Andrea Learned

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Living Change: A Quest For Climate Leadership

Biking, Climate Change and Peer-Influence with Mark Gamba

Mark Gamba’s path into local politics in Oregon is uniquely “Living Change.” As a professional nature photographer seeing climate change on the landscape in real-time, he had all the motivation he needed to run for Mayor of Milwaukie, Oregon. Biking for transportation around town, and working to make it safer for anyone else who wants to do it, has become part of his brand. And, while he might not say it himself, Andrea suspects his “being seen biking” has helped him build trust with constituents and political capital with his leadership peers. For local political leaders across the country, Mark’s inspiring journey and the way he shares it in this episode is an aspirational model.

Biking, Climate Change and Peer-Influence with Mark Gamba Transcript

Mark Gamba / Milwaukie, Oregon

Mark Gamba (00:00):

It’s literally democracy in actual process where your tribe is seeing that most of the tribe wants this thing. So you go, okay, well I don’t like it. I don’t wanna pay it, but my neighbors want it clearly. So I’m okay.

Andrea Learned (00:22):

I am Andrea Learned and welcome to Living Change, a podcast exploring unconventional climate leadership. I talk to people who’ve converted their personal values into business and policy decisions in a load of different sectors. I believe that the more we’re visible about these changes, the more we chart the way for other leaders wanting to create new social norms. Today we’re speaking with Mark Gamba, who represents the 41st District of Oregon in the State House. Just a quick note, we taped this conversation last year when Mark was still mayor of Milwaukie, Oregon, just south of Portland. We had an energizing conversation, as has been the way with the people I’ve met through Twitter. Hi, mayor Gamba.

Mark Gamba (01:00):

Hi there. How are you? I’m

Andrea Learned (01:02):

Well. How are you?

Mark Gamba (01:03):


Andrea Learned (01:05):

Mark went from being a National Geographic photographer to a bike riding mayor and climate change activist. His work exploring the world through photography actually led to a pivotal conversion moment for him. So I had to begin there.

Mark Gamba (01:18):

Well, I grew up, you know, as a kid in Colorado, um, I was a huge fan of Jacques Cousteau and, and really all of the, the people out sort of exploring nature. Um, I had all the National Geographics in my ba my parents took National Geographics, so I had all those in the basement. I had LIFE magazines and I used to just sit down there and pour over those magazines. So it kind of set me on a trajectory, uh, in high school. I wanted to be a marine biologist because of Cousteau, and then visited the Scripps Institute and, and learned that Marine biologists spent 90% of their time in, uh, a lab somewhere. And I was like, no, that’s not what I wanna do. I wanna be diving cuz I was a scuba diver when I was 14 years old. And so I just decided that I would be a photographer that did all of those things.

And, uh, that’s a, I didn’t know at the time, but that was a pretty high bar. There’s, there’s not a lot of people to get to do, to get to have that life. Uh, but I told all my friends in college that I was gonna be a National Geographic photographer, and they’re like, ah-huh. Right. . Um, and, you know, I did a lot of other things. I I had a lot of work in, in sort of, uh, adventure sports before I got into National Geographic. Um, so I continued to do that work commercially for people like Adidas and Carhartt and, um, all kinds of clients. But absolutely the, the pinnacle of my career was getting to shoot for National Geographic and dive with whale sharks and, you know, do all those things. So,

Andrea Learned (02:53):

And it was during these National Geographic projects that you first started to notice the effects of climate change, right? Yes. That it was happening a lot faster than scientists were predicting.

Mark Gamba (03:01):

Right. They had models that they said, okay, and we will see this in 20 years and we will see this in 40 years. And, and I was seeing glaciers. Um, we were on an assignment up in Glacier Bay and we were paddling with a guide, and he said, well, this is where the face of the glacier used to be. And we paddled for another four hours and came to the face of the glacier. And I said, wow, that’s huge. I, I said, I know that glaciers shrink and grow with sort of the cycles of the, the weather, but that seems extreme. Is that, is that how much it does that? And he said, no, no, it’s been going backwards since I’ve been a guide. And he’d been a guide for years, for decades before. Uh, so that was, that was the first one. And then diving on the Barrier Reef, we started to see bleaching.

