Posted by Michael Andersen (News Editor) on December 13th, 2013 at 10:15 am
stop sign as TriMet GM Neil McFarlane looks on.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)
One of Portland’s most successful transportation activists was cheered into retirement Wednesday after 13 years in which he led Swan Island’s transformation into the city’s least car-dependent industrial park.
Lenny Anderson, 67, dropped out of a Ph.D program in the 1970s to work as a folk singer and printing press operator. He later co-founded two newspapers, including a defunct print quarterly for TriMet riders, before carving out a job for himself as the one-man Swan Island Transportation Management Association. In that role he become a tireless advocate for encouraging Swan Island’s 10,000 employees to get to work by bike, bus, or shuttle — anything other than in their cars.
About 100 people, including City of Portland Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick and TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane, showed up for a surprise party (organized by his successor Sarah Angell) on Swan Island Wednesday night. They came to recognize Anderson’s work, which included dramatic biking and walking improvements on Swan Island and the almost single-handed creation of the number 85 bus line. (We covered more of Lenny’s career when he announced his retirement back in October.)
To commemorate the creation of that line, an effort that got Anderson the nickname “number 85″, McFarlane presented him with a metal “85″ bus stop flag. And in fulfilling a dream for the lifelong activist, Commissioner Novick presented Anderson with a seat on the Portland Streetcar Citizens Advisory Committee.
Scott Mizee, an architect who lives in the University Park neighborhood just above Swan Island, said Anderson and his co-conspirator Francie Royce drafted him into activism on behalf of the North Portland Greenway by taking him on a bike ride through the industrial area.
“He’s the first person that I met that said, ‘Hey, we need people like you who are interested in making a difference,’” Mizee said.
Thanks to work from Anderson, Royce, Mizee and others, the long-planned Greenway passed several milestones this year and seems tantalizingly close to a deal that could close its biggest missing link: the Union Pacific rail yard just south of Swan Island.