A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Cor-Alb bike trail: Here’s why

Written August 16th, 2014 by Hasso Hering
The Oregon State Police provided this photo of the aftermath of a crash in Crook County on Aug. 12. One of the riders was hit from behind.

The Oregon State Police provided this photo of the aftermath of a crash in Crook County on Aug. 12. One of the riders was hit from behind.

When it meets in Ontario later this month, the Oregon Transportation Commission is set to allocate $2 million toward the construction of a bike trail between Corvallis and Albany. Two crashes elsewhere in Oregon, one of which killed a cyclist, illustrate why this is a sound idea.

Both crashes happened on Aug. 12

The scene of a fatal bike crash in Yamhill County (OSP photo).

The scene of a fatal bike crash in Yamhill County (OSP photo).

In Yamhill County, 56-year-old Juan Huapeo Garcia, of Carlton, was riding a bicycle on the paved shoulder of Highway 47 north of McMinnville when he was hit from behind by a 1999 Chevy van whose driver, the state police said, evidently had fallen asleep. This was at 5 p.m., in broad daylight. Garcia was dead on the spot. The police said he was not wearing a helmet, (A helmet may not help much if a van mows you down from behind.)

The same day, a little earlier in the afternoon, Frederick Bouwman, 53, from Canada, was riding his touring bike on the paved shoulder of Highway 126 in Crook County when he was struck from behind by the right front quarter panel and side mirror of a 2003 GMC Sierra pickup. He was wearing a helmet, but he was seriously injured anyhow. An air ambulance took him to the hospital in Bend.

Being hit from behind by fowling traffic — that’s the biggest risk bicyclists face on the highway. Or anyway that’s how it feels when you’re riding along, as far to the right of the fog line on the shoulder as you can, and hear a motor vehicle coming up from the back. Does that driver see me? Is is paying attention? Or is he looking for something in his center console? Or admiring the interesting cloud formation on the horizon?

It’s only 10 miles between the city limits of Corvallis and Albany on Highway 20. In reasonable weather, cyclists could easily make the trip on their bikes, saving gas and keeping pollution down. But only a few do. For the others, the risk seems too great. Which of the roughly 20,000 drivers a day will use that day and that moment to become distracted and veer across the white line on the right? At speeds common on that road, the cyclist likely would not survive being hit from behind.

That’s why bike advocates and local officials, notably Benton County Commissioner Linda Modrell, have advocated for years for a separate bike route paralleling the road.

The transportation commission meets on Aug. 21 and 22. The pending allocation to the Albany-Corvallis trail, under the Connect Oregon V program, would go toward extending the planned route from outside of Corvallis to Scenic Drive near Albany. It doesn’t complete the project, but it’s a big step. (hh)

33 responses to “Cor-Alb bike trail: Here’s why”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Bikers should pay a toll to use a new paved pathway built expressly for cycling. Forcing taxpayers who do not bike to subsidize this project is inherently unfair.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      We can justify a toll for bike lanes as soon as we collect a toll on sidewalks from all those pesky pedestrians. (hh)

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        What’s your point?

        The price of my house included the system development charge for the sidewalks. When the sidewalk needs repair, I’m on the hook for the cost.

        Why shouldn’t bikers be on the hook for their use the same way I am for the sidewalks that border my property?

    • daniel says:

      Should people who don’t drive pay taxes that go to the highway? Should people who don’t have children pay taxes for grade school? Should people who don’t get injured pay taxes for emergency rooms? My answer is that we are all part of society, and that things that benefit the public should be paid for by the public. If we want to incentivize biking (which should lead to reductions in other public costs based on the reduction in air pollution and the health benefits to the riders), then we should make it as affordable as possible. Just wild speculation, but I believe there may some Albany-Corvallis bicyclists are not well able to pay a toll.

    • Taxpayer says:

      Taxpayers who drive between Albany and Corvallis would get the benefit of fewer cars on the road, fewer bikes on the road, more parking spots when the got to their destination, cleaner local air, healthier population, more money staying in their communities rather than sent off to oil companies, etc.