And this was 20 years before anybody was really talking about it. And I asked a scientist that was on that trip, I said, what’s, why, why is this this reef white as opposed to all the other ones that are incredible colors? And they’re like, well, it could be a lot of things, but we think maybe it’s due to warming waters due to climate change. And, uh, they were Right. It’s continued. The Barrier Reef is on the, you know, it’s circling the drain right now. Um, so that’s, that’s what really set me off on this, on this whole process where, you know, for, and then for another 15 years, I didn’t see anybody in politics, anybody in government at any level doing the kinds of things we need to be doing to, to stop and reverse climate change. Little nibbling around the edges and little feel good things, but nothing serious.

Andrea Learned (04:44):

Wow. Um, that’s incredible. How many years ago was it the Alaska moment or the, the ocean moment? How long ago was that? Considering where we are now?

Mark Gamba (04:53):

I think I was on the Barrier Reef. They were both pretty close to each other, a couple years apart. 1992, maybe 94, somewhere in there.

Andrea Learned (05:04):

Okay. And then now you think about how long it’s been and with the IPCC screaming crisis, crisis crisis and,

Mark Gamba (05:12):

And we’re still not doing anything.

Andrea Learned (05:14):

We’re not doing anything. And you were right there watching it that you don’t think about unless you think about how you take pictures. You don’t realize that when you’re taking a picture, you’re actually, you’re really seeing stuff. And then the fact that you kind of go to similar places and you’re able to observe that, that’s incredibly powerful. And I don’t think, I mean, it’s almost a great book for you Right. Would be a before and an after. And even just within your little life, you know, your little lifespan just, you know, a couple decades. That’s incredible.

Mark Gamba (05:43):

Yeah. Well, had I known it was coming, I would’ve taken different pictures. .

Andrea Learned (05:47):

. That’s a really good point. Oh my gosh. Um, so you were saying that the, kinda noticing the climate change you were, and then you were noticing that politically things weren’t being done. Where were you living at this point?

Mark Gamba (05:59):

So I was living in New York City. I, I moved to New York to start my serious professional career. I, I had been shooting professionally. Matter of fact, my first magazine cover appeared on the stands the month I moved to New York City. It was for Skiing Magazine. Wow. But, um, I, so I spent like six years in New York really establishing a national clientele and then, uh, had a kid and I wasn’t gonna raise a kid in Manhattan mm-hmm. . So, um, my wife and I sort of explored all the cool little towns in the west, like Durango and Bend and, you know, Salida and Taos and all those, and, and ended up landing in Bend Oregon. So, um, it was both, right. I think I shot Glacier Bay while I was still in New York. It was in that transition period actually somewhere in there.

Andrea Learned (06:48):

And so when you moved to Bend, were you starting to think, Hmm, you know, I, I don’t know if you, are you saying that you still are a photographer to some degree and you’re ma you’re both at the same time?

Mark Gamba (07:01):

Well, technically speaking, yes. My income is, as a photographer, I’m paid 300 whole dollars a month to be the mayor of Milwaukie. Uh, so I, what, what the living I have left is, is from the photography that I can do or, or selling. I’m actually selling more prints now than, than anything financially. Uh, cause I just, I can’t, I can’t be gone for a month. Well,

Andrea Learned (07:25):

I think that in and of itself, just more awareness for people realizing what little, you know, uh, financial or sort of not, not being able to make a living, being a mayor of a small town, the fact that you decided to move in this direction is really interesting. So when did the mayor all run or when did you get to Milwaukie or how did that work from Bend on?

Mark Gamba (07:45):

So, let’s see, got to Milwaukie 19 years ago-ish. Um, and I was here for, you know, a handful of years. I helped start a, um, or actually I started a kind of a environmental pressure group, um, for the Milwaukie City Council to try and get them to do some basic, you know, ban the bag, you know, basic simple things that should be simple, right? And we had a lot of members by the time it sort of disappeared, we had over 200 people. Um, but what we learned was that we could go in and have 30 people testify to do something. And the, you know, the city council kind of sit there and nod their heads and then not do it. But if one of their committees or commissions came in and said, you should do this, they almost always did it. So our strategy was to get as many of us on those committees and commissions as we could. So that’s where we started. I started on the art committee, which was an obvious inn, and two and a half years later got on the planning commission, and then two and a half years later ran for city council, and then two and a half years later ran for mayor. It’s weird that they were all roughly two and a half years, but just coincidence, that’s

