Every so often, I remember that sometimes it’s scary to be on a bike contending with speedy, seemingly ambivalent motorized traffic. Yesterday, a somewhat harrowing ride home, the last leg of a three-day journey back from Smith Rock, was one of those days.
Highway 224 is a lovely, sparsely populated road that takes you into (or, in my case, out of) the Mt Hood National Forest. It’s windy, hilly, and beautiful, following the Clackamas River for what seems like forever before hitting the city of Estacada. And usually, Estacada is where I turn off the highway in favor of little farm-laden, back country roads that roughly parallel 224 but with more hills and less traffic. Yesterday, though, I decided to see what would happen if I didn’t turn off, if I instead followed 224 to see what it had in store.
Initially, it was awesome: wide bike lane, nicely paved. I was feeling cocky and full of myself, churning out the miles at a pretty good clip, sprightly legs that day even after 50, 60 miles with my trailer. But then, and I’m not sure where it happened, exactly, but somewhere after a turnoff for Boring, OR, the bike lane disappeared. And the flat road got hillier. And the traffic, which had only been building since Estacada, just kept on getting busier.
A two-lane highway like 224 doesn’t leave much room for a car and a bicycle to inhabit the same space–especially when there’s near-constant oncoming traffic and plenty of blind curves, making a swerve into the oncoming lane difficult and dangerous. However, when there are both cars and a trailer-carrying bicycle on the road, something has to give. Which leads me to my thank you:
Thank you, thank you to the drivers who slowed down, moved over, and waited until it was safe to pass me. It was only a minute or so of your time, and it made an increasingly uncomfortable biker–and trust me, I’m not squeamish about these things–feel much safer. (And trust me on this too: if I’d known the road was going to be like that, I wouldn’t have been there, either.) Thank you to the drivers who gave me a wave as they passed, instead of an angry blast of the horn. And especially, the biggest thank you of all, thank you to the trucks who gave me lots of room. Trucks are fricken scary, especially when you could reach out and touch them as they zoom by at 55, then pull you into the road with their backdraft. Thank you, truckers who gave me some space.
When I do most of my biking in Portland, on bike boulevards or at least on streets where people are used to cyclists, I forget that scary roads exist. And I forget the even on roads that seem safe to me, people are still often afraid of the cars that swirl around them, much faster and harder than they are on their squishable bicycles. Thank goodness for all the drivers like those to whom I extend this thank you, all the folks who helped take care of me (and, I’m assuming, others) by passing carefully. I’m glad to know people like that are out there.