The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) has nabbed a personal visit from U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. At the BTA’s request, LaHood is slated for an invite-only event that will take place in Portland on March 21st.
BTA Executive Director Rob Sadowsky says they initially asked LaHood’s staff if he’d be willing to accept an award of recognition in person at their annual Alice Awards gala slated for April 23rd. That date didn’t work for LaHood’s schedule, so his office suggested a different date and the BTA was happy to oblige.
At the event, Sadowsky says the topic will be crash reduction and distracted driving — two key pieces to the BTA’s current focus on the ‘Vision Zero’ strategy.
If you’re wondering how a relatively small non-profit group in Portland snagged a visit from America’s most high profile transportation leader, it likely has something to do with Sadowsky and LaHood’s previous jobs.
Before Sadowsky was hired by the BTA, he led Chicago’s Active Transportation Alliance (formerly the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation). Before he became US DOT Secretary LaHood was a U.S. House Representative from Peoria, Illinois. During that time, Sadowsky developed a relationship with LaHood’s staff.
About the event later this month, Sadowsky says they decided to keep it small. “We thought it would be good to not have a big event, but to have something more intimate… So we can have a dialogue and a conversation.” That conversation will likely revolve around what the US DOT is doing to reduce traffic crashes and distracted driving (a topic LaHood is very well known for), as well as examples of what Portland is doing on that front.
50-70 people are expected to attend the event and Sadowsky says invites have gone out to representatives from transportation agencies like the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Portland Bureau of Transportation as well active BTA committee members and large donors. Invites have also been sent to members of the Oregon Trucker’s Association, AAA, and others. Planning and development firm CH2MHill and the Portland chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar (a group that promotes the advancement of women in the transportation field) are sponsors of the event.
Since being named DOT Secretary by the Obama Administration, LaHood has gained attention in bike advocacy circles for his unabashed support of bicycling. His Portland visit will come almost exactly one year after a famous speech at the 2010 National Bike Summit where he stood on a table and proclaimed the “end of favoring motorized transportation.” In more recent news, LaHood is having to answer questions about President Obama’s ambitious transportation spending plan.
Hosting an event for the US DOT Secretary is definitely a coup for the BTA and it will help bring attention to bicycling’s role in national transportation policy — which is especially needed after a recent visit to Vancouver, Washington by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee failed to mention bicycling at all.