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Janette Sadik-Khan tours Portland with Congressman Earl Blumenauer (photos)

Janette Sadik-Khan tours Portland with Congressman Earl Blumenauer (photos)

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Earl Blumenauer and Janette Sadik-Khan in Portland yesterday.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Former New York City transportation chief Janette Sadik-Khan has made the most of her few days in Portland this week. She’s done two official events (a talk at the Mission Theater we reported on Wednesday and an event at Powell’s Books yesterday) and two unofficial events (a media training with Portland Bureau of Transportation and Metro staff and at least one happy hour gathering).

Then on Thursday morning Sadik-Khan and her “Streetfight” co-author Seth Solomonow joined U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer and a handful of local advocates and transportation experts for a tour of Portland.

I tagged along with my camera to eavesdrop on the conversations (when appropriate of course) and to chat with Sadik-Khan and Blumenauer a bit.

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At our first stop in Waterfront Park, Blumenauer told Sadik-Khan the story about how Harbor Drive once roared through the green grass where we stood (it was torn down in 1974) and how our region rallied to defeat the once-planned Mt. Hood Freeway. Sadik-Khan then heard of more modern activism with a summary of the “Better Naito” demonstration project from Ryan Hashagen of Better Block PDX.

Once Hashagen described how the project created a temporary protected lane for walking and biking and how it had widespread support from the City and others, Sadik-Khan’s immediately asked: “So. What’s the process moving forward?” (which I heard as, “Why the hell isn’t this permanent yet?!”). That question elicited a very awkward look from two Better Block volunteers who quickly turned their gaze to Timur Ender with PBOT Commissioner Steve Novick’s office. Ender said, “That [the future of Better Naito] is confidential,” and then described how the project will return this summer.

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Sadik-Khan is the rare figure who’s an inspiration to young engineers, agency staffers and activists — while also garnering serious respect from veteran elected officials.
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Timur Ender (red jacket), a transportation policy advisor for Commissioner Steve Novick, explains the SW 3rd Avenue bike lane project while Ryan Hashagen of Better Block PDX looks on. I should have asked Congressman Blumenauer to try his trucker hat on!
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Like two kids in a candy store.
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The streetcar, the bridge, the Tilikum itself: It was a very proud moment for Blumenauer to walk Sadik-Khan over the bridge. “It’s a symbol of 30 years of work,” he said.






Janette Sadik-Khan tours Portland-9.jpg

And for Sadik-Khan, finally walking over the Tilikum was like being a kid on Christmas morning.

As we made our way to the transit mall to catch a MAX train across the Tilikum Bridge, Sadik-Khan and Blumenauer walked together and almost never stopped talking. At the east end of the Tilikum Sadik-Khan seemed positively giddy to finally walk across America’s only major bridge to not provide access for private automobiles.

In South Waterfront Sadik-Khan met Dan Bower, the head of Portland Streetcar, and begged him to share insights that she could take to other places. She also met the proprietor of the Go By Bike bike valet near the Aerial Tram, Kiel Johnson.

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In South Waterfront, Blumenauer told Sadik-Khan about how this once industrial land is quickly turning into a hotspot for developers.
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One urban entrepreneur meets another. In many ways Sadik-Khan and Kiel Johnson of Go By Bike are very similar. They both think creatively about urban problems and have the moxie to implement innovative solutions to them.

Sadik-Khan and Blumenauer are deservedly hailed as major figures in the transportation reform world, and it turns out they have a wonderful rapport. There’s a very clear sense of mutual respect between them — at least that’s how it appears to me.

In Blumenauer, Sadik-Khan sees someone who represents a city that pioneered many of the urban design principles she so strongly believes in (in her book she writes about being influenced by Jane Jacobs). In Sadik-Khan, Blumenauer sees a dynamic force who has helped push many of his most beloved issues — cycling, transit and “livability” — into the forefront of our national transportation conversation. Blumenauer spoke effusively about Sadik-Khan’s impact and one point said in his typically earnest way, “Reading her book just makes me smile.”

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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A congressman’s college class that has changed Portland forever

A congressman’s college class that has changed Portland forever

Congressman and former Transportation Commissioner Earl Blumenauer, left, with alumni of the city-sponsored Traffic and Transportation class.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

The one-of-a-kind free transportation class funded by the Portland Bureau of Transportation is celebrating a quarter century of enlightened change.

