Wonk Night

We gather the region’s smartest transportation thinkers — engineers, consultants, planners, bureaucrats, elected officials, activists, and so on — to help us delve deep in to the hot topics of the day. The conversations are informal, illuminating, and inspiring.


    – Bike Parking, 9/24/18, co-hosted with Portland Bureau of Transportation.

Read recaps and browse photos of past events below…

Wonk Night recap: Exciting times for open streets

Posted on June 3rd, 2016 at 2:44 pm.

Wonk Night June 2016-3.jpg

(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

If Portland is on the cusp of a new open streets era (and I think it is), it will be up to us to make it great. And by “us” I mean all of us — from city staffers to grassroots activists and everyone in between.

Especially the grassroots.

That’s because the way Portland is doing this is different than other places (surprise, surprise). Our movement is being led by the community and the powers-that-be (the transportation bureau and City Hall) are merely facilitators.

That’s one of the big — and exciting — takeaways from our latest Wonk Night that happened on Wednesday at the Lancaster StreetLab.

With about 40 or so movers-and-shakers in the livable streets movement, we shared insights, traded ideas, and asked important questions about Portland’s open streets past, present, and future.[Read more…]

Wonk Night recap: Finding a space for parking reform

Posted on March 31st, 2016 at 2:35 pm.


Fuel for change.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Wonk Night is sponsored and hosted by Lancaster Engineering. Drinks for this month’s event were provided by Widmer Brothers Brewing, makers of Omission Beer.

On Tuesday night we brought together some of Portland’s most dedicated and whip-smart parking reformers for our monthly Wonk Night. It was a sincere pleasure to be in a lively room of about 50 people who all want Portland to do a better job using auto parking as a tool for good instead of evil.
[Read more…]

Let’s talk about auto parking: Join us at Wonk Night next Tuesday (3/29)

Posted on March 22nd, 2016 at 10:25 am.

For the love of parking lots-1

It’s truly amazing what we sacrifice “for the love of cars” as this advertising mural in downtown Portland says.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Auto parking is in a major state of flux right now. Our city is in the middle of major reform to its parking policies with an eye toward weening people off free and abundant storage of their motor vehicles, while at the same time we are still investing millions into huge parking garages in the central city. For people who care about great cities and quality public spaces, the time is now to get educated and engaged about this issue.

That’s why we’re excited to announce our upcoming Wonk Night. Next Tuesday join local experts and advocates for a night of networking and conversations that will unlock your parking policy achievement badge. Here’s what we’ve got lined up so far:

[Read more…]

Recap: Wonk Night heads to 82nd and Division

Posted on February 23rd, 2016 at 4:40 pm.

Wonk Night on 82nd Ave-6.jpg

APANO Board Member Anita Yap speaks while
community activist Steph Routh and Portland
Off-Road Cycling Master Plan Advisory Committee
member Carrie Leonard listen.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Our first Wonk Night of 2016 happened last night. Since the first one in 2012, we’ve held these events in the lobby of Lancaster Engineering (our sponsor) on Southwest 4th and Oak in downtown. It’s a great venue, but it was time to take the show on the road. We headed east and find a venue right on the corner of Southeast 82nd and Division — a community space managed by the nonprofit Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) that also happens to be inside the most diverse census tract in the state of Oregon.
[Read more…]

To 82nd, and Beyond! Join us for Wonk Night on February 22nd

Posted on February 9th, 2016 at 3:02 pm.


Wonk Night is back.

Our first event of 2016 will trade the downtown office lobby of Lancaster Engineering (our wonderful Wonk Night sponsors) for a location a bit further east: SE Division and 82nd to be exact.

The theme of the night is “To 82nd, and Beyond!” (which I like to say in my Buzz Lightyear voice.) Our mission for the evening is to inform and inspire each other about all the big, small, scary and exciting things happening in this part of Portland. And there’s a lot to talk about.
[Read more…]

At Wonk Night, County DA announces effort to change state law

Posted on October 27th, 2015 at 12:09 pm.


Multnomah County DA Rod Underhill (with Deputy DA
Chuck Sparks on his left) addressing last
night’s Wonk Night crowd.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

We had two firsts at Wonk Night last night: An activist group used the event as a platform for their cause, showing up en masse with protest signs and demands; and an elected official announced a new legislative proposal that could someday change Oregon law.

It all started quite unexpectedly. As I set up the room for the event about 17 people walked in who I’d never seen before. They were carrying signs that said things like “Justice for Chandler!”, “Speed Bumps for Chandler!”, “Slow Down” and so on. It caught me off guard and it took me a few seconds to realize that the “Chandler” in their posters was Chris Chandler, the man who was killed last month on SE Stark.
[Read more…]

Wonk Night (10/26) will focus on Oregon’s negligence gap

Posted on October 20th, 2015 at 1:55 pm.

“There ought to be some higher level of consequence when you use a deadly weapon to kill someone, even if you didn’t do it on purpose.”
— Ray Thomas, lawyer at Swanson Thomas Coon & Newton

There’s a gap in Oregon law that has outraged citizens and hamstrung prosecutors for many years. It’s a gap that makes it all too common for someone to receive a mere traffic citation when their actions while operating a vehicle lead directly to a serious injury or fatality.

This maddening situation first made major headlines here on BikePortland following our tragic October of 2007 when Tracey Sparling and Brett Jarolimek where killed in traffic collisions. In both cases the person behind the wheel of a large truck turned across a bicycle lane that was already occupied and two people died as a result. Despite those actions, the District Attorney declined to pursue criminal charges in either case.

The problem here isn’t with the DA’s office. The DA is constrained by Oregon law which currently has a yawning gap between the culpability threshold of a traffic ticket and a more serious criminal charge.

“There ought to be some higher level of consequence when you use a deadly weapon to kill someone, even if you didn’t do it on purpose.” That’s how noted lawyer Ray Thomas described the problem to us when we published a story about this gap in 2010.
[Read more…]

Wonk Night focuses on pursestrings and politics of big projects (photos)

Posted on September 11th, 2015 at 3:16 pm.

Wonk Night September 2015-16.jpg

We might need a bigger venue!

Sure, we’ve got your shiny new Orange Line light rail corridor and the fancy bike/walk/bus/streetcar/light-rail-only bridge, but what’s next?
[Read more…]

Join Us for Wonk Night and learn what’s next for Portland

Posted on September 2nd, 2015 at 1:25 pm.

My first walk across Tilikum Bridge-29

Tilikum is soooo 2015.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Next Wednesday (September 9th), just three days before the official opening of the Tilikum Crossing Bridge and the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Line, we’ll already be thinking about what comes next. And we’re not the only ones.

Portland’s elder statesman of transportation, Congressman Earl Blumenauer, told us in an interview back in December that he has made it his “personal mission” to get people to realize that after Tilikum there’s nothing in the federal pipeline. That marks the first time in over half a century that a major federal transportation project isn’t waiting to break ground.

This situation represents a major opportunity for the community to get educated and engaged about what should come next.
[Read more…]

Wonk Night recap: Calls for a coalition and more cooperation

Posted on July 24th, 2015 at 3:45 pm.


(Photo: Armando Luna)

Special thanks to Lancaster Engineering for hosting and to Omission Beer for donating drinks.

You know that point in a relationship when something starts feeling a bit off and you’re like, “Baby, we need to talk.” That’s how I’ve been feeling about the bike advocacy scene here in Portland. And that’s why I figured it was time to get some people together to hash a few things out.

We didn’t solve everything at Wonk Night last night and I’m sure people left with more questions than answers; but it was a great conversation and I think we’re all better off because of it. [Read more…]