The 2012 Oregon Active Transportation Summit is going strong down here in Salem.
As I type, a room full of engineers and planners are listening to a trio of bike gurus from the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) explain the ins-and-outs of the latest bikeway designs. City traffic engineer Rob Burchfield, bike program coordinator Roger Geller, and signals division manager Peter Koonce are leaded a six-hour course on the new NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide. There’s also a special segment on designing bike boulevards. The idea of the session is to get more planners and engineers around Oregon familiar with things like cycle tracks, bike signals, new crossing treatments, and so on.
There are also several large meetings prior to tonight’s opening speech: One on bike tourism (more on that below) led by Travel Oregon; a meeting of bicycle and pedestrian coordinators from cities throughout the state, led by Sheila Lyons (who holds that position for the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT); and a meeting of the Oregon State Trails Coalition, led by two Metro staffers.
And of course, there are many interesting conversations happening in the hallways among colleagues.
At the bike tourism meeting, Travel Oregon shared an update on their marketing plans. In the crowd was a large and diverse group of people from all over the state. There were tourism officials, city and state staffers, entrepreneurs, bike tour guides, and more.
We’ve shared many times over the years how Travel Oregon (a state-funded non-profit) has taken a liking to biking. These days, bike tourism is the top priority for the agency. They’ve got a full slate of TV and web ads, social media and other communication tools where the message of Oregon as a bike destination is becoming clearer.
Travel Oregon’s Holly Macfee said they’ve identified the top three priorities in their cycling marketing attack plan: State scenic bikeways; mountain biking; and events (like cyclocross nationals in Bend). “Moab is done. Time to eat their lunch,” read one slide. McPhee said the demographic profile of the target audience are high-income white males, ages 30-55 and that they fit the bill profile of the “Creative Class” as defined by Richard Florida.
Travel Oregon is behind a host of efforts to build buzz around biking in Oregon. Cycling plays a prominent role on TravelOregon.com and the RideOregonRide website they helped fund keeps getting better. Now you can whip your smartphone and get a mobile version of the many rides detailed on the site.
More good news on the tourism front is that Oregon now has nine officially designated State Scenic Bikeways. Alex Phillips with Oregon State Parks and Recreation was at the meeting. She said the program has grown much more quickly than she ever expected when it launched in 2009. The State is working hard and fast on this program, with three completely signed routes and several others in the works.
Phillips handed out a map hot off the presses that really puts the program into perspective. Exciting!
It was also great to hear that Travel Oregon has finally embarked on a statewide bicycle economic impact study. The study is due out in March 2013 and it will track the impact of both tourism/recreation and the bike-related industry in Oregon. I’ll have more on this as details become available.
Bike tourism is Oregon is growing every week. More cities and counties are stepping up to get involved and we are lucky to have state agencies and organizations who fully support it.
Earlier today I sat down for a one-hour interview with the Director of ODOT, Matt Garrett. I asked him primarily about the evolution taking place at the agency; but also squeezed in a few questions on other topics. Stay tuned for that interview.
Later tonight Alan Durning from the Sightline Institute will speak. His talk is titled, Car-head and the Future of Urban Transportation. Should be interesting.
I’ll be posting more photos and dispatches from the Summit tonight and all day tomorrow. You can also follow updates via Twitter.