When they finish, people who take the course become 29 percent more likely to get involved in their neighborhood association, 89 percent more likely to lead a campaign to make a transportation change and twice as likely to attend a city council meeting.

Created in 1991 by then-Transportation Commissioner Earl Blumenauer, the annual class costs the city $8,000 a year and has so far churned out 1,200 graduates of a 10-week evening course that introduces interested residents to the history, theory and victories of Portland transportation.

Several dozen of those graduates met Tuesday night at Ecliptic Brewing for a party hosted by Blumenauer, now a U.S. congressman, to honor the class and its founding instructor Rick Gustafson.

Gustafson, a friend of Blumenauer’s since they were high school classmates in Gresham, rose beside him through city politics and has served in many roles, including as a state legislator and the first elected executive of the Metro regional government.

Now a streetcar consultant, Gustafson continues to teach the course each fall and taps a contact list of prominent Portlanders to steep the class in the Portland story — and also offer advice on how to work the system for change.

Instructor Rick Gustafson, at right in purple.

For a final project, people who take the course are invited to deliver a detailed presentation about something they’d like to change in Portland’s transportation system. (And, crucially, city staffers are under standing orders to respond to their questions.)

When they finish, people who take the course become 29 percent more likely to get involved in their neighborhood association, 89 percent more likely to lead a campaign to make a transportation change and twice as likely to attend a city council meeting.

(Source: TREC at PSU)

That’s the finding of a 2015 study of the class by Portland State University scholar Nathan McNeil. His research was funded through the Transportation Research and Education Center at PSU.

The findings weren’t all rosy. McNeil’s survey of the class’s alumni — who, I should disclose, include me — clearly show that the course is used mostly by relatively privileged people. Homeowners and higher-income people were overrepresented among alumni who responded to McNeil’s survey; white people and educated people were greatly overrepresented. A grand total of zero alumni surveyed by McNeil identified as black.

Some (though not all) of that problem probably reflects the social networks of people who’ve learned about the course, which has never had much of a marketing budget. By far the most common way for people to learn about the course was word of mouth. The second most common way: a blog or listserv.





In an interview Tuesday, Blumenauer said he created the class basically as a defensive posture after being tapped to run the city’s public works department. He wanted a place to point the people who came to him with complaints.

“About 6.5 minutes after I got the appointment from [then-Mayor] Bud [Clark], people had figured out that I could do something about where a stop sign could go,” Blumenauer said. “It was clear that a lot of what they knew about transportation wasn’t true. So I had been obsessed with an opportunity for anyone to do a deep dive to understand these dynamics.”

In exchange for getting people to promise to take the new course, Blumenauer promised to visit the final class and hear the best ideas of its graduates. That’s a tradition that continues today; the city’s transportation director and commissioner typically send representatives to evaluate final presentations.

Over the last 25 years, dozens of those final projects have doubtless taken some sort of root around the city. You know the covered seating area in front of Mississippi Pizza? That happened because my 2010 classmate Rebecca Hamilton (then an activist, now a planner at Metro) spent months lobbying the restaurant’s owner to create the first of what became the city’s Street Seats program.

“I had high hopes, but it worked out better than I have ever hoped. … The thing I’m as proud of of anything I’ve done is this class.”
— Congressman Earl Blumenauer

Today it’s just one example of the class paying off for the city. Surely readers will know of others.

“I had high hopes, but it worked out better than I have ever hoped,” Blumeneauer said. “The thing I’m as proud of of anything I’ve done is this class.”

Despite the fact that that Congressman talks it up every chance he gets on his travels around the country, he’s not aware of any other city that has replicated it.

That might yet change. Part of McNeil’s project was to create a handbook for other cities that want to imitate the program.

In an email Tuesday, McNeil said he’s “working with TREC on identifying a few other cities to help implement the curriculum and get their own courses off the ground.”

And if you happen to live in Portland, it’s never too early to apply for a free seat in this year’s class.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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Rep. Blumenauer unveils ‘Bikeshare Transit Act’ to provide funding certainty

Rep. Blumenauer unveils ‘Bikeshare Transit Act’ to provide funding certainty

Blumenauer at the Summit-2

It’s transit, so let’s fund it as
such says Blumenauer.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Not wanting to be left out of massive bike news in his hometown, U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer has just released details on his latest legislative idea: the Bikeshare Transit Act. The legislation is meant to provide stability and “additional flexibility to use federal funds for bikeshare programs.”

