The need for culture-change at the Oregon Department of Transportation is something we talk about a lot here at BikePortland. So we were thrilled to hear that the agency is on something of a hiring binge in their active transportation section. And it comes at an important time — ODOT’s advisory body is set to adopt a major update of the state’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Mode Plan tomorrow.
The big news is that former Bicycle Transportation Alliance and PSU Transportation Research and Education Consortium staffer Susan Peithman has just been hired as the Active Transportation Policy Lead. This is a welcome injection of fresh perspective into an agency that’s trying shed its cars-first reputation. Peithman isn’t just a whip-smart advocate and former consultant (with Alta Planning + Design), she’s put her volunteer time into the policies she’s now going to help steer. Peithman, who lives in northeast Portland and is a relatively new mom, had been vice-chair of the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee for the past three years.
You might also recall Peithman’s past cycling exploits from coverage here on BikePortland. There was the time in 2012 when she was part of the winning team at the Rapha Ladies Prestige race in San Francisco, and she was also one of three Portland women who attempted to ride the entire Tour de France route. Also in 2012 Peithman was the BTA’s representative on the controversial North Williams Avenue Traffic Safety Project.
In an email to employees, ODOT’s Active Transportation Section Manager McGregor Lynde said Peithman is taking on a “critical position within the agency.” “With the updated Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan going to the Oregon Transportation Commission this week for adoption, the timing of Susan coming on board could not have been better, as we begin the efforts of implementing the plan.”
Peithman will start her new position on June 7th.
Lynde and Peithman will also benefit from expanded ground troops. ODOT hired Jessica Horning as an active transportation liaison in Portland’s region (Region 1) back in November 2012. Now they’ve announced the expansion of those positions to all five regions with recent hires being made in Salem (Region 2), Bend (Region 4) and Eastern Oregon (Region 5). Hiring for a SW Oregon (Region 3) active transportation liaison is expected to start soon. These positions will also interface with ODOT’s long-time Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Shelia Lyons.
To give you a sense of where Peithman and Lynde operate within ODOT, check out the organizational chart below. You’ll note that the Active Transportation Section is housed within the Transportation Development Division:
The impact of these new hires will rely on their ability to navigate the waters of ODOT — an agency that’s constrained by outdated federal guidelines, whims of the legislature, internal politics, and a penchant for highway-building.
We’ve shared promising news of organizational change at ODOT several times in the past; but you still have to look very hard to notice that the agency is indeed changing their ways. These new hires should bring things into much clearer focus. Stay tuned.
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – email@example.com
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