The new and improved Knickerbocker Bridge opened again to the public yesterday after being closed for a few weeks as crews replaced the old railing that was partly made of wood and rotting out. The replacement was also part of a project to repave and improve the access on the south side from Franklin Boulevard to the bridge. This section of path hard large root heaves and very poor pavement before this work was completed. The approach from Franklin to the railroad underpass was also a tight turn so that turn radius was expanded to give cyclists a better view before entering the tunnel. Striping was also added to guide people to make a safe passage under the Union Pacific railroad right-of-way.
The Knickerbocker bridge was built in 1978 and is one of the examples of a partnership between the City of Eugene and the Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) that combined getting utility lines across the river while also providing a safe and convenient crossing of the river for people walking, biking, and rolling (the Autzen Bridge is another example). The bridge was dedicated in 1980 and is named for Willie Knickerbocker (1868–1960), who was called “The Father of Bicycling in Eugene.” There’s a good piece about Willy from the Register Guard if you’d like to learn more about him. The quote at the end show’s us why they picked a good person to name a Eugene bike bridge for:
“Let’s not forget the simple man who lived a simple life, riding his bicycle as the world sped up around him.
The man who, when asked why he rode — if it was the independence or the beauty or the solitude — cocked his head and scrunched his eyes and thought about it a moment and said, “No, it’s to get there.”
This bridge is not one you’ll cross much on a pure pleasure ride. It’s a pretty practical connection for “getting there”, providing a link from Springfield, the Northeast part of Eugene, campus, and the Glenwood area. However, make sure you stop along your journey (maybe on one of the new benches) and enjoy the natural beauty of the Whilamut Natural Area, watch some boaters and tubers float by in the summer, and watch for all sorts of birds, water mammals, and other wildlife.
The sign commemorating the building of the bridge is a bit weathered and hidden on the north side of the bridge but Eugene Parks and Open Space says the old plaque will be incorporated into a new sign going in soon. A new bike counter will also be going in on the south side of the bridge as many new projects in Eugene include the counters as part of the project so that planners can better track the number of walkers and bikers using the system.
With the completion of this section and all the work that went into improving the river path system after the I5 bridge construction, including the new viaduct on the east side of I5 leading into Glenwood, one of the older parts of our river path network system is now updated and improved. Now if we could just figure out how to connect the south bank path from the Autzen Footbridge to the Knickerbocker without having to go up to Garden Avenue. More about that idea in an upcoming story on WeBikeEugene. Stay tuned.