14 December 2017

Bike Share Over The Cuckoo's Nest?

I haven't been to Eugene, Oregon.  From what I hear, though, it's developing the sort of reputation Portland had maybe fifteen years ago:  a town of young artists, old and latter-day hippies as well as other free spirits.  And cyclists.

Someone I know described it as "Madison West."

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. After all, the University of Oregon is there.  And, interestingly, several tech startups first saw the light of day there.  So did a certain company launched by a guy who paid a graduate student $35 for her design.

That graduate student was Carolyn Davidson. And the guy who bought her drawing was none other than Phil Knight, the founder of Nike.

Imagine that:  the designer of the Nike "Swoosh" was paid only $35. But, she says, it led to other things that made her quite a bit of money.

Oh, and the author of a certain book that became one of the texts, if you will, of the counterculture--and, later, a much-lauded film--spent much of his life in Eugene.  I am talking about Ken Kesey, who wrote One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

So, I am not surprised, really, to find out that Eugene residents anticipate having something Madison has.  Austin, Texas--another town to which Eugene is increasingly compared--also has it.

I'm talking about a bike share program.  A local business owner is working on a plan for it.  Lindsey Harward's newly-formed company, Eugene Bike Share, will offer rides for a couple of dollars a day as well as yearly memberships.  Her current plan calls for 300 bicycles and 30 pick-up/drop-off locations.

While Eugene has only slightly fewer people than Salem, the capital and second-largest city of the Beaver State, it has only about a quarter of the population of the state's largest city, Portland.  So, while it might not be considered a "small" city, few would confuse it with a megalopolis or world capital.  

I find it interesting that the fastest growth in bike share programs is found in second- and third-tier cities like Portland and Madison.  And you could be forgiven for thinking that the bike-share concept is "trickling down" from world capitals and centers like Paris, London and New York.

The irony is that, as I learned recently, a city with about half of Eugene's population (though on a quarter as much land-area) had the first known bike-share program.  In 1976, La Rochelle, a lovely town on the French Atlantic (Bay of Biscay) coast, launched its fleet of velos jaunes for use by the public.  The current incarnation of the program is called Yelo and still uses, yes, yellow bicycles!

Hmm...I wonder what color Eugene's share bikes will be.


  1. If Portland's motto is "keep Portland weird" I wonder what is Eugene's? Hmmm. I gotta get out there for a visit one of these days.

  2. Hey! Eugene hasn't been "developing" that reputation, it has HAD that reputation, for, like, forever! And Eugene ISN'T the capital of Oregon, Salem is!

    I know, I know, we on the "other side" of the Hudson get no respect. ;-)


  3. Phillip--Weirder than Portland? Hmm...

    Annie and Shawn--Mea culpa. That's Latin for "my bad".

    Anyway, let's keep that mistake a secret. Otherwise, Holy Spirit School might retroactively take back the 90 I got in Geography in 1967. ;-)

    Seriously, I'll correct the mistake!

  4. I rode those bike share bikes in La Rochelle in their first incarnation, a great afternoon but they were not the kind of bikes you would want to ride every day. I had to leave my passport for security but the hire was free and I made it back before the office closed. The latest bikes I saw about three years ago and they had shaft drive!

  5. Coline--That's quite the story. Then again, most bike share bikes aren't the sort of thing you'd want for your daily ride.