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No longer “pedestrian”: Advocacy group to unveil new name, logo, mission

Posted by on November 9th, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Out with the old.

The Willamette Pedestrian Coalition will not exist — at least in name — after Saturday night. The non-profit that pushes for infrastructure and policies to encourage more walking has been operating in Portland for over two decades, and now it’s ready for a major change.

Major changes at our region’s walking advocacy organization are bound to impact bicycling. Walking advocates push for many policies and projects that reduce car use and help create the conditions necessary for better bike access.

At their annual Weston Awards fundraising event this Saturday, the WPC will unveil a new name, a new logo, and an expanded vision.

Stephanie Routh, the dynamic leader that has given the organization a shot in the arm since taking over in 2009, is keeping the announcements under wraps until the event; but she told me yesterday that “pedestrian” will no longer be part of their name.

An animated Stephanie Routh,
telling one of her wonderful anecdotes
at the 2011 BTA Alice Awards.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

This is great news to me. I see “pedestrian” the same way I see “cyclist.” They are both unnecessary labels that do nothing but serve as tools for control and labels that make it easier to divide, define, and stereotype people. I favor language that puts people and actions first and I haven’t used “cyclist” or “pedestrian” on this website for many years.

Routh shares my belief in the importance of language. “We have come to understand that, while everyone is a pedestrian at some point in the day, few people identify as ‘pedestrian’,” she shared with me yesterday.

“This movement is about what people do — and want to be able to do — more than how they identify.”

While language is important, it wasn’t the main motivation for the new name. “We need to change what it means to walk in our towns and cities,” says Routh, “And that expanded mission, we realized, required a new name to drive it.”

The Westons are also an opportunity to recognize those who have inspired and broken new ground to make walking easier and more pleasant in Portland. The WPC will hand out four Weston Awards Saturday night. The event will also include the “Shoeseum” exhibit with shoes from notable Portlanders. The guess emcee for the festivities will be none other than Portland Mayor Sam Adams.

For more details on the event, and to buy tickets, visit the official website.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. 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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    Andyc of Linnton November 9, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    This is good news. Using this broad terminology for different people doing different things always makes me think of this Mr. Show sketch about “Young people and Companions”:

    Hopefully that worked, I don’t know links very well.
    Anyway, excited to see the future of this group.

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    9watts November 9, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Some additional thoughts (by Tom Vanderbilt) on the word pedestrian here:

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    Steve B. November 9, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    It’s going to be an awesome night! Join us.

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    steph routh November 9, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Thanks, Jonathan. It is an exciting time, building on incredible work begun 21 years ago, and looking forward to a tidal wave of a movement.

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    ladyfleur November 9, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Hurray for the death of pedestrian! As a term that it is. It’s even worse than cyclist because it carries meanings like “Undistinguished; ordinary” and “dull; commonplace”. Nothing positive about it at all.

    No wonder I’ve never heard someone call themselves a pedestrian. They say “I walk a lot” or “I like to walk” or “I walk most places.”

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    are November 9, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    when i am walking indoors or in a park or on a trail, i am not a “pedestrian,” but when i am crossing a street, and in particular when there are motorists or cyclists approaching, i am a pedestrian. if i am on a bike on the street, i am a cyclist and those other people are motorists and pedestrians.

    i honestly do not get why this vocabulary is a problem. these words denote distinct roles that each participant is acting out. yes, the roles are fluid, but the transition from one to another does signify.

    also, the motorist does not “become a pedestrian” until sometime after she has hit the key fob thing and caused the SUV to sound its horn, and then only if she does not immediately duck into the mall.

    one hopes that the WPC at least keeps the word “walk” in its name, and that it continues to focus on advocacy for [pedestrians].

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    Editz November 10, 2012 at 9:29 am

    What’s wrong with the old logo? 50’s family just after a Soviet nuke blast?

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    Doug Klotz (old logo designer) November 10, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    The style was inspired by a 30’s movie projector salesman logo I found in a book of logos, and other 30s stuff for the lettering. Probably had Soviet posters in the back of my mind! “The people walk!”

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    o/o November 11, 2012 at 8:40 am

    New name: Oregon Walks

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