  2. Jim Clausen says:

    I face a lot of the same kinds of problems on this road when I’m on my motorcycle. People turn left in front of you… they pull out from the right because they think there’s an open space behind a car… distracted drivers come across lanes… motorcycles face a bigger possibility of being rear ended when there’s congestion…

    Maybe we should make a seperate road for motorcycles too! I’m sure we can get some activist groups together to head the charge! We can demand special rules! Special laws! We could become the next protected species on the road! We want private roads too! And… it will only cost a gazillion dollars!

    Yup, special access for everyone! That’s the ticket!

  3. John says:

    Thanks for staying with this story.

    Such a trail would be used for years to come by a variety of cyclers, strollers, skaters, joggers, and pedestrians. It might encourage more exercise among the local population, get a few cars off the road, lessen the risk to both cars and non-car users of hwy 20. It is also a potential tourist attraction as well as enhance retail/living opportunities on both ends of the path.

  4. Peggy Richner says:

    Let’s see now, 20,000 automobile drivers per day on Hwy. 20 between Albany and Corvallis vs. how many bicycles? Maybe 100 to be generous. Are these 100 commuting to work, or simply out joyriding? Do you seriously advocate those 20,000 be taxed to pay for the bicycle lanes which are used so little and for six months of the year virtually not at all. I know how much you enjoy riding your bicycle around town and that’s lovely, but your normally good sense has taken leave of you in this case.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Well, motorists would not be taxed or paying any more than they already are. And as for bicyclists, they would get a return for all the taxes they pay for public for services they use little or not at all. In general, though, it’s a mistake to demand that every public service be charged only against the direct users. We don’t charge fire or crime victims for the work done by the fire or police departments. Separate bike routes serve the general public interest — by making roads safer for all, among other things — and thus have as much claim on public resources as any other public service. (hh)

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        When the use of a publicly provided service or good is optional (like a bike path), then user charge financing should be implemented.

        When the use of a publicly provided service or good is mandated by law, or created as a public monopoly (like police), then financing them with tax funds is appropriate.

  5. Shawn Dawson says:

    I am very much in agreement with you HH. I expect there are few 10 mile routes travelled in Oregon that could be of so much potential use by bicyclists. Two cities, very much intertwined with housing and work, a level ride, short enough to be feasible for daily commute, long enough to work in daily exercise. A bike path off the road would be a great use of transportation dollars.

  6. Hasso Hering says:

    Dan Campbell commented on Facebook: “I live in North Albany and work near Good Sam hospital in Corvallis. I hate riding that stretch between Cor-Alb. Some of the shoulder isn’t so bad, but there are spots that get me downright nervous. If they ever finish that multi-use path, I would be a consistent bike commuter, in any and all weather.”

  7. Greg Storms says:

    I’ve been driving Highway 20 between Corvallis and Albany on an almost daily basis for 30 years (I live in Corvallis and my business is in Albany). I, for one, would be devastated if my attention wandered and I struck and killed a bicycle rider. Is preventing this from happening by segregating motor vehicle and bicycle traffic worth it? Let your legislators know how you think!

  8. Richard Vannice says:

    A bike path as described would put bicyclists in a much safer position and would also place those riders who seem to think the white line is for bicyclists and for those who ride two and three abreast where there are bike lanes. Come on you cyclists – use some good judgement in how you use the roads – don’t put all the blame on motorists for what happens

  9. Bill Kapaun says:

    Using some of the logic presented, why should my taxes pay for parks, cemeteries etc. that I don’t use.
    Let’s face it. NOBODY is going to be pleased all the time.

