Lee Shoemaker walks down the halls of a silent office building with stern white walls, beside conference rooms with keypad doors. His grey tennis shoes, with a bright lime green stripe, pad softly on the carpeting. You can tell a lot about a person by their shoes. In this professional setting these shoes are not the footwear some might expect to see especially when they belong to the City of Eugene’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, but the reason for their presence is simple. These are the shoes of a man who rode his bike to work, and although they may not match the character of the building they match the character of the man and the city he works for.
As the City’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator Shoemaker’s job is to make plans for the building of facilities, bikeways, and side walks. He works with the community on safety and other issues that they have and he develops a projects list through that public feedback, “Sometimes it’s just daily you’ll get a call and some of it’s safety issues like glass in the bike lane or this is a dangerous intersection to cross and we need traffic signals” says Shoemaker.
Biking has been in Shoemaker’s whole life, from when he was learning as a boy to riding regularly in college and continuing the theme today. “My education is in economics and I wasn’t planning to be a planner” Shoemaker says, “but I got a job in traffic engineering and that was really about moving cars and I just thought we just can’t keep on building roads and roads and roads.”
From this point Shoemaker had a variety of jobs involved in transit. He jumped from the San Francisco Bay area to Corvallis. Then eventually he reached Eugene where he got the city bike and pedestrian planner job, arriving him at 11 years of planning experience. “This was the first time I got into detail and got involved in building projects and dealing with the public,” Shoemaker says.
Eugene is known to be a bike friendly city according to the League of American Bicyclists, which rates Eugene as Gold Level in bike friendly rating, which is just below Platinum. “I’ve made a personal decision to change how I get around, part of it’s health but also just choice to have less of an impact on the environment” said Shoemaker. The city’s goals fit right in with his own, “To be able to find a job where I can help make it easier for other people to do that [be healthy and environmentally friendly] is rewarding.”
Sometimes there can be challenges to his job that involve allocation of funds. In order to initiate his projects Shoemaker must show that the public wants more bike and pedestrian facilities but it isn’t difficult to abide in a community like Eugene. Health professional and the Lane Coalition for Healthy Active Youth and Eugene Safe Routes to School programs team up with the city to putting these changes into effect. “When you get all these people together for a common cause you can overcome some barriers,” says Shoemaker.
Shoemaker believes that there are many reasons why people should and do choose to use biking, “Riding a bike is fun. You feel good when you get done and you’re not stuck in traffic and have road rage- it’s a fun trip.” According to Bicycling Magazine in their article “America’s Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities” for 2012 Eugene places number nine with 14 miles of paved trails running along the Willamette River. Eugene claims a bike-commuter level of about 10 percent and its efforts in 2010 to improve bike and pedestrian projects resulted in an environmental award from the Federal Highway Administration.
Shoemaker, who is 66 years old, approaches the end of his career with intentions of continuing to play a part in the city’s public committee to maintain a voice in bike policy and efforts. The winding down of a career is always expected and Shoemaker’s qualities do not go unnoticed, “Lee is familiar with past planning efforts and the variety of funding sources necessary to implement projects. This makes him very effective in helping to develop a better, more useful network of active transportation facilities,” says Reed Dunbar a co-worker of Shoemakers. Aside from work Dunbar says Shoemaker is enthusiastic in the work place and has a great sense of humor that helps reduce tension.
Shoemaker is a part of that 10 percent who are biking around Eugene with his 8 mile round trip bike commute to work. He says he enjoys many of the bike paths, “I like the Fern Ridge Path and 12th Avenue and the river paths for the natural setting, exercise, and just relaxing. Biking is fun,” says Shoemaker. Shoemaker is constantly trying to increase that 10 percent and he says that his proudest accomplishment is the several successful grant applications that passed recently to build and rebuild bike-pedestrian paths and bridges. Shoemaker found his place when he came to Eugene where in such a bike-friendly community it is easy to find support for aspirations for a better biking community.