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BTA will host US DOT Sec Ray LaHood in Portland later this month

Posted by on March 3rd, 2011 at 4:38 pm

National Bike Summit - Day two-5

Sec. LaHood is coming to Portland.
(Photo © J. Maus)

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.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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

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Is he going to make a cameo appearance in Portlandia?


Wow. Just over two years ago when LaHood was announced as Obama’s choice for Sec. of Transportation this forum was full of complaints about him as a pro-motorist transportation guy from, of all places, Peoria, IL. If I remember correctly, at least one commenter proclaimed that to be the worst place for bicycling in the country and that LaHood was at fault.

Congratulations and thanks, Mr. Secretary!

Nick Falbo

Do you want to hear more about the ‘Vision Zero’ concept? A group of PSU Urban Planning graduate students are exploreing ways to apply this concept in the US context.

Learn more here:


So since the unwashed will not be allowed access to their own government reps here, I do hope there will be a way to have input to the proposed discussion, other than “being a member of the BTA” or whatever. Sorry to be cynical, but.

I’d be glad to represent Joe Schmuck, unaffiliated with truckers, AAA, AARP, BTA, the National Streetsweepers Assoc. or Portland Can Collectors Collective or anyone, just a non-elite citizen.

At least a decent video published after the fact would be good?

Anne Hawley

If they don’t invite BikePortland, we’ll have to wonder what they’re trying to hide.


not to be a skeptic or whatever, but, I cannot imagine a less productie meeting 😉


I’m glad he’s coming, and glad for his stance this past year. I especially hope they address distracted driving, speed limits, and biking infrastructure.

Also happy to hear about the impending baby Jonathan! Though I do hope someone goes in your place to report on the event. It would be great to hear the Bike Portland synopsis!