By Katy Bryce, for Commute Options
Commute Options is proud to announce its 25th birthday this year! Starting as a Bend-based grassroots bicycle enthusiast group growing into a region wide organization, they have been promoting the choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone since 1991.
Commute Options began as a project of the Central Oregon Environmental Center (now known as The Environmental Center) when John Schubert, future Bend City Councilor, had such a good time exploring Bend on his bike he decided he wanted to encourage other people to do the same. This new organization, Biking for a Better Community, was a “citizen’s group promoting bicycling as transportation—for fun, fitness, clean air and reduced traffic.”
By 1994, the group was coordinating a corporate challenge that included large employers such as St. Charles Hospital, COCC, and the U.S. Forest Service. In 1996, the Smart Cycling program started offering bicycle safety education to 4th graders in the local schools. This was the precursor to our current Safe Routes to School program. Also in 1996, Jeff Monson became the director, and the group solidified the current name and mission: Commute Options for Central Oregon: Promoting choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. At that time, their scope broadened to include all transportation options, including walking, biking, teleworking, carpooling and public transportation.
In 2002, Commute Options moved from being a project of the Central Oregon Environmental Center to having its own 501c3 non-profit status. Since then, they have been working with numerous local and regional agencies, businesses, schools, and communities in fourteen counties east of the Cascades, from the Gorge to the California border.
“When Commute Options started, Bend was known as the largest city west of the Mississippi without a bus system. We had no Park and Ride lots and no vanpools. When I went to meetings, people would ask, ‘Why are you here? What does this have to do with bicycling?’ Now, Commute Options is at the forefront of every conversation about transportation. Transportation options are not just an afterthought, but are now recognized as an important part of our communities,” says Jeff Monson, Executive Director for Commute Options.
The future is bright for Commute Options as they continue to connect the dots between transportation options and community health and economic vitality. On September 18, Bend Open Streets will promote healthy, active living and a strong economy by opening the city’s largest public space—its streets—for people to walk and bike. “Imagine the city’s largest park, where people can hang out, run, bike skate, dance, walk their dog and discover their city,” says Brian Potwin, organizer for the event.
“Commute Options is also looking forward to our continued partnership with OSU Cascades to create a college campus that embraces all forms of transportation options. This is an exciting time for our community to move forward with public transportation as well as infrastructure and enthusiasm for walking and biking,” says Monson. “We invite everyone to celebrate our birthday this year by choosing transportation options.”
Celebrating 25 years of Commute Options! Promoting choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information, contact Executive Director, Jeff Monson at 541-330-2647 or visit www.commuteoptions.org
Katy Bryce is a freelance writer in Bend. www.katybryce.com.