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At Portland rally, Kulongoski encourages Oregonians to walk, bike to work tomorrow

Posted by on April 21st, 2008 at 12:30 pm

Governor Ted Kulongoski at Pioneer
Courthouse Square earlier today.
(Photos © J. Maus)

On the eve of Earth Day, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski urged a crowd gathered at Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland to take a look at their daily routine and do something different to fight climate change.

And he intends to lead by example. “I’m leaving my car at home tomorrow and walking to work and I encourage others to do the same.”

Kulongoski spoke at an Earth Day rally organized by the Sierra Club. Also speaking at the event were Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury and several environmental advocates.

Before his speech I asked Kulongoski why he decided to walk, instead of riding his bike, to work. Pointing out a pedometer attached to his belt he said he has a bike but that his wife makes him take 5,000 steps a day. “If I don’t,” he said, “I’ll get tofu for dinner.”

Kulongoski just returned from a trip to Europe where he was slated for a stop in Amsterdam. I asked him about the trip and, while he didn’t have time to stop in Amsterdam this time, he said he’s been there before. He noted how that city’s flat terrain must contribute to its status as one of the world’s most bike-friendly cities.

Kulongoski also recalled how no one in Amsterdam wore helmets, which prompted him to say, “I think there’s a lesson there.”

When I told him how Portland (and other Oregon cities) are working to become, what PDOT planners refer to as, “a world class city in an American context,” he said he thinks bicycles are a “do-able form of transportation.” He then reminisced about when he lived in Northeast Portland’s Laurelhurst neighborhood and was able to ride his bike into work “all the time.”

As his aides ushered him away to the podium (my impromptu interview was not scheduled) I brought up Oregon’s statewide effort to combine bicycle tourism and the economic development of small towns. He was well aware of the initiative and mentioned how pleased he was that Travel Oregon and Jonathan Nicholas (founder of Cycle Oregon) were spearheading the effort.

Environmental and transportation advocates are already buzzing about the expansive package of climate change legislation Kulongoski will put forth in 2009. It’s nice to know that, at least on a small scale, he’s not just talking the talk.

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  • bahueh April 21, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    wow…he walked to work one whole day out of the year….amazing.

    great job, ted.

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  • Robert April 21, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    According to Google Maps, the distance from the Governor\’s Mansion at 533 Lincoln Street South to the Capitol Building is 2.1 miles. That he EVER uses a car for this commute is disappointing, at best.

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  • Hanmade April 21, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    So how far of a walk is it for him? I have never walked to work, but that\’s because it\’s 6 miles. Biking, of course, makes it funner, too!

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  • Ed April 21, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Actually he will consume more food by walking and will increase his carbon foot print, thus throwing the entire balance of the world into chaos.

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  • Zaphod April 21, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    It\’s so easy to lay down the smack talk and criticize. I, for one, am happy that he is taking the position he is taking. We should welcome and encourage versus a more negative approach. If we come across as being unable to please, who is going to bother trying?

    He might suffer through the ride on a crappy bike and uncomfortable clothing. I know that two miles is dead easy for people who post here but it would still be a drag on an uncomfortable bike or sub optimal clothes. I wonder if he\’d be on a bike most every day if he were rolling along on a swank comfortable machine from Clever Cycles?

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  • Spencer April 21, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    I stopped by the event and was amused by a speech on global warming between the showers of sleet in April.

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  • wsbob April 21, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Did anyone think to as K how many days a year (before assuming he doesn\’t) he walks the approximately 2 miles from his home to work?(or bicycles…it would be hard to work up much of a sweat in 2 miles, especially in Salem\’s terrain, which as I remember is flat…just like Amsterdam\’s.)

    \”Kulongoski also recalled how no one in Amsterdam wore helmets, which prompted him to say, “I think there’s a lesson there.” editor Maus

    Anyone ask him what for him that lesson was?

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  • Matt Picio April 21, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Wow, people – how about context?

    This is the governor of the State of Oregon. His entire day, every day, is scheduled practically to the minute. He sees hundreds of people every day, and has to deal with all of the minutiae of coordinating everything going on in the state. Yes, walking one day isn\’t going to do anything in the grand scheme of things, but the fact that this *is* a publicity stunt may encourage other people to do the same. And maybe, some of them will keep doing it. He\’s not perfect, but who among us are? I\’m sure that if our lives were submitted to the kind of scrutiny his is, that we would also fall short on some level.

    That said, I\’d love to see Ted start biking to work every day, and getting his aides and staff to bike with him, and start discussions or the morning staff meeting while on the road. Mayors, governors and even presidents have done this in the past, and it would set a great example in many ways.

    Let\’s be encouraging, rather than nitpicking every little blessed flaw.

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  • toddistic April 21, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    all the negative nancy\’s out there fail to realize that a governor has to have security around him. the logistics of him walking to work would probably increase his carbon footprint because there would still be at least one vechile around, and moving much slower so the time on the road would be greater, thus burning more gas.

