Do bicyclists take up more than their share of local roads?

That was a discussion at a recent Haines Borough Planning Commission meeting, where commissioner and former DOT maintenance crew chief Pete Lapham voiced concerns about adult bike riders straddling the fog line.

Lapham asked borough manager Mark Earnest, leader of Haines Bikes, to tell riders they’re not supposed to be riding on the white line.

“I’m not saying everybody does it, but it only takes a few of them when you’re driving down the road. They’re concentrating on what they’re doing – trying to stay on that stripe – and they’re expecting motorized vehicles to go across that non-passing lane… Kids don’t do that. Kids stay over in that six-foot (shoulder) where they’re supposed to (be),” Lapham said.

“Even if you give them a little bump on the horn, even if they just pull over, some of them, that’s where they’re going to ride and you need to move around them,” Lapham said. “Nobody wants to hit somebody. Nobody wants to hurt somebody. But it is a courtesy thing that works both ways.”

Earnest said “there are some absolute problems” with the maintenance of shoulders for bike riders. “My tires, I put 160 psi (pressure) in them. They’re three quarters of an inch thick. If I hit gravel, I can fall. That’s not a good thing to do, especially if you have vehicles within 18 inches on the narrow shoulders and guardrails forcing you out into traffic.”

“Then there’s (drivers) that don’t pull over, who don’t move, who don’t accommodate somebody who’s stuck in there. To kill someone would really ruin somebody’s day. We need to make sure everybody is being safe and correct in their operations and accommodating each other,” Earnest said.

Earnest said he was pleased to see the new commissioner of the state Department of Transportation send out a memo to all maintenance (departments) in Alaska directing them to sweep the shoulders because their condition is pushing cyclists into the roadway.

“You can’t ride on the shoulders if there’s gravel on them and it accumulates there because the cars are knocking gravel off it,” Earnest said.

Earnest said teaching bike safety is a primary focus of the new group. “That was the first thing that came out of our first meeting of the bicycle group was education for the cyclists. I was really surprised. I was glad to hear that.”

Longtime road bicyclist Chip Lende said he rides inside the white line. He said there is always debris on shoulders. Lende said he makes his rides in the early morning to avoid traffic. At that time of day, most motorists are commuters that he knows or recognizes or who recognize him.

Wife Heather Lende said there are a few drivers who seem to want to make a point by passing bicyclists by only a few inches. “It’s like they do it on purpose, or they’re completely oblivious or they’re drunk and trying to stay in their lane.”

Lende said when she cycles she stays inside the white line when cars aren’t around, and scoots to the side when she hears them. An avid road rider, Lende was nearly paralyzed after a pickup ran her over about five years ago. The truck had been stopped at a stop sign and Lende had the right of way.

Haines is a “crazy world” where vehicles seem to have the right of way, or they take it, Lende said. “A bicycle has the right of way over a vehicle, but take it from me, you don’t want to test that.”

Chip Lende said bicyclists riding without helmets is as big a safety issue as sharing the road with cars.