First Stop Portland hosts Copenhagen Leadership

Copenhagen Mayor Ayfer Bakal brought a powerhouse delegation of 15 leaders from her Technical and Environmental Committee to Portland last week. While both cities were eager to share ideas, at the top of Mayor Bakal’s list was learning more about Portland’s experience in collaborations, both with the private and the non-profit (NPO) sector. "We don’t need to visit Portland to learn about bikes, but public-private partnerships - now that we need to learn about,” explained Mayor Bakal, when asked repeatedly why Copenhagen chose to visit Portland. (Copenhagen already a global leader in the bicycle world.) She affirmed her city’s growing economy, its challenge with public funding, and its need to build better relationships with less government. She shared Copenhagen's commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2025, and.explained that to accomplish such a lofty goal her government will need to be a better partner with its people. 

Lessons for Copenhagen - Effective use of NPO’s

The delegation was particularly taken with NPO’s that advanced both pubic policy and advocacy goals - such as Friends of Trees, 1000 Friends of Oregon, Bike Transportation Alliance, Portland Farmer’s Market, neighborhood coalitions, and others.  Saturday’s brief walk through the South Park Blocks with Portland Farmers Market Director Trudy Toliver helped answer their specific questions: how does this work, how do you get people to engage, what do the relationships with the city look like, who’s in charge...?

Copenhagen’s Parks Director Jon Pape was bullish about the partnership Portland has with NPO Friends of Trees. He hopes to bring the idea back to Copenhagen. He shared a disheartening story about Copenhagen's recent efforts to increase their tree canopy: the city had bought trees for citizens to plant on their own, “but no one took the trees,” he lamented. “We needed a citizen organization like Friends of Trees to help us be successful.”

Copenhagen delegates press Portland Farmers Market ED Trudy Toliver for details about how her organization functions

Lessons for Portland:

Pay attention to framing

Copenhagen was candid about our bike program. Several delegates told us to pay attention to what they call “framing.”

“The most important thing your bike program should do for its people is be safe, convenient and easy. And if, in the process, you save the world (i.e. meet carbon goals) it's merely a bonus,” said Copenhagen City Councilor Jakob Vester Hougaard.  “Your job is to combine green technology with clever planning to make people’s everyday lives better. That’s the goal.” And the message is consistent citywide. Copenhagen's health department even promotes the message, "You're safer on a bicycle than on the sofa."

ISS rep Fletcher Beaudoin explains the partnership between Portland State University and City of Portland in the "Green Bike Box" research project on SW Broadway.
"Create space" for bicycles rather than "take space"

While several delegates acknowledged both cities use of shared streets,  they encouraged more efforts to 'create space' just for bicycles. They noted Portland's efforts to delineate bikeways such as the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade; the cantilevered ped/bikeway on the Steel Bridge; and they loved the green painted bike lanes and boxes. "That’s created space, not taken space," they said (ironically, very similar to the comment made by Philippe Giorand, from Toulouse).  Drivers don’t feel they are giving up as much when space is created, not taken. So maybe a little more green paint could help reduce some conflict?

Copenhagen traffic guru Niels Tørsløv (center) documents his experience on the Eastbank Esplanade.

Conversational cycling (beyond Spandex and into street clothes - yes!)

Copenhagen is expanding 80% of its bike lane widths from 1.7 meters to 3 meters, allowing several riders to cycle next to each other. They feel this is particularly important for parents and school children to share their commute together, safely. They encouraged Portland to think beyond just the efficiency of the commute, the Copenhagen officials argued, we should also think about the joy of the ride itself.. Conversational cycling might not be possible everywhere, but on targeted neighborhood streets, it could be a great complement to our safe routes to school program.  

Cycling advocate, Copenhagen City Councilor  Signe Goldmann, talks with neighbors at City Repair's innovative Sunnyside Piazza

Below, a slideshow of our favorite scenes from the Copenhagen study tour.

Finally, First Stop Portland wouldn't work without the support of Portland's experts.
Special thanks to everyone who helped with this study tour: MetroCouncilor Carlotta Collette, Metro Director of Planning and Development Robin McArthur,  City of Portland Director of International Affairs Noah Siegel, City of Portland Transportation Director Catherine Ciarlo, City of Portland Transportation Policy Manager Katja Dillmann, City of Portland Director of Parks andRecreation Mike Abbate, City of Portland Planning and Sustainability Director Lisa Libby, Portland Development Commission Executive Director Patrick Quinton, PortlandFarmer’s Market Executive Director Trudy Toliver, POSI Executive Director RobBennett, Institute for Sustainable Solutions Partnership Coordinator Fletcher Beaudoin, Gerding Theater Concierge Frank Saenz , Alta Planning + Design Principal Steve Durrant (and his wife Chris Carlson and son Peter Durrant), City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services Outreach Coordinator Anne Nelson, City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services Eco-roofProgram Administrator Amy Chomowicz, City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services Eco-roof Specialist Tom Liptan, andBicycle Transportation Alliance Executive Director Rob Sadowsky.

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