Viewpoint: With a little awareness, drivers and cyclists can learn to get along

With more than 150,000 motor vehicles registered in Eugene and tens of thousands of bicycles in use around town, it's not surprising that feelings sometimes run high when it comes to sharing our community's streets.

Published September 4, 2007 by The Register-Guard 

OR–With more than 150,000 motor vehicles registered in Eugene and tens of thousands of bicycles in use around town, it's not surprising that feelings sometimes run high when it comes to sharing our community's streets.

Each of us – whether we are on our way to work, running a few errands or enjoying our free time – is affected by traffic, so it's critical that we work together to ensure that these two modes of transportation can coexist safely.

We should approach this goal by looking for common ground, rather than staking out adversarial positions.

First, we surely can agree that the protection of our collective health and safety is a shared community value. I believe every one of us would gladly take an extra moment to ensure we weren't endangering the lives of others – we know all too well that the consequences of inattentive, aggressive or impatient behavior can be tragic.

For motorists, that sometimes means yielding to a bicyclist or slowing down to make sure that there's plenty of room to pass safely. For cyclists, it may mean slowing down or coming to a stop if a car or truck has the right-of-way. Most cyclists are also drivers and many drivers choose to bicycle, which should help foster mutual awareness and understanding.

As a society, we also agree to abide by the law. The new law requiring that motorists provide sufficient distance when passing cyclists is a good safety practice and just plain makes sense – like stopping for red lights whether you're driving a car or riding a bike. Our right to use the roads comes with the responsibility to exercise good judgment, follow the law and obey all traffic rules.

The protection of our environment and the livability of this community for future generations is another shared value. Bicycles can help us reach our sustainability goals. Each person who chooses to bike rather than drive reduces traffic congestion and the wear and tear on our roads. Each person choosing to bicycle helps reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere every year. (To learn more about this and other choices you can make to help protect our environment, join the Mayor's Climate Challenge at www.sustaineugene.com.)

Eugene has a long, proud tradition of community support for bicycling as a means of transportation and recreation. Our extensive network of on-street bike lanes and off-street shared-use paths is a key reason Eugene often is recognized as one of the most bicycle-friendly and livable cities in the country.

Despite our achievements, there is room for improvement. While the city of Eugene does much to promote cycling, there is always more to do, and community members can help. Whatever mode of transportation you prefer, here are three simple positive things you can do to make Eugene a better city for biking:

Ride a bike or, if you already do, encourage a friend, family member or co-worker to try riding a bike for transportation at least one day per week.

When you're driving, biking or walking, be aware of the other people who are sharing the right-of-way with you. Make eye contact with them to be sure they see you.

Have your say in Eugene's Pedestrian and Bicycle Strategic Plan. For more information, visit www.eugene-or.gov/walkbike.

There is plenty of room in Eugene's transportation system for cars, bicycles and pedestrians to peacefully coexist – and it is imperative that we do so for many reasons. If we show respect for and awareness of others using the road, whatever our means of travel, we are more likely to drive, bike or walk safely.


Kitty Piercy is the mayor of Eugene.