Blumenauer wants to make it easier for bike share systems to operate past their initial start-up funding. In Portland’s case, we received a $2 million federal grant for bike share back in 2011. But that money was only enough to start planning. To actually put a system on the ground would take millions more — not to mention an annual operating and maintenance budget of $1.5 to $2 million. With cities under pressure to not spend any local money on bike share, that means they’ve had to hope and pray for big private sponsors. Portland spent years trying to court a suitor before inking their $10 million deal with Nike.

Blumenauer says this uncertainty is due to a lack of a federal funding source. He’s right. When TriMet wants to build a new MAX light rail line they can tap into the New Starts program run by the Federal Transit Administration. There are similar set-aside funding programs for highways, streetcar, aviation, and so on. But for bike share — which is something increasingly being considered a transit system — there’s nothing.

“The Bikeshare Transit Act clarifies that bikeshare projects are eligible for existing federal funding and defines bikeshare in federal transportation law,” said a Blumenauer statement released today. “Giving much-needed certainty to business owners, city and local officials, and commuters alike.”

Here’s more about the legislation from a one-pager released by Blumenauer’s office:


The Bikeshare Act

The Need for Legislation

America is in the middle of a bikeshare revolution: 13 new bikeshare systems launched in 2014 and 11 more launched in 2015, bringing the national total to approximately 80. More than 10 million people rode a bikeshare bicycle last year. Systems are opening in large metropolitan regions like Washington, DC and New York, as well as smaller communities like Dayton and Boise. The increased commercial investment around bikeshare stations and networks drive economic development in these communities.

Some of these existing bikeshare programs received federal monies to get off the ground, but the lack of an established funding source has proved an impediment to other projects across the country. Since the term “bikeshare” is not defined in U.S. code or described by law as a form of transit, bikeshare systems and transportation officials alike now operate in a gray area. Congress needs to act to clarify that bikeshare projects are eligible for federal funding, providing certainty to investors, business-owners, and commuters.

This legislation will eliminate this gray area by defining bikeshare in statute and making bikeshare systems eligible to receive funding to enhance related public transportation service or transit facilities. They will also be listed as an eligible project under the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program.

Additionally, the Bikeshare Transit Act will allow federal funding to be used for acquiring or replacing bikeshare related equipment and the construction of bikeshare facilities.

The Bikeshare Transit Act will remove significant barriers facing new bikeshare projects as well as those existing bikeshare programs applying for federal funding. This legislation underscores that bikeshare programs drive economic development and are an important part of America’s transportation system.

Blumenauer says he has bipartisan support for the legislation along with endorsements from the American Planning Association, American Public Health Association, The League of American Bicyclists, North American Bikeshare Association, PeopleForBikes, and Transportation for America.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org


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A congressman, ice-cream, fruitcake, and 1,000 bikes for kids

A congressman, ice-cream, fruitcake, and 1,000 bikes for kids

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Rep. Blumenauer at the Community Cycling Center this morning.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Looking to make his famous holiday fruitcake last even longer, Portland’s representative in the United States Congress, Earl Blumenauer, has issued a citywide challenge: He wants Portlanders to help provide 1,000 bikes for kids in the month of December.

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CCC employee Patrick Loftus trains volunteers
from Nike to build bikes.

Blumenauer spoke this morning in the crowded volunteer service area of the Community Cycling Center on Northeast Alberta Street. “This is a way to bring together two of my favorite things,” the congressman said, “bicycles and fruitcake.”

Last year Blumenauer took his first foray into ice cream advocacy when he teamed with Portland’s famous Salt & Straw ice cream shop to make a new flavor based on his fruitcake recipe. Blumenauer is known for his holiday fruitcake, which he delivers along with a personal note to friends and colleagues each year.

Now Blumenauer and Salt & Straw are back again to re-up their partnership. And this year they’ve added corporate heavyweight Nike into the mix.

Together this unlikely trio have issued a 1,000 bike challenge to Portland.

