Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on January 26th, 2018 at 11:27 am
Portland Bureau of Transportation employee Linda Ginenthal is retiring after more than 23 years with the agency.
Throughout her career, Ginenthal has been a force of nature in promoting biking, walking, and livable streets. Among the many programs, projects and events she played a major (often leadership) role in were SmartTrips, Safe Routes to School, Portland’s push for a Platinum award, the 2016 Open Streets Summit, and of course, Sunday Parkways.
“As she has often said: ‘Build it and they will come. Tell them about it and they’ll ride’. She did and they did. She’s leaving behind a great legacy.”
— Roger Geller, PBOT
Sunday Parkways is what Ginenthal will be most remembered for. Before she officially retires this spring, Ginenthal will have spent more than a decade creating and managing Portland’s marquee open streets event. Much more than just letting people bike and walk on a loop of carfree streets, Sunday Parkways required a set of skills that Ginenthal seemed born to put to good use. She developed countless partnerships with neighborhood organizations citywide, diplomatically weaved through often thorny traffic control issues related to the event, recruited hundreds (thousands?) of volunteers, and even put herself on the frontline of fundraising for the event.
Ginenthal understands that streets — especially when opened only for walking and rolling — transcend transportation. In a 2015 video she spoke about how Sunday Parkways can bridge racial divides. In a 2010 interview we asked her how they could be a catalyst for biking and walking in east Portland. “I see Portland Sunday Parkways as a way to knit these very changing and diverse neighborhoods together,” she replied. “When our volunteer management team went out to ride the route a couple of weeks ago, the parks we rode by were filled with families and young people enjoying the parks in the evening in lots of sports games and activities. Many of these families were people of color and spoke many different languages. Traditionally these neighborhoods have been lower-income white families. I am hoping that Sunday Parkways gives these neighbors a chance to literally play in the streets together – whether they ride their bicycles, walk, stroll or just enjoy the fun healthy activities in the parks.”
In 2014 we asked readers to share the one thing they’d do to improve Sunday Parkways. Instead of getting defensive or dismissive, Ginenthal embraced the feedback. She even wrote a follow-up post detailing specific ways the BikePortland community could help. That was vintage Ginenthal! Positive and collaborative to reach shared goals.
Ginenthal was one of the core group of advocrats who got me so excited and inspired about Portland’s bike scene that I just had to share her work with the world.
But don’t just take my word for it: Here’s what some of her co-workers and partners say about her:
Elly Blue, Microcosm Publishing:
“Linda was my boss for two summers when I did bike deliveries for the SmartTrips program. She gave us both the guidance and freedom we needed to do well, as well as being always funny and endlessly patient with her delivery team’s unconventional personalities and habits. Most impressive in retrospect is her ability to find creative ways to keep her programs that she believed in going despite all political and financial obstacles. She’s my management muse. Thanks for being an amazing role model, Linda!”
Roger Geller, PBOT:
“Linda has been a great colleague and friend. Her vision and efforts helped transform Portland — and many places throughout North America. Linda’s team has done a great job informing Portlanders about bicycling and all options other than driving and giving them opportunities to not drive. She is also responsible for more miles of smiles than anyone else in town; my predominant memory of Portland’s first Sunday Parkways was how every oncoming person bicycling or walking had a big ear to ear smile on their face in realization of how wonderful urban living can be without cars (“Sunday Parkways every day”!) . As she has often said: “Build it and they will come. Tell them about it and they’ll ride”. She did and they did. She’s leaving behind a great legacy.”
Margi Bradway, Metro (formerly PBOT):
“Linda is one of the hardest-working people I know. When she sets her mind on accomplishing something, nothing or no one can stop her. She is a force. No ask was too big or too small for Linda when it came to managing Sunday Parkways and Smart Trips. She would do whatever it takes – everything from administering a complicated budget to the simple task of setting out cones. It is her passion, optimism, and her “roll up the sleeves” attitude that inspired so many volunteers, vendors,and staff to work long hours on Sunday Parkways; which in turn, inspired thousands of community members to participate in each summer month in the event. Linda’s legacy is enormous: she truly made Portland a better place to live by creating a sense of community through Sunday Parkways and inspiring many “interested but concerned” people to give bike riding a try on safe and open streets.”
Rich Cassidy, PBOT:
“Linda has consistently been at the helm of some of the most innovative active transportation programs we have introduced and mastered at the City. The highly successful Smart Trips program is copied by many cities throughout the country. And Portland has one of the most successful Sunday Parkways programs in the United States.”
Noel Mickelberry, Oregon Walks
“Thanks to Linda’s leadership, Oregon Walks partnered with the City to implement the first walking-focused open streets event – Oregon Walkways: ¡Cully Camina!. She continued to ensure that we received support from the City to sustain this program and provided invaluable expertise on executing open streets events. We are now gearing up for our third year of the Oregon Walkways series and we couldn’t have done it without Linda’s support.”
Ginenthal will work through the end of April and then plans to take time off to visit family and friends before deciding on the next chapter of her life.
Thank you Linda, for your service to our city and the influence it has far beyond our borders.
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