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Vanessa Garrison didn’t set out to build a health movement. Growing up in Seattle’s Central District, a historically black neighborhood, Garrison just wanted her household and her community to be healthy.

“It was a challenge for me to develop solutions that work for the women I love,” Garrison said.

Those solutions, however, did set off a movement: GirlTrek, a community-based walking movement that has reached 250,000 black women and girls across the country. Garrison co-founded GirlTrek and serves as its chief operating officer.

> Garrison will tell her story at the Ann Niles Active Transportation Lecture Oct. 19 at Portland State University. Reserve a space if you plan to attend.

“Seattle is one of the most active cities in the country, but my household was completely inactive,” Garrison said. “All the women in my family were really experiencing health challenges due to chronic disease.”

Those problems ran deeper than simply inactivity. Obesity and inactivity often have roots in concerns about safety and other community issues built on historical trauma and systemic racism. A fitness-only approach, Garrison reasoned, would fail to overcome these powerful forces.

With friend Morgan Dixon, who would become her GirlTrek co-...

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Oct 19, 2016
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The Ann Niles Active Transportation Lecture series continued in 2016 with guest speaker Vanessa Garrison of GirlTrek

Each year, the Ann Niles Active Transportation Lecture Endowment brings a guest speaker to Portland, Oregon. We seek people from all over the world who have made great strides in advocating for health, safety, and bicycle and pedestrian access, and bring them together with the Portland transportation community to share methods and inspiration. The annual forum furthers IBPI's mission to facilitate the exchange of knowledge among scholars, practitioners and community advocates focused on walking and biking.

Vanessa is a passionate advocate of social justice issues and has focused her work on improving health outcomes and quality of life for black women and girls. Prior to co-founding GirlTrek, a national health movement, Vanessa worked as a Program Coordinator for Our Place DC, a nonprofit organization that provides services to currently and formerly incarcerated women. Vanessa began her career working in digital media...

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(First published by BikePortland.org)

Portland has a network of neighborhood greenways, and they're great. But Jean-Francois Pronovost's is 3,100 miles long. That's approximately the distance from Portland to Nicaragua.

The Greenway (Route Verte in Pronovost's native French) is a bike route network running all over the Canadian province of Quebec. On Monday, the vice president for development and public affairs at advocacy group Vélo Québec visits Portland to share lessons from this project and others in the first annual Ann Niles Transportation Lecture, a major new series produced by Portland State University's Institute for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation.

The event is free, though space is limited to 240. On Thursday, BikePortland spoke with Pronovost to learn more about his life's work, the best parts of Quebec bike touring and how his hometown of Montreal managed to replace 320 auto parking spaces with a downtown protected lane that carries 9,000 bikes per day. Questions and answers were edited for space. 

Can you describe your most famous achievement, the Route Verte??

The Route Verte [pronounced with hard Ts and silent...

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The Ann Niles Transportation Lecture series opens Aug. 26 with a lecture from Jean-François Pronovost of Vélo Québec titled "Growing a World-Class Cycling Culture: Lessons from Québec." The series is sponsored by the Ann Niles Transportation Lecture Endowment and serves as a legacy to Ann Niles, an advocate for livable neighborhoods.

Philip Niles created the endowment with a gift to the Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation, or IBPI, in honor of his late wife. Ann Niles was a strong advocate for livable neighborhoods and served on many transportation-related boards and committees in Portland.

The lecture series keeps alive the spirit of Ann Niles' advocacy. Niles pushed for better sidewalks and crosswalks to make Portland a safe and comfortable place to walk, and for bicycle routes and parking to do the same for bicycling.

"This inaugural Ann Niles Transportation Lecture, and all those that follow, help spread Ann's passion for creating livable neighborhoods to students, practitioners and the greater community," said OTREC Director Jennifer Dill.

The series' first speaker, Pronovost, has helped bring active transportation into the lives of people in communities across Québec. As vice president for development and public affairs for Vélo Québec, he helps develop new projects and partnerships.

One of the most notable...

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