Ruth Bascom Memorial Ride Draws a Large, Grateful Crowd

Thank You Ruth Bascom

Wednesday’s Ruth Bascom Memorial Ride was a huge success, drawing around 200 riders according to a Register-Guard estimate.  The crowd was  speckled with flowers and “Thank You Ruth Bascom” signs, and was attended by some of the original “movers and shakers” who helped cycling get started in Eugene.

Before the ride, participants heard testimony from people who had experiences with Ruth or with Ruth’s legacy, including GEARs President and 1998 Alice Award winner Sue Wolling; Mayor Kitty Piercy; Paul Nicholson of Paul’s Bicycle Way of Life, who served with Ruth on City Council and while she was mayor; late 70’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator and 2001 Alice Award Winner Diane Bishop; and member of the 1970’s Eugene Bicycle Committee and co-creator of the 1981 Bicycles in Cities monogram, Peter Eberhardt.  The ride was also attended by Ruth’s husband Dr. John Bascom and her son Paul Bascom.

The crowd gathers before the ride

It was a special treat for me to meet and ride with Bishop and Eberhardt, and I heard a few interesting stories about early Eugene cycling history, including that Portland’s Bike/Ped coordinator was sent down to Eugene in the early days to learn from us!

It’s clear to me from reading the old monographs, hearing the speeches, and from the turnout of Ruth’s memorial that we owe even more to her and her early companions than I could ever impress here.  We ride on the shoulders of giants.

Take the jump for pictures of the ride and click here to read the Register-Guard’s coverage.

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Eugene Bicycle History Online at City of Eugene Website

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:

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“Bicycling Mayor” Ruth Bascom to be Honored Wednesday

Ruth Bascom 1926-2010

I didn’t live in Eugene when Ruth Bascom was the first female mayor of Eugene (1993-1997), nor did I live here when she was a city councilor for eight years before she became mayor.  I wasn’t around when she inspired and was the driving force behind the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Path System (named in 2003).   I wasn’t around when she helped pioneer cycling in Eugene in the 70’s and planned much of our current infrastructure.  But I do live here now, and there is rarely a day that I don’t benefit from the great work she did while she was here.  I never met her, never saw her, but I know her name because she improved my life.

Bascom passed away last Thursday from injuries sustained in an August 11th car crash near Bend.  She was 84.  The Greater Eugene Area Riders (GEARs) is planning a memorial ride on Wednesday, Sept. 1st at EWEB Plaza.

From GEARs:

Wednesday’s ride is free and open to all.  The ride will start at the EWEB Plaza, 500 East 4th Avenue, and follow the riverbank path for about 10 miles.  It will be a flat, easy, slow-paced ride suitable for riders of all ages and abilities.  Bicycle helmets are required by law for all riders under 16 years of age, and are highly recommended for everyone.

The ride is sponsored by GEARs (Greater Eugene Area Riders).  For more information, contact Sue at 541-345-2110 or sue@eugenegears.org

Take the jump to learn more about Ruth Bascom.

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