As a driver passed a bicycle commuter a passenger shouted out the car’s window, “Get a car, sonny!” That’s not something you’re likely to hear in Portland nowadays, but this was Detroit, the year was 1964, and the cyclist was 48-year-old Eugene Sloane on his daily 12-mile ride from the suburbs to his job as editor of the publication Air Engineering in downtown Detroit.
A few years later Sloane became a best-selling author with The Complete Book of Bicycling a book published at the beginning of the 1970s 10-speed bike boom that drove the movement to even greater heights. It has now been 50 years since the publication of Sloane’s book, and for a year back in 1970 it was the only new bike book on the market.
In 1896 Portland had a thriving cycling culture complete with bike-specific fashion purveyors, bike-friendly restaurants, bike shops, and local businesses hoping to cater to our many “wheelmen” and women.
These days, many people know Clarence Eckerson as the guy behind Streetfilms, the beautifully produced series of web videos about livable streets and transportation reform.
But back in 2005, he was honing those skills as the creator of BikeTV, a local cable show in New York City — and he happened to stop in Portland for the Multnomah County Bike Fair that closed the fourth annual Pedalpalooza festival. Eckerson wrote us today to mention that he was recently uploading some old DVDs, came across the footage below and thought we’d enjoy it.
There’s an intriguing idea at the bottom of The Oregonian’s nicely written piece today about folksinger Woody Guthrie’s ties to Portland.
The article (which is actually the last from former transportation reporter Joseph Rose, who’s headed to a job on the East Coast) focuses on the 30 intensely creative days the Oklahoma-born folksinger spent in a 400-square-foot apartment in Lents in spring 1941. It’s two blocks from the trail, and still available for rent today.
Guthrie was visiting for a one-month gig with the Bonneville Power Authority, which paid him $266.66 to write 26 songs promoting hydroelectric power on the Columbia. They turned out to include some of his enduring classics about the people who helped win World War II by industrializing the West Coast: “Roll On, Columbia,” “Grand Coulee Dam,” “Oregon Trail” and “Pastures of Plenty.”
Bike transportation is essential to the future of Portland. But every year it also becomes more and more a part of Portland’s history.
At a free event next week, a local biking writer and three Oregon biking advocates will meet up at a brewpub to talk about the history of biking in Portland — both its early heyday in the 1890s and the modern renaissance that began around 1970.
Then Mychal Tetteh of the Community Cycling Center, Rob Sadowsky of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and Steve Schulz of Cycle Oregon will join a panel about the movement’s modern history. I’ll be moderating.
Part of NW Portland Week.
Thurman Street is the last neighborhood north where you can find the sort of stuff that, for a lot of people, make Portland Portland.
One block north of the Food Front Cooperative Grocery and the gluten-free bakery Dessert Labs, you hit the Holiday Inn Express. Then come the railroad tracks, warehouses, gravel distributors, floodplains and eventually just trees to the end of the earth, or at least to Scappoose.
Walking down Thurman Street itself is so rewarding that one of Portland’s most famous residents wrote a whole book about it. They keep a copy behind the reference desk at the branch library on NW 23rd and Thurman: Blue Moon over Thurman Street, published in 1993 by the novelist Ursula K. Le Guin and the photographer Roger Dorband.
What did cycling routes in Portland look like over 40 years ago? That’s something we’d never known until coming across this “From here to there by bicycle” map.
This is a guest post from Carl Larson, a Portland bike advocate and all-around bicycle culture Renaissance man. Amid many other bike-related activities including bike polo, World Naked Bike Ride, Mini Bike Winter, Zoobomb and Pedalpalooza, he’s worked for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance since 2008, currently as its engagement manager. The BTA is eliminating the job on Jan. 31.
“I feel sheepish about suggesting anyone would care about my memories but they’re not just mine,” Larson writes. “These highlights remind me of what a ride so many of us have been on and it’s been really fun to look back at some of them. It has helped me, and will hopefully help others, recognize the BTA at its best.”