Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place in Vancouver Offers Real Inspiration!


Many thanks to Mark Plotz, Vice President at PPS and Program Director of the National Center for Bicycling & Walking, who does the heavy lifting for the conference! He took my phone call when we still had half of Washington State to bike across and I wasn’t sure I’d make the event because of headwinds.

My family and I dipped our front wheels into Puget Sound at the end of our bicycle journey across the U.S., just in time for me to hop a bus from Seattle up to Vancouver for the 2016 Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place Conference and Placemaking Week, September 12-16.  It was an incredible treat – to experience Vancouver and also to participate in these events put on by the Project for Public Spaces (PPS) and other partners!


View across the harbor from the Woodwards Building

By chance, I was able to stay with a lovely couple who are Warm Showers hosts living in the famous Woodwards Building in Gastown – a former department store that was the site of affordable housing protests against luxury redevelopment.  It has been re-made into mixed income housing with incredible views of the port. In a nod toward Vancouver’s typically rainy climate (this particular week was bright and sunny the entire time) the complex also has several indoor-outdoor communal spaces, as well as a neighborhood grocery and other services on the ground floor.

The very first afternoon I was able to jump on a Seabus Ferry with other conference participants to cross the harbor and engage in a mobile workshop put on by the City of North Vancouver and consultants from Nelson/Nygaard. Called (Un)Squaring the Square, the workshop invited practitioners and local stakeholders to walk through, sit down, and re-envision two underutilized public spaces. The session was engaging and well organized and also a grounding and connecting experience for many of us just arriving in Vancouver.


Atrium public space at the Woodwards Building at night.

Despite the tremendous beauty of the City of Glass and its surrounding mountains, I appreciated how open local conference organizers were about Vancouver’s continued affordable housing and mental health crises, as well as other serious issues. The keynote, Charles Montgomery, local to Vancouver and author of Happy City: transforming our lives through urban designshared how important it is that we help people connect with one another through our transportation and placemaking work.  That everyone belongs and should be made to feel that way.  And how connecting people in public spaces and through walking, bicycling, taking transit, and carpooling is essential for our mental health and economic futures.  It affirmed all of the base motivations for the work I do and I look forward to reading more of the science associated with Charles’ work.


Mobility walking workshop to see the various elements and changes that will result from the planned removal of two auto-centric viaducts downtown. Many thanks to City of Vancouver staff Holly Sovdi and Devon Fitch for this great session.

Vancouver has a great bike share, Mobi, which partnered with PPS for various parts of the conference. For this particular week, however, I was able to throw my bike on the bus up from Seattle and use my trusty steed for transportation. As a bicycle and pedestrian professional and advocate, it was incredible to get to use Vancouver’s extensive bike and sidewalk network – much of which has been built out in the past decade. It really was a delight to walk and ride around the city – both to and from the conference location downtown and for mobile walk and bike workshops.

Local folks shared it hasn’t been an easy transition to all of the separated bike facilities that now exist for miles along major downtown streets – and are filled with bicycle commuters. There are regular reports of conflicts with motorists.  And bike theft is such a crazy problem that it sounds worse than New York City.  I was happy to have secure inside bike parking at night and that the conference had contracted with local non-profit Better Environmentally Sound Transporation for Valet Bike Parking during the day.  B.E.S.T. told me they were asked to provide Bike Valet all summer, 7 days a week, for large employers on Granville Island – because bike theft has been so severe that folks refuse to bike there.  It was a great success and bicycling employees have been sad to see the program end with the fall.  Hopefully they find a way to sponsor it year-round. Side note: I love B.E.S.T. for their work and resource materials.  I was using them a decade ago for car ownership financial literacy work – so it was fun to meet them in person.

img_6160-2The city is doing some interesting public engagement and experiments with re-use of public space, too. For example, this block in the photo at right has been closed to car traffic in a central location downtown. In addition to the usual street furniture (nice to eat my lunch there!) and food trucks, they’ve used bright temporary paint to ask people for their input, with an information kiosk and suggestion cards available nearby.