Starting this Friday (11/27) at all three Salt & Straw locations (NW 23rd, NE Alberta, and SE Division) you can add a new bike for a child in need to your ice cream order. Salt & Straw co-founder Kim Malek said that for every $50 donation made in one of their stores, the company will match it with another $50, providing two bikes for two kids. (Donations will also be accepted with orders made at SaltandStraw.com).

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Salt & Straw also sells ice cream at the sprawling Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton. For every gift-pack of ice cream purchased by Nike employees, the company will donate $25 to the Community Cycling Center. Salt & Straw will then match that with another $25 until Nike has donated a total of 100 bikes.

At this morning’s event, Nike Senior Director of Public Affairs Julia Brim-Edwards said her company sees this as a perfect partnership because of Nike’s commitment to getting kids more active. Nike is also donating volunteer time by having their employees assemble the donated bikes.

The Community Cycling Center usually raises enough money around the holidays to provide 400-450 bikes for kids — most of them given out during their big Holiday Bike Drive event that takes place early next month. If this challenge is met it would more than double the number of bikes they typically provide to kids.

A longtime supporter of the Community Cycling Center, Congressman Blumenauer kicked things off this morning by handing CCC CEO Mychal Tetteh a check for $500 — which will get 10 bikes refurbished and built up for kids who otherwise might not get one.

“Cycling is one of the definitions of our community,” Blumenauer said, “But we have a long way to go to make sure everyone can be part of it.”

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org


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Congressmen Blumenauer and Buchanan introduce $30 million ‘vision zero’ grant programs

Congressmen Blumenauer and Buchanan introduce $30 million ‘vision zero’ grant programs

Blumenauer at the Summit-2

Blumenauer at the 2014 National Bike Summit.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

On the same week that the nation’s bike advocates roll onto Capitol Hill for the National Bike Summit, U.S. House Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL) have introduced the Vision Zero Act of 2015 (H.R. 1274).

The bill would set aside grants worth $30 million for cities to plan and implement road safety projects.

In a statement, Blumenauer’s office said the bill is a recognition that “communities across the country are recognizing that there is only one number of acceptable deaths on our streets: zero.” The goal of the legislation is ambitious: “eliminating all transportation-related fatalities, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, motorists and passengers.”

Blumenauer and Buchanan are co-chairs of the Congressional Bike Caucus.

We rely on financial support from readers like you.

The Vision Zero Act creates two new US Department of Transportation grant programs. One sets aside $5 million a year for communities to develop Vision Zero plans, the other grant will award five communities a share of $25 million to implement their plans.

While this is federal legislation, Portland’s Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat is already showing her support. Treat, fresh off testifying in front of lawmakers in Salem yesterday for the first time in support of a speed camera bill, said in the official statement, “People of all ages and abilities deserve safe streets that support multimodal uses. We appreciate Congress’ support to help cities across the country develop and implement comprehensive safety programs that will not only save lives, but add to the resiliency of the urban environment.”

The Vision Zero Act is also supported by AAA. Their Federal Affairs Director Avery Ash said their studies show more than five in six drivers support state actions to work toward zero traffic deaths.

To learn more about H.R. 1247 and track its progress, visit Congress.gov.

The post Congressmen Blumenauer and Buchanan introduce $30 million ‘vision zero’ grant programs appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Congressmen Blumenauer and Buchanan introduce $30 million ‘vision zero’ grant programs

Congressmen Blumenauer and Buchanan introduce $30 million ‘vision zero’ grant programs

My ride with Earl Blumenauer-1.jpg

Blumenauer would like to be safer on the road.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

On the same week that the nation’s bike advocates roll onto Capitol Hill for the National Bike Summit, U.S. House Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL) have introduced the Vision Zero Act of 2015 (H.R. 1274).

The bill would set aside grants worth $30 million for cities to plan and implement road safety projects.

In a statement, Blumenauer’s office said the bill is a recognition that “communities across the country are recognizing that there is only one number of acceptable deaths on our streets: zero.” The goal of the legislation is ambitious: “eliminating all transportation-related fatalities, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, motorists and passengers.”

Blumenauer and Buchanan are co-chairs of the Congressional Bike Caucus.

We rely on financial support from readers like you.

