Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on December 15th, 2009 at 9:37 am
At their annual meeting tonight in Northwest Portland the Bicycle Transportation Alliance will have a lot of questions to answer. Almost a month after they fired their executive director and several months into a re-structuring of their organization, the BTA is undergoing an unprecedented amount of change.
As we reported last month, Bricker was the eighth BTA staffer let go in 2009. In that story, we wrote:
But greater than any structural difficulties, and with roots that go beyond Bricker’s tenure, has been a growing sense that the organization has lost touch with its vision and its membership, and that it has not kept pace with Portland’s bicycling boom. Moreover, complaints have grown that the BTA has been absent from advocacy outside of Portland.
The simultaneous search for a new leader and new identity has left many members (and insiders on the national advocacy scene) wondering what’s going on. So far, the only clear rationale we’ve heard about why Bricker was let go is that the BTA wants to be a more “aggressive” and “bold” organization.
Roberts said the BTA plans to officially change their vision statement from the current “Opening minds and roads to bicycling” to something else that focuses more on how “bicycling offers solutions to bigger challenges like climate change, health, livability, and so on.”
At our recent town hall event on the state of bike advocacy in Portland, citizen activist Russ Willis asked the BTA’s Volunteer and Human Resources Manager Michael O’Leary, “What exactly is the new direction the BTA intends to go?”. O’Leary responded by saying the BTA board is currently trying to figure that out. “The clearest thing they’ve said during this transition is that they want the BTA to be more bold.” O’Leary said stakeholders were gathering, “sort of like a focus group” to come up with a list of actions, and that, “The answer is more bold, more willing to be more specific and move things forward on a local level.”
At their annual member meeting tonight, BTA supporters will get an opportunity to hear more about what form that new bold style will take. BTA Board Chair Mary Roberts tells us the event will be an opportunity for the organization to share with members what they’ve done over the last year. Roberts also plans on sharing “the vision for the BTA and where we’re going with that.”
Roberts said the BTA plans to officially change their vision statement from the current “Opening minds and roads to bicycling” to something that focuses more on how “bicycling offers solutions to bigger challenges like climate change, health, livability, and so on.”
As for the new, more bold style of advocacy we can expect from the BTA, so far it’s clear they plan to mount a campaign focused on the Portland Bicycle Plan. The details of the BTA’s plan of attack have yet to be divulged, but based on their written comments submitted to PBOT and on recent comments made by chief advocate Michelle Poyourow on the KBOO Bike Show last week, the BTA is disappointed in the lack of clear funding commitments and near-term benchmarks in the plan.
Roberts confirmed today that the BTA feels the plan is “The big window of opportunity right now,” and that, “the plan will be the focus of Michelle’s work in Portland.” The BTA’s O’Leary said at our recent town hall event that “Getting the funding [for the Bicycle Plan] is something we’ll be advancing in a bold way.”
Also at tonight’s meeting the BTA will give an update on their financial situation, will share the latest details on their search for an executive director, and will recognize stellar volunteers. The event is being held at the Lucky Lab Beer Hall (1945 NW Quimby) from 5:00 to 8:00 pm.
In my report on the BTA’s annual meeting last year, I wrote that “2009 is shaping up to be another banner year for bikes. To reach their full potential in Portland (and Oregon), we need the BTA to have a banner year as well.” That sentiment remains true in 2010.
Browse more of our recent coverage of the BTA.