Terror on two wheels

The following in an excerpt from Walking to Forest Grove, Copyright 2015 by Ken and Kris Bilderback. All rights reserved.

The Times favored that new-fangled wheeled conveyance, the bicycle. On July 6, 1899, the paper noted that a dirt path from Forest Grove to Hillsboro “would be pretty good if it were not so bumpy in spots.” The path, it seems, turned to mud in the winter, then hardened into a rollercoaster ride under the summer sun. The paper noted another obstacle for cyclists: “The cow that roams the lanes is no respector of paths.”

walkingcoversmallStill, the Times saw bicycles as the future of transportation, and after a bright day in February 1900 brought out the town’s cyclists, the paper’s editors started a campaign. Many townspeople considered bicycles to be dangerous, and ordinances had been passed to keep them off the sidewalks. But this beautiful day illustrated the problem with the ordinance; although the sun was shining, it still was February, which meant that most of the streets were muddy morasses, rendering bike riding nearly impossible except on the sidewalks.

Some townsfolk wanted bicycles banned altogether, but where others saw only problems, the Times saw opportunity. An editorial suggested creating bicycle paths into and out of town so people wouldn’t have to walk to Forest Grove. The first paths, the editors suggested, should go north a couple of miles into the bustling community of Greenville and to the Catholic Church in Verboort, but others could extend to other towns.

“There are some difficulties in the way of keeping these paths up, of course” the Times acknowledged, “but none serious.” The paper urged community leaders to go to the county Courthouse to demand action, but Forest Grove didn’t get its fancy bike paths for about a century, when a resurgence in interest made bicycling more popular than ever.