MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE -- When Marshall Guthrie moved to Monmouth from New York about a year ago, one of the first things he did was hop on his bike and tour his new surroundings.
An avid cyclist, Guthrie said he rode perhaps 20 miles up and down main and side streets in Monmouth and Independence.
His general assessment was it was a "fantastic" place to travel by two wheels. A quibble, however, is having enough places to safely and securely store a bike.
"Most of the time, I'm leaning the bike against something and keeping an eye on it," said Guthrie, who works at Western Oregon University. "If there's no rack, you don't want to leave it unlocked. You're limited to street signs and small trees."
A project Guthrie and about 25 other local residents and students are spearheading could help address that.
The initiative is called "MIcycles" and entails raising funds to purchase eight to 10 artistic bike racks and installing them in the downtowns and in underserved spots in Monmouth and Independence this year.
Cost is estimated at nearly $16,000. The group has raised approximately $1,400 so far, and has agreements from the cities for in-kind installation and maintenance work.
The coordinators are a cohort of the Ford Family Foundation's Leadership Institute Program, which sees residents create projects to enhance community livability.
This fits the bill, said Jon Carey, a Monmouth City Councilor and MIcycles member who wants to promote alternative transportation and a general "bike culture."
Racks are a part of that; after all, are you likely to ride a bike somewhere if you know already there's no where to put it?
"This would reduce a barrier," Carey said. "I know people who have expensive bikes who might take long rides, but won't do commutes because of security."
Exact rack locations and designs are still being determined, as cooperation with local businesses will be needed for certain areas.
The concept would see decorative racks appropriate for their location. A unit in front of a cafe, for example, could resemble a mug. Or a tooth outside a dentist's office.
"We want to balance fun and functional," Guthrie said.
Racks are needed, sometimes in obvious spots. Main Street Park in Monmouth lacks bike racks. There are no racks in the upper colonnade of Riverview Park in Independence.
Carey said the bike racks are a first step in a broader effort: getting people to explore and patronize businesses and parks and promoting healthier living.
An inspiration for MIcycles was the decorative racks spread throughout Salem's urban core.
Sheri Whargren, downtown revitalization manager for the city of Salem, said the end result is more than just a place to park. The racks serve as both art and as accommodations to cyclists. They've also spurred "wayfinding" entrances and signs for pedestrians to increase foot traffic downtown, Whargren said.
"If you're walking and biking at a slower pace, you're more likely to stop and buy that cup of coffee versus if you're just passing through by car," Wahrgren said. "Multimodel transportation takes wear off the streets and is good for the environment."
Guthrie said the hope is to raise enough money to install racks before the July 4 celebrations and to spur more bike-related efforts. The group's website, micycles.com, can be maintained as a hub for local bike information, he added.
You Can Help
* MIcycles is seeking contributions and in-kind donations to purchase bike racks for Monmouth and Independence. To contribute or for more information, visit micycles.tumblr.com, the MIcycles page on Facebook, or e-mail the group at firstname.lastname@example.org.