Mr. Celtic raises important concerns in his opinion piece published on Aug. 13 about the Homer Shares the Road campaign, though there are a few inaccuracies. The goal of “Homer Shares the Road” is to help all citizens interact more safely, and to educate visitors and citizens of Homer about state laws relevant to using roads, paths and sidewalks, whether people are walking, running, biking, or driving.
First, let us address the “double standards” Mr. Celtic lists. The Homer Shares the Road campaign and Alaska state law clearly state:
a. Cyclists are not allowed to impede traffic any more than a slow-moving vehicle such as a piece of farm or construction equipment. Cyclists are required by law to ride close to the shoulder so that traffic can flow around them and are only allowed to “take the lane” when required to for safety such as making a left hand turn, or avoiding dangers. Unfortunately road shoulders in Homer are often poorly maintained, inconsistent, covered in snow and debris, or non-existent.
b. Cyclists are not allowed to run stop signs and can be ticketed the same as a motorist.
c. Cyclists are required to use hand signals when it can be done safely to indicate turns.
d. Cyclists must have front and rear headlights at night when riding on the roadway.
Mr. Celtic is correct that cyclists are not required to register or insure their mode of transportation. Cyclists however, do little damage to the roadway due to their weight and are unlikely to cause thousands of dollars’ worth of damage and injury to a vehicle if there is an accident. As he points out, the cyclist is the one likely to suffer injury or death from an encounter with a vehicle.
To address some of the other issues Mr. Celtic raises regarding taxes and roadways: fuel taxes do not cover the entire cost of building and maintaining roadways. In fact, they cover only a small fraction of this cost. The rest of the funds come from sources such as state and borough taxes and federal highway funds. These monies come from sources such as federal income tax, city taxes, and borough taxes, paid for by all users.
As Mr. Celtic points out, cyclists should wear bright clothing and use reflectors and lights, even in the daytime, to improve their visibility. Cyclists are required to use lights at night when they are in the road.
Many cyclists have had the experience of being yelled at by pedestrians for using recreational paths and sidewalks and by motorists for using roadways, sometimes even in the same day. Cyclists traveling more than 10 miles an hour should not be using sidewalks and recreation paths as they are a hazard to other users and themselves.
Paths such as the one found on East End Road are not a safe option for cyclists traveling at high speeds due to motor vehicles that pull across the path to enter East End Road without looking for cyclists or pedestrians.
Cyclists must make the decision as to what is the safest option for themselves and other user groups. Sometimes this is difficult as there are hazards to all choices, thus the need for all us to work together to make our roadways and paths safer for everyone.
(Truck owner, cyclist, runner, walker, and city of Homer, borough, state and federal taxpayer)