Car-free in Corvallis

Twelve years ago, when my husband and I decided to look for our ideal community, we created a “Top 10 Features” list that included bike-friendly streets and a good bus system. We selected Corvallis as our new hometown, drove across the country, sold our car, and joined the growing numbers of Americans choosing to live car-free.


I’m 69 years old. But when I get on my bike and head off to downtown Corvallis or up to Bald Hill, I feel like I’m eight years old again. There’s a sense of freedom that comes with riding a bike, and, thanks to the extensive system of bike lanes and bike paths in Corvallis, it’s easy to get around town. I can go where cars can’t (my favorite route downtown is through the OSU campus and down the elm-lined path between 14th and 11th), and parking is rarely a problem. The cost savings are enormous: by AAA estimates, we’re saving nearly $9,000 annually by not owning a car.

annette and gigi

Aerobic exercise is built into my daily routine, and I’m far more connected to both the natural and human environment than I would be in a car – a benefit to both emotional and mental health. If I live to a ripe old age, I envision “graduating” to an ELF, a covered solar and pedal-powered three-wheeler.

When people find out that my bike is my primary mode of transportation, questions generally come up about carrying groceries, riding in the rain, or travelling out of town. My answers are simple:

  • For carrying groceries, our local bike shops sell baskets and panniers, and there is a variety of inexpensive and versatile carts that can be hitched to your bike. We carry our groceries and all kinds of things by bike.
  • For riding in the rain, it’s easy to find good rain gear at our local retail and thrift stores. On the rare occasions that the roads are covered with snow or ice, I ride the bus.
  • For out-of-town travel, we rely on the bus, train, rental cars, and carpooling opportunities. While riding the bus or train usually adds time to my trip, I appreciate the opportunity to slow down, relax, and leave the driving to someone else. Among my favorite out-of-town trips are the Coast-to-Valley Express to Newport and the Cascades train to Portland.

The ease and safety of traveling by bike are a matter of perspective and practice. I find it’s convenient to put on my helmet, hop on my bike, take the less-travelled side streets of Corvallis, and park my bike close to my destination. In terms of safety, I ride my bike just as I used to drive a car – defensively and by the rules of the road.

Biking, walking, skateboarding, and other forms of active transportation provide all of us a great opportunity to get to know the people and places in our community better. And Open Streets is an AMAZING way to experience the joys of being on our streets without relying on a car.  Music, food, games, and people of all ages engaged in joyful activities are all part of it. I hope to see you there!

Ciclovías – Inspiration and Beginnings

Open Streets Corvallis is part of a larger movement that finds its origins in the Ciclovías of Bogotá, Colombia. Since the mid 1970s, each Sunday, from 7 am to 2 pm, some of the Bogotá streets close down to motorcycles, cars, buses, and trucks, and open up to people walking, running, skating and biking, among other forms of non-motorized forms of transportation. A typical Sunday attracts 1.7 million people to these dedicated city streets. Eliza Barclays, writing for VOX, described eloquently the first time she experienced a Ciclovia Sunday in Bogotá:

Last summer, I walked from my hotel down a hill to Carrera Séptima, a wide avenue where men on Italian road bikes zoomed past teenagers on mountain bikes. Grannies on rusted cruisers glided alongside dog walkers. Together, they formed a torrent broken only when a few people periodically peeled off to sip papaya juice from a vendor on the sidewalk.


This vivid account coincides with my own experience having been to a Ciclovia Sunday in Bogotá in the early 2000s. Coming from Florida, where in many cases urban planners designed cities for cars and in doing so ignored people and denied the possibility of alternative forms of transportation, I was delighted to see not only people moving by their own means, but also people connecting with each other and building community through simple social interaction. I dreamed of that model for the Florida cities I knew. A few years later, visiting Santiago, Chile, I was surprised to find that the city had implemented the Ciclovía model in the form of their own CicloRecreoVía. On Sundays mornings, 40 kilometers of Santiago’s streets open up to individuals, couples, friends and entire families, strolling down the streets, jogging, biking and exercising in multiple ways. I could see happiness in people´s faces, in streets where during week days there is nothing but cars, buses, noise and smog.

Now Corvallis has joined the movement together with other cities in Oregon, the United States and the world. We are building a consciousness that places the human being at the center of the urban experience. But we are also building a strong community by providing a space, albeit only once a year, for people to express themselves, engage with each other, be physically active and enjoy a happy Sunday. Nothing can be simpler but at the same time nothing can be more valuable than that.

To learn about the Open Streets/Ciclovías movement, visit these online resources:

“Bogotá Closes its Streets on Sunday. Now Everyone Wants to Do it.”

Ciclovías, Bogotá, Colombia:

CicloRecreoVía, Santiago, Chile:

Sundays Streets, Eugene:

St Louis Open Streets, St Louis, Missouri:

The Open Streets Project:

Photo credit: By MacAllenBrothers –, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Ricardo B. Contreras

Ricardo is an applied anthropologist, native of Chile and resident of Corvallis since 2014. He contributes to Open Streets Corvallis through the coordination of the initiative´s research and evaluation component. Ricardo is the CEO of Ethnographica Consulting and has an Instructor appointment with Anthropology at Oregon State University.




A Movement About Movement

If you like to move, there is a little bit of maker in you somewhere. You don’t have to be an expert in physics or engineering to appreciate your body’s effort to power a machine. It’s fun to watch a machine move, but it’s even more fun when you make it move.

Like squirting someone with water on a hot day using your own two feet.

csr cannon

A few years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to Cyclecide; he said he knew a local guy he thought could make something inspired by their designs. As a long-time fan of DaVinci Days – and founder of Corvallis Spring Roll – I was smitten with the idea of something interactive at our kids’ bike event. Enter the bicycle-powered carousel created by Trevor Heald, owner of Marys River Metal Work.

csr carousel

It looks like fun, it feels like fun, it must be fun, yes? Yes. But. Powering something with your own effort teaches you something about yourself and your capabilities, too. Saturday at DaVinci Days, a wide-eyed mother started chatting with me while she and I watched her child power one of the water cannons. “I think he’s going to ride his bike . . . I’ve never seen him move the pedals a full revolution before! He’s figured out he can do it.”

Sometimes fun is a learning experience in disguise.

How did we get from decidedly grounded activities to bicycling in the air? Once Open Streets Corvallis 2017 was on, the fangirl in me needed something adults could ride. Our idea had bicycles on the ground powering a swing in the air. Trevor was otherwise inspired by something he saw at a makers’ fair at OMSI. His instincts are perfect – The Flanger is bicycle-powered hydraulics genius.

flanger flying - eugene weast

In the end, though, Open Streets Corvallis is about more flinging, hanging, and flying by bicycle. It’s about shared experience, acknowledging familiar and unfamiliar faces, intentional public gatherings, and making another kind of effort – to listen and know each other. It’s about building community. From 2017:

“The open street events are so important for community interactions and people getting to meet each other.  Important for us seniors to not get too isolated.”

“I was energized by all the people who turned out, and I also had fun riding my bike along the parade route.  This event showed me that the best way to get an introvert out of her nest is to have an event right across the street.”

Sometimes building community is a learning experience in disguise, too.