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Opinion: To make Portland safer, ODOT’s Rian Windsheimer must go

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

This post is written by Kiel Johnson, owner of the Go By Bike bike valet in South Waterfront.

The Oregon Department of Transportation, under the leadership of Rian Windsheimer, is trying to remove a bike lane on SE 26th without providing any satisfying reasons as to why this is a good idea. This should alarm anyone who thinks that Portland should be safer for bikes and that our transportation system should be designed around evidence. From favoring auto capacity over transit, to spending $450 million to widen a freeway while many of the most dangerous streets that are under state control lack safe crossings, ODOT has repeatedly proven they are not acting in the best interests of the people of Portland. If ODOT is going to regain the trust of the community they serve, there needs to be a cultural change at ODOT that starts at the top. The director of ODOT who oversees Portland, Rian Windsheimer, must go.

With the same logic and determination as your Fox News-watching uncle who is still upset about Hillary Clinton’s emails, ODOT has repeatedly called for the removal of the SE 26th ave bike lane. Their original reasoning was that ODOT would only let Portland make another intersection safe if ODOT got to make 26th less safe. ODOT is happy to have a transportation network where bikes and pedestrians are secondary and do not have the same right to public right of way as someone in an automobile. While it normally takes months of outreach and neighborhood open houses to add a bike lane, zero community involvement is required to take one away. The only community participation is a letter the Street Trust created asking for the bike lanes to remain.

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How did the city that once served as the national beacon in innovative transportation policy get to a point where we are reactively removing bike lanes with no justification? This is a question that I hope the elected officials who oversee ODOT think deeply about. The lack of vision and a culture that apparently does not value facts or community input ultimately falls with the director of ODOT in Portland, Rian Windsheimer.

We all love Portland because of its livability. Today one of the biggest local institutional obstacles to that is the reductionist and reactionary culture at ODOT. A culture that is willing to trade safety of intersections around like baseball cards. For Portland to become the city it can be, where livability is shared equally among all the people who live here, ODOT needs to change. Keep the bike lane on 26th and show Mr. Windsheimer the door.

If you want to show support for the SE 26th Avenue bike lane, come to rally on Tuesday (2/20) at 5:30 pm.

— Kiel Johnson, @go_by_bike on Twitter

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