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…
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.”
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.