Weekender Ride

The woman who made Sunday Parkways a Portland institution is retiring from PBOT

Posted by on January 26th, 2018 at 11:27 am

Sampling her handiwork, Ginenthal would often bike the Sunday Parkways course, as she does here in 2009.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

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.

Passing out bike maps on the Fremont Bridge during Bridge Pedal in 2008.

Ginenthal (in 2006) and boxes of biking, walking, and transit promotional propaganda awaiting delivery as part of her SmartTrips program.

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Leading a Sweet Summer Cycle ride in 2006.

At the Platinum award celebration at City Hall in 2008.

Ginenthal (left) with co-workers at the opening of the Three Bridges on the Springwater in 2007.

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.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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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

14 Comments
  • John Lascurettes January 26, 2018 at 11:52 am

    Thank you for your gift to the city, Ms. Ginenthal!

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  • Middle of the Road Guy January 26, 2018 at 1:33 pm

    Linda was also wonderful to work with on Sunday Parkways. Have a great retirement!

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  • Al January 26, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    Amazing person. Lots of thanks go out to her and Jonathan for this article.

    While I enjoyed the parkways rides now and again myself years ago, the events really weren’t very prominent on my calendar until my kids got to be old enough to walk. That’s when they would join me in a bike trailer at first and now on bicycles themselves. Parkway rides are now hallowed events this family does not miss. We actually schedule around them to make sure we attend each one. The fun, community spirit, events, food, riding, parks, neighborhoods and people are the best.

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  • B. Carfree January 26, 2018 at 8:57 pm

    I can’t help but think of things like Sunday Parkways and Smarttrips programs as evidence of failure. The failure isn’t necessarily the fault of those who work on them as it is of our bureaucracy as a whole, our elected officials and, of course, our population. In a different Portland, the one we all dream of, there would be no little open street parties like Sunday Parkways because such uses of the streets would be the daily norm. One would have no need of Smarttrips and those cute promotions and trip planners because one could and would simply point and shoot for one’s destination (like motorists do).

    So, kudos for working so hard on the edges and trying to bring a better future to today, but it should show us just how far we have to go. It’s not impossible, and the imminent rise of autonomous vehicles will rid us of one overarching problem within the next decade or so, but we have our work set out for us.

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    • I’ll Show Up January 27, 2018 at 11:43 am

      Why do you feel compelled to write about a person’s life work being a failure? Got a gripe about how these programs fit into your version of utopia, write that on a post about the programs. This post is a thank you to Linda for 23 years of amazing work. Not sure what you do for work, but I’m hoping no one treats you like you treated Linda after decades of hard work.

      I acknowledge you gave her kudos for trying! Perhaps look yourself in the mirror before posting this stuff and ask how you’d feel if you were on the other side of the equation.

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      • John Lascurettes January 27, 2018 at 1:44 pm

        Pretty sure B. was saying that it was evidence of the city’s failure not hers:

        In a different Portland, the one we all dream of, there would be no little open street parties like Sunday Parkways because such uses of the streets would be the daily norm.

        So, kudos for working so hard on the edges and trying to bring a better future to today …

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    • Middle of the Road Guy January 27, 2018 at 3:33 pm

      I guess we wouldn’t have Pride parades or ethnic celebrations of any kind, either…because we wouldn’t need them.

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  • soren January 27, 2018 at 7:35 pm

    I have mixed feelings when it comes to PBOT’s impact on our community but I unambiguously believe Linda Ginenthal’s advocacy/work had advanced the COMMON GOOD.

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  • dave January 27, 2018 at 10:53 pm

    Maybe with a new person in charge, we can get a Sunday Parkways on the forgotten westside.

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    • Linda Ginenthal January 29, 2018 at 10:09 am

      We are on the westside this year! Sunday Parkways on the Green Loop. We are still working out the route – lots of details. It is going to be epic!

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  • PoPo January 28, 2018 at 9:38 pm

    Linda thank you so much for your hard work building community in our beloved Portland!

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  • Robert Alan Ping January 29, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    Thank you for your years of hard work making Portland a better place, Linda!

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  • Jeff S January 29, 2018 at 1:54 pm

    Linda – your diligent & innovative work on both Sunday Parkways and SmartTrips has been an inspiration. I’m sure your successor will be great, but you are irreplaceable.

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  • Kit Keller January 31, 2018 at 8:13 pm

    Bike ped professionals everywhere are grateful to Linda Ginenthal for her groundbreaking work on Smart Trips and Safe Routes to School. Her willingness to share best practices is admirable and helped others do similar work in their communities. Portland’s Sunday Parkways inspired many cities to do and be more. Thank you Linda! Happy retirement!!

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