Bicycling in Davis, CA: Rise and Maturation of Bicycle Engineering, Advocacy and Policy from 1960s - Present

Friday, October 24, 2008, 12:00pm to 1:00pm PDT
Ted Buehler

The video begins at 2:56.

Abstract: Genesis of America's First "Platinum Bike City", Davis CA

Before there was "Portland, Bike City USA" there was "Davis, Bicycle Capital of America."

Davis and Portland are very different places. Portland is big, old, industrial. Davis is small, new, nerdy. Portland has hills and rain. Davis is flat and dry. But they are both places where people bicycle. A lot. Ordinary folks come to these cities and often start riding a bike. Bicycling in Davis began in the 1950s, when it was a tiny city with the UC agricultural campus. As the city grew, citizens demanded bicycle infrastructure. After years of negotiation, city authorities gave in to pressure and instructed their staff to begin providing for bicycles. Everything had to be designed from the ground up. America had very little bike infrastructure, but that didn't stop Davis from trying dozens of different types of lanes, paths, intersection treatments, etc., and devising workable solutions. So workable, in fact, that they became the California standard, and then the American standard. As America was adopting Davis's designs, Davis continued to promote and accomodate bicycling on many levels, and in 1980 28% of the population commuted by bike.

Now, Davis and Portland are both rated "Platinum" cities for bicycling by the League of American Bicyclists. But they're still as different as night and day. Portland is shooting for the stars, while Davis is in a midlife crisis, deciding what its future will be.

The presentation is a slide show and discussion. First, theories of how policies are changes, then a wander through 50 years of history in Davis to see how citizen activists created a remarkable city in auto-oriented 1970s USA. Then we'll apply theory to the future and see what options Davis might have, and how it might determine its fate.

Ted Buehler completed his Masters Thesis, "50 years of bicycling in Davis, CA" at UC Davis in 2007. The thesis and presentation are at and He currently lives in Vancouver, WA.