Three local transportation efforts win “BESTie” awards, former Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy honored

By Rob Zako
May 23, 2019

EUGENE (May 23, 2019) — Tuesday evening, Better Eugene-Springfield Transportation honored excellence improving the quality of transportation in our area.

The local nonprofit organization presented BEST Awards—affectionately known as “BESTies”—in three categories.

The award for transportation options went to PeaceHealth Rides, for safe streets to the Mill Race Path, and for walkable neighborhoods to Amazon Corner.

“Collaboration is the special sauce for getting things done,” advised keynote speaker Mia Birk. For 27 years, Birk was at the forefront of promoting healthier forms of transportation, including launching the nation’s first bike share system.

“We believe we are better when we speak and act together,” added BEST executive director Rob Zako. “BEST is pleased to honor three team efforts as some of the best in our community.”

But a surprise fourth award went to an individual. Former Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy was recognized for her lifetime of bold transportation leadership with the Ruth Bascom Award, named after another former mayor.

“I’m honored, but the real kudos go to the visionary folks who see transportation as key to a good life for us all,” Piercy said. “It’s one way we share community together.”

Launched a year ago, PeaceHealth Rides is a shared bicycle service. It won the award for achievement adding new or improving the availability, practicality or affordability of existing transportation options.

“It’s such an honor to be acknowledged for our work and partnership in the community,” said Lindsey Hayward, general manager of PeaceHealth Rides. “We’re grateful to all our wonderful members and encourage everyone to ride with us—to give bike share a try. The true winners of bike share are the riders getting exercise as they travel, the community experiencing less traffic congestion, and the environment having fewer carbon emissions.”

The system is managed by JUMP Bikes in partnership with the City of Eugene, University of Oregon and Lane Transit District, with support from the Oregon Department of Transportation and PeaceHealth.

Completed in January 2017, the Mill Race Path is a multi-use path from downtown Springfield to the Middle Fork Willamette running along the restored historic waterway. It won the award for achievement protecting lives on our streets, especially for more vulnerable users.

“Willamalane Park and Recreation District and its TEAM Springfield partners—City of Springfield, Springfield Utility Board, and Springfield Public Schools—are proud to receive this award,” said Eric Adams, Willamalane director of planning, parks and facilities. “It is a perfect example of what can be accomplished through effective community-focused collaboration, and wouldn’t have been possible without the financial support provided by the 2012 bond measure.”

Opened last November, Amazon Corner is a five-story, mixed-use, bicycle-friendly development on Hilyard Street in Eugene. It won the award for achievement designing or building complete neighborhoods where many basic services are within walking distance.

“We are honored to receive this award from BEST, who has been a supporter of the project from the beginning,” said Dan Straub, Tokatee Capital’s vice-president for property management and development. “We hope Amazon Corner can be a model for future walkable and alternative transportation neighborhood development.”

Rowell Brokaw designed and Essex General Construction built Amazon Corner for Tokatee Capital.

“The First Annual BEST Awards was a festive celebration of the years of work by local partners to make our community better; that is, with safe, healthy, convenient and affordable transportation options accessible from walkable neighborhoods,” said BEST president Mike Eyster. “It was BEST’s pleasure to highlight the excellent work of all the finalists.”

Also recognized for the transportation options award were finalists EmX West, Free Bikes 4 Kidz, New Franklin Boulevard, and #YesRideChoice.

Also recognized for the safe streets award were finalists Active Amazon Transportation Corridor Project, Sun Automotive, Lane County’s Transportation Safety Action Plan and Fatal Crash Investigation Team, and Eugene’s Vision Zero Action Plan.

Also recognized for the walkable neighborhoods award were finalists Blossom Cottages, LUCíA and Arcadia, and The Oaks at 14th.

Roughly 150 people joined in the awards dinner celebration at the Downtown Athletic Club. Attending were Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis and City Councilor Jennifer Yeh; Lane County Commissioner Heather Buch; State Representative Marty Wilde and former state legislators Phil Barnhart and Chris Edwards; Lane Transit District board members Don Nordin, Kate Reid, Joshua Skov, Caitlin Vargas and Carl Yeh, and former board member Gary Wildish; EWEB Commissioner Mindy Schlossberg; and Lane Community College board members Mike Eyster and Matt Keating.

Inspired by Hollywood’s Oscars, the second annual awards are planned for early 2020.

A local nonprofit founded in 2012, BEST brings people together to promote transportation options, safe streets, and walkable neighborhoods. It is led by 50 community leaders on its boards of directors and advisors.

Mia Birk appeared courtesy of LiveMove, the transportation and livability student group, and the Sustainable Cities Institute at the University of Oregon.