A group of Portland State University students are working on a project to document Portland’s bicycle history. The effort is being led by Scott Cohen, a Capstone instructor who teaches courses on bicycles and transportation issues in Portland.
Capstone projects are an undergraduate requirement at PSU where students must work as a group on a project that serves the community.
“I want those stories recorded and accessible to future historians who examine Portland’s development and ask, “How did a relatively wet, hilly, and cold city get 25% of its residents on bikes?” (Hey, a historian can dream right?…)”
Cohen’s students are combing Oregonian archives from 1971-2005 and recording every article that mentions cycling. Next term, they’ll expand their research to other sources (like OPB, the Willamette Week, etc…) and continue the Oregonian research up to the present day.
In addition to studying local media, the students are conducting interviews with people who have been instrumental to building Portland’s bike infrastructure and community. Cohen plans to record and archive these interviews for future historical research.
This research is being done in collaboration with the Portland Office of Transportation (PDOT), who will use this research to better understand how perceptions of cycling are portrayed in popular media. The research will help PDOT’s efforts to promote bicycle use in Portland, but they will also offer this history to other communities who look to us as a model.
Cohen is working on a comprehensive analysis of Portland’s transportation history and he even blogs about the topic.