Kick off summer by biking

  • By ADELE PERSON
  • Thursday, May 18, 2017 10:31am
  • News

Summer is nearly here, and it is an excellent time to resolve to be more active andexplore Homer. “May is Bike Month” is a nationwide education effort and whether you bike to work or bike to school, bike along the Spit or fat-bike along the beach, “May is Bike Month” is a great way to kick off the summer.

At the end of April, the Safe and Healthy Kids Fair offers a “bike rodeo” with help from our local bike club and businesses. Bike rodeos teach bike safety and check tires and brakes. My children, ages 11 and 7, biked to the fair by themselves. Their favorite part about biking is the independence and freedom. My first grader rides his bike to school.

When he began, he had to push his bike uphill, but now he proudly pedals the whole way home. My sixth grader bikes to school independently, and I gratefully avoid schoolpick-up and drop-off zones.

But it was a challenge to begin. One needs a decent bike, helmets, lights, warm clothes.

There is a lack of infrastructure in many places around town. Children need to learn how to bicycle safely. Most concerning is the lack of awareness about how to drive safely around people on bikes. I know parents who live two blocks from West Homer Elementary and do not feel it is safe to send their children to school on foot or bicycle.

Moose, darkness, ice and inattentive drivers are real challenges. But kids can do it, and when they do, they make it easier for others to follow in their path.

It takes time and money to build sidewalks and bike trails and that is not always possible. “Homer Shares the Road” was an effort that began in 2015 to encourage sharing the infrastructure we already have for the safety of all. Every user group has rights and responsibilities.

When walking, we belong in the first 3 feet of safe, useable space to the side. We belong on a sidewalk if it exists, a shoulder if it is safe, or to the side of a lane if that’s all there is. We should use crosswalks where they are available and always remember we are the most vulnerable on the road.

Bicyclists come in a wider variety of use and need. A young child on a bicycle is pretty much a pedestrian and belongs on a sidewalk and off the roadway if at all possible.

Some people only ride on trails or recreational paths, and there they must yield to pedestrians. They should be hyper aware of intersections with driveways, streets and other road cuts.

Generally, Alaska State law treats bicycles as vehicles. Bikes are legally allowed on the road and in some cases are forbidden to be on sidewalks. People riding bicycles shouldfollow the same rules of the road as when driving. Stop at stop signs, signal your turns, and most importantly: ride on the right with the flow of traffic. Other common sense precautions include being visible and making eye contact.

When driving, yield to people in crosswalks, be careful at intersections, look out for children and others walking and biking. Pass people with care. Please don’t text while driving. This is unbelievably dangerous. Many people drive safely in Homer, but we can still do more.

I like when we travel at a speed of a rural community, a speed where we can make eye contact and wave to our neighbors. We want it to be safe to walk and bike for all residents, from youngest to eldest, and for visitors who come to Homer. Investment in trails and walk/bike infrastructure tends to be relatively inexpensive and yields remarkable economic returns.

May is Bike Month. Get your bike out and set your goals. Try riding to work or the farmers market. Take your family bicycling on a trail or around the neighborhood.

Reach out to the Homer Cycle Club if you need encouragement. Be safe when walking, biking or driving so we can all enjoy our community and the natural world around us.

Adele Person is the Assistant Director at Bunnell Street Arts Center and particpates in various community efforts like Safe Routes to School, Homer Area Trails and the Pioneer Revitalization Task Force. She enjoys walking around town and watching her children bike to school every morning.

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