Jonathan Nicholas, bike scene pundit and the spirit of Cycle Oregon, leaves The Oregonian

Cycle Oregon day 1 into Heppner

Jonathan Nicholas, seen here in
Heppner, Oregon during the 2006
Cycle Oregon.
(Photos J. Maus)

Jonathan Nicholas, the author and journalist who is considered the soul of Cycle Oregon and who has shared his insider observations on Portland’s bike scene for over two decades, has decided to take a buy-out offer from The Oregonian and will leave the staff position he has held there since 1982.

His decision was first reported by Byron Beck of the Willamette Week on Friday and I’ve confirmed the news with Nicholas this morning.

In an email today, Nicholas wrote that he’ll leave the paper after the November 4th election. When I asked him what it was like covering bike issues then and now he wrote:

“Being a bicycle advocate at The Oregonian was once like being a preacher in a whorehouse…”
— Jonathan Nicholas

“Being a bicycle advocate at The Oregonian was once like being a preacher in a whorehouse, I had a platform, but much of the sermon was falling on the ears of people otherwise engaged.”

Now, he says, there are “scores” of Oregonian journalists who are bike commuters. “In terms of MSM (mainstream media) coverage, our future is safe.”

Nicholas wrote a daily column at the Oregonian for 25 years and just recently became a member of their Editorial Board.

In 1987, Nicholas heard about an idea for a bike ride through Oregon from Ashland-based innkeeper Jim Beaver. Nicholas loved the concept and immediately threw his journalistic and personal enthusiasm behind the ride — which was first held in 1988 and became known as Cycle Oregon.

cycle oregon Day 5 (Union, OR) - Union Camp

After a day in the saddle in
Union, Oregon in 2006.

Today, the week-long ride sells out its 2,000 plus slots in a matter of weeks and is considered one of the premiere organized bike tours in the world. Also, through its Cycle Oregon Fund, the organization has given away hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to small communities throughout Oregon.

For many years, Nicholas wrote daily updates from Cycle Oregon that were published in The Oregonian. In addition to Cycle Oregon coverage, he wrote about bike issues extensively, including an editorial back in April about the current momentum of Oregon’s bike movement. In, The future arrives on two wheels, Nicholas wrote:

…In the halls of political power, bikes long were regarded as little more than toys used by Portland’s income-challenged creative class to get back and forth between Pabst and tattoo parlor. That was then. Now is politicians, planners and, yes, developers, looking to bikes to be key components of tomorrow’s more energy-efficient economy…

Bike industry forum at the MAC

Nicholas (center), chatting with Tom
Miller (soon to be Mayor Adams’ Chief of Staff)
and Cycle Oregon ride director Jerry Norquist (right).

But, like any good journalist, he’s not always a cheerleader for the cause he loves. Just yesterday, Nicholas wrote in the Sunday Edition about NYC’s transportation czar Jeanette Sadik-Kahn (she visited Portland a few weeks ago). Nicholas compared Sadik-Kahn’s Summer Streets program (which closed major downtown streets to cars for three separate days in August) with Portland’s Sunday Parkways event (which closed residential streets for six hours during one day in June).

Nicholas wrote that, compared to Summer Streets, Sunday Parkways was, “a sad exercise in civic timidity.”

According to the Willamette Week, Nicholas said he is, “weighing out his options” on what to do next, but Byron Beck reported that he’s “likely to take a job in the non-profit sector.”

It’s too bad we’ll lose Nicholas’ voice in the O, but he’s always been active (usually behind-the-scenes) in promoting bike issues and events throughout Oregon. Perhaps now we’ll see him take on a larger and more visible role in the advocacy world.

I have a feeling this isn’t the last we’ve heard of him.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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K'Tesh
K'Tesh
15 years ago

Well, I hope Mr Nicholas finds happyness (on two wheels) in whatever he decides to do in the future.

All The Best!

mmann
mmann
15 years ago

JN has been one of the main forces behind Portland and Oregon’s bike friendliness, as well as a damn good writer. His recent stand against the Oregon Zoo’s treatment of its elephants was as eloquent as anything he’s ever written. The big O is in trouble – David Reinhardt also announced in his Sunday Column that he’s leaving after the election (though he blames intolerant liberals for his decision (!) – I’ll still miss the imaginary arguments I had with him nearly every week.) I wish Jonathan Nicholas all the best and hope he gets even more saddle time now.

BikingViking
BikingViking
15 years ago

Here’s hoping Nichols finds new employment near a bike boulevard! Thanks for all your great work with the O, Jonathan.

mark
mark
15 years ago

Best of luck in your future endeavors Jonathan.

– A neighbor at the bottom of the hill

Thom Schoenborn
Thom Schoenborn
15 years ago

What to do next?

bikeportland.org columnist

David Feldman
David Feldman
15 years ago

David Reinhard leaving is a BAD thing? I just hope he doesn’t land at the Columbian!

Kt
Kt
15 years ago

I’ve always enjoyed Mr Nichol’s writing, especially about his travels by bike.

One day I’ll work up the guts (and fitness!) to try a Cycle Oregon– it sounds like on heck of an adventure!

PedalStrikeForceAgentDown

I went to one of this summer’s Summer Streets. I wasn’t all that impressed.

Jessica Roberts
Jessica Roberts
15 years ago

Thanks for all you’ve done, Jonathan…I hope we won’t lose the stirring pro-bike editorials I’ve been enjoying since you joined the editorial board.