Note: I began writing this article back in May but kept postponing it due to a constant flow of more time-sensitive stories. The recent passing of Ruth Bascom has made the publishing of this article important. It seems that the majority of the bike infrastructure we all enjoy today came about during the 70’s, and Bascom was instrumental in this process.
I’ve been poking around looking at Eugene and Springfield cycling history recently, my interested piqued by a reader sending in this old story from 1978 about a woman being arrested in Springfield for riding her bike in the street.
“Eugene engineers, planners, law enforcement officers, and citizens explain the successful bicycle program of Oregon’s second largest city. Twelve monographs examine the planning, design, construction, and use of Eugene’s bikeway system.” -from 1981’s “Bicycles in Cities,” put out by the City of Eugene
Quite accidentally, I discovered that the City of Eugene bicycling website has an online archive of old “Bicycles in Cities – A Eugene Perspective” monographs. From what I can tell, the 12 volume set was originally published in 1981 in individual newsletter form. They cover a wide range of topics – from the existence of a late 70’s bicycle committee, the previous bicycle master plan, why we have left side and contra-flow bike lanes, the building of the Willamette bridges, the Fern Ridge and River Paths, and many other things. In fact, is appears that the majority of the infrastructure that we have today came about in the 1970’s.
The monographs are full of great pictures and amazing stories, and at only 4 pages each are a must-read for anyone interested in local history, advocacy, or biking in general. We can learn from our past – or at the very least enjoy the 70’s era cartoons and vintage bicycles. Give it a read, and then lets try to make 2010-2020 another 1970-1980.
Continue for an episode guide:
Update: Links fixed
Volume 1: “Portrait of a Bicycle Committee” – Chronicles the creation of the 1970’s Eugene Bicycle Committee, which led to many of the great cycling infrastructure that we enjoy today.
Volume 3: “Bridges for Bicycles” – The planning and building of the Autzen, Greenway, and Knickerbocker bike bridges over the Willamette River.
Volume 5: “Innovate Bikeway Designs” – Railroad underpasses, “bike only” intersections, concrete gutters, and “bicycle safe” drain grates are just a few of the designs that came about during this exciting time.
Volume 6: “On-Street Bicycle Lanes” – An interesting look at how all our favorite (and sometimes confusing) bike lanes came to be, including the contra-flow Alder lanes and the left-side lanes on High and Pearl St. It all happened back in the 70’s.
Volume 7: “Intersections and Bike Lanes” – Early attempts at handling bike lanes and turning traffic – some solutions stuck around, some didn’t.
Volume 8: “Bicycle Parking” – A great volume for anyone concerned with bike parking. Includes a great checklist for bike parking considerations. It’s notable that only a few “staple” racks are shown, and most of the racks are rather lousy “wheel benders.” This is an area where we’ve seen a lot of development, but the checklist still stands the test of time.
Volume 9: “Off-Street Bicycle Paths” – An interesting read which shows how the paths used to be built (materials-wise), and also how we gained some of the features which we enjoy today, including the Fern Ridge and River Bank underpasses. Yup, even those have been around since the 70’s.
Volume 10: “Signing and Lighting” – The introduction of bicycle wayfinding signs and lighting, including my favorite “One Way Except Bicycles” and “No Left Turn Except Bicycles” signs.
Volume 11: “Promotion, Education, and Enforcement” – Did you know that mandatory bicycle licensing in Eugene was passed in 1972 and then repealed in 1977 when it failed to discourage theft or generate revenue? This also covers the creation of Eugene’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator position, currently held by Lee Shoemaker.
Volume 12: “Funding, Usage, and Accidents” – Funding sources and bike counts. It’s interesting to compare these numbers to today.