Wonk Night

Wonk Night is a special event hosted by BikePortland and Lancaster Engineering. We gather Portland’s smartest transportation thinkers — engineers, consultants, planners, bureaucrats, elected officials, activists, and so on — to help us delve deep in to the hot topics of the day. The conversations are informal and illuminating.


    July 23rd – Portland’s Advocacy Ecosystem
    6:00 pm at Lancaster Engineering (321 SW 4th Ave, 4th Floor)

Read recaps and browse photos of past events below…

Wonk Night recap: Calls for a coalition and more cooperation

Friday, July 24th, 2015

(Photo: Armando Luna)

Special thanks to Lancaster Engineering for hosting and to Omission Beer for donating drinks.

You know that point in a relationship when something starts feeling a bit off and you’re like, “Baby, we need to talk.” That’s how I’ve been feeling about the bike advocacy scene here in Portland. And that’s why I figured it was time to get some people together to hash a few things out.

We didn’t solve everything at Wonk Night last night and I’m sure people left with more questions than answers; but it was a great conversation and I think we’re all better off because of it. (more…)

Wonk Night is back: Join us Thursday 7/23 to talk about activism in Portland

Thursday, July 16th, 2015
Wonk Night - Romp in the Comp Plan-3
A scene from our last Wonk Night in October 2014.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Bicycling and safe streets activism in Portland is in a strange place these days. It seems to be simultaneously at its best and at its worst.

While there’s lots of action at the grassroots and independent activists make headlines almost weekly, more established groups are, in my opinion, struggling to find their place. The rise of social media has led to a disintermediation in the advocacy landscape that on one hand is empowering; but on the other often leads to many scattered voices that aren’t singing in tune — or in most cases, aren’t even reading from the same sheet of music.

Our advocacy ecosystem is full of life; but could it be healthier?

Let’s talk about this at a Wonk Night next Thursday (July 23rd), 6:00 pm, at 321 SW 4th Ave (4th Floor) in downtown Portland. Once again, we’ve partnered with our friends at Lancaster Engineering to host this event. (more…)

Romping in the Comp Plan: A Wonk Night recap

Thursday, October 16th, 2014
Wonk Night - Romp in the Comp Plan-7
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland’s proclivity for planning and process can make activism on certain topics daunting. The city’s Comprehensive Plan is one such topic: it’s as large and complicated as it is important. So, when our friends at Lancaster Engineering and Bike Walk Vote wanted to make it the theme of a Wonk Night, we jumped at the chance to get involved.

Join us for Wonk Night October 15th: Romp in the Comp Plan

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014
Wonk Night -4
Wonk Night is where people and policy mix.

We’re excited to announce our next Wonk Night.

On Wednesday, October 15th (one week from today) we’ll take a Romp in the Comp Plan. The City of Portland is updating our Comprehensive Plan and the time is now to make sure they hear your feedback. A draft plan has been released and the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability needs to hear your comments before the plan is officially adopted by City Council early next year.

The Comp Plan is big; and it’s a big deal. It guides Portland’s land-use and infrastructure decisions. It includes a list of specific infrastructure projects, sets long-term goals and aspirations, and the all-important Transportation System Plan is folded directly into it.

Here’s how the plan sits in relation to local, regional, and statewide transportation policy documents: (more…)

Wonk Night kickstarts effort to reform Portland’s bike parking code

Thursday, October 31st, 2013
Bike Parking Wonk Night-7
An unprecedented gathering of bike parking
brain-power met at Lancaster Engineering
Tuesday night.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Staple racks at the grocery store blocked by piles of pumpkins; events with 800 people and zero additional bike parking; apartment buildings with dozens of wall hooks that are difficult and awkward to use for many people…

Portland is full of bike parking problems. Fortunately, most of them are solvable.

On Tuesday night, Jonathan and I joined the bike coordinators for Oregon’s two largest-employment universities, three representatives of bike parking equipment companies, two city employees, three architects, a team of engineers, the operator of the largest bike valet in North America and 25 other wonky Portland citizens for drinks and sandwiches to start talking about the solutions. (more…)

What you missed at Wonk Night

Friday, February 1st, 2013
Good turnout and good conversation.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Last night our friends at Lancaster Engineering and I were honored to host another Wonk Night. A few dozen of Portland’s smartest transportation thinkers showed up for some in-depth and wide-ranging discussions about policy, politics, and projects (and yes, some of them might have just been there for the free beer and snacks).

