Contending with cars, at the polls and on vacation - Page 3

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Bike touring is a fun and eco-friendly vacation option that state policies could better facilitate.
PHOTOS BY JASON HENDERSON

To get to Portland-style cycling, we need to recognize that San Francisco's 9,000-plus cars per square mile is extreme and out of control, and San Francisco politicians need to embrace much tighter parking management and street management policies.

I should also add that Portland does have its own ugly right-wing backlash against bikes and transit. For example, in suburban Clackamas County, dubbed "Clakistan" by some, Tea Party-types voted to stall light rail expansion. But in the city, the bicycle and rail transit are embraced with enthusiasm.

Oregon is also refreshingly welcoming to bicycle tourists. For those leaving Portland by bicycle, state and local transportation departments have produced wonderful maps with route suggestions, and the official state highway map includes a bicycle map showing highway shoulder widths and identifies state parks with bike-friendly camping, hot showers, and other services. One state park bike campground even had a solar-powered charging station so cyclists can check their phones.

Unlike California parks, which also have affordable and accessible bicycle camping sections, Oregon places sites away from the noisy RV and automobile campsites, providing peace and tranquility and level ground for tents.

Since cycle tourists don't always know their timing or exact route, Oregon and California do not require reservations, which enables flexibility for bike touring. And the sites are cheaper — usually $5 in both states, but some California campgrounds charge $7 — because bicyclists have a much lighter impact on parks compared to cars and RVs.

 

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All of this made bicycle touring from Portland to San Francisco inspiring, energizing, invigorating, revitalizing, and really just a whole lot of fun. Waking up early to pedal through the Cape Lookout area of Oregon or the Avenue of the Giants in California was truly amazing.

But the big downside was high-speed traffic whizzing by at certain points along the coast (but not all). So the same methods used to make city streets safe for cycling could apply everywhere, including for bicycle touring. Rural traffic is faster than city traffic, so we really need to separate cyclists from speeding traffic if substantial numbers of people (including families) are to take on bike touring.

Rail trails and fully separated cycle ways in parts of Oregon (Banks Vernonia) and California (near Arcata and also Samuel P. Taylor Park) should be expanded and made part of a coastal bikeway using the rights-of-way along Highway 101 and 1.

Where full separation is not possible, wider shoulders cleared of the nasty detritus of car glass or metal should be provided. Shoulders should be regularly cleaned and crumbling edges patched. At tight spots, such as on Highway 1 between Fort Ross and Jenner, narrow portions of roadway could be made into signal-controlled one-way segments such as what is done in construction zones.

Reducing the speed limits and using traffic calming should also be promoted on the coast highways. This is a tourist route, not Interstate 5, so even the Subaru-driving weekend warriors and RVs can slow it down. Rural areas in California and Oregon can benefit greatly with more bicycle tourism (as well as auto tourists slowing down).

We cyclists don't drag a ton of Costco provisions up to the campgrounds. We shop and eat locally, at each increment, and spend hard cash in small towns. Slowing the cars and RVs down would draw them into the local stores and restaurants as well. And every few days, we cycle tourists get a motel or bed-and-breakfast room.

I saw and spoke with several families with children touring the Oregon coast, with no motorized vehicle support. In Oregon and parts of California, buses also accommodate bicycles, so getting to the coast is easier than you'd think, even if greater frequency would be helpful.

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