Notes from the Transportation Health Equity Kickoff

by Alison Graves, Executive Director

Alison kicking off the #transportationhealthequity panel addr... on TwitpicThe conversation about transportation, health and equity has been gaining momentum in the past year. While it’s a bit of a mouthful, it essentially means that everyone in Portland should have access to getting to where they need to go safely and affordably. Currently, that is not the case, as there are large gaps in the network throughout the city, making it difficult for people to get safely and easily from one part of town to another. The challenge is that these gaps are often disproportionately situated in low-income neighborhoods (see Equity Analysis of Portland’s Draft Bicycle Master Plan), where people rely more heavily on walking, biking, and riding transit.

Today, I and two colleagues, Mychal Tetteh and Zan Gibbs, attended a panel discussion organized by Transportation for America. I facilitated the panel, which included Lillian Shirley, President-elect of the National Association of City and County Health Officials and Director of the Multnomah County Health Department; Alejandro Queral, Program Supervisor at the Multnomah County Health Department; Ron Ruggerio, Executive Director at SEIU Local 49; and Radhika Fox, Federal Policy Director of PolicyLink.

It was a superstar panel with many thoughtful comments and the audience was equally engaged in having a rich discussion.

A few of the thoughts that resonated for me include:

  • Portland leads in many ways, but having a Transportation Health Equity network where the benefits and the burdens are equally shared amongst a diverse population is not one of them.
  • The Transportation Healthy Equity network needs a common vision, with a common voice.
  • We recognize that this is a complex issue at a large scale. Change will not be easy or swift.
  • We need to look at how to empower local community voices and make our planning processes more inclusive of diverse communities.
  • There is an active and growing number of people of color riding bikes. It is a falsehood to continue to say in Portland that people of color do not ride. Like all demographics, there are some who do not ride bicycles.

I look forward to continuing this conversation in the future.

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