Cyclists ignore hazards on way to work |

Cyclists ignore hazards on way to work

Susan Wood, Tribune staff writer

More than 15,000 commuters from all over the state are expected to put a new spin on their ride into work this week.

South Lake Tahoe is one of several cities taking part in the ninth annual California Bike Commute Week, which starts today and ends Friday. On May 16, some communities will recognize the week in one day.

At a time when gasoline prices, obesity and traffic congestion continue to rise, cycling advocates more than ever are urging commuters to trade their motorized vehicles for human power.

South Shore workers who opt to do the same will be rewarded with coffee on one end of town and a free bike checkup at the other.

Starbucks at the “Y” will serve coffee to bike commuters on Friday, while 123 Bikes in the Round Hill Square has offered to set up a bike-check table in front of the shop for the week.

Cyclists and shop owners agree South Lake Tahoe has challenged even the toughest residents — namely with harsh winter conditions, beaten-up roads and lack of bike facilities. All are factors imperiling bike safety.

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Doug Broemmer of the Tahoe Region Advocates of Cycling said he would rate Tahoe as “not very good” for being a safe place to pedal on the road.

“It would be nice to have more bike lanes and if we had signs telling people what direction to follow,” he said.

With more people electing to ride, the education becomes more crucial.

Even when transportation officials make improvements they sometimes fail to acknowledge dangerous circumstances. Broemmer mentioned when roads are resurfaced the lip of asphalt that spills out into the bike lanes as a hazard for cyclists.

Still, California remains committed to maintaining its bicycle improvement projects.

Caltrans headquarters’ spokesman David Anderson said Gov. Gray Davis has no plans of nixing the $7.2 million in anticipated improvements in the coming year — even as the state faces a $36 billion shortfall.

“Support for the bike program remains strong. Whenever we can ride a bike and help with the pollution problem, that’s going to be something we will support. Of course, the exercise makes us all healthier,” Anderson said.

The commitment may be there, but that doesn’t mean there will not be delays. The eight miles of bike lanes — four miles one way — planned on Highway 50 from the “Y” to Ski Run Boulevard has been bumped to 2007.

Whether the project will survive years of budget cuts remains to be seen.

“It’s too early to speculate. As we all know, the economic climate can change,” Anderson said.

From the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to city government, most agree South Lake Tahoe needs to find a place for cycling.

“How many reasons do we need to support riding a bike? If we cut down trees to put up the Heavenly Gondola to get people out of their cars, why can’t we put in bike trails?” asked Tom Wendell, TRAC member.

Wendell said he’s noticed an increase in the number of bike riders around town, but worries when he sees them riding in bad conditions, wearing dark clothes and on the wrong side of the street.

He’s encouraged by a recent Gallup Poll showing 53 percent of people supporting increased federal spending on bike facilities. Twenty-seven percent of the adults polled said they’ve ridden a bike at least once a month.

The poll was conducted for the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“I’m glad to hear it in the polls. I think people are tired of being in their cars,” he said.

The survey released for National Bike Month revealed that more than half the population believes more Americans would ride if more lanes, lighting, signs and facilities were installed — including company locker room showers.

That’s what a newly formed Silver State Bicycle Coalition based in Las Vegas will be pushing as part of the nonprofit group’s educational campaign.

With state budgets in turmoil, many advocates are relying on more help from the federal government. The federal transportation law is due to be reauthorized by Congress this year. TEA-21 ensures new and existing transportation investments improve conditions for cycling and walking.

— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at