Yesterday I tossed my folding Bike Friday Silk into the back of my two-door Mini Cooper (try that with a regular bike) and headed off to Englewood Park in north Salem for a Salem Bike Boulevards Advocates Slow Roll ride to Riverfront Park.
Living as I do in a rural area outside the Salem city limits, I don't ride my bike much on city streets. So I was eager to take part in a ride with people who knew a lot about urban cycling. I liked how the ride was described:
The group will go at a slow, comfortable pace for everyone. All ages and abilities are welcome and encouraged to come. This will be a fun ride for anyone, including those who want to bike more, but are concerned about riding with traffic. Bring your bicycle and any questions you might have about bicycling in Salem.
We met up under the fir trees in Englewood Park. Before we headed off, the ride leader clued us in to bike hand signals and how we'd communicate the presence of cars ("car back, "car front") and hazards like potholes or glass in the street (point at it).
The leaders were very careful with the group, which numbered close to thirty people on the ride to Riverfront Park. (Some folks rode back on their own.)
This being Salem, not exactly the most bike-friendly town in Oregon, early on a driver "treated" us to a swear word and some other insults when he had to wait -- oh, the horror! -- for a few extra seconds at an intersection as a bunch of happy cyclists used the public streets that, apparently, the driver wrongly thought were only for vehicles.
Salem doesn't have many dedicated multi-use paths outside of city parks. But we enjoyed the short path along 12th Street.
A child was towed in the bike trailer and a dog ran alongside his owner on a leash. It was great to be part of such a diverse cycling group, age-wise. I must have been the oldest. Unless the dog was ten, and I multiply the canine age by seven.
Here we are, crossing Front Street into Riverfront Park. A large group of cyclists is common in Portland, Eugene, and other cities where more people bike. One of the goals of this ride was to show people in Salem that, yes, a lot of people in this town also ride bikes.
And many more would, for sure, if Salem had better bike infrastructure: slow speed bicycle boulevards, protected bike paths, and such. Salem Bike Boulevard Advocates is doing a great job pushing for this. With three new bike-friendly City Councilors recently elected, hopefully this will speed up the process of improving Salem's bikeability.
I pedaled down to the Willamette slough to see how the Minto Brown bike and pedestrian bridge was coming along. Looks like the arches have begun to be constructed.
Here's the Obery family outside the Carousel: Gary, Angela, and their two children. Angela and Gary took the lead in getting Salem Bike Boulevard Advocates off the ground. Give the group a Facebook "like" if you want Salem to be a bike-friendly town. I'd also give Angela's cool bike helmet a like if it had its own Facebook page.
Here we are on Chemeketa Street, starting the ride back to Englewood Park. I asked several experienced cyclists about the "sharrow" (shared lane marking) symbol, which is visible in the lane on the left side of this photo. They echoed what Wikipedia says: "This marking is placed in the travel lane to indicate where people should preferably cycle."
So a cyclist can ride in the middle of the lane, though a card I was given about Oregon Bicycle Laws clarified that "You may occupy an entire lane and ride up to two abreast so long as you don't impede the 'normal movement of traffic.'" In that case, I gather another rule applies: "If you ride at less than the normal speed of traffic then you must ride as far to the right as practicable."
It felt good to be part of a cyclist group.
I've ridden down Chemeketa Street a few times on my own and didn't feel as comfortable as I did yesterday. Strength in numbers, I guess. The more people ride bikes on Salem streets, the more aware drivers will be that they need to watch out for cyclists and give them the respect they deserve.