Kiel Johnson B.A. ’09
September 18, 2012
Robert M Reynolds
The small plaza in front of Oregon Health & Science University’s building on Portland’s South Waterfront is a busy nexus of transportation infrastructure: the enormous winches of Portland’s aerial tram sit just to the east; streetcar tracks frame the square to the south and east; and a new MAX light rail line will soon cross the river on a bridge under construction just to the north. In the midst of this heavy equipment, Kiel Johnson tends to a herd of simpler machines. Go By Bike, a business he started in 2011, provides valet bicycle parking, bicycle rentals, and repair services to 100 to 120 commuters a day, most of them employees of OHSU.
“As far as we can tell, there’s only one other five-day valet service in the U.S.,” says Johnson, who took over the valet program that OHSU started last year with a car-valet company. (He says he provides the same service for one-third the cost.) “We’re creating a meeting space for a bike community,” he says.
Johnson has a knack for creating community. After graduating, he interned at the Portland Bureau of Transportation, where he worked on creating safe neighborhood bike routes. While at the bureau, he organized a “bike train” for the students of North Portland’s Beach Elementary School, which had banned cycling due to safety concerns. “I’d go out with families, and we would ride to school together as a big group,” he says. “By the end of the year, the bike train had about 100 people.” Thanks to Johnson’s work, 13 Portland schools now have bike trains. He created a website, Bike Train PDX, to provide information about safe biking to school. In 2011, he was honored for his work with schools by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.
Of course, Johnson isn’t about to rest on his laurels. Pointing across the street to a fenced-in lot, he says, “That’s going to be the city’s largest residential building without car parking. They’ll have retail on the ground floor. I want to put a bike shop-slash-brewpub in there. That’s the next step.”
Read more about how other alumni continue to put the bicycling stamp on every area of Portland life.
The City of Portland’s transportation policy director and former executive director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.
Senior cartographer for Metro.
Bicycle advocate and employee of Nutcase Helmets.
Owner of Sellwood Cycle Repair.
Program manager at Alta Planning and Design, a bicycle and pedestrian planning and design firm.
Author and advocate for women building bicycle-related businesses.