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  • bahueh April 21, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    honestly? you think that?

    Kitzhaber rode to work most every day…
    where was his security?

    face it, no one who doesn\’t walk to work is going to tomorrow, simply because its 4/21 on the map…throw in the latest batch of crap weather and forget about it…the car count isn\’t going down magically…

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  • Matthew Denton April 21, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    \”Actually he will consume more food by walking and will increase his carbon foot print, thus throwing the entire balance of the world into chaos.\”

    It really depends on the food. If he is eating fruit, imported via aircraft from New Zealand, then yes. If he has been growing potatoes at the governor\’s mansion, (hey, it could happen. There was a victory garden at the White House during WWII,) then he could swim the 2 miles and still be ahead. Tofu is fairly low carbon, but I don\’t know what his wife lets him eat if he walks, so…

    His security isn\’t really an issue. He does have protection from the state police, but they aren\’t really like the secret service, (they don\’t form a human shield around him,) they are more like his driver. But I don\’t see any reason why they couldn\’t walk as well, they are at his house…

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  • drew April 21, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    I agree with Picio 100%. Look what happen when the governor lived off food stamps last year. It made national news and was profiled in the NY Times. Granted, it won\’t happen this time, but at least he is talking to Oregonians about changing their daily habits for the common good-progress not perfection…Kitzhaber was one in a million.

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  • anonymous April 21, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    Just what the hell is wrong with eating tofu for dinner you weenie?

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  • DJ Hurricane April 21, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    I think Ted is a great Oregonian who has done a lot to move policy forward on global warming and lots of other important issues, but it\’s pretty tough to be a strong leader when you don\’t set an example on something as simple as taking a 30 minute walk or a 10 minute bike ride each day before and after work. If he can live off foodstamps, and if Earl can ride to the Capitol, then he can commute by foot more. Still, there are a lot of important issues facing Oregon and this isn\’t one of them.

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  • Jeff April 21, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    This is one of two letters I wrote to the Oregonian, (the other one got printed 4/16/08)
    The governor claims that Climate Change Policies are going to be his legacy. So far it’s all talk, posturing and postponing, there is nothing in his legacy plan that changes any behavior from the causes of global climate change. During the oil embargo of the 70’s Jimmy Carter had the courage to reduce highway speeds to help conserve fuel. Why is something like that so hard for the governor or legislators to accomplish? It\’s a cheap and easy solution. We want regulation now, not some policy that comes into effect in 2010 (tail pipe emissions on new cars only) or 2020 for CAFE standards. We don’t have time to wait, 5 or 10 years to reach 2050 goals, you start saving for retirement while your young, you reduce CO2 today to help reach our goals by 2050. Banning studded tires will reduce the need to replace our roads, asphalt is oil, 95% of us don’t use studded tires, it’s time to make sacrifices now, not somewhere down the road.
    just added:
    He\’s acting like direct flights to Europe as an accomplishment- yea if you want more CO2, it is. Those are Bush policies towards reducing climate change, nothing that effects business or discourages more flights.
    Sorry, but the planet is in peril and were just sitting, doing virtually nothing.

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  • BikeBillboards dot blogspot com April 22, 2008 at 7:15 am

    Hey, you guys got BAD OR yet? Mix it up with your fav State sausage maker and all that.

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  • Lenny Anderson April 22, 2008 at 7:27 am

    The real test of the Governor\’s commitment to this issue is the Columbia River Crossing. Adding 6 motor vehicle lanes to the existing 14 across the Columbia would be a huge step back for the region and both states.
    Tolling, transit and HOV is what we need, not more lanes for more SOV commuters from Clark county.

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  • BikeBillboards dot blogspot com April 22, 2008 at 7:34 am

    #17, more lanes for SOV commuters are the norm in Tulsa, Oklahoma too, even as gas is about to hit $4 PLUS. Same transportation DNA, like I said before.

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  • steve April 22, 2008 at 10:17 am

    I assume all of you nit pickers do not eat food from a grocery store? You are heating your homes without gas, wood, or electricity?

    You are of course all vegans, yes? No plane trips? No plastic electronic devices around you? No car, ever? Not paying your taxes, right? Don\’t want to be supporting the military and their carbon use!

    And most importantly, none of you are breeding are you?

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  • BikeBillboards dot blogspot com April 22, 2008 at 11:21 am

    #19, good point. We have nothing to fear except our own ARROGANCE.

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  • JayS. April 22, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Some people stop biking and start walking when they have a short commute and want more exercise. Ten minutes each way on a bike or 20 to 25 minutes walking is a huge difference in calories burned. Do you think this is the only day his wife threatened him with tofu? The article didn\’t sound that way to me.

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  • Greg April 23, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    \”He noted how that city’s flat terrain must contribute to its status as one of the world’s most bike-friendly cities.\”

    It probably helps, but note that hilly Basel has around a 25% mode share for bikes – so it\’s definitely possible to get much higher than any US city without leveling your area 🙂

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