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Report from ‘An Evening with Roger Geller’

Posted by on November 18th, 2009 at 6:15 pm

An Evening with Roger Geller-1

Roger and me.
(Photos: Adams Carroll)

Thanks to everyone who packed into Plan B tonight to listen to my interview with City of Portland Bicycle Coordinator Roger Geller. As a special bonus, we also streamed the event live right here on BikePortland thanks to the technological magic of Dan Kaufman from Crank My Chain CycleTV. What a thrill to know folks from all over were tuning in via the web!

After some mingling and ordering of food and drink, we settled in for about a one-hour interview and conversation followed by an open Q & A session. We even took a few questions from the Internet audience.

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Mr. Geller and I covered a wide range of topics, from wonky stuff like the Bicycle Master Plan, sharrows (did you know the City had a plan to put them on every street downtown?) and bike boulevards — to the importance of having 5,000 naked people on bikes rally at City Hall, how bicycling improves your sex life, and more.

An Evening with Roger Geller-4

For some reason (maybe because it’s 1:00 am?) I’m drawing a blank trying to remember specifics of what Geller and I talked about. So, if you were there tonight, feel free to share your thoughts about the event in the comments below.

Thanks again for spending your Wednesday night with us. If you missed it, stay tuned for the video recording (which I hope to post shortly).

On February 3rd, I’ll sit down for a chat with Ginny Sullivan from the Adventure Cycling Association. Ms. Sullivan is project manager for the ambitious and exciting United States Bicycle Route System. Stay tuned for more details about that event.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

25 Comments
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    Ethan November 18, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    This is AMAZING!

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    KWW November 18, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    I wasn’t expecting this! Excellent, I just fed into the Q&A session.

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    cold worker November 18, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    what was geller’s big dream project there at the end? i missed it.

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    Todd November 18, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Fantastic webcast! Would really like to see more of this type of thing in the future.

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    Jason November 18, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    The webcast was great! It worked flawlessly and was almost as good as being there in person.

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    J.R. (Intern Extraordinaire) November 19, 2009 at 8:03 am

    Mr. Geller said that one important action you can take at the local level is to attend one of these workshops and voice your opinions:
    http://www.portlandonline.com/portlandplan/index.cfm?a=267766&c=50730
    Also, a World Naked Bike Ride sized rally at city hall would make an impression. (when is the date?)
    What if all Pedalpalooza events next summer started from city hall?
    Supporting local groups like BTA and national groups like the League of American Bicyclists does make a difference in what city planners do and in making necessary funding shifts required to build safe, effective and livable streets.
    I was impressed that, even after his years of work at a job where progress sometimes seems to move on a geologic timescale, Mr Geller is enthusiastic and focused.
    In a room full of bike advocates it is easy to think that our opinions are widely shared and widely heard. However, Geller reinforced that we need to be making more direct demands of our city/state/federal government and electing people who get it: cycling reduces pollution, improves communities and public health, puts money in your pocket AND cycling is good for your sex life. (what more do you want?!?)

    Great to see the positive reaction to the webcast. Nice going Dan! I thought there might be a handful of others attending this event but I was happily surprised to have to search one block over to find an available bike rack.

    One other point Geller made was that opposition to bike-centric planning/funding locally and nationally always starts with the “cyclists don’t follow the traffic rules” complaint and while he didn’t think that would ever go away, why give opposition that opportunity?

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    Nick V November 19, 2009 at 8:47 am

    Can someone explain the whole “sex life” deal? Other than wishing I could ride longer, I don’t get the correlation.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) November 19, 2009 at 8:50 am

    Nick,

    i think it came up after i asked Roger about the importance of marketing bicycles (vs. just spending money on infrastructure).

    After he said marketing was important, i asked what message he’d focus an ad campaign on… he said it should focus on health, etc… and “how it improves your sex life”… after the crowd reacted with laughs/claps… he said, “hey, I’m off the clock!” it was great bit of candor.

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    Nick V November 19, 2009 at 8:55 am

    I see…..kind of like how eating broccoli is good for your sex life. I was hoping for some ground-breaking revelation.

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    Ken November 19, 2009 at 9:34 am

    Jonathon, that was really great. Wish I could have been there for the whole thing. But the energy was amazing. When I arrived I had to tiptoe in because everyone was so engaged in you and Roger that you could hear a pin drop. Thanks again. Looking forward to more engaging conversations with the people that will turn us into the American Copenhagen.

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    Roger Geller November 19, 2009 at 9:45 am

    Just a couple of clarificaitons…

    The whole sex life thing was associated with the benefits of bicycling. What I said was that bicycling makes you healthier, keeps more money in your pocket (and thus keeps more money available to be spent on local businesses) and improves your sex life. How? Being active and healthy in general sets the stage for having a better sex life. Look it up.

    As for the 5,000 person rally, what I said was that if the 5,000 cyclists who turn up naked for a fun ride would turn up at city hall–clothed–then we could make more significant progress in advancing the vision expressed in the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030. It was a reference to the huge rallys staged at Copenhagen’s city hall in the 1970s when the Copenhageners demanded that they city turn away from their increasingly car-oriented policies and back toward their historic, bicycling transportation roots.