Andrea Learned (09:00):

How it works. I, I think it’s fascinating, just even the fact that I’m talking to you is because I identified you as somebody in, in politics who is an influencer and is an embracing that, right? And is sort of using your position and your platform to do that. So I had not realized that you’d started this environmental group. And so it’s really interesting to me that that sort of pre-social media, like, this is how we do it, this is advocacy, and if we all sort of group together and get, you know, get together and, and, and say things and sort of put some pressure on this, more things will happen. So I that’s really intriguing that you, that was early on. So when you decided to run for mayor after being on council, um, the climate, were you continuing to sort of do research or really read up on climate? And what was, I mean, what was that moment like where you’re like, uh, I think I have to run for Mayor ? Tell me about that.

Mark Gamba (09:49):

So when I got on council, it was five old white guys. At least three were pretty conservative. The mayor was okay. And I couldn’t get the kinds of things done that I was trying to get done. So I, I had pushed for us to invest in safe routes to school in bike and pedestrian infrastructure for particularly around the schools. But, you know, citywide was what I was after. And they just flat out said, no, it’s, we did a study on that several years ago. It’s gonna cost us 30 million to do it. We’re not doing it. And so what I did, um, even before I knew I was gonna run for mayor was to kind of encourage a couple of women that I knew, uh, that were interested in politics to run for council. Uh, one is currently my state rep, although she has, is resigning because, uh, state reps in the Oregon are not paid a living wage either.

And she’s got two small kids. Um, so she was one, and then the other one at the time was the chair of the planning commission. She’s been on the council now eight years with me. And then not long after that, uh, the mayor was reelected and then got a job in Seattle. So he left the position and that left it open. And I ran. But I, I, you know, I’d been thinking about it, uh, because even though the mayor is just one vote out of five, we do get to set the agenda and it’s, there’s the bully pulpit. You know, people listen to what a mayor says more closely than what a city counselor says. It’s stupid because they’re just as smart, you know, and often just as, uh, steeped in the issues, but it’s just the reality. So that was, that was why, uh, and I, I really wanted to set the tone for the city differently. I am actually coincidentally, we, the light rail line opened a few months after, after I took office and I gave a speech at the grand opening with, you know, the governor and the, you know, the Department of Transportation from DC and all these serious movers and shakers on the stage. I was like, this, you know, little mayor from this little town. And I gave this speech calling for Milwaukie to be the most livable, most equitable and most sustainable city in the state.

And that, um, light rail would, would help facilitate that, right? It would be a start towards that.

Andrea Learned (12:20):

I think it’s worth pausing here to note the emotion in Mark’s voice. What I’m hearing is there was great weight to this moment. This isn’t a casual thing. His personal commitment to climate action was what drove him to run for mayor. Now he’s on a stage helping launch Portland’s light rail. Looking back, he recognizes that this was a critical inflection point for the state. He loves so much.

Mark Gamba (12:43):

We went on a few years later, my, my council was not interested in saying that that’s our goal, even even with the newly elected people. So we did a visioning process and lo and behold, out of the vision, and this was a serious process with, you know, hundreds of contacts with people, all kinds of people in the community, the high school kids, the Elks, you know, everybody that we could reach out and talk to, we did. And the opening line of our current vision says in 2040, um, Milwaukie is a flourishing city that is entirely equitable, delightfully livable, and completely sustainable.

Andrea Learned (13:18):

That’s lovely. So you are s sitting in front of a B Zoom background with, uh, I mean a bike that I consider typical Portland. So could you des ? Can you, you know, the kind of goofy bike. Can you describe a little bit the photo behind you, and then I wanna talk to you more about bikes?

