Bike-friendly Eugene brings home gold

Source: 
Oregon Daily Emerald
Published: 
Tuesday, November 3, 2009

League of American Bicyclists gives Eugene second-highest rating

Although Eugene has been a leading community in bicycle awareness and cooperation for decades, the city recently received national recognition from the League of American Bicyclists.

The league gave Eugene a “Gold” ranking, making it one of the 10 cities in the nation ranked “Gold” as a bicycle-friendly community late last month.

With more than 80 miles of on-street bike lanes, 41 car-free bike paths, and five bicycle and pedestrian bridges, Eugene was recognized for its work to “promote bicycle safety and education while encouraging bicycling in the community,” according to league president Andy Clarke.

Eugene, which was ranked “Silver” in 2004, joins Corvallis at the “Gold” level, both of which may be on the path to join Portland at the “Platinum” ranking. In addition, Salem, Beaverton, Bend and Ashland are currently labeled “Bronze” bike-friendly communities.

The league included in its summary of Eugene’s bicycle achievements the recent construction of the bike and pedestrian bridge over Interstate Highway 5 connecting Eugene to Springfield and the strong encouragement by city staff to ride bikes rather than drive.

On Oct. 22, the city celebrated the announcement at the Amazon Park bike path with Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy. While Piercy said she was proud of the promotion, she also encouraged the public to continue working to improve and expand bicycle-friendly programs in the community.

Piercy, an advocate of Eugene’s sustainability projects, said this recognition “reaffirms our commitment to do the right thing for our environment, our economy and our health.”
University senior Briana Orr, coordinator of the Bike Loan Program, agrees with Piercy’s commitment to moving forward.

“It’s nice to have the congratulatory recognition, but we need to keep moving forward,” said Orr, who believes that an increase in bike path signage and street re-paving are a push in this direction.

“We need to encourage Eugene to use the paths not only for recreational use, but for effectively commuting around town,” Orr said. “We have such great potential as a bike-powered community.”

For University students who depend on safe bike paths and general bicycle assistance, Eugene’s bike-friendly nature can be a major asset.

“It’s about time the country recognized Eugene as the bike community we are,” junior Braden Larson said.

However, Larson made it clear that not all of Eugene is flawless.

“There still are many neighborhoods and areas without bike lanes or even room for a biker to ride next to a car,” he said.

The city thanked bicycle awareness founders BikeLane Coalition, Greater Eugene Area Riders, Bicycle Transportation Alliance and the Disciples of Dirt for helping boost the
community’s reputation.

Eugene’s deep roots in bicycle consciousness added to its national recognition. 

“When (the league) began this program, they looked at places like Eugene to create a recipe for challenging other cities to become more bike friendly — and that is happening,” said Paul Adkins, president of the Greater Eugene Area Riders, at the Oct. 22 celebration at Amazon Park.

The city is currently in the process of constructing a bike master plan, a citywide re-evaluation of Eugene’s bicycle-friendly projects and overall awareness that could possibly lead to one day achieving a “Platinum” ranking. The plan will be shared with the public in the beginning of next year.