Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on October 16th, 2014 at 9:43 am
“Travel Oregon is deeply saddened by the recent bicycle tragedies on Oregon roads, and they have served to elevate our attention and concern.”
While Oregon’s highways are under the official jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation, they’ve also become a key asset in our state’s burgeoning bicycle-based tourism economy — and that means the Oregon Tourism Commission/Travel Oregon also has in interest in how they’re managed.
For years now, exploring Oregon’s rural roads by bike has been a cornerstone of Travel Oregon’s marketing strategy. They’ve invested in advertisements, created an online guide to the best routes, and they’ve partnered with the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department to help promote and develop a network of official State Scenic Bikeways program.
So when people starting being hit from behind while bicycling on Oregon highways back in August, it raised eyebrows and concerns among Travel Oregon staff. In the past two months there have been seven high-profile bicycle collisions and four deaths — all of them a result of unsafe driving.
to protect people on bikes?
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland
We’re happy to report that Travel Oregon has not shirked away from this issue. In the past few weeks they’ve addressed it head-on. Last month we heard from Travel Oregon’s Manager of Global Communications Linea Gagliano and she shared this statement:
Travel Oregon is deeply saddened by the recent bicycle tragedies on Oregon roads, and they have served to elevate our attention and concern. While we work to promote responsible bicycle tourism throughout the state, we are acutely aware that there is an element of risk involved whenever someone takes to the road.
To increase bicycle and car safety awareness, Travel Oregon is adding safety tips for each of the bicycle routes on RideOregonRide.com. Additionally, we will increase our work with other state agencies and partners to address the issue of bicycle and automobile safety throughout the state. In the coming weeks, key Travel Oregon staff members will meet with ODOT to discuss its statewide Bicycle & Pedestrian Master plan and long-range policy. On Oct. 31, Travel Oregon will host the Oregon Bicycle Tourism Partnership meeting in Bend, with bicycle and car safety as a prominent item on the agenda. We will use the time to help surface ideas to build a vision/plan that can address bicycle and car safety concerns in the state.
Since that statement was issued late last month, Travel Oregon has made good on their promises. As you might have noticed yesterday while browsing the new gravel riding section on RideOregonRide.com, every ride listed on that site now includes the following message:
In Oregon, a bicycle is legally considered a vehicle, and the same Oregon road laws apply. Please “be seen” and practice safe riding. Vehicle traffic, farm equipment and narrow shoulders exist on many Oregon roads, and you may find that construction projects, traffic or other events may cause road conditions or signage to differ from the map results, ride descriptions and directions. For travel options plus weather and road conditions, visit tripcheck.com, call 511 (in Oregon only), 800.977.6368 or 503.588.2941. Routes listed on this website are for informational purposes and intended as a reference guide only.
We also heard from Travel Oregon staff who work directly on bicycle tourism development. With an upcoming meeting of the Oregon Bicycle Tourism Partnership (OBTP), Destination Development Specialist Nastassja Pace reacted to the news of rear-end collisions by shuffling the agenda. On October 31st, when members of the OBTP meet in Bend, there will be a robust discussion of bike safety laws and policies. I’ll be there to share my ideas on rural road advocacy and the potential for legal and/or policy changes at the state level, and lawyer Ray Thomas will share his expertise on existing Oregon traffic laws.
With safety and traffic law policies largely absent from the bicycle tourism discussion, we’re glad to see Travel Oregon face the issues. Stay tuned for more coverage, and if you have specific ideas about how Oregon statutes and ODOT policies could make rural road riding safer and more pleasant, please let us know.