The Vision Zero Act creates two new US Department of Transportation grant programs. One sets aside $5 million a year for communities to develop Vision Zero plans, the other grant will award five communities a share of $25 million to implement their plans.

While this is federal legislation, Portland’s Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat is already showing her support. Treat, fresh off testifying in front of lawmakers in Salem yesterday for the first time in support of a speed camera bill, said in the official statement, “People of all ages and abilities deserve safe streets that support multimodal uses. We appreciate Congress’ support to help cities across the country develop and implement comprehensive safety programs that will not only save lives, but add to the resiliency of the urban environment.”

The Vision Zero Act is also supported by AAA. Their Federal Affairs Director Avery Ash said their studies show more than five in six drivers support state actions to work toward zero traffic deaths.

To learn more about H.R. 1247 and track its progress, visit Congress.gov.

The post Congressmen Blumenauer and Buchanan introduce $30 million ‘vision zero’ grant programs appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Q&A: Earl Blumenauer is a little bit worried for the city he helped build

Q&A: Earl Blumenauer is a little bit worried for the city he helped build

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Congressman Earl Blumenauer: on the inside looking out — and hoping for a generation of advocates to pass the torch to.
(Photos: J.Maus and M.Andersen/BikePortland)

The biggest problem in Earl Blumenauer’s professional life will never be holding onto his job. There aren’t many safer gigs in the country.

Instead, Blumenauer’s challenge is how to make his job count. And one way he’s done so has nothing to do with Congress.

“The people who played a critical role are either moving on to other positions, or they’re pretending to be retired, or they’re gone.”
— Congressman Earl Blumenauer on turnover in Portland civic leadership

A liberal congressman from one of the country’s most liberal districts — most of Portland — this federal politician has found a unique role for himself at the local level. Elected to the state legislature in 1972 at age 24, the 66-year-old Lewis and Clark grad has built his career from Salem to City Hall to the U.S. Capitol. But back home, his most important function might be this: he’s one of the few people in Portland politics who commands near-universal respect.

Blumenauer is popular despite his lack of actual executive power, and also because of it. While poor City Commissioner Steve Novick is stuck in the middle of a ten-way negotiation over the tax brackets of the Portland Street Fund, Blumenauer has been free to spend years floating above the local fray — whether that means hosting the come-to-Jesus meeting between city and county politicians that finally funded the Sellwood Bridge and Tilikum Crossing or letting his deafening silence about the Columbia River Crossing contribute to the death of the project. It’s an enviable role. And a very, very useful one.

Blumenauer’s job here in town, in short, is to be a professional elder statesman.

That’s why we jumped at the a chance to talk to him for an hour. This is a lightly edited transcript of the wide-ranging conversation in which we learned:

  • He’s working as hard as he can to convince the city (not the city government, but the city) to turn the opening of Tilikum Crossing this September into a week-long festival for retelling the Portland story and getting Portlanders talking about their next big goal — whatever that will be.
  • He thinks the city should have a plan in its back pocket for what the inner eastside would look like without I-5, to be ready on the day a giant earthquake hits.
  • He’s very much aware of the stagnation of Portlanders’ biking and transit use, but his bigger worry runs deeper: he fears a stagnation in effective neighborhood activism.
  • A few weeks ago he smuggled Salt & Straw ice cream into the White House situation room.

It’s a long read to kick off a couple weeks of year-end reflections and big thoughts here on BikePortland. So grab a warm beverage and enjoy a few solid minutes with the godfather of Portland urbanism.

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Blumenauer opens the Interbike trade show in Las Vegas in 2010.

BikePortland: This interview came out of a conversation with your staffer Andrew Plambeck, who said you’ve been trying to make sure Tilikum Crossing becomes a hinge rather than a finish line. We thought that was interesting.

Earl Blumenauer: It’s, what, 272 days until the bridge opens? [Editor’s note: Woah. It was 271.] When we cut the ribbon, move light rail to Milwaukie, close the streetcar loop, have buses, bikes, and pedestrians on that bridge, it will be the first time in over half a century that there is no federal project in the pipeline. No road, no bridge, no streetcar, no rail. And I don’t know that that’s fully set in with people. So I’ve made it kind of a personal mission in recent months to have people pay attention to that.

What about this bridge project is so important?

