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Governor appoints OBRA Director Kenji Sugahara to Tourism Commission

Posted by on October 2nd, 2014 at 1:35 pm

kenjilead

Sugahara spoke out during a community forum
on safety issues on Skyline Blvd in 2011.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has appointed Kenji Sugahara to a seat on the Oregon Tourism Commission. The nine-member commission, better known by its business name of Travel Oregon, manages the state’s $9.6 billion tourism industry.

Sugahara, 41, lives in West Salem and became the executive director of the 5,000 member Oregon Bicycle Racing Association in 2008. Sugahara is also a member of the Oregon Scenic Bikeway Committee and is a board member of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

According to Travel Oregon CEO Todd Davidson, Sugahara was picked specifically because of his experience with cycling in Oregon (OBRA promotes and sanctions around 400 events annually in every corner of the state). “We are pleased to welcome Kenji to the Oregon Tourism Commission,” Davidson said in an official statement, “the Governor has selected someone who brings not only a cycling perspective to the commission, but experience with rural Oregon, international media and transportation issues.”

Travel Oregon takes cycling seriously in part because a recent study they commissioned showed bicycle-related travel accounts for $400 million in annual economic impacts to the state of Oregon.

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Sugahara is the only person on the commission with direct ties to bicycling and one of only two other members that do not represent the hotel industry (not surprising, given that Travel Oregon is funded by a 1% statewide lodging tax).

In his new role, Sugahara will help set Travel Oregon policy and steer their strategic plans. This should come naturally for someone like Sugahara who has the experience and passion to do the job well. In March 2012, he took his message of bikenomic development directly to Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley during lobby day at the National Bike Summit and he has worked hard to connect the disparate worlds of commuting and advocacy with the racing scene.

Learn more about Sugahara in an audio interview we published last year and in this 2011 profile in the Salem Statesman-Journal.

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dan
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dan

Cool, hope Kenji can bump up the % of Oregon coast cycle tourists who leave the state alive. If cycling really has $400 million annual impact in the state, you’d think there’d be some money for separated bike lanes on the tightest sections of the coast route.

9watts
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9watts

Spun slightly differently, just think how much of a bump the state could see in bike related tourism $ if there were a real commitment to the safety of those who bike on rural or scenic roads. Those $400million taken in annually are presumably taxed at some non-zero rate. If we bumped it to 500 or 600M, someone could do the math, figure out how much the state takes in, and come up with a formula for sending some earmarked millions, or tens of millions, to ODOT–or better yet, spend it on training for the police and district attorneys so they can stop shrugging when another person is killed while biking. It hardly seems fair to take in all that money and then do, well, nothing with it to improve this situation.

Of course, I don’t see why we should have to show any of this to make roads and our legal system safe for people bicycling, but this seems to be how many think about it.

Chris I
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Chris I

I think they have proven that the tourism dollars are there. If you approached ODOT ten years ago asking them to drop hundreds of millions of dollars to widen and improve 101, they would have shrugged it off by saying “no one rides there, we have better places to spend money”. We have a better chance of getting some funding now.

Oregon Mamacita
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Oregon Mamacita

I have ridden on the coast quite a bit- and wow- no infrastructure. 101 is very scary. And yet so tempting… I support spending on bike improvements in rural areas- esp. the coast. Having spent time in one coastal community, I do think that the folks out there would enjoy the infrastrcture. And, since tourist dollars matter- even those who would never ride will likely be supportive- as long as the bikes are separated from the cars. Because 101 is a narrow hwy with narrow shoulders.
Anyway- this is good news and I wish Kenji well.

Kenji
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Kenji

Been on my mind. Been getting great feedback on 101. Something to talk about!

Thom Batty
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An excellent appointment, Travel Oregon is already good for cycling and cyclists, I am sure Kenji can make it even better.

Kenji
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Kenji

Thanks Thom!!!

KRhea
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KRhea

Congrats Kenji and kudos to Travel Oregon for this appointment. It’ll be great to have an “active member” of the cycling community as part of this group.

team oregon
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team oregon

That’s great Kenji They couldn’t have picked a better person for the job. congrats