just how bad the Interstate Bridge is for bikes.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)
In the spirit of the ancient proverb: “Tell me and I forget; show me and I remember; involve me and I understand,” on Friday, dozens of Oregon and Southwest Washington’s most prominent politicians and powerful bureaucrats will hop on bikes for the eighth annual “Policymakers Ride.”
The invite-only ride, hatched in 2005 by staffers from Metro and Cycle Oregon, has grown considerably over the years. Its intent is simple: Instead of testifying to them at public meetings and writing them letters, get key decision makers onto a bike and show them the good, bad, and ugly of our regional bikeway and trail network (or what Metro calls “the Intertwine“.)
That first year, they rode from Portland to Champoeg State Park to highlight the potential — and the need — for a better connection. In 2007 and 2010, they pedaled up into Vancouver. The ride has also ventured into Washington County, through Portland’s bike boulevards, and more.
“From a policy perspective, this is one of the most important days on the annual cycling calendar.”
— Jonathan Nicholas, VP of communications at ODS
This year’s ride will have a decidedly eastern bent. Starting at McMenamin’s Edgefield out near Troutdale, the riders will loop up to Marine Drive, head west to the I-205 multi-use path, then down to the buffered bike lanes on SE Holgate, east on the Springwater Corridor, make a stop in Gresham, and then head back to McMenamin’s via the Gresham-Fairview path.
Mike Houck, a noted local natural areas activist and author of Wild in the City, organizes the ride. He says he puts the route together with the goal to, “Make elected officials, transportation planners, bike-ped practitioners and citizen activists know where we have made progress, where there are gaps or problematic segments of the system, and where funding needs to be directed to help build out a safe, interconnected system.”
Also known as the “Visionary Voyage” the ride is a chance to take a broad look at the regional trail and pathway system and dream big. They’ll make several stops on the ride, and at each one, experts will discuss projects in the works, challenges to making connections, and so on.
At the first stop on Marine Drive near the Chinook Landing boat facility, the group will discuss how to connect the Intertwine network with Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge. Stop two will be at the site of Gateway Green, where City Commissioner Nick Fish and citizen activist Linda Robinson will discuss how it relates to the Sullivan’s Gulch Trail and the E-205 initiative. At the third stop in Gresham, the group will hear from the Director of the Chamber of Commerce and will discuss the economic development potential of better bicycling connections into and from Gresham.
Lined up to speak are: US Forest Service Resources and Planning Officer Lisa Northrop; Kristen Stallman, the scenic areas coordinator for ODOT Region 1 (she’s working on a project to restore the Historic Columbia River Highway); and Renee Tkach, the Gorge Towns to Trails project coordinator for Friends of the Gorge.
Who are some of the notables expected to show up? So far on the list is: President of Metro Council, Tom Hughes; Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart; Oregon Senator Jackie Dingfelder; State Represenative Tobias Read; Metro Councilors Shirley Craddick, Kathryn Harrington and Rex Burkholder; Washington County Commissioner Dick Schouten; City Commissioner Nick Fish; reps from Senator Ron Wyden, congressman Earl Blumenauer and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici’s offices; State Senator Ginny Burdick; transportation advisor to Governor Kitzhaber Lynn Peterson, and others.
Many of the attendees are not regular bike riders. And that’s just the point. One of the ride’s founders, Jerry Norquist of Cycle Oregon, says it’s about showing the hazards to decision makers first hand. “They see what a commuting cyclist is faced with on a daily basis… This isn’t Cycle Oregon, we’re not sweeping the roads; and that’s important. If we’re going to develop a world-class system, let’s show them we’re making some good decisions; but we’ve also got plenty of things we can improve on.”
Another ride founder, former columnist for The Oregonian (and now VP at ODS Health) Jonathan Nicholas says, “From a policy perspective, this is one of the most important days on the annual cycling calendar.” He shared via email this morning that both of Portland’s mayoral candidates are expected to show up. “And who could resist the allure of Charlie Hales and Jefferson Smith going head-to-head in front of 150 policy wonks.”