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Cycling escape routes to get you out of town safely

Are you trapped in the city, tired of fighting traffic, annoyed at the frequent stops at traffic lights, and yearning for the wide open spaces where you can put some miles on those cycling legs?

One of the most challenging parts of riding is finding bicycle-friendly routes out of town. You may have to ride with traffic for a short distance, but in Medford there are an increasing number of routes with bike lanes for at least part of the distance, making it easier to share the road with cars.

Hawthorne Park is a good place to start a bicycle ride from the heart of Medford. Here are some bicycle routes that will get you out of town starting at Hawthorne Park. Use a Medford map to find a way to get on these routes from where you live or work.

Going north, the Bear Creek Greenway will take you all the way to Central Point. On the way you can take a left on Berrydale Avenue by the Railroad Park, which will get you over to Highway 99. At the north end of the bike path you can go west on East Pine Street into Central Point or west to get on Table Rock Road, which will take you farther north.

Another northern route is to travel east on Jackson Street, turn left on Sunrise, which turns into Springbrook. Continue north on Sprinbrook, past North Medford High School, to Delta Waters. At this intersection you can either go west — then turning right onto Crater Lake Frontage Road and on to White City — or turn east, continuing on to Foothill Road. Turn north on Foothill Road and continue to Highway 140. From there you can go to the White City and Eagle Point areas, or head towards the mountains on Highway 140.

The best way to go to Jacksonville, Ruch and points west is to travel west on Main Street, through downtown Medford to the Jacksonville Highway. Negotiating Main Street really isn't as bad as it may seem, especially on the weekends. For most of the route there are two westbound lanes, and safety is enhanced by stoplights through downtown Medford that slows traffic. Drivers in the downtown area also seem to be more cautious and attentive to bike riders. The traffic is a little more hectic after you cross Columbus Street, but soon after Blackbird you will pick up the Don Stathos bike lane on Highway 238.

Getting to the south end of Medford can be a little more challenging, but a couple of nice routes will take you to North Phoenix Road. My favorite way to go is east on Main Street, right on Willamette, left on Siskiyou Boulevard, right on Murphy, left on Juanipero Way, then right onto North Phoenix Road. This route has bike lanes most of the way to North Phoenix Road.

Another option is to follow the Bear Creek Bike Path west to Bear Creek Park, then jump on Siskiyou Boulevard and continue east.

A third option is to ride east on East Jackson Street, right on Hillcrest Road, then right on North Phoenix Road.

You can't get too far out of town by going east, because you run into Foothill Road, which travels north and south through the eastern part of the Rogue Valley. Foothill used to be a good cycling route, but it has become congested with fast-moving automobiles whose drivers appear reluctant to share the road with cyclists. The road is narrow and there is little room to safely ride a bicycle, so I avoid it and do not recommend it for cycling. Possibly, in the future, this road will be widened and bicycle lanes added, which would make it a much safer route for both motorists and cyclists.

One eastward route using Sunrise and Springbrook is to turn right on McAndrews and climb to the newer subdivisions on the lower slopes of Roxy Ann, perhaps including a loop on Cherry Lane.

Maps showing existing and proposed bicycle routes are available at the City of Medford Planning Department Home Page (www.ci.medford.or.us/index.asp). Click on the "city departments" tab, then "Planning," then "Plans," then "Transportation System Plan," then "Transportation System Plan," which is highlighted in blue in the narrative. At the bottom of this page, click on "Figures." The maps are a few years old, but the following maps are still useful: Figure 3-6 (Existing Bicycle Circulation System), Figure 1-5 (Medford Bicycle Facilities Plan), Figure 10-1 (Planned Bicycle Facilities) and Figure F-1 (Programmed Bicycle/Pedestrian Improvements).

Getting out of town, away from the city traffic, isn't all that hard once you become familiar with the primary "escape routes." Using these routes as a base you can find other routes that will send you on your way to some exciting road cycling.

Wear bright clothes, a helmet, and be safe while you share the road.

Bicycling enthusiast Bob Korfhage of Phoenix is a former president of Siskiyou Velo bicycle club.