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Bicycles became the Jackson County rage in 1890s

The 1890s 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 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, Oct. 16, 1896; “At The Crossroads: A History of Central Point 1850-1900,” by Linda Morehouse Genaw, 1989.

As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at asitwas.org.

Lillie Roberts, Mollie McClain, Martha Carey on bicycles in 1899.