The Portland Office of Transportation Options is in high gear. They’re in the midst of the Northeast Hub Project, a comprehensive program that aims to encourage walking and biking in Northeast Portland.
Yesterday I gained clearance to the top-secret Hub headquarters to check out the operation.
Transportation Options are the folks behind many of the innovative and fun outreach programs in Portland. They do things like the Summer Cycle ride series, the Women on Bikes program, and they give away tons of free bike maps and other goodies at community events throughout the year.
Their current project is aimed at the lucky residents of Northeast Portland. The goal is to reduce short car trips within the target area by making it easy and appealing to shop and get around by bike and on foot.
The program began with a newsletter that was followed up by an order form where residents can choose any number of free gifts (including a cycle computer, umbrella, pedometer, etc…) and either a walking kit, a water conservation kit, or a bike kit.
The bike kit includes all sorts of great information and resources. Most exciting among them is a coupon book which includes deals from neighborhood businesses if you show up by bike. Also included in the approximately 5,000 bike kits they plan on delivering is one of my stickers, “If you were riding, you’d be happy by now.” I’ve already heard from one person who got one and put it on their kegerator. I’m so proud.
The best thing about the program is that all the kits are hand-delivered by bike by a trio of kind and capable cyclists; Elly, Kirsty and Bethany (see photo). You couldn’t ask for a harder working and more enthusiastic crew of ladies to do this job. Each day they wade through stacks of completed order forms, enter them into a database, fill up their trailers with freebies and information, the go forth to spread the good word.
According to Kirsty, the bike delivery leaves quite an impression on people: “People are surprised to realize that you can do things on your bike besides riding for fun. It shows them you can actually do things on a bike,” (this comes from someone who recently moved by bike!). Elly added that, “they’re shocked when they see our helmets on.”
But the Northeast Hub is about more than just freebies and handouts. In tandem with the program the City also offers, “Smart Living Classes”. These are held at a local school and include classes on bike commuting, bike touring, and shopping by bike. Very cool.
Heading up the effort is Linda Ginenthal. You might remember Linda from this AP story on her last year that was beamed across the country. She’s the unassuming visionary who blends her passion for promoting appropriate transportation choices with her program and people management skills. In other words, she’s a nice person who gets things done.
Linda and the Options team realize that the best way to get more people out of their cars for short trips is to make it easy and fun (and bribe them with free gifts). When I first moved to Portland two years ago I was a part of a similar project. I remember being amazed at how much the City cared about my transportation choices. It was empowering and inspiring and left an impression I still carry with me today.
Eventually the Options crew will target every part of the Portland metro area. So next time you get a knock on your door by a smiling bike delivery person, thank them, enjoy your freebies, and consider leaving the car at home on your next short trip.