Lifestyle

Poulsbo drivers friendly, roads and bike lanes so-so

POULSBO —  Poulsbo’s road riding report cards are in. The drivers: friendly. The roads and bike lanes: slightly hostile.

To get a pulse on the city’s bike maneuverability this roadie hit the streets Tuesday afternoon/evening during peak commuting crawl time.

I made two overarching observations: There are only bike lanes on the main roads. Everything else is rider beware, as there’s not really even shoulders to take haven.

Secondly, drivers do an excellent job of creating room on the unforgiving, non-shouldered routes. However, I question if Poulsbo commuters are familiar with bikers by the number of mouth-slightly-open, quizzical stares I received.

Before I launch into my trip ’round the Viking City I’ll introduce myself.

While I may be an unconventional roadie (I ride an early 90’s Proflex mountain bike with skateboard wheels for shocks) I’m a traditionalist when it comes to following the rules of the road.

I stop for all red lights, I follow the flow of traffic and ride in the outside lane, I use hand signals, I don’t ride on sidewalks, I bring and drink water and I wear a helmet.

I told a white lie. I don’t always follow rules. I jam to my favorite tunes while pumping the pedals, but this time I rode sans headphones, per my editor’s request.

THE ROUTE

In 1 hour, 45 minutes I traversed Olhava to Hwy 305 to Central Market, down 10th Avenue to Lincoln, back to 305 and up Hostmark to the North Kitsap Community Pool, cutover on Caldart to Lincoln to 305, then Hostmark through downtown on Front Street, to Lindvog to Viking, turned south on Viking then back to Finn Hill and up and over to Olhava.

4:17 p.m.: I cruised down Olhava, and was pleasantly surprised to find official bike lanes; white biker symbol and all.

A slight subject matter detour. Bike lanes, no matter what city, tend to be the gutter of the roadways, as they collect a plethora of pebbles, gravel, twigs and glass shards.

Poulsbo is no exception.

I enjoy building the speed in the Olhava lanes, but as I make the slight descent to Hwy 305 the lane was apparently abducted by aliens and disappears with little warning.

Before turning east on Hwy 305 I cross paths with five Oregonian bikers on a cross-country ride to Washington D.C. They’re making a documentary. It’s always nice to give a shout out to fellow riders.

Roadies, like motorcyclists, share a connection and a head nod or sideways peace symbol is exchanged in greeting.

I love the bike lanes on 305. They’re huge. However, with the summer’s never-ceasing construction projects, the lanes have been invaded by orange barrels and cones. I have two options: ride inside the cones on a strip of asphalt inundated with pea-sized construction debris or ride outside the barrels flesh-up against the much larger than I four-wheeled vehicles.

I chose to ride inside.

The drivers are well behaved, except for the not-so-uncommon lackadaisical daydreamers who tend to get a little too close for comfort. However, said drivers are found everywhere.

But the slightest glimmer of peril is so worth it. While the cars gridlock and pile up like tipped over dominoes in the sweltering heat, I am not only saving gas and the environment and exercising, but get to cruise to the front of the line and feel the breeze on my skin.

I’m going to pause for a moment to gloat.

Smugness sidelined, I turn onto 10th in front of Central Market. All’s good, despite no bike lanes, as the drivers gave me ample riding room.

Lincoln ... ahhh, the bike lanes are back.

The journey from Lincoln along 305 and up Hostmark is smooth. Unfortunately, once I reach the high school the paved bike lane transfers, not so smoothly, into a gravel trail/runoff path. Maneuverability was no problem for me (remember the mountain bike) but other roadies may be a little less than pleased.

But in the city’s defense, bike lanes or not, no one should ride up Hostmark.

Cutting over on Caldart to Lincoln was great even without bike lanes. I do pause for a moment to admire Poulsbo’s stellar sidewalks...how tempting.

Riding down Lincoln’s bike lanes is a marvelous rush of speed, and I’m ready for a true challenge.

Traversing 305 (except for the realization I’m riding flesh exposed next to the four-wheeled inventions responsible for 741 fatalities in 2007, according to the Washington County Traffic Safety Commission’s Dec. 5, 2007 meeting minutes) the back roads and residential byways are easy. I’m starting to feel a little cocky, but thats probably because I consistently zoom to the front of the traffic line.

I’m gloating again.

Next I tackle Hostmark, Front street, Lindvog and attempt a left turn onto Viking.

On this stretch the bike lanes become an endangered species. Correction, an extinct species. There are none.

Missing bike lanes, and narrow traffic-clogged roads lined with parallel parked cars makes for an ... adventure. The cars have no choice but to drive behind me at my pace or make a quick swerve around when possible.

Subject matter detour again. A lot of drivers heading south on Front street don’t actually stop at the four-way intersection with Jensen. They roll.

As I head out of downtown a bike lane appears, for about 50 meters and then it’s tough britches again all the way to Viking.

I now enter the most dreaded part of my ride, attempting a left turn onto to Viking from Lindvog, as I have to maneuver three lanes of moving parking lot.

Actually, I cheat and avoid the turn. Instead, in all my smugness I cruise to the front of the line and turn right on to Viking, flip a 180 into the Red Apple parking lot and head south on Viking.

It’s good to be back because Viking actually has bike lanes, as does Finn Hill.

In conclusion, drivers: Keep up the good work and honestly, Poulsbo could use a lot more bike lanes.

And bikers: If the city does provide a bike lane, get off the sidewalks and use them. Of the nine bikers I saw, excluding me and the documentary riders, three rode on the sidewalks.

Regardless the road conditions, riding a bike through town allows for some interesting, puzzling and beautiful observations. Interesting: Why is it drivers who play rap or something similarly abrasive blast it at decibels loud enough for my 85-year-old grandma to hear? Puzzling: I spied a jogger beating the streets in sweats and a sweatshirt. Definitely more crazy than riding up Hostmark. Beautiful: All over town there are peek-a-boo views of the water and Olympics. Major bonus.

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