Portland Elects Cyclist Mayor; Obama Draws 8,000 on Bikes

On Tuesday, voters in Portland, Oregon elected Sam Adams as their next mayor. A former Congressional staffer and current Portland city commissioner, Adams — who is a cyclist — ran on a platform that emphasized environmental and progressive growth initiatives, including, in the words of the Oregonian, "use [of] the
Portland Streetcar and better planning to spur urban
renewal." Adams received strong support from the livable streets community, which helped earn him a 52-34 percent margin of victory.

There is speculation that the Adams camp got a last-minute boost from Barack Obama, who came to town ahead of Tuesday’s primary and drew a crowd of some 75,000with an estimated 8,000+ arriving on bicycles. As quoted on BikePortland.org, Obama responded with some fairly breathtaking comments on transportation policy.

“If we are going to solve our energy problems we’ve got to think long term. It’s time for us to be serious about investing in alternative energy. It’s time for us to get serious about raising fuel efficiency standards on cars.  It’s time that the entire country learn from what’s happening right here in Portland with mass transit and bicycle lanes and funding alternative means of transportation.

That’s the kind of solution that we need for America. That’s the kind of truth-telling that we are going to do in this campaign and when I am President of the United States of America.”

How remarkable is it that a presidential candidate — or virtually any politician in higher office — would talk about transit and bike lanes without making fun of them? Still, as BikePortland Editor Jonathan Maus notes:

These are all good signs; but what happens on the campaign trail is not
the same as real change. It will take the work of voters, local
leaders, and advocates to seize this moment in history and work
together to push the pendulum toward more sustainable, human powered

At the very least, it looks like Obama may be willing to get this conversation started on a national level.

  • Clarence

    WOW, that is one hell of a campaign video. Nearly brought a tear to my eye.

    Go Sam!! Can’t wait to talk with you at Sunday Parkways in June!

  • MrManhattan

    …and I hear he makes a fine beer!

  • Shemp

    “…what happens on the campaign trail is not the same as real change”

    Even more to the point, the federal government doesn’t have much of an implementing role when it comes to transportation.

  • Just to keep the facts accurate, the results in the article are from early numbers. The final numbers are more like a 59-33 margin.

    Also, a good background article on the bicycle issues in this campaign can be seen here: http://bikeportland.org/2008/05/16/sam-sho-and-the-race-for-mayor/

    Here’s the final from the County Elections Office (http://www.mcelections.org/2008-05/results.shtml):

    Vote For 1
    Lew Humble . . . . . . . . . . 516 .29
    Kyle Burris. . . . . . . . . . 397 .22
    David (The Ack) Ackerman . . . . . 1,490 .84

    Sam Adams . . . . . . . . . . 104,175 58.62

    Patricia Stuart . . . . . . . . 4,596 2.59

    Bob Leonard Forthan . . . . . . . 179 .10

    Steven Entwisle . . . . . . . . 297 .17

    Sho Dozono . . . . . . . . . . 59,375 33.41

    Christopher Rich . . . . . . . . 889 .50

    Craig Gier . . . . . . . . . . 297 .17

    Beryl Sylvia McNair . . . . . . . 542 .30

    Jeff Taylor. . . . . . . . . . 2,903 1.63

    James Bernard Lee. . . . . . . . 1,476 .83

    WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 591 .33

  • gecko

    Really like the sound of the BikePortland Editor Jonathan Maus’ quote: “human powered cities.”

  • Brad Aaron

    Thanks Greg.

  • “it will take … work” — well said.
    Let’s turn up the heat. We should urge people to join their local transit group, or get involved in their local political party. We should not vote someone in and then abandon them.
    Portland would be a good place to implement free public transit.

  • When are we going to get Bloomberg on a bike?

  • Clarence

    RE: free public transit:

    Actually Portland has something called Fareless Square in the downtown area/Central Biz District. It’s free to ride The Max Street car within the box.

    Although I know there has been endless debate about ending it…

  • dbs

    …and he’s got a great blog

  • david amiton

    re: “Even more to the point, the federal government doesn’t have much of an implementing role when it comes to transportation.”

    wow. i’m not sure a statement could be further from the truth. in the next 2 years in particular, the federal government will increasingly (which is not to say they don’t massively do so currently) influence the ways in which states and local municipalities invest in transportation planning and infrastructure. just two small tips of the iceberg? how about the reauthorization of the current federal transportation funding bill (SAFETEA-LU), which dictates how much money the federal government allocates to states for investment in planning and transportation infrastructure (of all types – transit, bike/ped, highway, port, etc). this bill (and highway bills before it), more than any other piece of legislature, nudges states and local municipalities towards investing in a particular type of preferred mode; imagine if the feds told states they’d provide a 90/10 match for highway construction (which they’ve done in the past!) – that might incentivize highway-building, right? currently, SAFETEA-LU provides for just over 20% of ALL funding for transit, and i think that number is higher for bike/ped planning and infrastructure. imagine if we could get that 90/10 match for transit and bike/ped improvements!

    a second federal initiative may be of even greater importance (if it happens…). i’m very pleased that oregon’s own congressman blumenauer is aggressively forcing the issue of a new national infrastructure plan in keeping with our nation’s history of developing such a plan every 100 years (the first two came in 1808 and 1908, respectively). while there’s still uncertainty surrounding the project, speaker pelosi has recently been supportive of the project, and quite frankly, you’d have to be a fool to argue that this country doesn’t need a massive overhaul of both its physical infrastructure and investment priorities.

    i could go on and on about ways in which the feds DO strongly influence states and local municipalities to adopt particular transportation strategies, but i think these two initiatives pretty much speak for themselves. more to the point, we’ve essentially come down to the two key players in this presidential election. which do you see pushing the envelope and holding congress accountable for incorporating transit, bicycles, and pedestrians into new federal legislation, the guy who came to portland and glorified the city’s bike lanes and public transportation as examples from which the rest of the country could learn, or the guy whose transportation platform consists of suspending the federal gas tax?

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    I’m interested in how Oregon has done in preserving the land-use structural changes that created the urban growth boundaries, later squashed by the political and economic forces in the suburbs, exurbs and hinterlands.

    Land use issues have a profound resonance in our political system structured as it was to settle the frontier and placate the slaveholders. Obama will clearly carry the cities, as did Kerry, as did Gore. The gas price issue will break along the urban-suburban-rural watersheds. Getting lots of people to turn out at a great rally is really inspiring, but there are still a lot of electoral votes out in the hinterland. I know Mr. Obama took Iowa in the primary but I am worried about how this will all turn out.

    Portland is one of our great cities, many cities are doing great things, too bad they are politically castrated.

  • Lovely… wonder what the people in Topeka will think.

  • PCC

    The federal government spends $50 billion a year on transportation — sounds to me like a pretty big “implementing role” in transportation. Those dollars get multiplied many times over by state/local governments who bend over backwards to meet the feds’ grant criteria; congestion pricing is just one example of something that was in fact largely dependent on the federal government.

    The folks in Topeka are probably smiling aboard their Topeka Townies shared bikes, which handily won the race (by months!) for “first public smart bike scheme in North America.”


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