Amanda Judkins
promote the 2014 Bike Commute Challenge.

The minimum organization size is now three people — though as always, individuals will be able to log trips even if their workplaces don’t have a team. And this year you’ll be able to log trips even if you don’t commute.

May in Portland tends to be rainier than September — the average May has 14 days with some rain, compared to seven days in the average September — but it also signifies the start of warm-weather season rather than the end of it.

“It’s nice to get people in the habit of biking going into the nicer weather,” Newsom said. “It’ll hopefully sort of solidify that habit a little bit more.”

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Metro proposal rejects Safe Routes to School, spends more on freight routes

Metro proposal rejects Safe Routes to School, spends more on freight routes

A Safe Routes to School event in 2010. The Metro regional government is proposing to start supporting the program in suburban schools, but not to increase funding for accompanying street improvements near those schools.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

A two-year campaign for regional funding of better biking and walking near schools, backed by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and other advocacy groups, is in tatters.

“We got left on the cutting room floor.”
— Gerik Kransky, Bicycle Transportation Alliance

Though the most recent federal transportation bill sent $16 million of new flexible money to regional government Metro, Bicycle Transportation Alliance Advocacy Director Gerik Kransky said a Metro proposal circulated last Friday would dedicate none of that to the “Safe Routes” infrastructure program proposed by the BTA.

The organization had organized 3,500 residents to send postcards and emails to Metro’s elected officials in its support.

Among many attempts to demonstrate support, the coalition organized and videoed an evening meeting in East Portland where one person after another testified in five languages that they feared to walk on the streets near their homes.

Metro’s proposal might even increase the amount of money going to freight-related projects. That’s even though five of Metro’s seven elected councilors told BikePortland earlier this month that they would probably not support slicing off more of this program for motor vehicle travel when the state and region already get hundreds of millions of dollars each year for that purpose.

“These are the only sort of flexible dollars that we have in the region,” Kransky said Wednesday. “This is the wrong place to go for those new freight projects.”


Current spending vastly favors highway widening and freight projects (black line) over biking and walking projects (green line).

At recent spending rates, the region’s active transportation network won’t be built until the year 2209. The region’s current road plans would be finished by 2057, and its mass transit plans by 2040.

Metro council could decide to veto proposal

The proposal circulated Friday could send up to $12.5 million of flexible dollars to freight projects, compared with $9.23 million if the current freight program were simply adjusted for inflation.


JPACT Chair Craig Dirksen.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

How could this happen even though every Metro councilor we spoke with a few weeks ago said they would almost certainly oppose dedicating a larger share of flexible money to freight?

In part, the answer is that the Metro council itself doesn’t have direct control over federal transportation spending. Instead that money is allocated by a 17-member Metro committee called JPACT, the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation, which is made up mostly of elected officials from local governments.

But the Metro council does have one bit of control over JPACT: it could vote to veto the JPACT decision and send it back for revision.

That almost never happens. Craig Dirksen, the Metro councilor who chairs JPACT (and casts the deciding vote there in the event of a tie) told us he’d be “very surprised” if the council were to override JPACT on this issue.

“The way we like to do business is we have conversations with one another and we come to consensus before we vote, so that everybody can be satisfied with what comes out of the discussion,” Dirksen said.

In other words, Metro — the only elected regional government in the country — strives to be a no-drama zone.

All the sitting Metro councilors, with the possible exception of President Tom Hughes, could be described as progressives on transportation issues. Four of the seven (Sam Chase, Carlotta Colette, Kathryn Harrington and Bob Stacey) tend to strongly support infrastructure that reduces the region’s auto dependence. But the agency’s culture of consensus (and the theoretical threat of a suburban revolt against the agency) means that officials who see ever-expanding auto infrastructure as essential to the regional economy have substantial influence, too.

The structure of JPACT also gives more influence to people who live in less populated areas. Multnomah County gets one JPACT vote for its 775,000 residents; Clackamas County gets one vote for its 395,000.

Metro vote set for April 21

rff chart

Under the proposal, new money (the red band above) would be split mostly between transit and freight projects.

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance, whose campaign for Safe Routes has been underwritten in part by the American Heart Association, does seem to have scored one much smaller victory: up to $2.1 million in new Metro support for Safe Routes programming in schools, enough to create walking and biking education and encouragement programs around the region like those the BTA currently provides in Portland schools.

Kransky said the BTA is glad to have that in the proposal, but described it as a small silver lining. The For Every Kid Coalition (led by the BTA along with Upstream Public Health, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, Oregon Walks, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, the Asian Pacific-American Network of Oregon and the Community Cycling Center) had asked Metro for $15 million for Safe Routes infrastructure.

“We got left on the cutting room floor,” he said.

There’s still a possibility that Metro could de-fund its other active transportation priorities in the coming years in order to guarantee projects near schools. And it could guarantee that its upcoming transit projects include lots of walking and biking projects that help people reach transit stations.

But neither of those options would meaningfully increase the amount being spent on walking or biking — even as the region considers tying up some of its scarce flexible funds so it can take out long-term loans that would increase the amount it spends on motor vehicles.

The JPACT vote is April 21. The For Every Kid Coalition is pushing a last-ditch effort on social media to block the proposed increase in freight funding.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Correction 1:40 pm: An earlier version of this post said $17.5 million in new flexible funds will be available from the federal government. It’s more like $16 million.

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