Bend is on its way to becoming a more bike-friendly and bike-safe community, said Commute Options educational director Brian Potwin.
Potwin does everything from coordinating Bend’s Safe Routes to School to the city’s bicycle diversion program, and he believes the next step in Bend bicycle safety is underway.
“With the addition of the new bike infrastructure, an opportunity is rising for more cyclists to get on the roadway and enjoy riding their bikes,” he said.
The city has installed various traffic marks on highly trafficked, newly repaved roads to help the city’s cycling population. According to the League of American Bicyclists, 76 to 99 percent of arterial roads have dedicated bike accommodations, and 51 to 75 percent of elementary schoolers received some sort of bicycle education.
The next step is growing the percentage of Bend bicycle commuters from 1.7 percent, said bike advocate blogger Lucas Freeman.
“Until more women, kids and older people are commuting, we’re not going to see that number bump up,” Freeman said. “We need more than the people who are young, confident cyclists who have the gumption to take the lane when they need to.”
An addition to help cyclists become more confident taking the lane is called a “sharrow.” Freeman said the unfamiliar markers are actually used to remind motorists of something that’s already occurring.
A sharrow, a bike with a chevron above it, indicates the bike lane is ending and the cyclist should merge with traffic.
“From a legal standpoint, it doesn’t communicate anything new to motorists,” Freeman said. “It shouldn’t be news to a driver that if there is no bike lane, then the cyclist has the right to take the lane.”
Along with the sharrows, the city of Bend is buffering bike lanes and painting bike lanes green on popular commuting streets, including Northwest Franklin Avenue and Northeast Third Street.
Freeman thinks community members will learn to adapt to the various changes, but worries about tourists and other visitors who may have never seen the markings before.
“The city may need to take extra steps to let folks know that (various bike traffic markers) are not parking lanes, whether it be adding stencils or extra signage,” Freeman said.
Potwin said the project isn’t complete yet, so help with signage should come as the various projects conclude. And he feels that by the end of the changes, all commuters — from walkers to motorists — will benefit.
“We just want to create a safer, more enjoyable environment,” he said. “We’re looking to create a base for the community.”
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