By Michael Andersen. June 19, 2013
Now this is interesting: Portland's incoming transportation director doesn't always tweet. But when she does, more and more over the last few years, she tweets about bikes.
Treat, who starts work in Portland July 1, has spent the last two years in Chicago's bike-loving transportation department, doing low-profile work to "deliver innovative projects and ensure Chicago continues to thrive as the economic center of the Midwest."
Treat "has been the person behind the scenes making sure that we can move these initiatives through the 'bureaucracy,'" wrote Scott Kubly, deputy commissioner in Chicago's transportation department, in an email Tuesday.
Some of Treat's success in Chicago may be related to her roots: she came to the job not as a policy advocate but as a fiscal analyst. That's also why Treat's growing conviction about the importance of bicycling to urban transportation is so heartening.
And it's pretty clear that Treat's conviction has indeed been growing.
Since starting to use Twitter regularly in mid-2011, Treat has shared 1,246 140-character thoughts with her friends and followers. For the first two months, Treat didn't tweet (or retweet) the words "bike," "biking," "bicycle," "bicycling," or "cyclist" once. Then, in August 2011, she shared seven thoughts or links about biking.
She hasn't missed a month since.
Lately, one in four of Treat's Twitter comments is bike-related. Last December, when Chicago unveiled arguably the best on-street bike facility in the country on Dearborn Street, fully half her tweets were about biking.
Yes, it'd be silly to parse a public official's opinions entirely from her Twitter chatter, in which she also enthuses about Pink Floyd music, jokes about Mitt Romney's attitude toward women and retweets wisdom from Oprah Winfrey.
But Treat's casual, earnest tweeting style is what makes this bean-counter's obviously growing fascination with bikes all the more convincing -- and, hopefully, contagious.
Here's a selection of tweets (including those by other people that Treat choose to echo by retweeting) that track Treat's gear shift from an expert on city budgets who happened to be bike-friendly to a woman eager to declare in her job interview that Portland's commitment to "progressive transportation" is "stagnating." Her two years of tweets paint a picture of a woman whose enthusiasm for bike infrastructure, especially separated green lanes, is rooted in hard numbers; in her own experience as a bike commuter; and in her values of gender equity, social mobility and economic prosperity.
It's going to be terrific to welcome Treat to town.
View a sample of Treat's tweets here