Mark Gamba (13:35):

Yeah. That was on one of the rides. Um, or Portland has this, uh, well pre pandemic, uh, we had a month every year that there were just probably hundreds of rides all over the city, different kinds. There’s, I think this might have been loud and lit is what this, where the bikes were all, um, decorated up with lights and there were big boom boxes and stuff. But that’s a, uh, a tall bike, I think is what they call those. And what they do is they take, often this guy didn’t do it, but often they’ll take bike frames and weld bike frames to bike frames, to bike frames. So there’ll be like four bike frames high. And it’s, it’s fun to watch those guys get going. They have to be next to a building, leaned up against a building, and then they get up and then stoppings another, they literally climb down as they’re still riding.

Andrea Learned (14:24):

When did you start biking and how have you managed to hold onto it throughout your life? And then how did that lived experience help you move the needle on active transportation in Milwaukie?

Mark Gamba (14:34):

You know, I think I started riding a bike the same time. Every kid starts riding a bike at whatever that is, 4, 5, 6. I, I have, I have literally no memories of learning to ride a bike. Um, but I do remember in middle school and high school until I got a driver’s license, uh, riding my bike to school every day. I hated taking the bus. So I rode my bike even in the winter in Colorado. And back then there wasn’t, mountain bikes weren’t a thing yet. And then, uh, of course, as every American kid does, I started driving a car as soon as I could. But, you know, I continued to ride bikes for fun, for pleasure. And really that was how I rode. I mean, I mountain biked when I lived in Bend and Durango and, and all those places and in New York City. But well, I really started using it as transportation when we got up here to Portland, the Portland metro region to Milwaukie, because it’s, it was viable, right?

There’s Portland writ large has pretty good bike infrastructure. It could be a lot better, but it’s, it’s good. And so it’s, it’s tenable to ride a bike as transportation around here. Um, Milwaukie’s going to be leaps and bounds better by the time we’re done with the project that I started kicked off. But I ride to the vast majority of my meetings or did before covid. All my meetings now are like this. Uh, and, and actually my transition from a regular bike to an e-bike was, uh, the moment that I became a mayor and tried to, all of a sudden I had five or 10 times as many meetings that I had to go to around the region, and I couldn’t get from point A to point B fast enough on my, you know, at that, at that point I was writing a, uh, titanium hard tail and I just couldn’t, I, I had show up sweaty as I’ll get out, and b I just couldn’t get there fast enough.

So I was, I briefly started driving my car again, but my girlfriend had this long commute and she had always bike commuted and she got a new job and it was in Lake Oswego and she had, it’s, there’s no infrastructure between here and there. So you ride up through this cemetery, it’s the steepest uphill there is around here, and she was killing her. It was like an hour and a half commute and she just couldn’t do it. And another friend of ours had just bought an e-bike and she said, why don’t you try this e-bike? So Kendra, eventually she tried hers and then went out and we, we got her an e-bike. And so she went back to commuting by bike because that made that hill tenable and it took her 45 minutes rain or shine. And there were times when friends of hers that lived near here, it took ’em three hours to get home from work because there was some traffic snarl of the snowstorm or whatever. And Kendra was still 45 minutes on H eBike. So anyway, that, that sort of went, huh, well maybe if I got an e-bike then I could make it sell these meetings. So I did. I went out and bought a bleeding edge at the time design, and it’s been, it’s a class three, so it goes 28 miles an hour, which is awesome . Um, but now I can ride to almost all my meetings. So I rode my e-bike to the studio today, and if I

Andrea Learned (17:48):

Drove, it would probably have taken 45 minutes in Seattle with traffic and it took me 23 minutes. The consistency of riding an e-bike is incredible and I just do not think it’s branded well enough.

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You’re talking about showing up at meetings as a mayor, riding your bike. And what I’m really interested in is seeing more mayors like you who are actually riding them, demonstrating it. And that is the name of this podcast, living Change By doing that, that is huge. So that makes me wonder, as you implemented these changes in your town, did you get resistance? Tell me a little bit about that. Did you have any programs that helped people convert to bikes?

Mark Gamba (19:16):

So it’s relatively early days. Uh, everything in government takes forever. And so we did this whole big process around what ended up being called the Safe Program. So we had a committee, we had to make sure the right people were on the committee, which was young parents is which what I was after, or parents of young children to be more specific. And we looked at the entire city and the whole transportation system and said, okay, where do we need bike lanes, sidewalks, bike paths, uh, cross, you know, crosswalks with flashing beacon, you know, all the things to make active transportation safe. And the engineering department worked on it, and the planning department worked on it. And we did huge amounts of outreach, crazy outreach. We had, you know, big maps of the city at the farmer’s market and people could put stickers, well, this intersection is really dangerous and stuff like that.

