Support BikePortland

Good news: ODOT just added four new staffers to head up active transportation efforts

Posted by on May 18th, 2016 at 2:09 pm

N Williams Ave Community Forum.JPG-11

Susan Peithman speaking at a community forum in 2011.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

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.

Advertisement

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:

odot-orgchart

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 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

Our work is supported by subscribers. Please become one today.

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

19
Leave a Reply

avatar
11 Comment threads
8 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
17 Comment authors
Jeff MonsonGerikwsbobElliot9watts Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Steve B.
Guest
Steve B.

Great hire, ODOT! Congrats to Susan!

shannon
Guest
shannon

Yeah, Susan!

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

The organization chart for ODOT is worth perusing in some detail.

Such charts are faint images of the real flow of power within organizations.

Likely the actual nexus of ODOT is somewhere within the descending branch labeled “Office of the Director.”

Surely there are strong functional lateral connections between that office and every nook and cranny of the organization.

I wish we knew what they were!

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

Highway Division – because that’s what they actually build and maintain. Note that while there is a “motor vehicle services” department, they probably have little involvement in keeping travel lanes clear and connected.

ethan
Guest
ethan

How does this translate into new / better places to ride bikes and walk on state owned or maintained roads?

Will we see improvements on Lombard, Barbur or 82nd sooner?

Jessica Roberts
Subscriber

I had the pleasure of having Susan on my team for many years. She is so smart, so dedicated, and really committed to policy and system reform. I can’t imagine a better hire.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

JM:

Could you tell us what Susan has actually accomplished in addition to where she has worked?

In addition to being a very good cyclist?

Bontrager
Guest
Bontrager

***This comment has been deleted because it was mean and insulting. Please treat the subjects of our stories with more respect – whether you agree with them/like them or not. – Jonathan ***

eddie
Guest
eddie

I’m just glad there’s a bicyclist up in there somewhere.

9watts
Subscriber

“an agency that’s trying shed its cars-first reputation.”

I’m excited to hear about these hires and want to believe the quote above is a fair representation of what is going on but I am curious how you came to that conclusion, Jonathan? From everything I’ve seen there is zero interest in shedding its cars-first reputation, along with a bit of window dressing and a whole lot less follow through. I’d love to be proven wrong.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…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. …” maus/bikeportland

I’m willing to give Peithman and the other hires some vote of confidence that they’ll attempt to levy an increase in emphasis on expansion, improvement, and maintenance of superior walking and biking infrastructure that are part of roads under ODOT’s jurisdiction…however, I think people could use, and need a little more substantial description of what form that emphasis is going to take.

What are Horning, Lynde, and Peithman going to do, or what are they going to be able to do, to significantly shift the provision of ODOT resources towards providing infrastructure, superior to what’s been standard for the department to provide in past for walking and biking?

I’m reluctant to really blame ODOT or its staff for the character of roads and highways it constructs and maintains…given that I believe, and think it’s true that the department does so consistent with the will and need for road use priorities expressed by majority Oregon residents.

Still, whether it wants to or not, ODOT in many instances under its jurisdiction, particularly notable in high population metro areas, builds big, ugly roads and highways that no person in their right mind wants to on or very near to, outside of a fast moving motor vehicle. I’d like to have available to read, that the hire-ees are working on ‘this, this, and this’, projects…to have walking and biking infrastructure on or along roads and highways in the departments jurisdiction be safer, quieter and more enjoyable to use than it ever has been to date.

Unfortunately, that kind of information doesn’t seem to be available here to read. Will there any of this kind of thing in the mentioned update of the state’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Mode Plan? I’m hoping so.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Cool Susan story- While on a wet morning commute down Williams, my rear wheel skidded out over a wet manhole cover on the left turn onto Flint. My face and shoulder were pretty wrecked up and my helmet broke. Disoriented, bruised, and bloodied, Susan stopped and helped me get back on my feet. After a few minutes, she escorted me to nearby Legacy ER and lent me her U-lock for the day while I was getting checked out.

After returning the U-lock the next day, I haven’t run into her since, so great to see she’s still out there continuing her mission to improve safety and cycling! (bonus- the manhole cover I slipped on was relocated away from the center of the lane a few months later… coincidence?)

Elliot
Guest
Elliot

Congrats Susan!

Jeff Monson
Guest

The ODOT ship IS changing course. Susan will do great and you will be reading about her accomplishments.