The 12th Avenue path: Transportation alternative or theme park ride?

I got an e-mail from a furious reader the other day (my first one!). Well, if not furious, then irked. Ruffled, for sure.

It regarded that odd 12th Avenue bike path, the one that roams through the strange and wondrous patch of urban wilderness that has swallowed up 12th Avenue between Olive and Oak streets.

This path may be unusual, but – as the reader points out — it is “official.” True enough. It’s right there in purple on the sanctioned city of Eugene bicycling map.

The reader describes the passage of this route thusly, …

… (You ride) through the PeaceHealth weirdness, across the Willamette intersection where no one ever stops even for old ladies with a walker. Then you hit that weird little jogged sidewalk between the church homeless camp and the antique mall, duck under the pine tree while watching for cross traffic in the alley, and that’s where you find your surprise. … In probably March, EWEB had a crew working on something related to a utility pole at that path-alley intersection, and they ripped up part of the bike path. They packed gravel in the ditch and moved on. No warning signage left behind. No paver ever showed up. It’s still there … more of an obstacle than ever. Right in the middle of the city designated path.

Naturally, I went to investigate. I believe this was my first time on this path. The reader’s description proved exceedingly accurate.

But for me – what a discovery! This path is like some surreal adventure ride you’d find at the new Harry Potter theme park.

I did, in fact, encounter a homeless (I’m assuming) man, enjoying the shade underneath said pine tree. As I stopped to consider the torn-up pavement in question, I heard his voice behind me: “Safety first,” he said, noticing, I’m guessing, the bright yellow cycling vest I occasionally wear. Then this man started laughing — and kept laughing for an awkwardly long time.

I thought it was just in the movies and Shakespeare that you have the perhaps slightly unbalanced street person delivering some nonsensical remark that, upon further consideration, actually contains a weirdly ominous nugget of wisdom.

So, about that never-fixed hole in the ground. Here it is:

Yeah, I can see how that might be an inconvenience. But I’m not sure why he’s complaining, because they have left an escape route, that narrow strip of blacktop untouched on the right. Sure, that leaves a lot to keep in mind all at once — shooting through the narrow strip of asphalt, watching for cars in the alley, negotiating transients, ducking under the pine tree. Whew.

But maybe that’s just it.

You could suggest that the powers that be forgot about this repair, that it slipped through the cracks (ha, ha), or that they didn’t have the cash on hand for the wheelbarrow of asphalt they needed. But I’m not sure.

Maybe this hole is there on purpose. Maybe it’s actually a new feature, a challenging new twist in this BizarroWorld of a path, which forevermore I shall refer to as Mr. Skinner’s Wild Ride.

* * *

Or, I suppose, it could just be that city Public Works crews had more pressing concerns elsewhere. Exhilarated after my crossing of Mr. Skinner’s Wild Ride, I continued on to work — but soon encountered this:

The sign alternated between flashing “Paint Striper Ahead” and this:

So, considering I’m in the bike lane and these guys are moving at about 6 mph, I am presented with a few options.

  1. Go past them in the bike lane, holding my breath as I pass through the misty white cloud of paint vapor.
  2. Go onto the sidewalk and pass them on the right.
  3. Or, go around them on the left, like a civilized person — which of course would violate the admonition to “STAY OFF.”

I mean, really. That’s like telling a 12-year-old boy, “Don’t scratch your name in that patch of wet concrete” …

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