Alice Awards puts spotlight on cycling’s superheroes

BTA Alice Awards 2011 -10
It was a sell-out crowd.
(Photos © J. Maus)

The 2011 Alice Awards & Auction, presented by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, once again raised the bar for bike advocacy events in Portland. At a stunning new venue in the Pearl District, about 480 of our region’s bike luminaries showed up — and dressed up — for a night to honor great work by both the BTA and this year’s crop of Alice winners.

Sadowsky on stage.

BTA Executive Director Rob Sadowsky says they grossed just over $180,000 on the night from a combination of the $100 per ticket admission, silent and live auctions, and paddle raises. One live auction item, a Zoobomb with former Portland Mayor Bud Clark, sold for $6,200.

A comic book superhero theme permeated the evening — from the telephone booth on stage to the t-shirts of the wonderful wait-staff emblazoned with a Superman style “A”. But, unlike mythical superheroes, the people honored at the Alice Awards are real, just like the impact they have on our city and state.

Kiel Johnson
Danielle and Alex Amarotico
Mia Birk
Stephanie Routh

Kiel Johnson, who won an Alice for developing a grassroots program around bike trains, inspired the crowd with his youthful energy and optimism. With his parents in the crowd, Johnson spoke of taking action to make change. “We live in a world determined by the decisions of the past, however the future is being determined by us today. The point is not to find one’s place in the world; the point is to change it.”

Stephanie Routh, who won the People’s Choice award for her work on many fronts but primarily for steering the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition into relevancy this past year, received a rousing ovation from the crowd. Southern Oregon business owners Danielle and Alex Amarotico accepted their award for going above and beyond to promote bicycling within their company and on the streets of Ashland.

“We live in a world determined by the decisions of the past, however the future is being determined by us today.”
— Kiel Johnson, Alice Award winner

In another highlight of the evening, U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer introduced the Bud Clark Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Mia Birk. Back in the 1990s, Birk and Blumenauer tag-teamed (she as PBOT bike coordinator and he as the City Commissioner in charge of PBOT) to lay much of the groundwork (both culturally and infrastructure-wise) that Portland’s bike-friendliness rests upon today.

Speaking of politicians, in a nod to bicycling’s importance in this region, there were many politicians in the crowd, including: Oregon State Representatives Tobias Read and Jefferson Smith, Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen, Washington County Commissioner Dick Schouten, and Portland Mayor Sam Adams.

At last year’s event, Adams was facing scorn for his bike initiatives and several bike-related PR snafus; so he used the podium to urge more support from the BTA and other bicycle advocates. But on Saturday night, he was in a much lighter mood. He listed several of PBOT’s accomplishments over the past year and helped get the crowd amped up to donate.

While raising money is the primary goal at Alice, BTA leader Sadowsky says that’s not the only reason they put on the event. “We want to raise money and to celebrate bicycling and the work we all do. Alice is as much about fundraising as it is about saying, this is a fun business to be in… and it gives people a chance to strut their stuff.”

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