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New sculpture in downtown Portland will celebrate Oregon’s ‘Bike Bill’


The silhouette comes into focus as you shift views.
(Drawings by PSU School of Architecture)

50 years after a Portland State University professor helped spark a statewide cycling movement, a new sculpture will be erected to celebrate his work.

“This artwork will create a place for the people and the policies that allow Oregonians to go by bike across our beautiful state.”
— Oregon Environmental Council

In 1971 the Oregon State Legislature passed a bill mandating a minimum of 1 percent of state highway project funds be used for cycling and walking infrastructure. The “Bike Bill” (ORS 366.541) as it became known, was signed on the capitol steps from the seat of a bicycle by then Governor Tom McCall.

In 1995, the Bike Bill was used by The Street Trust (then the Bicycle Transportation Alliance) in their successful lawsuit against the the City of Portland, and it remains an important tool that helps us hold the Oregon Department of Transportation accountable for building a system that serves more than just automobile users.

A PSU professor named Sam Oakland was the bike advocate who persuaded lawmakers to pass it. He was an outspoken critic of the automobile onslaught, founder of Portland’s Bike Lobby group and the first chair of the City of Portland’s Bicycle Path Task Force — the committee that developed our first bicycle plan in 1973. (Oakland passed away at the age of 80 back in 2014.)

Now Oakland’s work will be remembered with a piece of public art to be dedicated later this winter.

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Sam Oakland in 2001 when he received a lifetime achievement award from The Street Trust.
(Photo: The Street Trust)

The Oregon Environmental Council is behind the project. It’s one of three such “Art of Loving Oregon” projects they’ve undertaken to commemorate their 50th anniversary. The other two are the “Bottle Bill” that spurred recycling and the Oregon law that laid the foundation for our state’s anti-sprawl and farmland preservation regulations.

Dubbed, “Anthropocene” (a term for our current geological age that’s defined by human impacts) the six-and-a-half foot tall sculpture created by PSU School of Architecture students (overseen by Aaron Whelton) will be erected on the southwest corner of SW 10th and Harrison, just across the street from the Millar Library on the PSU campus.

According to sketches provided to BikePortland, the somewhat abstract sculpture will be just over nine feet long and two feet wide. A series of two-inch diameter pipes separated by half-inch thick steel plates will create an outline of a bicycle and its rider in motion.

Here’s how OEC’s Kevin Kasowski describes it:

“The idea is a bit hard to capture in one image… it is designed so that from most perspectives, it looks like a random collection of pipes but when you stand at a side view the silhouette of the biker and bike emerges.”

A statement from the OEC says the installation will, “create a place for the people and the policies that allow Oregonians to go by bike across our beautiful state.”

Stay tuned for details on the dedication ceremony event and photos after it’s installed.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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