We had several staffers from the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), lots of professionals who work in the transportation field, several planning/engineering students, and a smattering of citizen activists. It was a great mix!

We’re still finding our way with Wonk Night; but I feel like something special is beginning to emerge from these last two events. The level of candor and detail we’re able to get to is something you just don’t hear anywhere else. At things like advisory committee meetings or open houses; the engineers, consultants, bureaucrats, and advocates always have a filter on. As a member of the public, it’s hard to get beneath that filter to the really good stuff. At Wonk Night, I try to facilitate open, candid discussions, while still making everyone feel supported and respected. Based on what was shared last night, I think it’s sort of working. (more…)

Join us for Wonk Night this Thursday!

Monday, January 28th, 2013
Wonk Night -6
Come, talk, snack, learn.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Wonk Night is back and you won’t want to miss it. Join us this Thursday (1/31) in the offices of Lancaster Engineering (adjacent to BikePortland HQ) for a night of networking, beer, snacks, and rousing transportation discussions.

Last month we hosted a spirited conversation with some of Portland’s smartest transportation thinkers. Faces in the crowd included a Metro councilor, high-level PBOT and ODOT staff, citizen activists, planning students, professional transportation engineers, and more. We talked about the NACTO Designing Cities conference, how level of service (LOS) and performance measures impact local street projects, Portland’s perennial paradox of right-hook collisions, and more.

What you missed at Wonk Night

Thursday, December 6th, 2012
Wonk Night -7
PBOT staffer Peter Koonce (L) and Metro
Councilor-elect Bob Stacey at Wonk Night.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Last night a solid crowd (about 37 people) showed up for our Wonk Night here on the 4th floor of the Title & Trust Building in downtown Portland. We met in the spacious lobby of Lancaster Engineering (which happens to be adjacent to my office) and enjoyed snacks, drinks, and hearty discussions.

The folks that showed up made just the right mix of officials, planning students, engineers, and citizen activists. Faces in the crowd included: Metro Councilor-elect Bob Stacey; ODOT Region 1 Active Transportation Liaison Jessica Horning; ODOT Region 1 Grant Manager Lidwien Rahman; PBOT Signals, Streetlights, and ITS Division Manager Peter Koonce; Oregon bike tourism advocate and bike journalist Russ Roca; Active Right of Way volunteer and northeast Portland neighborhood activist Ted Beuhler; animation expert Spencer Boomhower; bike advocate John Beaston; Portland Pedicabs owner Ryan Hashagen, and many others.

After giving everyone ample time to chat and meet each other, I shared some thoughts about my recent trip to New York City. I had also laid out some of the materials I picked up at the NACTO Designing Cities conference (which, for this wonky crowd, proved to be quite popular).

Join us for Wonk Night on December 5th: NACTO, NYC, LOS, and more

Monday, November 26th, 2012
Get Together in Multnomah Village-6
Let’s talk about bikes!

If that headline made any sense to you at all, you should join us next week for Wonk Night. On Wednesday, December 5th, BikePortland (that’s me) and Lancaster Engineering (the nice, smart folks I sublease my office from) are hosting an event where we’ll discuss lots of fun and interesting topics.

The night’s agenda will include:

  • A recap and sharing of my recent trip to New York City. While Sandy dominated much of my coverage, I also learned a lot at the NACTO Designing Cities conference that preceded it. I’ll share a bit more about both of those things as well as answer any questions you’ve got about biking in the Big Apple.
  • As reported back in July, Portland is in the midst of finally changing their level of service (LOS)/performance standards. The new standards will go beyond motor vehicles and Lancaster’s Todd Mobley thinks it should be on everyone’s radar screen. Lancaster put in a bid to to work on the project, and even though they weren’t ultimately selected, they appreciate what a big deal this is.
  • (more…)

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