04/12/2010: "Letters On National Bike Month"
To the Editor:
would like to thank Sheriff Cumming and Joe Cussen for their recent Guest Editorial about bikes and cars. As a parent of two young boys who will soon be bicycling on our roads, safety is a huge concern. On Saturday May 15th beginning at 10:30 a.m., Island Rec and San Juan Island Trails Committee is hosting the Share the Road bicycle celebration at San Juan County Fairgrounds. This free event will include a bike skills challenge, helmet sizing & fit demonstrations, a bicycle parade through town escorted by the Sheriff, Fire Department, and EMS, "share the road" stickers and educational handouts, and a group bike ride all aimed at improving bicycle safety.
I have been a bicyclist on island roads my entire life, and can attest that with the increase in population and visitors, our roads are more dangerous today, than twenty or thirty years ago. I cannot tell you how many times over the past few years people have told me that they rarely or never ride a bike because they don't feel safe. I invite each of you to join me on May 15th (yes I remember who you are…), this fun event will provide a great environment for people of all ages and abilities to hone their skills as well as raise bicycle safety awareness in our community, improving safety for us all.
With the current economy, there is little funding for physical safety improvements, therefore it is critical that our entire community practice courtesy and respect on our narrow roadways. When you see a bicyclist, remember she is someone’s child, grandchild, and loved one, a valued member of our community that could even be your neighbor. When I bike with my five year old, my biggest fear is cars that pass too fast and too close. Please slow down and use caution when passing bicycles, allow at least 3 feet between you and the bike, and wait until there is clear visibility and no oncoming vehicles before attempting to pass. As a Motorist, my biggest fear is bicycles that travel on the wrong side of the road, or stop in the roadway at places with poor visibility. Using a bicycle pullout or driveway is the courteous and safe option. Parents, teach your children to bicycle safely and set a good example for them by wearing your helmet. Bicycles should always travel in the same direction of traffic, use hand signals, and stop at all stop signs. One cyclist or motorist, who does not follow the rules, causes frustration and makes it dangerous for us all. Let’s all do our part in sharing the roads.
San Juan Island
To the Editor:
May is National Bike Month. I realize that for many of you riding a bicycle went away with childhood or is the result of a car breakdown or losing a drivers license. But for many of us there are few better ways to enjoy the fresh air and scenery as the days lengthen into summer. Not to mention the benefits of endorphins and improved health.
As a recreational rider I find cycling island roads to be a bit like the old saw about soldiering...hours of uneventful pedaling punctuated by a few seconds of terror. With the narrow country roads, distracting scenery and lack of shoulders (let alone bike lanes) combined with pulses of vehicles often over the speed limit we have a potentially dangerous mix. Aside from excessive speed by distracted drivers and cyclists not following the rules of the road more often the real issue is a lack of understanding of the rights and responsibilities of sharing the roads. All of us can be at fault.
We all know, or should know, that bicycles are considered vehicles under Washington State laws. Same road, same rules, same responsibilities. Yet you would not know it when you take to our roadways on a bike and have to resort to full-on defensive tactics at nearly every turn to avoid close encounters of the worst kind with vehicles. I am sure that folks walking their dogs, riding horses or strolling with kids on our neighborhood roads, both in and out of town, would agree that respect for those outside of autos is a little lacking to say the least.
Here is something to think about. Studies that look at bicycle-riding patterns in the United States and in Europe, have found that in nearly every instance, when the number of riders on the road increases, the likelihood of accidents declines. This surprising result is known among its researchers as the “safety in numbers effect” and it has been repeatedly documented. The more frequent the encounters with others lawfully using public roads under their own power the more likely it is that vehicle operators make better decisions that increase the safety of all concerned.
A first-time event called Share the Road is planned for May 15 in and around Friday Harbor. A celebration of the fun and many positive benefits of cycling joined with increased awareness of the responsibilities of both drivers and cyclists making use of our roadways. Oil up your chain, air up the tires and strap on your helmet for this community event for all ages and abilities!
To the Editor:
Summer is approaching with the influx of many tourists. Lonely Planet has named the San Juan Islands as one of the 10 best places to cycle in the world. This makes some residents in the islands think this is the worst season of the year but to most of us it is the best.
Welcome the cyclists--think one less car for each bicycle. Think ferry lines and wish everyone was on a bike. Think clean air. Not only the tourists but also the locals will be out there on their bikes. All drivers have a responsibility to ‘Share the Road’ with all vehicles. Bicycles are vehicles under RCW 46 - Bicycle Laws in the State of Washington.
Tips to help make your cycling in the islands safer and more enjoyable:
• Always wear a helmet. Wear bright colored clothing during the day time and white or reflective clothing at night. How many times have you spotted the cyclists in their bright yellow-green jackets? Make yourself visible so other vehicle drivers know you’re there.
• Ride on the right side of the road- "it’s the law. Stop for all stop signs and obey all traffic laws. Signal your turns so the motorists know what to expect. Ride in a straight line; do not cut in and out between parked cars. Be courteous and wait your turn at stop signs; it is especially dangerous to come up on the right side of a vehicle expecting the vehicle to go straight ahead when all of a sudden the driver may make a right turn in front of you.
• Be predictable! Drive your bike the same way you drive your motor vehicle. Give yourself ample clearance to the side of the road; 3 feet is recommended. This is your escape route in case a car tries to pass you too closely. Stay alert using your ears as well as your eyes.
• Be a defensive cyclist.
League Cycling Instructor #282,
League of American Bicyclists
Friday Harbor, WA