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May Column

It's interesting how writing, and the mood to write, comes in ebbs and flows.  I've actually started, and have about 4 semi-complete posts -- things that I start writing when something hits me, and then something else comes along and I don't finish them.  I feel bad too when I go back to start them again because the creative juices have kind of diminished at that point.   A year ago I was just starting out on my annual long bike trip too -- pulling into Galveston, TX.   Alas, with the special legislative session going now, I can't start out on my trip until probably July at this point.

I just finished my June column for the magazine -- after a terrible bout of writers block.   I've been writing this column every month for the last four years and haven't missed a month.  It's not as easy as you may think -- trying to come up with new and fresh topics to write about and interest the reader month after month.  I have to wonder how professional newspaper columnists do it day after day.  I even posted on Facebook how I was struggling and had a few nice comments and suggestions, but I eventually settled in and ground something out I was happy with.  My editor, Mike Dalgaard, said "this will do."   You'll all get to read that next month.   Meanwhile, here's the one for the current May issue.
MayQThead
I’m in a good mood.  I know my picture on this column makes me look like I’m always pissed and ready to bite someone’s head off, but that’s not always the case.  It’s a beautiful weekend in mid April as I write this.  We’re having very spectacular spring so far, and I’m hoping that turns into a glorious summer of riding.  With the early return to Daylight Savings Time last month, it’s staying light until 8ish, and everything is greening up and growing, and the air smells fresh.  By the time you read this, the Legislature will have ended the regular session – and hopefully not getting ready for a special session.

It was so nice this past weekend I decided to get the old grill out and fire it up and cook me a steak and a baked potato and finish off a bottle of Riesling I’d opened the day before.  Unfortunately I had neither steak nor potato so I had to run to the store.  Now only a biker can turn a quick 2-mile jaunt to the store and make it into a 40 mile, ninety minute ramble, but I did.  I ran into the wife of a riding buddy at the store and told her what I was doing and she said she once sent her husband to the store for some milk one evening and by the time he got back the milk had turned to cottage cheese, so she no longer sent him on errands to the store on nice evenings.

Aside from the weather and getting out on the road, I’m feelin’ fine these days because the legislature actually looks like they will pass some bills that will be a real benefit to riders.  That’s a first.

And while I’d hoped that the bill allowing us to make a turn and proceed through an intersection when the bike doesn’t trigger the traffic light sensor (something I know we all do anyway) would finally make it through and be signed by the Governor, it didn’t make it past the legislative cutoff.  The bill advanced further this year than it has in any other year, which gives me hope for the next session.   Just like the helmet law finally getting a hearing after two decades.

The Legislature did however pass three bills on to the Governor this session that will see a positive impact for us riders.   Perhaps the one most noticeable right away will be the ability for a rider to pass a bicyclist on the left when the bicycle is traveling in one of those ubiquitous and stupid “sharrow” lanes that are growing like moss on rocks in Washington.  Before this it was technically illegal for us to pass a bike rider who was on the road without going into the opposite lane to pass.   And like the traffic light sensor run, its something we’ve all done I know despite the legality.

They also passed a bill requiring the government and developers to take into account and offer incentives to and include motorcycles when making and planning for transportation improvements.   So now employers can choose to offer incentives to riders to take a motorcycle to work (such as reduced parking rates or special parking), and DOT can make special highway lanes and ramps to encourage motorcycle use as an effort to reduce car vehicle miles traveled.   Gee, wouldn’t it be great to see whole areas set aside for bikes at places like the mall or at your work?

And we should also see more motorcycle safety classes offered since the Legislature has given passed a bill giving authority to offer training courses to private entities that charge a full tuition rather than limiting it to those entities who contract with the state for lower cost classes. This way a local Harley-Davidson dealer can offer the same classes with the same results and not rely on a state subsidy.  More classes offered means more people taking them and more educated and safer riders on the roads.

Now don’t be going off and turning when the traffic lights don’t trigger, passing bike riders meandering on Seattle streets, or demanding reduced bike parking just yet.    Assuming the Governor signs these into law (and I expect he will) they won’t go into effect until 90 days after the end of the legislative session, which is July 28th.

But what really makes me happy, aside from Spring, my BBQ and that bottle of Riesling, and the end of a positive legislative session, is that the major rider advocacy groups all worked together this year on all these pieces of legislation, even the ones that failed.   I know that the riding community wouldn’t have gotten these pieces of legislation or gotten the others as far as they did without all of them working together.

My hat is off to all of you in all the groups working to make things better for riders in this state.  And to all of you riders who helped them along when they sent out legislative alerts and asked you to step to the plate.  Amazing what can be done when we all pull together isn’t it?

Gary can be reached at roadsigns@comcast.net and you can read his blog at http://grgardner.livejournal.com or http://www.grgardner.com 

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