Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Salmon and Stroads

Wrong-way cyclists (aka salmon) crossing through busy lanes on Market Street in Salem during rush hour

You’ve probably noticed all the “salmon” out and about lately. That’s the nickname for people on bikes who insist on riding the wrong direction in some of our busiest traffic.  Salmon will ride day or night, in the bike lane or shoulder, on and off the sidewalk, darting through oncoming traffic and busy parking lots. They defy everybody else to figure out how to react in time to not hit them. Scary.

Where are you most likely to find salmon? Stroads, of course!  (If you need a refresher on what a stroad is exactly, look here and here.) You hardly ever will see salmon riders behave the same way on downtown streets or on roads. For various reasons, cyclists flow with traffic far more consistently on these thoroughfares. Stroads are unique in this regard.

There seems to be something about a stroad that deceives the rider’s brain: “trust me, it’s better to ride in the opposite direction of everybody else.” What is beyond comprehension is how a cyclist could ever come to the conclusion: “yes, riding against traffic IS my best choice here!  Thank you, stroad!”

Hmmm. Maybe part of the problem is stroads...consider Lancaster Drive, hands down Salem’s stroadiest stroad. Well-stocked with salmon riders, day and night. Come to think of it, Lancaster just recently went through a major reconstruction at Market Street, increasing the number of turn lanes and putting this stroad on steroids. 

You know, that’s when more salmon riders appeared. Maybe twice as many. Along a two-mile stretch of Lancaster I’ve counted as many as six wrong-way cyclists at once. I shudder to think of how many near-misses just those six riders had with cars, and then how many more there probably are every day. And dang it, these are totally avoidable!

The answer...more enforcement? Education? Yes and yes, but resources as they are, it’s unlikely that either would become a priority unless there’s some public pressure. And, these are temporary fixes at best. What will really solve the salmon problem, in my opinion, is eliminating stroads.  

Is that even possible?

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Indeed! Enforcement and Education can help some here, but as you say the fundamental problem is Engineering. Lancaster is so wretched, so uncomfortable, and so auto-centric (but of course it leads also in car crashes, so it's not like the auto-centrism actually makes it safe) that we shouldn't be surprised that people fall back to the "walk against traffic so you can see it" notion. Salmoning isn't always an individual's problem (one of ignorance or disregard) but a system problem.

Thanks for the picture and discussion!