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Steph Routh announces resignation from Oregon Walks

Posted by on August 21st, 2013 at 9:20 am

Steph at Oregon Walks benefit-2-2

Steph Routh in November 2012.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Oregon Walks, a non-profit advocacy group that works to improve walking conditions around the state, has announced that Executive Director Steph Routh will resign in October.

Routh became the organization’s first full-time staffer when she was named to the position in May 2009. In the ensuing years, Routh helped transform Oregon Walks (formerly known as the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition) by making what was traditionally a quiet, behind-the-scenes organization into a public force to be reckoned with. Just months after taking the job, she asked the community to think hard about the state of walking advocacy in Oregon — a movement that has lacked the spark of and cultural identity evident in the local bicycle scene.

Routh’s personal dedication to the task, professional creativity, and natural charisma drew people to her organization and her cause.

In November 2009, when two young women were struck by a driver’s car while trying to cross SE Foster at 80th, Routh called for an “immediate response” to the vast deficit in east Portland road safety.

When Oregon Walks changed locations in 2010, Routh — drawing on her experiences moving by bike with Shift — decided to do the entire move by foot. Always the innovator, Routh also organized the first ever “Walk to Work Day” in March of last year.

Capping several years of growth and change in Oregon’s walking advocacy scene, Routh took the bold move and oversaw a name-change from Willamette Pedestrian Coalition to Oregon Walks in November 2012. And, in typical Routh style, she debuted the new name with a fun video…

Eye to Eye campaign launch-1

Routh at an “Eye-to-Eye” campaign event in June 2009.
Street Smart campaign launch event-9

Routh speaking at the launch of the “Street Smart” campaign (with former Mayor Adams in the background) in June 2011.

Oregon Walks released a statement this morning listing the accomplishments of the organization during Routh’s tenure:

  • Championed the Crosswalk Safety Bill in 2011; advocated for a new state law that supports road sharing on narrow residential roadways; increased penalties for hit-and-run drivers; and launched a coalition including Oregon Walks to support eligibility for bike/ped projects using $42 million in lottery funds in 2013.
  • Told the story of pedestrian needs through the Getting Around on Foot Action Plan.
  • Engaged 23 advocacy volunteers on its Plans & Projects Committee to represent walking needs on project and plan advisory groups
  • Successfully advocated to retain $16 million in the FY 13-14 Portland budget for vital sidewalk funding, the most recent successful effort to re-fund 136th Ave. sidewalk project.
  • Piloted Walktober: three weeks of fun on foot, which engaged over 800 people in community-led walking events around the region in 2012.
  • Informed over 400 people about walking safety and local advocacy opportunities through WalkSmart classes, in partnership with Elders in Action and the Immigrant Refugee Community Organization (IRCO).
  • Educated 250 children about walking safely through Portland’s Safe Routes to School program.
  • Partnered with Adelante Mujeres to create Photovoice, an exhibit using photos and stories to describe walking needs of Latino communities in Washington County.

Oregon Walks Board President Aaron Brown captured Routh’s impact by saying, “Her entrepreneurial spirit and indomitable passion for pedestrian advocacy have been an inspiration to many across the Portland region (myself included), and her unique ability to compliment her sheer dedication to the cause with a boisterous, unnervingly friendly personality made her a cherished, effective and well-loved advocate for livable streets across the state.”

Policymakers Ride - Gorge Edition-14

Riding in the Gorge at the
Policymakers Ride earlier this month.

In an email to members sent just minutes ago, Routh said her decision to resign comes with, “a mix of bittersweet excitement and tremendous gratitude.” “Now is the right time for me to move on to new opportunities and for a new leader to take Oregon Walks to the next stage of organizational growth,” she wrote.

As far as what comes next for Routh, she’s already set to publish a book titled How to Move by Bike, which was recently funded through Kickstarter. She’s also booked a cross-country train ticket with her partner which will give her plenty of time to think. “I’m currently dreaming what the next chapter of my life looks like, which is exciting and fun,” she shared with me this morning.

Routh’s last day will be October 15th and the organization plans a “rigorous search” for a new leader.

As the only walking advocacy organization in the state, Routh’s presence will certainly be missed.

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  • Gerik August 21, 2013 at 9:34 am

    Steph is a champion and will be deeply missed.

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  • Erinne August 21, 2013 at 9:36 am

    Thanks for all your amazing, hard work Steph!

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  • Dan Kaufman August 21, 2013 at 9:39 am

    I’ll be interested to know Steph Routh’s next project and I sure hope she catches the train back Oregon. She is a real contributor to our community!

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  • Joe Partridge August 21, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Here’s wishing Steph the best of luck in her next adventure! She is a true professional and I can’t wait to see where she puts her energy next.

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  • Jordan August 21, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Steph, Awesome work! I can wait to see what you do next!

