Portland Bike History, 1972 - 2005

In my other life I am a capstone instructor at Portland State. Capstone courses are required for undergraduates and the class mainly focuses on a group project that serves a community organization. My course deals with bicycle and alternative transportation issues in Portland, and this term we are undertaking a historical research project for the Portland Office of Transportation. This is the first part of what I expect to be an in-depth research project.

The students are currently wrapping up their research and we'll present PDOT with a database cataloging every Oregonian article dealing with bicycle issues from 1972 - 2005 and a report analyzing our data. I'll make these items available on this site.

My hope is that this work will lead to documenting Portland's recent bicycle history. We are in a unique position right now. We have enough distance from some of the significant events of the recent past to think about them historically, but we are also close enough to actually learn from the people who played signficant roles. I am thinking about people like Mia Birk, Portland's former Bicycle Program Coordinator, who's work led to the city's dramatic increase in bicycle infrastructure (see my post on Portland Bike History for more information). Birk has many great stories about her time with the city, but if you want to hear them you have to register for her bike and ped planning course at PSU. 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?...)