On Thursday night, I volunteered for the Waterfront Redesign site that was part of Placemaking Week’s POPCrawl. Organized by the lovely Jackie Kanyuk, a local consultant and Volunteer Manager for the conference and Placemaking Week, this was a walking tour of various public spaces, potential redevelopments and public art installations.  Using old-school, simple materials, folks stopping by our site were invited to revision a proposed redevelopment of a parking lot adjacent to the port – not as luxury looming condos, but as mixed use space.  A local artist/architect was on hand to quickly visualize and post people’s input in vivid drawings.  Others wrote their ideas on I Would Like to See This Here stickers that were displayed in an ever-growing number on a big piece of cardboard.  Each attendee carried a passport we would stamp for visiting our site and the busy sidewalk pulled in lots of local Vancouverites to participate as well.  Local advocates will use this public feedback as part of their work with the city to alter the current design for the site.



Arthur playing his favorite song on a public piano. There seemed to be public pianos all over town.

All week I had the chance to meet new folks from across the U.S. and Canada and farther afield (New Zealand, Brazil, etc.) – plus see a few New England faces from back home.  And I got to spend time with the fabulous Arthur Orsini of Urban Thinkers and Vancouver Coastal Health. In 2011, following the National Safe Routes to School Conference in Minneapolis, I was able to do a training with Arthur on facilitating authentic youth engagement in active transportation projects.  It was just amazing and inspired me to do some youth-led projects in my Safe Routes consulting work back in Maine.  He’s the real thing when it comes to not tokenizing young people and doing genuine facilitation – and it was so fun to get to hang out with him in his hometown!

September 19, 2016 at 9:11 am 2 comments

Falmouth Bike-Pedestrian Plan Wins Plan of the Year

Exciting news!

falmouth-bike-ped-plan-12-sarah-cushmanThe 2016 Falmouth Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan won the Plan of the Year Award from the Maine Association of Planners.  This annual award goes to a “written plan that is a significant advancement to the science and art of planning.”  The plan was judged on its originality, transferability, quality, comprehensiveness, public participation, and implementation.  Cushman Transportation Consulting, LLC enjoyed providing technical and public outreach assistance for this project, in conjunction with Greg Bakos of VHB and the Town of Falmouth. It’s a good plan and the recommendations will do much to help guide the town’s next steps.

falmouth-bike-ped-plan-1-sarah-cushmanIn addition to a very active and bike-pedestrian interested citizenry, the town is very fortunate to have Theo Holtwijk as its Director of Long Range Planning, who is the strong lead on this and many other projects.  In addition, Jay Reynolds, the Public Works Director; Bob Shafto, Falmouth’s trails and land aquisitions Ombudsman; Lucky D’Ascanio, the Director of Parks and Community Programs; and Nathan Poore, the Town Manager,  all contributed and offered tremendous support for the plan. The project was funded by the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System – PACTS – the local metropolitan planning organization.

July 26, 2016 at 8:18 am Leave a comment

Family Bicycling Sabattical – April through September

SAM_0367 (2)From April through September 2016, my family and I are going biking!

We (Sarah, my husband, Rob Levin, and our nine-year-old daughter, Cedar) will be bicycling across the country – Delaware to Seattle, or as far as we get. We’ll dip our back wheels in the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Henlopen, Delaware on the morning of April 2. And if we actually make it all the way, we’ll put our front wheels in Puget Sound in Seattle, Washington some time in late September.

This has been a dream of ours for the past 10 years or so and we’re feeling incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to try it – and be re-inspired for the work that we do by experiencing our country at a 10-mile-per-hour pace. We are keeping an online journal while we’re away and here’s a link to our route.  If you’d like to receive occasional e-mail updates from our trip, please feel free to sign up for those here (and no worries if you’d rather not add more to your inbox!)

Amidst the day-to-day adventure, I’ll be using this time for some enrichment: informal meetings with local pedestrian, bicycling, rideshare, and transit professionals and advocates; review of various on-the-ground transportation and land use initiatives (suggestions welcome via our online journal!); and reading more from the field.

We’re trying to be good about really being unplugged from work, so I will not be checking work e-mail or voicemail.  However, I look forward to hearing about ways we can work together when I get back in the fall.

Best wishes for a lovely spring and summer in the meantime!

March 31, 2016 at 5:41 am 2 comments

March 30 Workshop: Strengthening Towns Through Great Streets

Come on out for an exciting new workshop on March 30th – Strengthening Towns Through Great Streets: innovative approaches for municipal leaders! You can register here now.

Cushman Transportation Consulting, LLC is a steering committee member of the Public Health in Transportation Coalition and is co-sponsoring an interactive and inspiring summit for (and featuring) local appointed and elected municipal leaders and staff – and other interested stakeholders:



IMG_1526 (2)We know that a strong economy depends on strong towns and cities. To get there, we need to share innovative ideas and approaches to addressing the challenges we face.

