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.
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.
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.
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 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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