Sauvie Island is a cycling paradise that sits just a few miles North of downtown Portland. Back in my training days I discovered that including out-and-backs, there are close to 80 miles of flat, scenic roads to ride on. Perfect riding conditions, except for one thing…hostile treatment from motorists. Road rage, taunts, projectiles from car windows, and other dangerous situations are far too common.
This is a problem that is going to keep getting worse until something is done about it, and I don’t think we should wait until someone is hurt or killed before focusing our attention on a solution.
I agree with one local cyclist who I heard recently liken the problem to a petri dish that will grow as the temperature gets hotter and more cyclists take to the roads.
But this is not all about crazy, bike-hating motorists. Many cyclists could do a better job of sharing the road by remembering to “single-up” when a car wants to pass and being generally considerate at all times. Also, I have seen many triathletes use the 12 mile main loop as a time trial training ground. I appreciate the importance of a training session, but being considerate of motorists is more important than staying hunched over aero bars trying to set a personal best time.
Regardless of who is at fault, I think many Island residents just plain don’t like city folk (after all they moved there to escape us), much less what they see as nothing more than lycra-clad Lance wannabees. But Sauvie Island is public space and we all have to figure out how to safely share it.
So where do we go from here? Does anyone want to form a Sauvie Island Riders Task Force (SIRTF)? Bad acronym aside, I’m being serious. I know some of you think some people just hate bikes and that’s that. But I don’t think there’s any problem that can’t be solved by constructive community dialogue and a few olive branches being extended from both sides. Here are a few ideas off the top of my head to get us started:
- Kill them with kindness and police ourselves through peer pressure to ride more carefully (always single-file), with plenty of smiles and waves (no matter what it thrown at us).
- Create a new rider task force to meet with Island residents, the local grange and fire department.
- Push for new signage on the bridge (it’s the only entry point onto the island).
- Encourage law enforcement to increase patrols on busy weekends.
- Launch a media and public awareness campaign about the rules of the road.
- Find the money to widen the roads to increase safety for all users.
This strained dynamic between cyclists, motorists and local residents is not limited to Sauvie Island. Similar situations are brewing in places like Corbett, along Sandy River scenic highway, and on the rural roads outside of Beaverton. I think any solutions we come up with for Sauvie could be applied in these areas as well.
We can wait until an unthinkable tragedy happens, or we can be proactive in working toward a solution. It’s up to us. Or, do you even think this is even a problem addressing? Please share your insights and experiences.