I’ve generally enjoyed commuting the roughly eight miles to and from work on my bicycle three or four days a week through the summer. I like the exercise, gas savings, and time to think that the 45-minute roundtrip affords me on a regular basis. While I am far from perfect in obeying traffic rules, I believe I am better than the vast majority of other cyclists I encounter during my rides.
Yesterday, I was whizzing down Highway 99 toward my home when I noticed an oncoming cyclist going the wrong way in the bike lane. Fortunately, no cars were following me; and I was able to swerve onto the highway to avoid a collision. True to my pledge in an earlier blog post, I simply yelled “wrong way” to the offending rider and pedaled down the road without removing my hands from my bike.
I routinely see people riding against traffic, riding on sidewalks (most common offense), blowing stop signs, and otherwise doing things that endanger themselves and those around them. My greatest sin is not always coming to a complete stop, but I have decided that I stop more often than most cars. It’s no surprise to me that our red light cameras commonly catch people failing to make complete stops on right turns. It seems we have generally gotten out of the habit of making complete stops which may explain why there are so many accidents at controlled intersections. A recent letter writer to the local paper referred to the situation as “bicycle anarchy.”
Albany also has a problem with safety equipment. I think the ratio of heads to helmets is about five to one, and I have noticed a distressing number of people riding at night with no lights. The good news is that we don’t seem to have many serious bicycle accidents; or, if we do, I’m not hearing about them. I think the primary reason is the relatively small number of people who ride bikes and our comparatively light traffic. We have some busy streets at various times of the day, but I have rarely experienced delays or traffic problems either as a cyclist or driver.
Next week, Oregon’s annual Bicycle Commute Challenge begins; and I’m looking forward to my third year as a participant. Last year, I was able to claim a 100 percent rating for riding my bike on the days when I was in town. We have people who biked many more miles, including some who commute from Corvallis. Troy Mickelson in the Police Department has done a great job of organizing our participation in the Commute over the past few years, and we’ve done well as an organization. My best advice to those who might be considering joining this year is that an Albany bicycle commute will be surprisingly enjoyable if you are safety conscious and willing to obey the rules of the road.