    As for the big project at the end. I said there were many, but if I had to pick one (as Jonathan insisted), then it would be a cycletrack from Hollywood to PSU.

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    Nick V November 19, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Mr. Geller,

    If there is a rally, boy howdy count me in.

    Thank you!

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    Antload November 19, 2009 at 10:14 am

    What a fabulous event. Thanks Roger, Bikeportland, Dan, and Plan B!

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    Susan Kubota November 19, 2009 at 10:19 am

    I am looking forward to viewing the video of your interview. I was torn between attending this gathering and seeing Al Gore speak about his new book “Our Choice” last night. But I had purchased tickets to attend this Powell Books and Literary Arts lecture months ago, so Gore won. As a follow up to his “An Inconvieniet Truth” Gore eloquently presented a global strategy to implement solutions to the climate crisis. I am frustrated and disillusioned by the absence of any reference to livible cities philosophy for sustainable urbanization and his actual scoff to a comment suggesting cycling as a potential mechanism for individuals to contribute to solving the climate crisis.
    Al Gore inspirationally encouraged the crowd to be part of the solution. I wish he could have acknowledged cycling as a valid low carbon footprint method of transportation.

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    She November 19, 2009 at 10:29 am

    The good news is that this sounds like it was interesting enough that I am sorry I missed it.

    Jonathan did you say that you would attach a video of the evening? I would really like to see that. I was not available – my husband was at a Union rep meeting for teachers (did you know that they (PPS teachers) are over 500 days of working without a contract?) and I have kids to prepare dinner for, etc.

    I am sad that I did not know about the streaming. I read the website a few times yesterday afternoon and saw nothing about that. I would have tuned in. Thanks to Dan and Jonathan for making that possible, next time can you post that it will be available sooner?

    Thanks to Roger Geller and Jonathan Maus for this evening, again I am sorry I could not make it there.

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    cold worker November 19, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Thanks Mr. Geller. With all the hopes of achieving stronger, longer erections that started to derail the thread, I didn’t think I’d find out what you had to say at the end.

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    Michael M. November 19, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Further to the end of extraordinary J.R.’s (#6) summation, one thing I’d like to have asked is whether Roger and/or his colleagues at PBOT think there’s a link between the detrimental behavior of cyclists that many would like to discourage and the lack of cycling-oriented facilities in Portland (compared to cities like Copenhagen, Utrecht, etc.). My impression is that there is less opposition to bike-centric planning/funding elsewhere because the “cyclists don’t follow the rules” complaint just isn’t as compelling, largely because a much greater percentage of European cyclists do follow the rules. But is that for cultural reasons, or because the infrastructure allows for a better cycling experience that makes cyclists less inclined to break the rules?

    Roger said, as J.R. reports, “he didn’t think that would ever go away,” but could it be mitigated by better infrastructure? Could it be mitigated enough so that the first or second thing out of non-cyclists mouths ceases to be, “Why don’t cyclists follow the rules?” I’m curious to know what Roger and PBOT’s take is on how infrastructure influences behavior.

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    Nick V November 19, 2009 at 11:44 am

    #17 Michael,

    I’m inclined to agree with Mr. Geller that the complaint will not go away and, sadly, I think the reasons for bad behavior are cultural and not rooted in inadequate infrastructure. I’ve spent a limited amount of time overseas, but enough to know that the sense of entitlement that many Americans have is ridiculous. The only solution I can see is to watch my own behavior and hope others, with the help of education and common sense, do the same.

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    Dan Kaufman November 19, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Thanks for all the positive feedback on the live broadcast. This can be a great way for us to connect these events world wide, which has always been my hope.

    I am sad to say, though, that technical issues prevent me from re-posting last nights video coverage.

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    Esther November 19, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    There was a drinking game going on in one corner anytime Roger used the word ‘copenhagen.’ I’ll have to follow up on Roger’s comments here after work.

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    Steve B. November 19, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Thanks, Dan, for streaming the event. I caught the tail end of it, thanks for that service!

    Can anyone shed more light on what the response was to sharrows, what the plan for downtown was, and why the city has preferred or delayed their implementation? Thank you!

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    Michael M. November 20, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Steve B. (#21) — IIRC, sharrows came up when Jonathan asked Roger why there weren’t at least sharrows all along the transit mall downtown, and Roger’s response was that there was actually a plan for sharrows all over downtown, including the transit mall. It was a “plan” in the sense that PBOT costed out implementing it. I think Roger said they didn’t do it because other plans seemed more important, but I may have missed or forgotten if there was some more specific reason why PBOT didn’t move forward. I don’t remember anything being said about specific opposition to the idea.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) November 20, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Thanks everyone for the discussion here about the event. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to publish the recorded video of the interview.

    As for sharrows… Roger said they had a plan to put them all over downtown, they applied for a grant to do it and they didn’t get the money.

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    Steve B. November 23, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Thanks for the answer, Jonathan!

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    Steve B. November 23, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Thank you too, Michael.

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