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Local editorials

Cycle program gets rolling

It's a small step, but in the right direction for bike-unfriendly Medford

Chris Haynes isn't setting out to change the world with his biking program. But by setting a few wheels in motion, he just might change Medford.

Haynes visited San Luis Obispo, Calif., last fall and saw something he liked, a program that gave people bicycles to use in place of cars.

Then the Sims Cycle & Fitness owner returned home to Medford and did what few would: He turned his Hey! moment into something real.

With the Rogue Valley Transportation District and others, Haynes' organized a program that will give fully equipped commuter bikes to 15 Rogue Valley residents who agree to ride them in place of using their cars on at least six trips a week.

Medford has not been exactly embracing of two-wheeled commuters. The city lacks bike lanes or paths on many roads, and people who do ride to work sometimes emerge with harrowing tales of their interaction with cars.

In 2002, Medford earned a D-minus from Portland's Bicycle Transportation Alliance, which ranked the city one of the four worst for bicyclists in Oregon.

— Not much has changed since, except that Medford is even bigger. More than 50,000 cars daily drive through intersections such as those at McAndrews and Biddle roads and Riverside Avenue and Barnett Road, spewing exhaust that remains one of the biggest threats to our air quality.

The 90 trips a week that Haynes' program will generate won't resolve that on their own. But they represent a significant step that could build into something bigger.

The program also represents an opportunity for the city to improve its bicycling record. With rider groups, it could identify most likely routes for commuters and focus on making them friendly. It could strengthen ties with bike organizations. It could ensure that redesigned roads include bike lanes or paths where riders need them.

No, Medford won't become bicyclists' best friend overnight. Change has to start somewhere, though, and Chris Haynes' little program looks as likely as any to get it moving on two wheels in Medford.

Paying for police

If Jackson County motorists want fewer traffic deaths on their roadways, they'll have to be willing to pay for more police coverage.

Police officials think the reason for last year's increase in fatal crashes in Jackson County is that there were fewer police officers on the job in 2004.

Everyone knows that if you have a patrol cruiser out on a road consistently, people are less likely to commit traffic violations, said Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters. He said the major way to reduce traffic deaths is to increase police on the streets.

Some 10 percent of Oregon traffic deaths ' 44 ' occurred in Jackson County in 2004, second only to Multnomah County with 47. An average of 28 people per year have died in Jackson County traffic crashes since 1988.

Oregon State Police ranks are half what they were 25 years ago. That's not news, but the resulting increase in fatalities is.

What to do? Don't look to the Legislature. They've heard the no-more-taxes message from voters loud and clear.

Take money from somewhere else? We're open for suggestions.