Ted Wheeler has started his tenure as Portland’s 53rd mayor with a bang. Or should we say, with a brrrrr.
Wheeler revealed on Twitter today (after being asked about it) that he rode his bike to work for his first day on the job. “This is Portland!” you might say, “That’s no big deal!” But consider this: When Wheeler left his home in the West Hills the mercury rose to only about 25 degrees. And there was a serious wind chill. And it was dark.
When we asked him how it went he said, “Cold, but the roads were dry and the stars were out.”
Riding a bike in an urban environment on a regular basis isn’t a pre-requisite for success as the leader of a major city; but it is certainly important. Given that nearly all policymakers have an automobile-centric perspective, it’s imperative that a non-driving worldview has a chance to work its way into our planning, policies, and priorities.
Wheeler has a huge opportunity to capitalize on Portland’s fertile ground for biking and transportation reform. Our previous two mayors struggled to get the biking balance right. Former Mayor Sam Adams meant well and genuinely “got it” when it came to cycling; but he was so eager to be seen as bike-friendly that he emboldened haters and ended up turning the issue into an unnecessarily controversial political football. And Charlie Hales never seemed to move beyond politically-motivated bike photo-ops. Even when he did bike to work it was only because he was considering a re-election bid (the rides ended when he pulled out of the race).
Then there’s Wheeler: Not only did he bike in conditions many people (even regular bike riders!) consider crazy, he didn’t even announce it or ask the media to be there.
While we’re not completely surprised that Wheeler decided to bike to work today (given his triathlon training and his attention to cycling before he even entered the mayoral race); we couldn’t be happier. It bodes very well for how he approaches his job.
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – firstname.lastname@example.org