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  • Scott Mizée August 21, 2013 at 10:20 am

    Steph Routh is a CLASS ACT. She is one of the hardest working people I know in the Portland community. She leaves big shoes to fill at Oregon Walks and I congratulate her on her accomplishments there. I eagerly await the good news about where she will be focusing her efforts next!

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  • Patrick McMahon August 21, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Steph’s work with Oregon Walks, Shift, and other advocacy/engagement efforts have been an inspiration to folks outside Oregon as well and I hope that her train tour will bring her to Baltimore.

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  • Kathryn Sofich August 21, 2013 at 10:32 am

    We are a much better place because of Steph’s commitment and never ending energy – thank you Steph for all your work! Enjoy your next chapter!

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  • Anthony Buczek August 21, 2013 at 10:44 am

    Steph’s work has made Oregon a better place to walk and live for all of us. Best of luck in your next chapter. Hope it’s in Oregon!

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  • Lillian Karabaic August 21, 2013 at 10:49 am

    I worked with Steph at Oregon Walks in summer 2011, and have worked with her on countless events (from Breakfast on the Bridges, World Naked Bike Ride, Cycle Wild board, etc) and she’s a phenomenal ball of energy at all times. A brilliant leader, constantly buzzing with ideas, whipsmart, and genuinely caring. She’s a kickass lady and I can’t wait to see what she does next, and am so grateful for the direction she took Oregon Walks.

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  • Jim Labbe August 21, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Steph, watching and knowing you from afar, it is clear your off to do more amazing things. Thanks for all you have done to build Oregon Walks. Such an vital contribution.

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  • Peter W August 21, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Working with Steph has been an honor. I look forward to hearing stories of her next big adventure and I hope I get to work with her again.

    Thanks, Steph!

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  • Scott Bricker August 21, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Steph – You rock! Thank you for your energy and expertise to advance walking and walkability in Oregon. Time to take it national?

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  • sarah angell August 21, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Kudos to Steph for a stunning and ambitious path carved at Oregon Walks! We should be so lucky for her return to civic advocacy down the road but in the meantime, wishing her all the best in this next chapter.

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  • Craig Beebe August 21, 2013 at 11:26 am

    Oregon Walks is on an amazing path, thanks to Steph’s leadership and boundless energy. Beyond the concrete accomplishments she’s spearheaded (pun sorta intended), the need for safer places to walk has risen to a much higher level of prominence than it was before in our city. This is a huge win for all of us.

    There is still a long way to go, but she’s set things up in the right direction and stacked the organization’s volunteer/board deck with a lot of really talented, energetic and inspired people who will no doubt maintain the high standard of success that she has set.

    I look forward to seeing where Steph goes next and am certain she’ll continue contributing to health, safety, livability, and FUN in Portland. It has been an honor to work together and to count her as a friend.

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  • Ted Buehler August 21, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Thanks, Steph! Best of luck to Steph and O.W. in their future efforts to better the world for Active Transportation.

    Ted Buehler

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  • Todd Boulanger August 21, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Yes – ditto on the kudos and best of luck for the following life phase! You earned it!

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  • Todd Boulanger August 21, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    So…this change in leadership brings up the recent topic of “why [at this day and age] are there separate nonprofits” working on multimodal safety and planning in Oregon? [What do their larger donors say?]

    Perhaps it is time for the boards (and members) of the BTA and Oregon Walks to combine institutionally! The combined group would become TA (‘Transportation Alternatives’ or similar, without the mode being called out).

    Tomorrow’s BTA board /membership meeting might be a good venue to broach the topic.

    PS. I totally understand that it is easier to focus and rally membership when it is based on a single mode or technology: bicycles, autos, trains vs.a body part, such as feet.

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  • PoPo August 21, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    Nice job Steph. Thanks for your work for our community.

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  • Rebecca August 21, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Thank you for your years of hard work and leadership!

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  • Spencer Boomhower August 22, 2013 at 12:44 am

    Steph has done great things with Oregon Walks, and I’m sure she’ll continue the trend with her future efforts. She’s super motivated, good-hearted, and genuinely nice. Not sure what her long-term plans are, but I’ve often thought it would be great to see her run for elected office someday.

    Good luck, Steph!

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  • Anne McLaughlin August 22, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    Congratulations, Steph, on all your good work, and best wishes for a long, happy and satisfying future.
    Everybody else: If you’re not already a member, join Oregon Walks as a way to honor Steph!

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  • Lance P. August 22, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    You have a well deserved vacation coming to you! I was just talking about you today and how you seem to be able to do anything and everything you put your mind to. Here’s to Steph!

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  • Zaphod August 23, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Steph…you’ve made a huge impact on PDX! Thank you for your tireless and effective advocacy.

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