May was “Bike Everywhere Month” in Washington State. Spring and early summer is such a great time of year to hop on your bike. Not too hot, not too cold, not too smokey. Overall, Wenatchee is a pretty nice area to enjoy biking as well. The greater Wenatchee area is one of 18 Bicycle Friendly Communities according to the League of American Bicyclists. We’re at the bronze level, on par with Spokane and Tacoma.
Of course, commuting by bike isn’t for everyone. It’s never been something I’ve been great at, though I gave it a shot while living in Tacoma before moving back to Wenatchee. Now, though, I live up in Sunnyslope with some daunting hills. Plus, I’ve got a 3 year old to tote around, with another baby on the way. So I’m not an ideal “bike everywhere” candidate. But many of us are, or could be, if we figured out how to overcome some barriers.
A big barrier of using your bike as a way to get around, rather than just for fun on the Loop Trail, is nervousness about riding on the streets. It’s a valid concern, considering there are these 4,000 pound things called automobiles sharing those streets, and the drivers of those vehicles may or may not be thrilled with sharing the road. Lucky for you, it’s the law, and a bike rider has every right to take up the lane. In reality though, “claim your lane” is a catchy phrase, but I’ve found that it is easier said than done. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a buddy? Someone who was confident riding on the street, who knew how to plan the best routes, and who could answer any questions that you have?
Again, lucky for you! The Regional Bicycle Advisory Committee of the Chelan-Douglas Transportation Council has recently started a Bike Buddy program to do just that. You can sign up online at bikewenatchee.org, and they’ll pair you up with an experienced, helpful cyclist who can help plan a route from your home to your workplace or the grocery store, teach you about bringing your bike on a Link bus, and answer any basic questions about commuting and bike maintenance. Once you’ve had a chance to meet, your buddy will join you on a trip through your route, which can be planned for a weekend when there’s less pressure to get to work on time.
For those of us who aren’t ideal bike commuter candidates for whatever reason, we can still take part by being considerate, patient drivers as we share the road with bikes. You’ve likely seen the yellow “See Bicycles” bumper stickers around. They were created by a local Leavenworth resident who was hit and seriously injured by a vehicle.
It’s important to remember that every person on a bike means less traffic, less air pollution, and less trouble finding a parking spot, because it’s one less car on the road. It might mean slowing down a bit, giving them some room and being extra cautious, especially when there is a bike lane nearby or you’re in a school zone. If you are parallel parked on the street, look closely before opening your door. These extra measures are worth the effort to help others safely enjoy the ability to ride a bike and to help improve the health of our community.