Heavy morning mist. Unpredictable and shifting wind. The arrival of seemingly thousands of RVs and out-of-state license plates. Oh yes, spring is definitely in the air here on the North Coast.
Spring is a wonderful time of year in our area as it gives us an opportunity to appreciate the beautiful environment, abundance of plants and fauna and the clean air. For many, it provides further recreation opportunities, with the fairer temperatures and extended daylight hours.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve taken to one of my favorite past times, as I’m accustomed to each Spring season: bicycling. I have enjoyed riding my bike since I was a little boy pedaling around the streets of Gearhart and causing mischief. And while other activities may hold my interest temporarily — for several years of my childhood I rollerbladed everywhere — only cycling provides the rush of adrenaline, speed and freedom with a hinge of excitement.
Since moving to this area more than four years ago, I’ve experienced many of the same wonderful aspects of bicycling that I enjoyed as a child. But I’ve also experienced some truly traumatic ones, mostly coming as a result of unsafe road conditions and dangerous, or at least distracted, driving.
Hopefully we recognize the necessity of providing a transportation system that cyclists can utilize. Highway 101 is the main road on the Oregon Coast Bike Route, a route utilized by some 6,000 to 10,000 people annually. Add in those that cycle either for need or recreation in our area and that is a lot of people riding along our streets and highway.
Now this isn’t simply a chide to all drivers nor is it a “bicycling is holier than driving” pitch. Due to demands of work and personal life and convenience, I drive far more often than I cycle. But the fact remains that every time I make the commitment to bike to work, to bike while running errands or even use my bike as a form of exercise, that is one less car that is clogging our heavily utilized road system.
I’ve noticed that one of our favorite past times here on the North Coast is complaining about traffic and the issues caused by events and out-of-state drivers. But have we ever stopped to consider the impact of our personal usage of vehicles. Have we ever made a goal of walking, bicycling or utilizing our great public transportation options to run an errand, get to work or get to where we need to go? Doing so, even for one trip or one person, eases the traffic on our community.
Having said all that, I want to provide a few tips for helping ensure that cyclists like me return to their homes safely.
Cyclists, like all vehicles, must obey all traffic laws. That includes not riding against traffic (a personal pet peeve) and using hand signals to indicate to other vehicles what you are doing. If cyclists do use sidewalks, they should be going slow and yielding to pedestrians.
For cars and trucks, it is important to remember bicyclists are much more difficult to see and predict behavior from than a larger vehicle. While riding home from work, I may have worry about dodging potholes, glass, storm grates and other objects that a car doesn’t have to worry about.
I find that many vehicles do not give bicycles enough space. On narrow roads, like Wahanna Road or near the Necanicum Bridge on the north end of Seaside, cyclists can get squeezed into dangerous positions. Vehicles may only pass bicyclists in these situations if they can do so safely. I can’t count how many times a frustrated vehicle has slowed down for me during a portion of narrow road or bridge only to aggressively speed up and sometimes make a gesture my direction when they do pass.
I speak to these things based on improved quality of life for all people using the road. Like it or not, bicyclists are here to stay. While it might be someone from Portland, or Oklahoma it might also be your neighbor. Please remember that each ride from a cyclist is one less vehicle on the road. While we all have somewhere to be and want to get there on time, it isn’t worth it to scare the death out of a bicyclist, or worse, hit them.