I have been spending a lot of time reflecting on some of the things I was involved with when I was commissioner of public works. Jumpstarting a pretty aggressive cycling program. The Central City Plan, which was my first major assignment when I got on the council. That was a 20-year plan that probably should have lasted 10 years. Well, it’s still pretty much intact now.

Most of the people who are here now are either new or have no memory of what happened since the early 70s: the killing of the Mount Hood Freeway, the passing of Senate Bill 100, and very dramatic activity here over the next two decades. I’m not certain how deep the awareness and the appreciation is.

Who’s our champion today? In my recognition, we always had a group and/or a person.

Usually both.

Yeah, usually takes both. I wonder who that is now for really quality bikeways or a network. I haven’t seen anyone step forth, either on Metro, the city or the state legislature. Do you think that’s a problem?

(Pauses.) My objective is to be everybody’s friend, where appropriate to provide some perspective. And I’m very interested in the conversations on the transition. Just as it’s the end of an era in terms of that federal-state-regional partnership, there are all of these institutions are in transition. The people who played a critical role are either moving on to other positions, or they’re pretending to be retired, or they’re gone.

And there are some extraordinarily talented and passionate people who are drawn to Portland or who stay here because of what’s happened. But they may not have a position in business, government, whatever. Another exciting aspect here is to make sure that the people who have become Portlanders by choice, in part because of the quality of life and what’s happened in the last 30 or 40 years, need to be integrated into who we are now and where we’re going.

This upcoming transition that you mentioned — does it provide the community with an opportunity to do things differently?

That remains to be seen. In terms of planning, it seems to me the city in the main has done a pretty good job. But there are issues of resources top to bottom. It’s a failure at the federal level that I’ve been spending a lot of time beating the drum and trying to change. We have not had a six-year comprehensive [federal transporation bill] reauthorization since 1997. Absent some leadership from this next legislature, or vote of the people or both, virtually all the state resources will go toward keeping what we have. Metro is essentially entirely dependent on a trickle of federal pass-through money.

The good news is that over the course of the last quarter-century, we’ve really turned the corner. Many of the development patterns and the revitalization, particularly downtown and in inner-city neighborhoods, are heavily dependent on the success of cycling. It’s also been more significant than I think has been generally understood — that enhancing and integrating this cycling experience is part of what’s added to the vitality and the cachet of Portland. I hear it repeatedly as I go to local businesses.

What we find around the country is that when you are looking at bigger-picture, next-step transitions, they don’t work unless they’re inclusive.

Milano apartments grand opening-1

On that note: I look around the region — Southwest Corridor, Powell-Division — what Metro is looking to build is a lot like what we have been building. I’m struck by the fact that they approach transit projects as a default, both in their language and their process. I’m wondering if we’re not at the point where we can approach these things, maybe not as bike projects, but as multimodal projects.

There are all sorts of reasons we do things the way we do. Part of it is habit. Part of it is who we’ve got. We’ve not fully thought through how we’re able to have people feel they’re a part of the process to avoid a debacle like the Columbia River Crossing — which was never as good or as bad as people thought, but there was no vision. There was no buy-in, and it just kind of went along.

At this point, Congressman Blumenauer rose and offered both of us small cups of his personally branded Salt & Straw fruitcake ice cream. It’s pretty good.

We actually smuggled some of it into White House sitation rooms for a briefing on Iran. They check us for guns but not for ice cream.

What happens to a city that stops telling stories about itself?

For a lot of this year we’ve been writing about the idea of biking stagnation in Portland. Bikeway miles are flat. The number of riders are flat. Politics in city hall right now aren’t really great. There’s not a champion. There’s not a real vision. Do you think the word “stagnation” is fair?

Well, over the last 25 years we had a lot of momentum. You could argue that in some cases it was difficult to keep that trajectory going. We’ve had a very difficult six years in terms of infrastructure development and finance, here and nationally. But it is a challenge generally. Nationally there’s been great stuff that’s been happening with cycling in city after city, but the overall performance (here) hasn’t been on an upward trajectory. And it’s something we need to be clear-eyed about, not kid ourselves.

For some of us, the environment has improved. For my daily patterns in Washington and in Portland, it works really well. But not so much for the daily patterns of other people.

Why not?

