– Gallery/Slideshow below –
(Photos © J. Maus)
Congressman Jim Oberstar (D-MN), the man whose vision back in 1998 led to the national Safe Routes to Schools program, paid a visit to Beach Elementary School yesterday. Oberstar is a 35-year member of Congress who represents northeastern Minnesota. After seeding several pilot programs in 1998, he helped pass federal legislation for Safe Routes to School to the tune of over $600 million. Today, over 7,000 schools in America benefit from that program. Oberstar is also Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and he will play a key role in shaping the country’s next transportation bill.
Oberstar was in town as part of a tour of the Pacific Northwest to view stimulus-funded projects, push for job creation through infrastructure spending, and drum up support for the reauthorization of the transportation bill. After a press conference near the Broadway Bridge, Oberstar accompanied Mayor Sam Adams to north Portland where they met with parents, kids, and administrators at Beach Elemenary School.
Beach has undergone quite a transformation in recent years, going from a school that banned biking, to one that now embraces it perhaps more strongly than any other school in Portland (I’ll have a separate post about what they’re up to, along with a short interview with their principal Tom Breuckman, later today).
The informal event yesterday afternoon was an opportunity for Oberstar to see the fruits of his vision and for parent volunteers to get some recognition for the amazing work they’ve done to encourage walking and biking.
After a few remarks from Oberstar in the hallway, he chatted with parents and PTA members and made his way out to the newly installed bike racks. There was a gold-painted bike that’s a trophy for a bike train competition and Oberstar hopped on it, much to the delight of all the kids.
Also in attendance yesterday were Portland Police Officer (and BTA Alice Award winner) Robert Pickett and his partner Jake Jensen, as well as Greg Raisman, a traffic safety specialist from the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation.
Stay tuned for a more in-depth look at all the things Beach Elementary and PBOT have done to encourage bicycling. It’s an amazing story that has been made even better by having a visit from the man who started it all.
More photos in the slideshow below