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Want to save greenhouse gases? Bike it

Transportation, in all its many forms, accounts for almost 40 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in Oregon. In 2010 the transportation sector was responsible for 22% of global CO2 emissions worldwide. Globally, transportation-related CO2 emissions are expected to increase by 57% by 2030, representing the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

Currently, bicycling on Rogue Valley streets is mostly for brave or fearless riders, or riders with required street smarts to negotiate with automobiles for their rightful place on the road. Local bicycle facilities, with notable exceptions, are unsafe and inconvenient for almost everyone else. Consequently, less than 1 percent of all local travel is made by bicycle. In survey after survey, in cities throughout the U.S., results show people don’t ride bicycles because they’re afraid to share the street with motor vehicles.

Here’s the easy solution to significantly reduce GHG. Create better biking environments! Where bicycle facilities networks are “safe and convenient,” people choose to ride a bicycle. Mode choice should be a personal decision — not a choice between a safe mode of travel and an unsafe one. Rogue Valley residents are faced with making that choice every day when choosing to ride a bicycle for transportation: Is this safe for me? or convenient? This dilemma has to change! Change must occur in the cities where we live and it starts with demanding that all modes of travel be “safe and convenient” and serves “all ages and abilities,” old or young, fit or disabled, experienced or novice.

Travel by bicycle (both pedal and e-bike) accounts for forty percent of all travel in cities where bicycle networks are safe and convenient. GHG emissions from the transportation sector are reduced by roughly one percent for every one percent increase in bicycle mode share. The Rogue Valley could be a great place for cycling. Note that Portland, Oregon, plans for bicycles to account for 25 percent of all travel (measured in vehicle miles) by 2035. It seems reasonable that we should expect communities in Southern Oregon achieve at least half that amount by 2035. This goal is achievable, but only with substantial investments in our transportation system to ensure that riding a bicycle is safe. It is not a dream; rather, it is a local government policy choice. Let your elected representatives know you expect substantial and ongoing investments to be made, to ensure the bicycle network is “safe and convenient.” This doesn’t mean adding more narrow bicycle lanes on arterial and collector streets. Rather, ask that facility designs be based on motor vehicle volume/speed standards recommended by the National Association of Transportation Officials. Learn more at: https://nacto.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NACTO_Designing-for-All-Ages-Abilities.pdf.

Gary Shaff is secretary of the local bicycle organization Siskiyou Velo.