A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Why Oregon cyclists have it pretty good

Written April 22nd, 2021 by Hasso Hering

The sign says bikeway, but it’s just a narrow shoulder on West Main in Medford. (Photo from 2018)

Fifty years ago this week, the Oregon House passed HB 1700, the bike bill, whose chief sponsor was Don Stathos, a Republican from Jackson County and a resident of Jacksonville.

Al Densmore, of Medford, remembered the anniversary on Wednesday and called attention to it on Facebook. Densmore served in the House with Stathos and cosponsored the bill. He remembers that it passed the House 36-21.

I’ve written about Don Stathos half a dozen times since this blog started in 2012. As a newspaperman in Ashland, I knew him slightly during his two terms in the legislature, 1969 and ’71. The owner of an insurance agency in Medford, he was a World War II veteran who often rode his bicycle to the office. In 1979, his commuting route was named a bikeway in his honor.

A few times a year I’m on that road, West Main Street, and pass the signs. “Bikeway”? Outside the city limits there’s just a narrow shoulder. Jackson County should do something to improve that route to make it worthy of the Stathos name.

Stathos’ 1971 bill required state, county and city road authorities to spend money on bike and pedestrian paths whenever a road was built or reconstructed. The bill said to spend a reasonable amount but not less than 1 percent of the cost if the project was supported by the state highway fund. Road authorities could also save up the bikeway money in order to do a bigger project later on.

That’s the law still. This session there’s a bill to increase the required amount to 5 percent and add other requirements. The bill, SB 395, had a hearing on March 4 in the Joint Transportation Committee and has not moved since. It’s probably dead.

The current requirement is sufficient. In Albany anyway, adequate bike lanes have been provided whenever a major street is widened or rebuilt. And usually, the cost far exceeds 1 percent of the cost of a particular project.

Now there’s a new round of planning for bike and pedestrian facilities in the Albany area. More on that later. But around the mid-valley, cyclists have it pretty good as far as facilities are concerned. And the main reason is the bike bill we’ve had for 50 years. (hh)

Inside Jacksonville, a wide lane serves as the Stathos Bikeway. (2019 photo)

7 responses to “Why Oregon cyclists have it pretty good”

  1. Patrick Bateman says:

    Typical Hasso. He hates government services……except those he actually benefits from; then he’s all for them.

    What a hypocrite.

  2. Lundy says:

    Hasso, thanks for another informative report. I’m not an avid cyclist like yourself, but I’m sure I have well into four figures of mileage on Oregon roads. Now I’ll make a point to think of Don Stathos every now and then.

  3. John Klock says:

    We are a country addicted to automobiles not bicycles. Having it “pretty good” is a relative term and our bicycle riding rates in this country don’t even compare to most European countries. Think about the following in your analysis of bicycle facilities: climate change, a growing senior population, food deserts, and non-stop development. People who do not bike do not understand the noise and the risks that simply riding in our designated lanes pose. We are getting less bicycle friendly not more friendly. I would think that reducing carbon emissions as a means to address climate change and a new infrastructure budget would mean good news for bicyclists but I am not so sure. Let us hope for the best and in the mean-time educate our fellow motorists about the needs and rights of motorists. With more bicycles on the road everybody wins: the air, the water, the wildlife, the city’s annual infrastructure budget, the population, the health care system, and more.

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      Comparing the US and Europe is simply stupid. Most European cities are built with narrow streets (because they were built before cars existed) that are simply not conducive to automobiles.

  4. Jake JJ Jack Johnny Hartman says:

    Given the author’s well-understood and long-held antipathy for the !% for Arts statute which mandates that one-percent of public funds dedicated to the construction of publicly-used buildings, roads and other locales, it strikes this reader that the author is shamelessly hypocritical where it comes to that same 1% State mandate requiring the embellishment of Bike Paths to service the One-Percent of residents who make use of bicycle bi-ways.

    There is effectively no difference between the two mandates, yet the author, who happens to ride a bike, doesn’t even recognize the irony of his position. No surprise.
    One wonders if the Hering-idolized Stathos is rolling over in his sarcophagus.

  5. Scott Bruslind says:

    Thank you for the mention of Don Stathos, previously unknown to me. Is Oregon blessed with a surfeit of ‘Great Individuals’ who step up to lead? If so, why and then, what happens to the good idea(s)?
    Good piece, especially for those of a libertarian bent, on the dynamics of the ‘Great Man Theory,’ here-
    Governor Tom McCall’s Beach and Bottle Bills and Land Use Planning come to mind, but we know he was just the final signatory after protracted legislative process. All three are firmly entrenched in bureaucratic oversight, but are much-revered Oregon legacies.
    Something to ponder whilst pedaling.


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