We’ve been radiating [infrastructure] out from the center, but that has been somewhat situational. Some of the questions you’re hearing of late are about our north-south movement in the central city. Loss of auto parking gets some people’s backs up.

I’m hopeful that we’re going to continue on the development of the civic infrastructure. It was what prompted me to start the transportation class at Portland State in the first place.

Blumenauer fundraiser ride-shindig-1

Blumenauer at a political fundraiser in 2009.

Take Grand Avenue. Why do you think a cycle track wasn’t put in when the streetcar was?

It was not simple to get the streetcar there. People have huge investments in the road as it is. I think the people who are advocates, visionaries, need to be assessing where they’re going to have the most impact. I’ve long felt having another crossing — 7th street or something — would dramatically change the equation here in this general swath of land.

Back when I was in city council, I had proposed that one of the fallback provisions was not to move the freeway — which I thought we couldn’t afford — but the day when we could remove the freeway. I still think that if the big one comes and all of this liquifies and we have a vast landscape to reassess, alternative patterns in the central city may provide as much or more movement at less cost.

Part of what’s slowed the movement here is that it’s created a backlash. Not just here — it’s in other parts of the country. People have been able to play on some people’s concerns that they’re being left out. That they’re not being involved in the planning process. That their needs aren’t being addressed. And that’s fatal. Because it’s very easy in this country to stop something.

How do we fight the backlash?

The things we’ve been talking about. I want people to really appreciate where we are and how we got here, think about where we’re going and to recognize that we are all in this together. Which is why I want a signature event for everybody to be able to appreciate what it means. My personal goal is that it’s not a day, but it’s a weeklong celebration.

Blumenauer and LaHood meeting-4

Blumenauer with then-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in 2012.

What about the need for local political champions?

“The last era had far more champions and key participants than is recognized. There are 300 or 400 all-stars that were there in the neighborhoods.”
— Blumenauer on 1970s activism

The last era [the 1970s] had far more champions and key participants than is recognized. Somebody will talk about a governor or mayor or whatever. All of these were part of an effort in this community for people to take back the city from Robert Moses. Whether it was the League of Women Voters coming in as a lonely voice to the City Council or whether it was early bike advocates or trolley jollies — I would venture there are 300 or 400 all-stars that were there in the neighborhoods.

This is as big a concern as any that I have: We may not have the breadth of the citizen engagement. Is it Bowling Alone? Are we too quick to be on blogs that reinforce our biases? There are a lot of people who have the luxury of celebrating success. I see people in coffee shops all over the city after their weekend ride or people at those vinyards that were going to be plowed under. We were going to have farmettes and subdivisions! They’re wine country now!

[The amount of civic engagement] is different. And I’m doing a lot of processing on that — just understanding what happened and how we can help. The broader the conversation, I think the better off we’re going to be.

Qs & As edited.

The post Q&A: Earl Blumenauer is a little bit worried for the city he helped build appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Congressman’s fruitcake ice cream will help buy gift bikes for Portland kids

Congressman’s fruitcake ice cream will help buy gift bikes for Portland kids

This is definitely our favorite ice cream charity partnership ever.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer, the former Portland transportation commissioner who now chairs the Congressional Bike Caucus, has teamed up with booming Portland ice cream shop Salt & Straw to translate his personal fruitcake recipe into a seasonal ice cream flavor and donate the profits to the Community Cycling Center’s holiday bike drive.

As you can see in the video above, this started when Blumenauer (who has made holiday fruitcake for friends and acquaintances for years, based on a recipe he found in — this might be my favorite part — the New York Times Magazine) happened to deliver a loaf to Salt & Straw’s owners last holiday season.

One thing led to another.

“Oh, it’s great,” Community Cycling Center CEO Mychal Tetteh said Wednesday. “You find that there’s some relatively rectangular piece of fruitcake in there, and you’re like, ‘Oh gosh.’ But it’s actually really good because it’s actually preserved fruitcake within this small-batch ice cream. I’ve never had anything like it.”

He said his taste had been affirmed on Tuesday when a four-year-old sampled it at a tasting event and gave her approval.

“You know she’s not gonna lie,” Tetteh said.

The seasonal flavor goes on sale this weekend.

If you, like us, are fans both of Salt & Straw and of the CCC’s work to help everyone enjoy bikes, you can support them directly via Willamette Week’s GiveGuide.

