Drinking & biking

A look back at Chico’s plan to beautify downtown bike racks leads me to Sierra Nevada’s lead designer

One of Roberson’s hitching post designs.

Just outside the CN&R office is a roundabout. Yep, that roundabout. It’s not all bad—despite a few speed racers who try to squeeze in before they’re welcome, it seems to have cut down on accidents at Second and Flume. I just wish we could get something pretty to put in the middle. Staring at a dirt mound isn’t all that breathtaking.

Which brings me to another component of the downtown couplet project, which included artsy bike hitching posts, which would replace the 70 or so that were removed to make way for construction. Whatever happened to that? According to Monica McDaniel, vice chair of the nearly defunct Chico Arts Commission, the departure of the engineer in charge of the couplet project also prompted the abandonment of the hitching post. No one from the city returned a phone call to confirm this.

This is a pretty big disappointment, actually, mostly because the cost of the art features was nearly identical to that of the boring green posts we have now. In looking back at the city’s contest in 2013 calling for local artists to submit proposals for posts, I found the name of Jason Roberson, who designed several that had been slated for fabrication but never materialized.

“They seemed pretty serious about doing the project and then I didn’t hear anything for over a year,” Roberson said by phone after I tracked him down on Facebook. “It seems like they just ran out of money for that part of the project. I wish there could be better news on that.”

Turns out Roberson, who was born and raised here, has also designed a whole lot of things close to many a Chicoan’s heart: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s bottles and packaging. He worked for our beloved brewery for a decade and had a hand in designing everything from the beer boxes to the taproom taps. (In fact, he said was working on the taps when the hitching post contest came up—he was already in a fabrication mindset, so he threw his hat in the ring.)

“Some of them I worked on with other illustrators, but a lot of them I illustrated myself,” he said of the beer labels and boxes. His proudest accomplishment? “I love the Ovila, because I illustrated it and did the whole thing by myself.”

I got in touch with Roberson at an interesting time for the 41-year-old designer. Just last month, he left his job as art director at Sierra Nevada to open his own firm, Consumer Product Branding.

“Six weeks or so ago I left Sierra Nevada … and I’ve worked with them every day since,” he joked. The good news is, he maintained Sierra Nevada as a client. That means he’ll still be leaving his mark on all the forthcoming suds the brewery puts out. If we’re really lucky, maybe someday we’ll even see his hitching posts become a reality.