By Katya Agatucci | The Broadside (Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org)
If you live in Bend, co-existing with bikers is a must. Central Oregon is constantly active with marathons, the Pole Pedal Paddle, annual bike races and numerous biking trails.
In the midst of all of the excitement, especially when you are in control of a vehicle, it is of the utmost importance that you are always aware of bikers and pedestrians.
Early on Nov. 20, a biker was struck by a FedEx semi-truck and died at the scene at the intersection of Wall Street and Northwest Olney Avenue.
The representative for the Bend Police Department did not share much information about the biker and did not confirm if the weather on that day was a factor with in the incident.
Sean Rule, instructor at Central Oregon Community College and bike commuter of over two decades was immediately concerned when he heard about the accident.
“It broke my heart. The first thing I thought of was that someone just lost a son, or that guy could have been a father. And the driver, has now killed someone. How does he or she feel? Nothing good comes from that.”
“I was very concerned about cycling in Bend at that point. I’ve definitely decreased my commuting since Bend kind of blew up and became really busy. There are so many new people moving into Bend, and they don’t know the bike laws and they don’t look for bikers,” Ethan Copeland, student at COCC said about his reaction when he heard about the accident.
Copeland has had several incidents with almost getting in a collision with other vehicles, “The drivers never noticed [during those incidents], I just slammed on my brakes really hard. You have to kind of look out for yourself and the car because cars are so distracted these days with phones, drinks, and food.”
As a biker of six years now, Copeland makes sure to be completely visible to drivers when he is riding his bike. He uses flashing devices on his bike, reflective clothing, and even reflective patches on his shoes, belt and backpack.
The most common location where Copeland has almost experienced collisions are at four way stops and at large intersections.
Rule makes sure that he is always completely visible to drivers. He commutes around Bend with a 1000-lumen LED headlamp on his helmet, 1000-lumen light on his handlebars, a front facing 300-lumen red, blue and violet light blinking LED light on headtube and another on the back of his helmet, 360 degree 300 lumen LED blinking blue light on his seat post and another on his front hub that rotates when he rides.
His bike commuting started on the East Coast, “It’s a lot easier to commute around here. Drivers are a little bit more aware,” Rule explained.
Throughout his many years of bike commuting, he has had numerous encounters with vehicles on the road, “I operate defensively, I assume they don’t see me. There are so many distractions inside and outside of cars that I just blend in to them. No one is expecting to see a bike in front of them. I try to make myself stand out as much as I can,” Rule said.
In the fall of 2016, Rule decided to create a study of drivers going up College Way by collecting data on what they are doing while driving. To do this, he hid behind a tree near the Boyle Education Center.
He decided to define being distracted in different ways, such as talking on the phone with the device up to their ear, their phone visibly being used, their head looking into their lap, eating, rummaging for stuff on the floor, doing their make-up, smoking a cigarette or not being distracted at all.
“It ends up that most of them aren’t distracted, but if you look at the numbers [I collected], a sizeable chunk in between 20 and 30 percent are distracted. That’s enough for me to be sketched out,” Rule explained about his reaction after three days of collecting data.
Despite the fact that Rule has had dangerous encounters, he loves biking and does it for himself.
“[I commute for] my happiness. I’ve always wanted to change the world. The whole Gandhi thing, be the change you want to see in the world. It’s really fun.”
Both Copeland and Rule encourage bike commuters in Bend to always ride defensively, to anticipate that the cars around you do not see you, and to be aware of the Oregon Bike Laws. ■