Give at least $10 on Dec. 11, and you’ll even be entered in a drawing to win a Salt & Straw ice cream party (and presumably any flavors you’d like).

The post Congressman’s fruitcake ice cream will help buy gift bikes for Portland kids appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Blumenauer will ride to celebrate new path along Marine Drive

Blumenauer will ride to celebrate new path along Marine Drive

Section of new path in Blue Lake Park adjacent to Marine Drive.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Congressman Earl Blumenauer will be in town next week to celebrate the opening of a new bicycling path along Marine Drive. The path curves for about one-half a mile through Metro’s Blue Lake Regional Park. Blumenauer will be joined at the event by Metro Councilor Shirley Craddick on April 22nd (which is also, not coincidentally, Earth Day).

I’ve ridden the new path several times in the past few months en route to Troutdale (and points beyond) and I can say it’s quite nice. Not only is it smooth and scenic, it’s an oasis from the high-stress riding alongside fast auto traffic on NE Marine Drive. My photo at right is from January, but these days the path is even nicer as it winds through a grove of cherry blossoms and a carpet of gorgeously green grass.

Here’s more about the path:

At the junction of the Gresham-Fairview and Marine Drive trails, the new half-mile path takes pedestrians and bicyclists through a scenic portion of the park. The Blue Lake trail eventually will connect with sections of the 40-Mile Loop being developed by the cities of Fairview, Gresham and Portland and the Port of Portland…

When it’s done, the 40-Mile Loop will stretch from Kelley Point Park at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers to the Pacific Crest Trail in Cascade Locks – putting Oregon on the map with one of the nation’s premier trail.

This path is one of just several sections of the Marine Drive Bike Path that will allow you to ride east-west along the Columbia River without riding right next to fast-moving cars and trucks. It’s a real gem of a path network, but unfortunately it’s not fully completed yet. Hopefully getting Rep. Blumenauer out to see it first hand will spark his interest in taking the Marine Drive Path from good to great.

— Learn more about next Tuesday’s event here.

Biking continues to have bipartisan appeal, baffling D.C. media

Biking continues to have bipartisan appeal, baffling D.C. media

Blumenauer opens Interbike-1

Republicans disagree with Rep. Earl Blumenauer on
plenty, but can find common ground with him on bikes.
(Photo by J.Maus/BikePortland)

Last week we wrote that “biking and walking safety should be a bipartisan issue.” Today we got a reminder that it still is — and just how rare such issues are recently.

On the same day the Senate recut its rules to fit the current slash-and-burn politics of Washington, Politico published a profile of U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland), puzzling over how one of the House’s most liberal members got two Republicans to cosponsor his bill to ensure that bike safety is officially one of the ways to measure a federal road project’s success.

The bespectacled Democrat, known for wearing colorful bike pins and bringing fruitcake to reporters over the holiday season, joked that he’s a big fan of “bike-partisanship.”

“Life’s too short, and I think infrastructure is a natural bipartisan platform,” he said.

Blumenauer is one of the more active members during House votes, one of his aides said. Even though votes are pretty much the only time all House members gather in the same room, many lawmakers spend the time checking their phones or chatting casually with colleagues. But not Blumenauer — he talks up issues and legislation with fellow members.

[U.S. Rep. Howard] Coble [R-NC], who announced recently amid health problems that he won’t run for reelection next year, admitted he’s only “vaguely familiar” with Blumenauer’s bill.

So why is he a co-sponsor?

His reason points to just how much personal relationships matter on the Hill and the lasting power of transportation’s bipartisan tradition: “I’m really not that familiar with the bill. I just signed on because Earl asked me to, told me he was promoting it,” Coble said.

The North Carolina lawmaker, at 82 years old, said he “wouldn’t think about riding a bike to work in a rural area like my district, much less up here” in Washington.

It’s great that Bluemenauer has used 16 years in Washington to build strong and useful relationships. But from 2,500 miles outside the Beltway, we wonder if it’s actually as strange or remarkable as Politico seems to think that an 82-year-old who doesn’t ride a bike himself might trust an expert like Blumenauer on the details of bike policy, or that he might want to ensure that federal road projects consider people on bikes and foot.

In most of the rest of the country, we suspect that designing safer roads just sounds like good American horse sense.