The route I follow when I ride my bike home from work includes turning off of Highway 99 at 49th Avenue and then traveling to Willetta Street, before getting onto 53rd Avenue. I pride myself on being careful on my bike, but I have developed a bad habit of cruising through the 49th and Willetta intersection even though I don’t have a good view of traffic coming from 53rd. My habit is the product of many, many trips traveled without ever seeing a car moving south to north through the intersection. Willetta Street dead-ends just past the intersection, and I think there are only two houses on that portion of the street.
Riding my bike makes me more conscious of how close we are to disaster at any given moment. I travel a couple of miles a day on Highway 99, and the line separating bike traffic from motorized vehicles offers little protection to the unwary cyclist. Additionally, I’ve almost been hit a couple of times by cyclists riding the wrong way in the Highway 99 bike lanes.
I generally try to obey all traffic rules, including stopping at Stop signs and signaling before I turn. I fudge a little by riding on the sidewalk that connects Lakewood to Highway 99, and I don’t always come to a complete stop if I know there are no other cars at an intersection. I have, however, decided to be consciously more careful at 49th and Willetta because I know, sooner or later, a car will come through that intersection; and I will be the loser in the confrontation.
My heightened caution while riding my bike has also made me more appreciative of the Safety Awards the City receives every year from City-County Insurance Services (CCIS). Usually, I am asked to receive the award on behalf of the City; and I have to confess I started taking them for granted until my recent epiphany. We have relatively few injury accidents at the City; and given the dangerous nature of much of the work we do, our safety record is really worthy of commendation.
I counted a dozen awards on the wall next to the Calapooia Room at City Hall, and I realized I have done very little to help earn any of them. Our good record is a tribute to responsible employees, good training, and active Safety Committees. The benefits of safe practices are obvious; but as I’ve discovered on my bike, it only takes one thoughtless moment for disaster to strike.
I probably should be paranoid about accidents since I’ve been involved in my share over the course of the last 50-plus years. One of my earliest memories is of the car in front of us sliding over an embankment on Highway 58 when I was about five years old. I also recall being hit head-on by a drunk driver when I was 17 and being struck by a suicidal deer about two years ago. I’ve been fortunate to escape serious injury, although I’ve made a few trips to the hospital following various misadventures.
Knowing how easy it is to forget safety for a moment, I am truly grateful for the good work of City of Albany employees over the past decade; and I hope we continue to win awards from CCIS in the future. The awards may have no intrinsic worth, but they are a good reminder that safety is among our highest priorities at the City.