So we went through that whole big process. Then we did another whole big process of how are we gonna pay for this? Because the first big process said, okay, it’s about 52 million worth of projects to, to build all this stuff out. So then the second was, how are we gonna pay for 52 million worth of projects in a city that has a general fund budget of $160 million? So the, the committee, again, that worked on that, did a whole bunch of outreach, talked to everybody, you know, as many people as they could, dot exercises, how do you think we should pay for this? And in the end, we landed on a $4 and 85 cents, uh, fee on the water bill that’s per household. Businesses pay a little more. There’s a whole calculation that engineers use for that kind of stuff. Um, and we did so much outreach and so many meetings that literally by the time the first charge went on, the first water bill, and this is like three years after we started, we got two angry phone calls. And that’s unheard of. Usually people just lose their minds when their water bill goes up.

Andrea Learned (21:18):

So two being very little. Yes. And this is because you put these changes into place and people witnessed it themselves that it was fine that, that you weren’t making them get rid of their car or whatever.

Mark Gamba (21:35):
Right? Well, part that was part of it, part of, and we had a lot of people that disagreed with it. They, they thought it was a waste of money to, to do what we were doing, but they would come to these meetings ready to read a riot act and to yell at us and they would see 70% of the other people in the room were excited about it. So it’s, it’s, it’s literally democracy in actual process where your tribe is seeing that most of the tribe wants this thing. So you go, okay, well I don’t like it, I don’t wanna pay it, but my neighbors want it clearly, so I’m okay. And that’s, that’s how that played out. So we are, you know, so then there’s engineering that has to take place and bidding and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So we are four years now into building things. We just, we’ve built some really cool stuff. There was a path that crossed over the, the lake and went to a neighborhood that you really couldn’t access downtown from. Uh, and then the most recent one is a path that runs in front of a school up a really busy street that used to have no sidewalks on it whatsoever. And now it’s got, what are they, 12 or 14 foot wide paths on both sides of the street and the street’s narrower, so people drive slower. It’s pretty awesome.

Andrea Learned (22:55):

I think I’ve driven down that street when I used to live in Portland, and I can just picture that and uh, wow, that’s really exciting. And, and the other thing that I would say is what you did via right, the democracy and action and the 70% of the people being foreign and the 30% that is this thing that I call climate influence, right? In action. So you think you’re doing this bike thing or this livable cities thing or this whatever, but you’re really moving the needle on climate, you know, in a sort of a subtle way. So I I, that is such a great story, mayor gaba, I love that. Since Milwaukie is so close to Portland, do you see your work having influence in that city?

Mark Gamba (23:36):

I don’t know. That’s, that’s always hard to really say. I know that, you know, I, um, I attended the joint policy j packed metro wide, uh, committee that occurs once a month. But I would always show up to those meetings and all my other meetings at Metro and all my meetings with the clmi County Coordinating Committee, you know, on a bike. And because it’s Oregon often, you know, soaking wet in rain gear and come in and take off my rain gear, put on my sport coat, and sit down at the table and begin the meeting. And it gives me a lot of credibility when I start talking about if we spend money on bike infrastructure, instead of adding a lane to a freeway, a, it’s cheaper, B, it’s gonna reduce congestion over the long term. Whereas adding that lane on the freeway induced demand, you’re just gonna fill that lane back up in five years and you will have wasted all that money. So people, you know, there weren’t a lot of people talking about induced demand before I sat down at those tables and bike infrastructure was being invested in more slowly. I’m not gonna take all the credit for that. You know, there’s a lot of people, there’s a whole organization that does this. Um, but uh, I think it may have helped, let’s put it that way.

