Janette Sadik-Khan tours Portland with Congressman Earl Blumenauer (photos)

Posted by on March 25th, 2016 at 4:56 pm

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Earl Blumenauer and Janette Sadik-Khan in Portland yesterday.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Former New York City transportation chief Janette Sadik-Khan has made the most of her few days in Portland this week. She’s done two official events (a talk at the Mission Theater we reported on Wednesday and an event at Powell’s Books yesterday) and two unofficial events (a media training with Portland Bureau of Transportation and Metro staff and at least one happy hour gathering).

Then on Thursday morning Sadik-Khan and her “Streetfight” co-author Seth Solomonow joined U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer and a handful of local advocates and transportation experts for a tour of Portland.

I tagged along with my camera to eavesdrop on the conversations (when appropriate of course) and to chat with Sadik-Khan and Blumenauer a bit.

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At our first stop in Waterfront Park, Blumenauer told Sadik-Khan the story about how Harbor Drive once roared through the green grass where we stood (it was torn down in 1974) and how our region rallied to defeat the once-planned Mt. Hood Freeway. Sadik-Khan then heard of more modern activism with a summary of the “Better Naito” demonstration project from Ryan Hashagen of Better Block PDX.

Once Hashagen described how the project created a temporary protected lane for walking and biking and how it had widespread support from the City and others, Sadik-Khan’s immediately asked: “So. What’s the process moving forward?” (which I heard as, “Why the hell isn’t this permanent yet?!”). That question elicited a very awkward look from two Better Block volunteers who quickly turned their gaze to Timur Ender with PBOT Commissioner Steve Novick’s office. Ender said, “That [the future of Better Naito] is confidential,” and then described how the project will return this summer.

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Sadik-Khan is the rare figure who’s an inspiration to young engineers, agency staffers and activists — while also garnering serious respect from veteran elected officials.
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Timur Ender (red jacket), a transportation policy advisor for Commissioner Steve Novick, explains the SW 3rd Avenue bike lane project while Ryan Hashagen of Better Block PDX looks on. I should have asked Congressman Blumenauer to try his trucker hat on!
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Like two kids in a candy store.
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The streetcar, the bridge, the Tilikum itself: It was a very proud moment for Blumenauer to walk Sadik-Khan over the bridge. “It’s a symbol of 30 years of work,” he said.
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And for Sadik-Khan, finally walking over the Tilikum was like being a kid on Christmas morning.

As we made our way to the transit mall to catch a MAX train across the Tilikum Bridge, Sadik-Khan and Blumenauer walked together and almost never stopped talking. At the east end of the Tilikum Sadik-Khan seemed positively giddy to finally walk across America’s only major bridge to not provide access for private automobiles.

In South Waterfront Sadik-Khan met Dan Bower, the head of Portland Streetcar, and begged him to share insights that she could take to other places. She also met the proprietor of the Go By Bike bike valet near the Aerial Tram, Kiel Johnson.

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In South Waterfront, Blumenauer told Sadik-Khan about how this once industrial land is quickly turning into a hotspot for developers.
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One urban entrepreneur meets another. In many ways Sadik-Khan and Kiel Johnson of Go By Bike are very similar. They both think creatively about urban problems and have the moxie to implement innovative solutions to them.

Sadik-Khan and Blumenauer are deservedly hailed as major figures in the transportation reform world, and it turns out they have a wonderful rapport. There’s a very clear sense of mutual respect between them — at least that’s how it appears to me.

In Blumenauer, Sadik-Khan sees someone who represents a city that pioneered many of the urban design principles she so strongly believes in (in her book she writes about being influenced by Jane Jacobs). In Sadik-Khan, Blumenauer sees a dynamic force who has helped push many of his most beloved issues — cycling, transit and “livability” — into the forefront of our national transportation conversation. Blumenauer spoke effusively about Sadik-Khan’s impact and one point said in his typically earnest way, “Reading her book just makes me smile.”

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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    Beeblebrox March 25, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    I saw JSK and Earl at Powell’s last night. What a great pair of transportation leaders!

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    9watts March 25, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    A very nice report, Jonathan. Symbolism 1; Real World ….?

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  • Anne Hawley
    Anne Hawley March 25, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    I especially appreciate your editorial asides, Jonathan. I, too, wonder why the hell the Better Naito project isn’t moving forward yet.

    I wasn’t planning to buy JSK’s book, but now I’m pretty tempted.

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      Stephen Keller March 28, 2016 at 8:12 am

      Same here. I spent a few minutes browsing her opening chapters. I think it’ll be a worthwhile read.

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    Jeff March 25, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    The use of the adjective “confidential” rather than “undetermined” to reference the future of Better Naito is interesting, as it implies a decision has been made, but they don’t want to reveal it. Do they plan to make it permanent, but don’t want to say so in a political year? Or do they plan to leave it temporary indefinitely but don’t want to upset activists by saying so?

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    Roberta Robles March 25, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    Big businesses and utilities along the waterfront, including PGE, complained a lot for the Naito closure. Too much of a delay getting into the city owned parking garages. Confidential cause only the ‘right’ people are at the table right now discussing. What’s there to discuss? Shut it down for summer and see the tourism dollars float local small businesses.

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. March 26, 2016 at 8:44 am

    I wonder what Janette thought of our complete lack of bicycle infrastructure downtown.

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    • Anne Hawley
      Anne Hawley March 26, 2016 at 4:25 pm

      While I don’t think much of our downtown infra (especially its lack of connectivity), remember: JSK made her name with paint and movables, too. The question isn’t how disparaging she’d be of our painted bike lanes, but of the endless time lag between painting them and turning them into real infrastructure.

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      wsbob March 27, 2016 at 10:04 am

      For example? SW Broadway has bike lanes. SW Stark has a short stretch of full width bike lanes. Up by PSU is a short stretch of parking protected bike lane. Could be better, of course, and most likely will eventually be, but to say downtown has a complete lack of bike infrastructure, isn’t being very clear or accurate.

      Bike share, once it’s introduced, could help to hasten a move towards providing more protected bike lanes downtown. Whether that’s a good idea for people biking Portland’s small downtown, is debatable. Too much biking infrastructure there could wind up hamstringing free travel by people traveling by bike.

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    Jim Lee March 26, 2016 at 8:53 am

    As always, great photos, JM.

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    Jarrod Tate March 26, 2016 at 9:38 am

    I heard Congressman Blumenauer on OPB today saying that bikes are a racial issue and that we have to make biking accessible to more than just middle-aged white guys in lycra with expensive bikes. What do you all think about that statement?

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    Mike March 27, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    If she really wanted to move the conversation in Oregon, she should have met with OOOT, the governor, and state legislators of both parties. It wouldn’t hurt to meet with the leaders of other cities too. But since Oregon only consists of Portland and Portlanders’ vacation spots, why would Blumenauer think to do that?

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      9watts March 27, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      Given what we know about ODOT, I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t interested. They’ve certainly shown themselves to be disinclined to view the world as multimodal over and over again, at moments when the opportunity presented itself.

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    was carless March 27, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    …the same ODOT who is now looking at a road diet and bike lanes on Barbur?

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      9watts March 27, 2016 at 4:31 pm

      Kicking and screaming… And after how many years of throwing sand in our eyes?

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    maxadders March 28, 2016 at 7:37 am

    The Great NYC / Portland Gentrification Knowledge Share continues!

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