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Build bike lanes, and cyclists will come

Siskiyou Velo Bicycle Club disagrees with the Mail Tribune Editorial "Putting the cart before the bike" (Nov. 11).

We are optimists. We share a vision of our communities as livable neighborhoods. We believe in the "Field of Dreams" dream. Build the bike lanes and they will come.

We share our public officials' optimism that providing bike lanes will encourage a critical mass of bike traffic. They understand that bike facilities are the catalyst for transforming motorist to bicyclists.

Siskiyou Velo members are skilled and experienced at riding in traffic. Where roads without bike lanes are too narrow for both a bike and car we are willing to use the full lane as is our legal right (ORS 814.430.2c).

However, cars, especially big cars and trucks, intimidate novice bike riders. Our goal is to encourage more people to substitute bicycling to places of work, school or play in place of driving cars. We need bike lanes to attract these new bicyclists.

Studies conclude that marked bike lanes are more likely to encourage bicycling than un-striped wide lanes where bikes "share the road." Putting bike lanes ahead of the proverbial cart (parking) will encourage more motorists to trade their cars for bikes.

Comic strip character Pogo said: "We have met the enemy and he is us" (Earth Day 1970). Population growth and our increased reliance on the automobile is putting community livability at risk.

My generation (boomers) commonly walked to and from school. Sadly, today's parents for many reasons feel the need to drive their kids to and from school. As our valley's population grows and as more parents drive their kids to and from school, extra people and extra trips worsen traffic congestion.

Increased traffic places greater stress on our roads. Building more and wider roads may reduce congestion for a while. But more road capacity only encourages more traffic. California built it (more freeways) and they came (more cars).

New roads connect new subdivisions to existing community centers. But how do we preserve the livability of established neighborhoods if we build bigger roads through existing neighborhoods? How would our East Jackson neighbors react if the city proposed a five-lane collector, taking their front yards, to facilitate more parents driving their kids to school?

On Feb. 9, the Tribune reported on Oregon bills addressing childhood obesity. One proposed a mandatory 45 minutes of PE for middle-school kids. Interestingly, the Mail Tribune printed an AP article one day after the "Cart" editorial that reported on one solution solving two national concerns. Public health experts suggest that Americans can attack both the obesity epidemic and global warming by get out of their cars and walking or biking 30 minutes a day instead of driving.

It's a win-win solution to have kids walk or bike to school instead taking time from reading, writing, or math and science. The reduction in greenhouse gases is the icing on the global warming cake.

How do we encourage more people to bike or walk? Medford does not have the funds to build the whole bike-pedestrian system in one funding cycle. But build the bike lanes and sidewalks a block or three at a time and we will soon (in a couple or three decades) have a complete transportation system. And with each added block, we will encourage more of our friends and neighbors to use them.

Waiting to stripe the bike lanes will only have the car-driving parents complaining later rather than now. As the Nov. 2 article "New bike lanes peeve Hedrick moms and dads" noted: "there has always been no parking along Jackson." Laws do not prohibit motorists from momentarily stopping to load or unload passengers. Laws do prohibit the moms and dads from arriving early and blocking traffic while waiting for their kids to appear.

Siskiyou Velo agrees that all traffic laws should be enforced in addition to those prohibiting parking on bike lanes. Bikes are vehicles too. Bicyclists riding in the wrong direction, riding inappropriately on sidewalks and those running red lights should all be cited.

We also believe that the laws making bike lanes part of road projects put bikes in front to help pull the neighborhood livability cart. Build it (bike lanes) and they (bicyclists) will come.

Edgar J. Hee is vice president of Siskiyou Velo Bicycle Club. He lives in Medford.