  10. Hasso Hering says:

    Thanks for all the comments on this subject. Today, the state police reported another cyclist — the last in a group of five riding along the fog line on a road in Southern Oregon — was hit from behind by a vehicle. She was injured but will survive. The driver said he could not go around her because of oncoming traffic. I wonder if anyone asked him why he didn’t just slow down until he could pass. (hh)

  11. Roger says:

    The source of funding for this project is Connect Oregon…lV…I think. Which in short comes from lottery proceeds. The only taxpayers who are paying for this project are doing so voluntarily. I’d like to add a couple of other points. First, the million dollars a mile for this bike path should be sticker shock for everyone. Following the same rules and process, it is no wonder that the price of doing roadwork has gone completely bonkers and is a primary reason we have no chance of keeping up with the demand. Second, separating bikes and automobiles is a smart idea where practical and despite this investment there will still be cyclists riding hwy 20 as they view it as some type of cyclists civil right. The law as it stands today supports that position. At the very least, the legislature should discuss giving ODOT the ability to remove cyclists from the roadway when a practical alternative exists.

  12. D Simpson says:

    Mr. August, I agree with the idea of persuading bicyclists to use alternative routes when they are available. A fine seems like a reasonable persuasion. It is very aggravating to encounter bicyclists riding side by side on narrow shoulders, with one of them on or over the white line. It is as unsafe as it is arrogant.

    For the record, I am in favor of this path. I think it will be a great asset to both cities, and I would probably even break down and buy a bike to use it if it comes to fruition.

  13. D Simpson says:

    Well, that is embarrassing. My previous comment should be addressed to Roger, not Mr. August. Either that, or everyone submitting comments to this post happens to be named August. Small world!

  14. Dave Ferris says:

    Thanks for the update on this project. I share the “sticker shock” concern mentioned by Roger, which applies to just about every public project these days. That aside, this will be a wonderful “public good” project and I believe that the use the path will be far more popular than detractors project.

  15. daniel says:

    This would be a great investment, not just for the safety of cyclists, but for the reduction in public expenditures every time a cyclist gets hit. If humans lives aren’t your thing, think of the money saved by reducing accidents which incur police, ambulance, hospital, and judicial costs!

  16. Jerry Rooney says:

    No doubt: If you build it, they will come. There are drivers who would gladly switch to bicycles if they knew they could cycle those few miles between Corvallis and Albany on a path dedicated to cycling and walking.

  17. Hasso Hering says:

    Becky Brenton commented via Facebook: “Some complain that cyclists should be taxed for a bike path from Corvallis to Albany. But since funding is from the Oregon Lottery, taxpayers won’t notice anything different if this path is built. So many people can’t wait to ride this stretch of road safely!”

  18. Alex R says:

    This would be a wonderful development for both Corvallis & Albany, I fully support it.

  19. Hasso Hering says:

    Peggy Richner had trouble with the reply feature, so sent this by email: “Bike paths may be a romantic notion, but are simply not cost-effective. Most public projects, though perhaps well-intentioned, are far from cost-effective. Authentic demand doesn’t require public funding. People promoting public expenditures for their pet projects usually are the main beneficiaries. Also, it matters little if the money comes from lottery proceeds or elsewhere. Money is fungible.”

  20. Hasso Hering says:

    Lottery money is not as fungible as Peggy Richner thinks. In this case it is dedicated by law to pay down bonds the proceeds of which must be used for specified purposes. (hh)

  21. Ben L. says:

    I understand the project money is coming from lottery sales, so its somewhat of a moot point, but I’d like to chime in that as an avid cyclist, I still pay a respectable share of property and income taxes. I also have to drive quite a bit for my job which translates into registration and gas taxes. I think its somewhat disingenuous to assume drivers and cyclists are two different groups of users and that cyclists are somehow “getting a free ride” on the backs of the auto owners. Often, the two seemingly different user groups are comprised of the same set of tax payers.

  22. Stephanie says:

    I am another Albany – Corvallis frequent commuter that would absolutely switch over to bike commuting if I could do it without fear of being hit from behind on my bike at 55mph. And if it would help to win over the whiners, I would pay a fee for use of the path.


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