This is a free event where you can share your ideas and learn from other local leaders about smart, home-grown solutions to transportation challenges. 

Morning snacks and lunch will be served. For more information and to register, see event page here and parking and transportation map here.

March 1, 2016 at 10:58 am Leave a comment

Get to Worship Another Way: marketing alternate transit to congregations

Bless local photographer and Portland Green Streets board member, Corey Templeton, (also of Portland Daily Photo fame) for all the design work he did for us over the years!

Circa 2010 – bless local photographer and Portland Green Streets board member, Corey Templeton, (also of Portland Daily Photo fame) for all the design work he did for us over the years!

While serving as the director of Portland Greens Streets a few years ago, I helped organize an annual community-wide Get to Worship a Greener Way Weekend and associated Blessing of the Bicycles, in conjunction with Maine’s Commute Another Way Week in May. While there is often traffic getting to the synagogue or mosque on Friday evenings, car travel is much lighter on Saturdays and Sundays – so getting to worship a greener way seemed like a strange pitch to make.

However, from my experience with folks of various faiths and practices and through my Quaker meeting, I know that people heading to services are taking stock of their lives and their actions. And a number of folks are often already carpooling because of mobility needs, too. So it’s a great time to engage folks in trying alternate ways of getting around.  (Disclaimer: you don’t have to be a part of any organized religion to do the same thing. 🙂 )

PFM Route 2 FlierThis week I got to do a new little plug along the same vein, by producing and distributing a flier encouraging my home congregation, Portland Friends Meeting, to use METRO’s new Sunday service to get to worship. It’s not so new – METRO was able to start Sunday service on all it’s routes in August (previously it was only offered on a couple).  As a one-car family, one of us often has to bike separately to get to an earlier meeting on Sunday morning or some other event.  Biking isn’t a bad way to start the day and we’re lucky to not have mobility or other issues – except when the roads are slick in winter, rain is falling heavily, etc. Either way, Sunday service is a real boon to local congregations and folks who just would like to be out and about and getting somewhere on any given Sunday. Thanks for making it possible, METRO!



December 11, 2015 at 6:45 am Leave a comment

Featured in “Portland – Connected by Nature”

sustainable-portland-report-cover1Portland is brimming with folks working on making the region sustainable and the Natural Resources Council of Maine recently produced a report on some of these efforts, titled, Portland: Connected by Nature.  It looks at innovations and people connectors and includes sections on local food, waste, livable community, energy, water quality, climate change, and resources.

It was an honor to be included as a “connector” in these pages. Congratulations to everyone profiled and gratitude for the many, many others who work daily to make our little piece of the world more resilient. Sorry to miss the party while in DC at the National Walking Summit!

October 27, 2015 at 7:34 pm Leave a comment

Gear Talk: Biking with Kids

Note: a version of this article was reprinted in the Fall of 2015 Maine Cyclist, the news magazine of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine.

Summer is in full swing and I see families out biking on all kinds of equipment – some traditional, some not. Our daughter, Cedar, is eight years old now but I remember well that first year or so of trying to navigate possibilities for getting around by bike with a very little person.

On top of that, there are a number of suggestions for when it’s appropriate to start (like when a baby’s head is strong enough) which I found a bit paralyzing, too. The good news is that in 2012 the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition produced a fantastic Family Biking Guide for every stage from pregnancy on up. (I wish this had been out when we first started!)

Bottomline: what works for each family and each rider’s comfort level  – and budget – is completely personal.

Just in case it’s helpful, I’ve used the following:


  • Age 1-5 – A single-passenger Burley trailer that was passed on to us (I still use it as a trunk for lugging stuff around town – like 80 pounds of tomatoes from the farmer’s market. Okay, that might be a bit over the official weight limit for the trailer.)
  • Age 3-4 – An Adams Trail-a-Bike passed on to us.  This was great for short trips but more than about an hour around town and she would often get sleepy – of course this entirely depends on your kid.
  • Rob & Cedar in Newfoundland - cropped

    Used hard every day of our four month family bicycling sabbatical – this photo from Newfoundland.

    Ages 4-5 – A WeeHoo i-Go – for about a year of around town commuting and then our 4 month family bicycling sabbatical through Atlantic Canada and Quebec. You can read more about our experience with the WeeHoo and my retrofits for traveling here. When our daughter became more interested in riding by herself, we then passed the WeeHoo on to our friends and god-daughter, Karah – it was perfect when she was too scared to start biking on a Trail-a-Bike.

