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It's no joke: Portland Business Alliance honors bike advocates

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on April 29th, 2010 at 3:59 pm

At their Annual Meeting at the Oregon Center Ball Room on Tuesday morning, the Portland Business Alliance gave a special award of recognition to some unlikely members. The PBA -- long a thorn in the side of city bike planners (and others) for their positions on bike projects -- gave their Transportation Award to two of the city's most high-profile bike advocates; former City of Portland bike coordinator and now CEO of Alta Planning Mia Birk, and owner of The Bike Gallery stores, Jay Graves. David Knowles of CH2M Hill, chair of the PBA's Transportation Committee, received the award along with them.

"At first, I was puzzled, even amused. PBA is giving us an award? Surely this is a joke..."
-- Mia Birk, author, advocate, and CEO of Alta Planning

Nearly 1,000 of the region's business luminaries, including Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, were present to see the PBA honor the trio for their work on the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030. Birk says she sees this award as a sign that the PBA is finally coming around in their support of biking.

Given a past marked with disagreements and battles with the PBA over a variety of bike projects, Birk says she was caught off guard when she first realized she and Graves would be honored. In an email to friends to break the news, Birk wrote, "At first, I was puzzled, even amused. PBA is giving us an award? Surely this is a joke..."

But Birk quickly changed her tone the night of the dinner. As she walked on stage to receive the award, Birk says she came to the realization that perhaps her and her fellow award winners' many hours in PBA Transportation Committee meetings extolling the virtues of biking were finally beginning to pay off:

"The PBA truly appreciates what we – all of us - are doing to create a more sustainable city. Jay, David, and I put in a ton of time at meetings and countless behind-the-scenes conversations that led, ultimately and after much consternation, to a positive PBA stance [on the 2030 Bike Plan]. And it was all worth it. The business community is evolving to a place where it celebrates bicycle transportation."

Birk says she's grateful for the PBA's "vote of support," but acknowledges the organization's evolution to being a full partner for adding bikes into our transportation mix still has a long way to go.

In fact, it's a stretch to say that the PBA supported the 2030 Bike Plan. In their six-page statement on the plan, PBA President Sanda McDonough said they support it's "overall goals" but the tone was measured and lukewarm in terms of supporting bicycling. Among a list of concerns were calls for people who ride bikes "to share some of the burden of paying for the infrastructure they use."

There is indeed a long way to go before the PBA is a full and productive partner to people working to promote bike use in this city. But, with the kind of weight the PBA can throw around City Hall, there's good reason to celebrate these baby steps.

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Comments
  • Marcus Griffith April 29, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Does the "cyclist don't pay their fair share of infrastructure" argument ever get a break? Most, if not all, of the available research suggest that motor-vehicles are the most subsidized form of transportation.

    But, hey, at least the PBA is not lumping every cyclist into the homeless-on-a-bike category. Progress is progress...

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  • AaronF April 29, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    Wow, I bet that is a tough room to make friends in!

    Way to go and thank you your hard work and advocacy Mia and Jay!

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  • joe adamski April 30, 2010 at 8:25 am

    Perhaps PBA is seeing logic in the arguement that a dollar not spent on gasoline is a dollar that has a better chance staying in the local economy, supporting local businesses?
    The BMP looks to make cycling and walking the 'logical choice' for trips under 4 miles. Providing a safe place to ride will encourage many business opportunities that won't support that car trip to the mall. Employees will have the benefits of saving money and fitness. The passage of the Bike Master Plan is the first step in some mighty big changes coming to Portland. Apparently the PBA has crunched the numbers and looked at the tea leaves, and likes what it sees.
    So do I. Congratulations to Mia, David and Jay. And PBOT. And every engaged citizen who listened and considered, and put their voice forward, to shape the BMP into the plan to bring Portland out of the fossil age.

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  • janet D April 30, 2010 at 11:11 am

    why does the PBA hate customers? Or do they just hate bike customers? My credit card has an equally high limit if I get to the mall by bike or by car.

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