Andrea Learned (24:52):

Great. Well, I’m sure I, part of this is just, just seeing, seeing someone arrive on a bike, I think that that is really powerful. I know in my life it happens to me too. People are always like, oh my goodness, did you ride your bike? And I just to what we were talking about before, it’s consistent and all these other things. Um, what this kind of brings me to is how mayors like you who are doing this, how does what you’re up to then, maybe if it’s maybe influencing Portland, who knows? But I’m kind of curious of what are the discussions that are happening at, say the US mayors, you know, these conferences of mayors that exist, especially in the US when transportation comes up, is there any impact there? Are they starting to see bikes as transportation?

Mark Gamba (25:34):

So sadly, um, our budget for going to those kinds of things is minuscule. And this year was gonna be the first year I was gonna get to go to the US Conference of Mayors because I hadn’t gone to anything else for two years because of covid. So I kind of had a little pot of money and then it was gonna be, uh, in Austin, Texas and Austin, Texas was having Covid blow up, so they canceled it, but, we’ll, we’ll see how that all works out.

Andrea Learned (26:02):

We connected because, um, I think people told me about you, but everyone was like, he’s on Twitter . So one I’m kind of wondering is what has your experience been using Twitter and for influence for engaging with constituents? Tell me a little bit about that and, and why you take the time to do it at all.

Mark Gamba (26:20):

Yeah, I’m not great at it. I know a lot of people, particularly younger people that are more effective, uh, with Twitter and Facebook. Um, I try and get on there and, and say things. I try and shoot a picture every now and then of something and, and post, but usually I’ve got all this stuff going on, so I’m not thinking about, you know, that. But it, what it has done for sure is, uh, I think it helps create community, right? So it’s helped draw other advocates for the things that I’m working on to me or me to them, whatever. But we’re we’re connecting through social media that we probably wouldn’t have otherwise. So I, I to, for me, that’s been, its its biggest benefit and maybe some of the things, you know, I try occasionally to post, like I was on the Transportation 2020 committee, which was looking at a big bond measure in the metro region to do serious investment in transportation infrastructure.

And one of the meetings was held out in Beaverton. Infrastructure between Milwaukie and Beaverton is not great. Uh, but I decided to go for it and I rode my bike that day. I had to bring the charger along, it was too far to get there and back on one charge. Um, but so I shot a picture that night as I was writing back and about to cross the Sellwood Bridge. So occasionally I like that I, I try and post things to try and let people know that, you know, it’s not outside of the realm of possibility. A and, and actually earlier that day, what was funny, so writing from Milwaukie to Beaverton, that’s a pretty long ways. I don’t know the actual distance, I could do that, but I think it’s probably 20 miles or something, 25 miles and that’s as the crow flies. And I was not a crow that day.

I had to do all kinds of crazy stuff to not get killed. But even so, somebody who left from nearly where I left from that day arrived five minutes after I did. And, and I asked her, I said, how long did it take you to get her? And she said, it, it took me about an hour and 15 minutes cuz of traffic and it took me less time than that. So I, you know, I, you know, I try and point out to people that this is not only a exercise and, and a little bit of mental health, uh, whatever, , but it’s carbon free, right? I am not causing any carbon. And the creation of my form of transportation also caused a whole lot less carbon to be used than it does when you, you know, a one ton vehicle. So I, you know, it, I think it just starts to set the tone and to let people know that it is possible to do, it’s possible to, to be professional and do that, to show up looking and being professional, even though you rode your bike to get there and you don’t get a shower between the two

Andrea Learned (29:18):

And without social media, you, it’s, no one’s gonna do a story on you for doing that, right? You’re, you’re putting a footprint out there of occasionally I’m sharing a, a photo of me biking or me being, you know, taking off my wet jacket or whatever. I think that leaves a footprint and makes you kind of more credible in when you’re having these, you know, when you do have a, a place or a, an opportunity to say something about biking in general. You are a credible biker, you know, and you’re a leader. Yeah. Is there anything you’d like to tell other small town mayors who are thinking about wanting to forward climate action and taking a look at transportation?

Mark Gamba (29:53):

Well, you know, particularly in small towns, right? The, the geography that you’re working with is vastly reduced and it’s really easy to ride a bike from point A to point B in a small town, assuming it’s safe to do it right, which in a lot of places it’s not. There’s, there’s no sidewalks, there’s, you know, busy lots of traffic and not even any, not even a shoulder to work with in many cases. So for a relatively small investment, and I say that, but realizing that our roadways, you know, there’s trillions of dollars built into our roadways over the last century and we just completely have ignored the bicycle. If we put a fraction of that back into the system for bike and pedestrian infrastructure, a lot more people could ride their bikes or walk to places that they now get, you know, some people get in a car and, and drive two blocks.