  • Age 5-6 – A Trail-a-Gator to hook her up when needed for about a year until I bought a bike with a front tire that couldn’t clear off the ground. It doesn’t work with all bike models.
  • Rob & Cedar with stoker bar - closeup

    Still a great (and simple) around-town option for us – we just used it to get downtown for some live outdoor music on Friday night.

    Age 5 through the present: We put her on my poor-man’s cargo bike stoker set-up.  It’s a Stoker Bar from Xtra-Cycle and a heavy-weight touring/commuter bike and tough rear rack set-up, with a foam pad strapped on.  She’s still only 45 pounds, so it’s worked well since she was 5. Our apartment set-up makes it impossible, space-wise, to have a separate cargo bike (plus there’s the extra cost). In terms of having passengers on the back of your bike who have to hang on, go based on how you feel about your kid paying attention. In the beginning, I had her straddle the rack and put her feet in the panniers because I worried about her forgetting and letting her feet get caught in the spokes. Now she rides sidesaddle and does tricks back there.

  • Age 7 through the present –  We hook her up with a Follow Me when needed.  It was pricey but is super solid and fit her updated 20” bike when the Trail-A-Gator didn’t – plus it saved us multiple times a day when we did a 2 week bike camping trip in Quebec last summer.
  • [3/1/2016 – Update for 9+ – in December 2015 we upgraded her to a 24″ Islabikes Beinn (thankfully they run a little small). So we’ve outgrown all the standard attachments like the Trail-a-Gator and the Follow Me. Thus, we decided to try a little-advertised and seemingly quirky towbar set-up, called the X2Cycle Tandem Rack. We experimented with it briefly before the snow really settled in and it works, although it’s a lot jerkier of a feel getting towed this way and Cedar can’t totally check out and rest (she still has to steer).  She’s not a fan but still wants to ride her own bike as much as possible – so we’ll work with it for now.] 

Biking on Their Own:

  • Age 3-5 – A cheap pedal-less Walmart balance bike – but plenty of kids get started on them younger.
  • Cedar on her 1st 2 wheelerAge 5 – She started riding her own pedal bike – again, passed on to us. We’d had multiple small bikes with training wheels and she’d been fairly uninterested – giving them a go every few months for a time or two. Then one Sunday night in the apartment she asked me to take them off and, after ten minutes of flying toward furniture, she was riding. There are kids who are comfortable way younger than that and others that hit their stride riding their own bike at age 8 or older – whatever works.  I’m a big believer in not pushing.
  • Taking a quick break on our Christmas Day bike ride to visit friends this past winter.

    Taking a quick break on our Christmas Day bike ride to visit friends this past winter. We always say, “there’s no shame in walking!”

    Age 6-8: A 20” six-gear bike to get around.  Height is as important as the child’s age when determining the best size bike – I like this simple sizing chart for thinking it through. And of course, the final test is to make sure the frame fits comfortably between their legs, with at least an inch of space to spare at the top with their feet flat on the ground.


All the standard safety stuff holds for family biking (maybe more so as a parent?) That is, being visible and predictable and confident with biking in traffic – behaving as a vehicle and following the rules of the road. I highly recommend all teen and adult riders take a Cycling Savvy course (even those of us who feel fully comfortable riding).  It’s a great skill-building experience, taught by thoughtful and caring instructors, and a real game-changer as a rider.  I’ll make sure Cedar takes it once she’s old enough.

We are also a traveling freak show with our visibility: neon yellow reflective vests worn even during the day and blinky ones at night, bright flags (I love this ATV flag that’s been adapted for bikes) and triangles, orange sidebars you can extend just a bit past your panniers, superflash blinking taillights, reflective material sewn into various pieces of gear, reflective spoke ornaments, reflective stickers on our helmets, etc. It’s total overkill but I notice that my eye picks this stuff up more as a motorist.

It’s a lot of mix & match.  Experiment with what works for you and find a way to get out there with your family. It’s not easy every time out there and every moment, but mostly it’s a real liberation and joy!  And if you’ve got a set-up that’s really worked for you – please leave a comment and/or reply to my Twitter post.

Hope this helps and feel free to let me know if you have questions or are trying to think through something specificallywe could talk more in person.

A few other blogs to check out:

July 14, 2015 at 6:57 am Leave a comment

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