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As It Was

Bicycles Become the Jackson County Rage in 1890’s

The 1890’s brought fascination with a new vehicle—the bicycle.  Enthusiasts could buy a Golden Eagle bike for $30 and a Phoenix Wheel bike for $40.

Forward-thinking Jackson County levied a bicycle tax in April 1899 of $1.25 per bike for construction of a bicycle path.  County communities held a bicycle convention to work with the county commissioners on construction details of the path, with one section connecting Medford and Jacksonville and another Medford and Ashland. The county reported it taxed 477 bicycles that year.

The new sport had a wide impact on society. By 1894, bicycle races had become a high point of the county and state fairs. Bicyclist Day Parker held the record on the uphill track and later competed at the State Fair on a 19-pound, 64-gear bike.

Ordinances restricted bicyclists to less than 4 miles an hour and required warning bells or signals when passing pedestrians.

Another regulation reflected the chivalry of the times, requiring male riders to dismount on meeting or passing a lady on a sidewalk less than 5 feet wide.  The sidewalk, that is.

 

Sources:  Mail Tribune 16 Oct. 1896 [Medford, Ore.] : 7. Print; Morehouse-Genaw, Linda. At The Crossroads: A History of Central Point 1850-1900. 1989. Print.

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Maryann Mason has taught history and English in the U.S. Midwest and Northwest, and Bolivia. She has written history spots for local public radio, interviewed mystery writers for RVTV Noir, and edited personal and family histories.  Her poetry has appeared in Sweet Annie & Sweet Pea Review (1999), Rain Magazine (2007), and The Third Reader, an online Journal of Literary Fiction and Poetry. In 2008 she published her first chapbook, Ravelings.  She organized a History Day for Southern Oregon.