A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

How fads change: This sign reminds us

Written October 13th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

Clay Street in Albany, just north of 14th Avenue. On Sunday afternoon, congestion does not appear to be a problem.

If you’re looking for regulations made irrelevant by the passing of time, Albany’s city law on congested thoroughfares would be a pretty good fit.

I vaguely remember the agitation among city officials and others about teenage cruising. Young people would be driving up and down the “gut,” as some people invariably called it, on Friday and Saturday nights. The idea was to have something to do, to see and be seen, and to show off your ride if it was worth showing off.

In Albany, Clay Street south of Santiam Highway was a center of all that burning of fossil fuels into the early hours on summer nights. It’s hard to remember exactly why that was supposed to have been a problem. But the city council was persuaded that indeed, it was someting the city had to stop.

Which is why in 1988 the council enacted Ordinance No. 4838. The intent was to “prohibit the repeated driving of a motor vehicle along and across one portion of a congested public thoroughfare.”

The ordinance lives on in Chapter 13 of the Albany Municipal Code. And as the sign says, on Clay Street it’s against the law to drive on that section of the street more than twice between the hours of 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. If you’re caught driving there three times, you can get a ticket. And if you’re caught again, they can tow your car.

The law remains in effect and the sign is still there even though these days, if you venture on Clay Street late at night, you’re out there pretty much by yourself.

I’m no expert, but I would say that cruising has lost whatever appeal it apparently had among young people as late as 31 years ago. The problem, if there was one, has gone away. But the law against it remains on the books, as laws often do. (hh)

8 responses to “How fads change: This sign reminds us”

  1. David R Sullivan says:

    Another fun perspective piece. How do you think of these?

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Milton Friedman once said that “nothing is more permanent than a temporary government program.”

    Local ordinances, fees, taxes, levies, bonds…..some never change, some get recycled. Rarely do they expire or decrease.

  3. Anon says:

    We might be better off if cruising was still a problem. 40 years ago on Friday and Saturday nights the young people in Albany got together and interacted with each other in real life, in real time. There was no “us vs. them” mentality. There was also no texting, no snap chat etc etc….young people today on average spend more than 4 hours a day on their smart phone. They might be better prepared for adult life if they spent more time actually talking to each other.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “…the young people in Albany got together and interacted with each other in real life, in real time…They might be better prepared for adult life if they spent more time actually talking to each other.”

      As opposed to reacting to Hasso’s missives online?

  4. Jeff Senders says:

    Maybe they should move the sign to the fenced off bike path.

  5. J. Jacobson says:

    The 80s was the time when baby boomers were getting themselves more and more entwined with the political system. They were too young to die and too old to rock n’ roll.

    In their angst, these youngish local leaders turned the Albany City Council into the reactionary mess it is today. In their misguided zeal, this ruling generation passed absurd statutes banning cruising…the exact same activity these Councilors had been involved in during the late-60s and 70s.

    The baby boomers would go on to become the generation that revved-up the Global Warming machine while simultaneously cranking out record debt and deficit figures in a full steam astern, reactionary frenzy. Fortunately, Albany City Officialdom of that era did not possess the same authority.

  6. David Ballard says:

    Perhaps this sign, resulting from the 1988 Ordinance No. 4838, was solely responsible for terminating cruising the gut as a pass-time in mid-town Albany. Effective governance.

    Looks as though the sign could be removed now or at least plumbed to take the lean out.

  7. R.S. says:

    And possibly the more relevant questions…

    How exactly are drivers supposed to be able to:
    a) Read the tiny lettering on such a sign, and
    b) Have enough time to read 12 lines of text?


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