(Photos © J. Maus)
After depaving a former parking lot in North Portland yesterday, the Towards Carfree Cities Conference marched on this morning at Portland State University.
The first half of the program dealt with two topics of major interest to urban planners (and anyone interested in healthy communities): families and freeways.
A Dead Freeways ride left from the Park Blocks outside PSU to examine former freeways (Harbor Drive) and freeway ramps to nowhere (some were built for the Mt. Hood Freeway — a project that was defeated before it ever broke ground.) Those who remained at the conference, were treated to a discussion of that infamous Mt. Hood Freeway as well as its modern day cousin (in some ways) — the Columbia River Crossing project.
Coalition for a Livable Future director Mara Gross, Metro Councilor Robert Liberty, and transportation advocate and head of the Swan Island Transportation Management Association led a lively discussion of the CRC. Faces in the crowd included former Portland city council candidate Chris Smith, Congressman Earl Blumenauer staffer Meeky Blizzard, and council hopeful Amanda Fritz, who’s in a run-off campaign against Charles Lewis (she was taking notes).
During the Q&A session, Chris Smith asked Robert Liberty to explain why his colleague, Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder, has been supportive of the CRC project (a question many of you have wondered as well). Watch and listen to Liberty’s answer below:
Blumenauer staffer Meeky Blizzard was asked why her boss hasn’t chimed in on the CRC project. Blizzard said,
“This is a regional decision. As a member of Congress, he is representing the region’s wishes on this project. He has some large concerns about it, but it’s not his decision to make… The region needs to come together on these things and if people have concerns about the CRC… they need to make those concerns known to their elected officials to help shape the process… so, take that to heart.”
Downstairs from the CRC discussion, the topic was carfree families. The expert panel included BikePortland.org columnist Marion Rice, Urbanmamas co-founder Olivia Rebanal, director of the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition Lynn Lindgren-Schreuder, Paul Adkins from Bike Friday, and Angela Koch from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.
One woman asked the panel, “Would it be safe, or would I be irresponsible to take my child in a trailer from North Portland to PSU?”. The answer was a resounding no, and several people (in addition to the panelists) spoke up to say, “We do it!”.
There’s definitely a buzz in the air. That’s probably due to the fact that not too long ago, “carfree” seemed like a fringe, radical concept for most people. But today, with a perfect storm of factors making much of America rethink their transportation choices, carfree is much more mainstream.
In a few minutes, the keynote speeches will begin. Scheduled to appear are the executive director of the League of American Bicyclists Andy Clarke and carfree city advocate Gil Penalosa.
More coverage to come. For now, check out more photos from the Carfree Conference Photo Gallery.