As any cyclist knows, a long ride gives you time to think. On a good day you might solve a problem you’ve been mulling or come up with a cool new idea, but most of the time if you’re riding on roads you’ll be thinking about potholes, the closeness of cars, and how not to take a spill on a stretch of road that hasn’t been swept in a while.
The Oregon Department of Transportation is currently collecting thoughts from cyclists, and though I’m sure they’d be thrilled to know how you solved the meaning of life or figured out how to generate electricity using the dead flies that collect in windowsills, what they are really looking for are suggestions on how to improve the Oregon Coast Bike Route.
“The 370 miles designated as a bike route in the early 1980s is used by an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 people annually,” said Jenna Berman, ODOT active transportation liaison. “It’s been over a decade since we’ve really taken a look at it. We’re asking for input to see if we’ve got it right, wrong, and if are missing anything. The next step is coming up with a range of improvements.”
To collect user data, ODOT set up a “virtual open house” platform, with short videos, slideshows and interactive questionnaires.
“We’re targeting all cyclists,” Berman said. “Locals who frequently ride parts of the route, visitors who have ridden all or parts once or a few times, and even people who have reasons they stay away from it.”
To see the data collected so far and submit your thoughts, go to oregoncoastbikeroute.org.
“The website has a map that people can click on to see info on the areas they are interested in,” Berman said. “We’ve also already highlighted areas that we’ve identified as critical.”
Many of the comments and critical area identification is from an initial survey taken when this process first started.
“We’re about a year and a half into a two-and-a-half-year-long effort,” Berman said. “In our first survey, we collected over 900 responses from people that have ridden the coast.”
The Oregon Coast Bike Route is part of the Pacific Bike Route, which stretches from Vancouver, BC to Imperial Beach, California, a total of 1,848 miles. The Oregon portion features some of the most beautiful vistas but is also the one that shares the largest percentage of the ride with a major highway, so safety issues are of particular importance when considering improvements. Educating drivers is definitely on the list, but simple improvements can also greatly improve the quality of the trip.
“Most of it is along Highway 101 and it will continue to be,” Berman said. “So we’re looking at what can we do to make it more comfortable for users, and to connect the dots between other things that are going on on the route. For example, if there is a paving project going on, we can look at the widths that can potentially be added to the shoulder.”
Even non-cyclists have reason to care about ensuring that the route stays attractive to cyclists.
“The Adventure Cycling Association is a national resource, and by far the most popular maps they sell are for the Pacific Bike Route,” Berman said. “We also consider what we call “Bikonomics’” which is the fiscal impact that cycling makes in a region. We estimate that cyclists riding the coast route spend between three and five million dollars a year in Oregon. Bike tourists travel more slowly through towns, make more overnights stops, and are always, always, hungry.”
Other things for drivers to consider when passing cyclists is that they are creating less traffic, leaving more parking spaces, and help contribute to cleaner air.
So, the next time you have the chance to interact with long-distance cyclists, think about the positive impacts they have and perhaps listen to an adventure tale or two. And you never know, one of them might just share how you can turn flies into energy.
The comment period for the Oregon Coast Bike Route ends at midnight on Sunday, Feb. 10. Go to oregoncoastbikeroute.org to get your opinions added.