It’s crazy. It’s like that moment at the beginning of the gods must be crazy, right? When the person goes out, gets in their car, pulls out of the garage, backs down to their mailbox, gets the newspaper out, and then goes back into the garage, it, it’s, that was, it’s like classic western culture at this point. And there’s so much opportunity and, and not just, you know, it is transportation nine times outta 10. What you’re moving from point A to point B is this meat sack that we all live in, right? Nothing else. You’re not carrying lumber, you’re not, you know, and, and lots of folks, I mean, Carrin Power, my, my state rep takes her kids to school on daycare, on her electric bike. She’s, she has one of those cool cargo electric bikes and she takes her kids to daycare and one goes to daycare, one goes to school, and that’s how she gets ’em there.

Andrea Learned (31:40):

Well, I think I may have met her. Um, so I was gonna ask you the idea of that e-bike demo that we were both on, I think it was in September you showed up and I came down from Seattle to do it and there were a couple of state reps there. I think Dacia being one, and I don’t know, but, but there was, there was somebody, anyway, the power of the e-bike demo. So do you think that doing more or those e-bike demos or getting a couple more mayors on an e-bike, you know, what about that convers, you know, is that enough of a conversion moment, like getting people to a thing like that, having them demo it and then seeing, you know, having them see e-bikes differently right after that?

Mark Gamba (32:18):

Certain, certainly people who are making bigger transportation decisions, policy decisions, they should all get out and ride an e-bike. I, I did that, uh, several years ago. Uh, Portland had one of the big e-bike conference, I don’t know what they called it, but there were thousands of e-bikes, all the, all the different, uh, manufacturers were there, right? And you could come test ride an e-bike, but I worked out a deal beforehand and I brought 20 people, mayors and metro counselors and city counselors from around the region to that venue, and they’d loaned us that many e-bikes and we all just went for a ride. And we, I specif we specifically chose a route that had some pretty serious hills on it and all this stuff, and they were, they were just astonished. And after that, I know at least two of them went out and bought e-bikes. I don’t know if they used them for transportation, but people don’t get the difference, right? They rode a bike as a kid and then probably some as an adult, maybe for fun, but they, you know, put on their spandex and get sweaty and, and all that stuff. And they don’t understand that there’s a giant difference between a, a regular bike and an e-bike and that an e-bike really can be serious professional transportation.

Andrea Learned (33:35):

That’s incredible. So not only through what you’re doing as mayor, but just sort of pulling a couple more leaders along. I mean that really is, you know, the name of the podcast Living Change and the, the climate influence there is incredible. So I’m really one, I’m thankful that we had this conversation. It was really fun talking to you, mayor Gamba. And I just wanna cheer you on and I will be amplifying you on Twitter a lot and really appreciate your time for this conversation.

Mark Gamba (34:01):

You’re very welcome. It was fun. I really enjoyed it. I love what you’re doing.

Andrea Learned (34:08):

Thanks so much to Representative Gamba for such a great conversation. You get the sense that what smaller cities do can really influence their larger neighbors. One, bike riding mayor, sharing pictures on social media might just be changing the social norms of city leadership overall. Being seen riding a bike reflects a climate impact narrative that any city and every city should want cities proclaiming to act on climate without a leader somewhere in there actually riding a bike for local transportation cannot be taken seriously. If you want to win elections with climate front and center, get on a bike,

Identifying, building and leveraging your leadership is something few may feel prepared to do, but climate influence can’t wait. If your organization is ready to make the shift, reach out to me, I’d love to help. Find me at I’m also easy to find on Twitter until it is no more. And LinkedIn Living Change is produced by LARJ media. That’s l a R j Media. Thank you to everyone sending positive feedback and giving us ratings and reviews. They’ve been amazing. You have no idea how much that helps. Get this podcast on the radar of leaders who want to practice living change, so your ratings and reviews actually have their own climate influence. Until next time, pedal safely.