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Former Portland Mayor Sam Adams named to League of American Bicyclists board

Posted by on June 5th, 2015 at 11:36 am

Sam Adams
(Photo: World Resources Institute)

Sam Adams might have left Portland for a job in Washington DC back in January; but it looks like the biking bug he caught while serving as our city’s mayor between 2008 to 2012 traveled with him.

Adams, who — for better or for worse — was a champion for bicycling throughout his political tenure in Portland, is now the newest member of League of American Bicyclist’s board of directors. In an announcement by the League yesterday they described Adams as “a strong advocate for safe bicycling and pedestrian options” who “helped expand Portland bikeways system by 75 miles, and focused new investments.”

After leading the Portland City Club, Adams is now director of the U.S. Climate Initiative for the World Resources Institute.

I caught him via email yesterday and asked him a few questions about his new role with the League and how bicycling might fit into his work on climate change:


BikePortland: Why did you want to be on the League’s board?

I want to use lessons learned as a local government leader to help bicycling reach its full potential in this nation as a neighborhood-strengthening, cost-effective transportation option that offers multiple benefits to promote health, environmental sustainability, affordability and access equity.

Any particular focus/emphasis/interest you will represent on the board?

As a Board member, I hope to help strengthen the League’s partnerships and connections with both national business and racial justice organizations.

Mayor's entry into Grand Floral Parade-1

Adams in the 2009 Rose Festival.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Has bicycling played a role in your work on Climate Change at the WRI yet?

At WRI, we have just embarked on an effort to compile and report on greenhouse gas emission data on a U.S. city-by-city basis — hard believe but this has yet to be done. We are working to include all transportation-related climate pollution data, including a more accurate accounting of avoided greenhouse gas emissions base on bike trips. Nerdy stuff but important research that can serve as a factual basis to improve how we plan and operate bike infrastructure and more fully integrate more it into all transportation projects.

Do you miss Portland?

I am fully engaged and into my national climate action work here in DC but I do miss Portland a lot. Take a bike ride for me on the Springwater Trail!

Looks like Adams is in a position to have impact on climate change. Here’s to hoping his experience in Portland and now with the League allows him to fully leverage bicycling as a powerful tool to stop it.

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

  • jeg June 5, 2015 at 11:53 am

    I wish he were still mayor. None of these current ***word deleted by moderator*** say a word. They are beholden to their monied lobbiers, not the lower or middle class.

    They don’t promote dense planning, they don’t promote transit, and they don’t promote bikes.

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    • jeg June 5, 2015 at 12:40 pm

      The translation of the word I used is “a foolish or contemptible person.” Why is that being censored? It was an expression of my assessment of their ability to govern.

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      • jeg June 5, 2015 at 12:41 pm

        Obviously, the phallus reference in yiddish has been linguistically assimilated and is much less prominent.

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 5, 2015 at 12:45 pm


        it’s not a nice thing to call someone and I didn’t like it, that’s why I deleted it. If you have any other questions or concerns about it, please email me at cheers.

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        • jeg June 5, 2015 at 1:04 pm

          Who do you guys support as potential candidates? I don’t think the average citizen is noticing much leadership aiming for these roles with biking and inclusionary, dense neighborhoods in mind. Who in our community right now would be able to fill the role of Sam Adams in terms of being a voice for a minority?

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          • davemess June 5, 2015 at 3:18 pm

            “the average citizen is noticing much leadership aiming for these roles with biking and inclusionary, dense neighborhoods in mind.”

            That’s because it’s entirely possible the “average” citizen either doesn’t care too strongly about these things or doesn’t want/like them.

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            • jeg June 5, 2015 at 3:30 pm

              Same thing like big business being against child labor regulations? Or food safety regulations not being a big deal? These concepts, biking, mixed use density, transit– this saves people’s lives. First, it makes the roads safer for more users. Second, it protects the ecosystem from sprawl. Whether it is minority opinion or not, these are big concepts that people need to start educating themselves on. And ignorance does not provide a platform for opposition when livelihood and ecosystem are on the line.

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              • Oregon Mamacita June 7, 2015 at 9:39 am

                So, a voter who distrusts BPS planners is like a business who opposes child labor regulations?

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    • Tom Hardy June 5, 2015 at 1:58 pm

      Ah But they do! They promote cars, high density apartments without adiquite parking while say in they do promote cycling because right next door they have expensive High density parking garages.

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    • tony k June 7, 2015 at 7:31 am

      Sam was a disgrace, lied about his “relationship” with an under aged intern and only admitted it after the fact. He has NO experience outside of government and figures any problem can be fixed by throwing more money at it, taxpayer’s money that is.

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  • Todd Boulanger June 5, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    Well Portland now is a shoe in to keep its Platinum Status.

    (Well played my friend, yes check and mate.)

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    • Terry D-M June 5, 2015 at 12:31 pm

      Who knows, Sam may vote to downgrade due to the recent stagnancy….He knows what project applications were started by his administration and are now just getting funded….and which ones are new.

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      • Scott H June 5, 2015 at 1:48 pm

        Yeah, maybe Sam would help us leverage the board to send written intent to downgrade, based on but not limited to higher death rates than other platinum cities, Portland from platinum status before next years elections. That would light the fire under city hall.

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        • jeg June 5, 2015 at 3:32 pm

          This needs to happen. I think Sam Adams can be an advocate to leverage some positive improvements in our politically stifled atmosphere right now. The city and ODOT need a jarring.

