A rallying cry for protected bike lanes – Let’s save the tourists!

Bend Bikes
No signage or on-street warning that the east bound bike lane ends at the upcoming intersection at Wall Street

Since some are still deaf to the growing chorus of voices asking for protected bicycle lanes in Bend, we thought that we might try point out the advantages they pose to the largest economic driver of Bend’s economy: tourists.

There were loads of contradictory facts hurled about during the March 2016 gas tax measure Bend, but there was one that neither side disputed: the number of tourists that Bend has been attracting. Last year, we hosted about two MILLION visitors. Considering that Bend’s peak visitor months are mid-June through the beginning of the school year when the weather’s on its best behavior, it’s reasonable to assume that many who travel here to vacation might also ride a bike to get to dinner or grab a pint.

I say might with the caveat that many also might NOT because of the unknown. If you’re not from here, you wouldn’t know, for example, the bike lane on NW Newport Avenue (as you head east towards downtown) abruptly ends at NW Wall Street. There is no signage to warn you; no on-street markings to give you a hint. You also might not notice until it’s too late that just on the other side of the intersection, your bike lane has been gobbled up by some car parking leaving you sandwiched between parked and moving cars in a dangerously narrow space.

Bend Bikes
Can you tell from here that there will be no bike lane on Newport Ave. to greet you on the other side of Wall Street?

The unstated but clear message bike lane break points like this one communicate to out-of-town visitors is this: you’d better be able to think quickly on two wheels or don’t use your bicycle to get around town. While many have been fretting about a feared carmageddon brought on by a four year higher learning institution on Bend’s west-side, they’ve been largely ignoring the annual flood of car traffic brought on by the very tourists we depend on as a city to stay economically viable.

It’s hard to not wryly smile about the deal we made with the devil by encouraging tourism to Central Oregon. Visit Bend has done a smashingly good job at delivering exactly what we said we wanted: people bringing dollars to spend in Bend. Somehow, we then anguish over the car traffic encountered on our drive home from work.

Why not coax these visitors to unbuckle and step out of their automobiles and onto their pedals? By building more predictable, well marked and well maintained bicycle infrastructure, including protected lanes, we’ll encourage more tourists to bike commute while here thereby reducing car traffic during the summer months.

Oh, and another thing. Locals might appreciate that too.