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Governor’s new transportation policy advisor seen as good for bicycling

Posted by on June 25th, 2013 at 1:13 pm

bike legislation discussion at PDOT

Kitzhaber’s incoming transportation policy advisor, Karmen Fore,
speaking at a 2007 event on bicycle legislation.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Governor Kitzhaber announced yesterday that Karmen Fore will be his new transportation policy advisor. Fore will leave her post as deputy chief of staff to Congressman Peter DeFazio and report for work in Salem on July 1st.

Fore brings a deep well of experience and knowledge about transportation issues to her new role. Not only is Rep. DeFazio a senior member of the powerful House Transportation & Infrastructure committee and ranking member of the Highways & Transit Subcommittee, Fore was his senior advisor to that committee. It’s worth noting that Rep. DeFazio is one of bicycling’s biggest champions on Capitol Hill (and its only former bike mechanic, as he’s fond of pointing out). Fore has been present at meetings with the Oregon delegation during many past years of the National Bike Summit. In 2007, Fore was guest speaker — along with former Bicycle Transportation Alliance Executive Director Scott Bricker — at an event hosted by the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

Reached for comment yesterday, Bricker said Fore was “responsive to cycling issues” and that he believes her appointment by Kitzhaber is “good news for cycling and multimodal transportation” in Oregon.

“From what I’ve seen she definitely gets bicycles as transportation. She seems very savvy in understanding the politics involved with making more active transportation options available.”
— Shane MacRhodes, Eugene Safe Routes to School

In DeFazio’s Lane County/Eugene district, Shane MacRhodes also says Fore has been active on bicycling issues. MacRhodes runs Eugene’s Safe Routes to School program and shared with us yesterday that Fore encouraged DeFazio to attend several Safe Routes events. MacRhodes said he also noticed Fore at several meetings of the local bicycle advocacy group, Greater Eugene Area Riders (GEARS), and “she was very knowledgeable and supportive.”

“From what I’ve seen she definitely gets bicycles as transportation,” MacRhodes added, “She seems very savvy in understanding the politics involved with making more active transportation options available.”

According to the Transportation Issues Daily blog, Kitzhaber’s transportation advisor is a role that could make a real impact on policy:

Oregon’s transportation leadership is somewhat unique in the country. Many Governors have transportation advisors. But Oregon Governor Kitzhaber’s position is unique – as far as we know – in that it’s practically a cabinet level position, nearly equal to the State DOT Director. The Advisor is also charged with taking a more “sustainable communities” approach – that is, looking at housing and environmental issues which have a nexus with transportation.

Many active transportation advocates also had high hopes when former Clackamas County Commission Chair Lynn Peterson was named to this same position in February 2011. However, Peterson never distinguished herself to bicycle advocates and ended up leaving a year later to take a job as DOT Director for the state of Washington.

The Oregon Department of Transportation has said (and written in policy) some exciting things in regard to active transportation; but the results of that rhetoric has been slow to hit the streets. Much of ODOT’s leadership and staff is still mired in a 1960s, auto-centric and highway-first mentality that is holding back Oregon’s future. Hopefully Fore can help move the needle and create some real and lasting change at the agency.

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Hart Noecker

Just think of all the amazing new cycling opportunities there’ll be on Kitzhaber’s new CRC!!