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    • Robert Burchett June 5, 2015 at 12:50 pm

      shoo-in, Todd!

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      • Todd Boulanger June 5, 2015 at 3:23 pm

        Thanks – shoo-in….:-0

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  • Oregon Mamacita June 5, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    Adams will always been known for kissing a teenager in a bathroom at city hall. I guess the League of American Bicyclists has very few applicants for its board. Sad.

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    • jeg June 5, 2015 at 2:42 pm

      He was a better mayor than Hales ever could claim to be.

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      • Oregon Mamacita June 7, 2015 at 9:46 am

        Hales set a very low bar.

        Plus- face facts. Adams was so unprincipled that he kissed a minor in the bathroom at city hall. Had the minor been a few weeks younger Adams would be labelled as a sex offender. Plus- Adams let his team down by lying about the incident.

        Aren’t there any parents on this thread? Can’t anyone imagine the anger that Beau Breedlove’s parents would have felt knowing that someone twenty years older than your teen was trying to use an internship as an opportunity to seduce your kid?

        The pro-density clique seems ready to forgive any bad acts by pro-density proponents. That kind of group think is scary.

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    • jeffb June 5, 2015 at 2:46 pm

      To you, perhaps. Others are more concerned with what our elected officials do for the city than what they do in their personal lives.

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    • Terry D-M June 5, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      Oh please…

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  • 9watts June 5, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    “a more accurate accounting of avoided greenhouse gas emissions base on bike trips.”

    Aha. Well, that’s a first step.
    The Germans, though, are far ahead of us when it comes to bikes and climate change policy:

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  • Tom Hardy June 5, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    More active promotion of the anti car is a good thing. WNBR is great since we all ready have the biggest. Maybe we need more than one per year.

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  • PDX SE Rider June 5, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    Tiny quibble… 🙂 We (‘Merica) aren’t actually going to STOP climate change. I don’t think anyone’s trying to actually do that… I mean… you know that’s like stopping the earth from rotating. BUT we are going to reduce our contribution to worldwide greenhouse gases through initiatives like those sponsored by WRI. And we are going to take steps now to mitigate harmful effects brought about by a changing climate.

    So they say. Just wanted to clarify. I know what you mean by stop it, but wanted to add some context there. Cuz it’s Portland and we love accuracy on our socio/politico issues. 🙂

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    • Lester Burnham June 5, 2015 at 2:29 pm

      If you buy a Vanilla instead of a cheaper bike from China, you are definitely helping reduce our emissions. Plus you can really shred on a Vanilla. Buy local!

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    • 9watts June 5, 2015 at 5:09 pm

      “We (‘Merica) aren’t actually going to STOP climate change. I don’t think anyone’s trying to actually do that”

      Did anyone here say we were? I’m not following your point.

      It would be nice if we did have a thoroughgoing conversation about what it would take to STOP climate change, however, now that we’ve moved through the other phases

      Phase 1: Never heard of it.
      Phase 2: It is wrong.
      Phase 3: It is right, but irrelevant.
      Phase 4: It is what I had been saying all along.

      taken from Ugo Bardi, Peak Oil: The Four Stages of a New Idea.

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  • joe adamski June 5, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    So once we get past the woulda-shouldas.. who are our champions and who are our foes? My guess the narrative shifted somewhere along the line and politicians don’t feel the need to promote or embrace the cycling community. And we let them go on ignoring us. Adams was the most prominent of our champions but once his other issues forced him out, I felt it politically was a repudiation of cycling, not of poor choices Adams may or may not have made.
    The Mayor and two council members are up for election next year. Will we give them a pass or a mandate?

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    • jeg June 5, 2015 at 5:03 pm

      Where is the LOUD proponent of density, transit, and bikes?? I don’t really see anyone willing to step up into this role and run. I want to vote against the people currently in office, but where is the better choice.

      We need one. Soon.

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      • 9watts June 5, 2015 at 5:15 pm

        You should run.

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        • jeg June 5, 2015 at 5:22 pm

          Not enough ego to be a politician; just enough to wanna rattle their cages.

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          • Joe Adamski June 5, 2015 at 10:52 pm

            I don’t feel we need to field our own candidates, but we need to organize politically to push this agenda. The BTA is 25 years old and I have NEVER been a member. This is, my feeling, part of the problem. In short, we are happy to let others fight our fight. The BTA in itself will not be our perfect champion, but it can be one of them. Tomorrow I will be joining. and with membership comes benefits: we can let them know our prioriities and engage. But that in itself is not enough. A constant reminder to our electeds as to our priorities needs to happen to remind them ‘who brung them to the dance’. We can sit around and bemoan our lack of progress, or we can get up and define our priorities, nicely or painfully. I notice since Critical Mass folded, the momentum did too.

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            • Joe Adamski June 5, 2015 at 10:58 pm

              ACTUALLY.. i just joined at

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  • Mark June 6, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    I remember reading about a an intersection in Sellwood that was reconfigured for traffic calming and bike access. Mayor Sam Adams rode up on a bicycle for a publicity event. The reporter noted that he was dropped off by car a few blocks away. It was just a show.

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  • jj June 7, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    The reason we have Hales right now is because of Adams. He was smoke and mirrors. Cozied in with the developers, pushed a few high profile projects but underneath the city was disfunctional. Now we inherit the problems. Can’t believe people still want him back.

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