Our Voice: Public policy, awareness will improve bike safety

Bicyclists are out in droves now that the weather has turned toward warmer.

You see packs of two-wheeled warriors on weekends, and more and more commuters on the weekdays. For some, it’s their primary means of transportation.

With Bike to Work Week upon us, some additional folks may be motivated to ride this week. The League of American Bicyclists just named Washington its top Bicycle Friendly State.

The Tri-Cities has an avid cycling community. What we lack are adequate bike lanes and safety measures on popular routes. A recent meeting in Richland drew dozens of bicycle enthusiasts eager to give their input on improvements they say are needed in the region.

Safety is the top concern, with challenges at spots like the railroad crossing on Stevens Drive or safe ways to cross Highway 240.

Other Richland cycling priorities include completing a missing section of trail between Keene Road and Columbia Park Trail, and bicycle lanes along Van Giesen and the bypass highway.

Extensions of the Sacagawea Heritage Trail were popular suggestions in Kennewick.

Pasco riders want to see bike lanes on heavily traveled Road 68 and Sandifur Parkway. Mixing in bicycles with that volume of vehicle traffic is dangerous, even if everyone is playing by the rules.

Also on the wish list are items like a path from Columbia Basin College to the Columbia River, bike paths on Dallas and Badger Canyon roads, and paving 15 miles of the Columbia Plateau Trail in Franklin County.

Some of the suggestions are for safety and some are for pleasure and convenience. Bicyclists are eager to have their voices heard, and their vocal number prove it. A planner with the Benton-Franklin Council of Governments said their requests have become a high priority because of their participation. The agency is expected to come out with an updated bicycle plan, and provide that to local governments to seek grants or find other funding to make the improvements.

Even without the improvements, we can all do our part to make riding safer, whether on two wheels or four. Be aware of your surroundings. Take an extra look when driving on popular bicycle routes. Don’t assume anything. Bicycles travel on the right side of the road, just like vehicles. Share the road.

We’ve already had two serious bicycle versus vehicle accidents this spring and it’s the bicyclists who fared the worst. Be conscientious drivers. We are all just trying to get to our destinations safely.