“Track Town USA”
(Photos: Will Vanlue)
Before last week I hadn’t ridden my bicycle much in Eugene since Martha Steward and Busta Rhymes appeared on TV together. I grew up in Eugene and occasionally rode my bike to school when I was younger. Unfortunately that stopped when I got my driver’s license and was caught up in the “you’re only cool if you have a car” culture of high school.
During a recent visit it was interesting to be back in the city where I grew up, but with the perspective of an outsider getting to know the city from the seat of a bicycle.
Most of what I saw were positive changes that have made the decision to ride a bike an easier one (and it’s no fluke that Eugene ranks atop the U.S. when it comes to bike commuting). Read on to see how my old hometown has changed — for the better — for bikes…
Riding around Eugene as a kid I always had trouble finding a place to park my bike. Usually the bike racks I could find were poorly designed or poorly placed.
Now the city is flush with bike racks and bike corrals that fit in perfectly with Eugene’s quirky, artsy culture.
The only bike signs I remember seeing as a kid were the relatively unhelpful “Bike Route” signs. They’d let you know you were on a bike route, but they rarely had arrows directing you to where the route went.
Now there are signs everywhere. It may just be my perception but they seem to be more densely placed than here in the Portland-Metro area.
There are signs to bike paths…
Signs on the UO campus…
And signs virtually everywhere you’d want to travel…
Pedestrian and bicycle bridges
Eugene’s also done a great job of thinking big when it comes to big physical barriers to bicycling.
Bridges over I-5 and Delta Highway have filled in major gaps in the transportation network, allowing bicycles and pedestrians much safer and easier access to schools, malls, and neighborhoods around those two freeways.
Cycle tracks, buffered bike lanes, and sharrows
Eugene has done some really impressive work improving the on-street facilities as well. Even places considered to be “bike friendly” a decade or more ago have continued to improve. The cycle track on Alder is one example but there are many others.
More vintage bikes
It seemed like there were more vintage bicycles out on the street than when I was younger. I’ve always associated older bicycles with the college crowd but I visited during winter vacation and campus was quiet.
Even with a noticeable lack of college students, everywhere I looked I found well-maintained bicycles from the ’70s and ’80s. One conclusion I can draw from the perceived trend is that people are eager to dust off the bicycles sitting in their garages and get out on the road.
All of these changes seem to lead to one thing:
More people on bicycles.
I definitely saw more people on bicycles on this last trip then when I was growing up in Eugene. Most of the time I was during the day, not at rush hour, but there was always a steady stream of riders along any path or street I was on.
Eugene has done a great job encouraging bicycling and there may be lessons we can learn from our neighbors to the south. Have you ridden around Eugene recently? What new things have you seen?