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Father of 'Safe Routes', Congressman Jim Oberstar, visits a local school

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on September 9th, 2010 at 11:35 am

Congressman Jim Oberstar clowns around with kids from Beach Elementary School in the Overlook neighborhood of north Portland.
- Gallery/Slideshow below -
(Photos © J. Maus)

Congressman Jim Oberstar (D-MN), the man whose vision back in 1998 led to the national Safe Routes to Schools program, paid a visit to Beach Elementary School yesterday. Oberstar is a 35-year member of Congress who represents northeastern Minnesota. After seeding several pilot programs in 1998, he helped pass federal legislation for Safe Routes to School to the tune of over $600 million. Today, over 7,000 schools in America benefit from that program. Oberstar is also Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and he will play a key role in shaping the country's next transportation bill.

Rep. Jim Oberstar visits Beach Elementary School -7
Oberstar chats with school parent Laurie Paulsen.

Oberstar was in town as part of a tour of the Pacific Northwest to view stimulus-funded projects, push for job creation through infrastructure spending, and drum up support for the reauthorization of the transportation bill. After a press conference near the Broadway Bridge, Oberstar accompanied Mayor Sam Adams to north Portland where they met with parents, kids, and administrators at Beach Elemenary School.

Beach has undergone quite a transformation in recent years, going from a school that banned biking, to one that now embraces it perhaps more strongly than any other school in Portland (I'll have a separate post about what they're up to, along with a short interview with their principal Tom Breuckman, later today).

The informal event yesterday afternoon was an opportunity for Oberstar to see the fruits of his vision and for parent volunteers to get some recognition for the amazing work they've done to encourage walking and biking.

Rep. Jim Oberstar visits Beach Elementary School -17
Rep. Jim Oberstar visits Beach Elementary School -9

After a few remarks from Oberstar in the hallway, he chatted with parents and PTA members and made his way out to the newly installed bike racks. There was a gold-painted bike that's a trophy for a bike train competition and Oberstar hopped on it, much to the delight of all the kids.

Also in attendance yesterday were Portland Police Officer (and BTA Alice Award winner) Robert Pickett and his partner Jake Jensen, as well as Greg Raisman, a traffic safety specialist from the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation.

Stay tuned for a more in-depth look at all the things Beach Elementary and PBOT have done to encourage bicycling. It's an amazing story that has been made even better by having a visit from the man who started it all.

More photos in the slideshow below

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Comments
  • matt picio September 9, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I don't think it can be overemphasized how much Congressman Oberstar has done for Active Transportation in this country. And it was great to see him bike in Cycle Oregon in 2007 during its 20th year, and pumping up 2,000' climbs with the rest of the group. He was a very inspirational speaker that year during one of the evening sessions.

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  • elaine September 9, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    I think John Canzano can learn a thing or two from Congressman Oberstar.

    Safe Routes and the BTA have been supportive of my Walk/Bike to School Days that I organize. I hope my school one day has the same participation as Beech Elem., as well as the infrastructure to support our students walking and biking to school.

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  • Scott Mizee September 9, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Great article. I love seeing all of the positive changes that have been happening at Beach School! It seems like a perfect site for Congressman Oberstar to visit.

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  • jim September 9, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    keep an eye on how your kids are riding. there have been 2 accidents in the last 2 days,a cyclist and a bus in beaverton and something else in aloha. kids don't have good judgement and lack experiance.

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  • Julie Rogers September 11, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    What is really great about Beach School? The power of a small group of parents who choose to invest time and thought into THEIR neighborhood school. These parents understand the power of community and the importance of neighborhoods to all our children. Kudos to them.

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