LIHUE — A traffic jam is usually a source of frustration. But for Chet Myers, it brought a smile to his face on Friday morning.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a traffic jam in the bike lane,” he said.
Myers was part of a crowd of cyclists who came out for Bike to Work Day. He joined a group of about 20 riders who pedaled from Puhi Park and wound their way for four miles through the streets to the Lihue Civic Center. Another group of about 25 riders covered 10 miles in their ride from the Kapaa Neighborhood Center to the civic center, via the emergency bypass route.
The goal was a simple one: Raise awareness of safe bicycling, and also the fact that all users, most notably vehicle drivers, need to share the road.
It went exactly as hoped, said Tommy Noyes of Kauai Path. It started and ended with those on two wheels and those on four getting along just fine. No close calls, no crashes, no cursing.
“Splendidly,” he said. “All of the motorists were so courteous. The riders enjoyed themselves, the weather was gorgeous, we had a wonderful time.”
Blue skies greeted cyclists as they gathered for preride instructions.
Padraic Gallagher, Red Cross Kauai director and an experienced cyclist, led the Puhi group. He told the crowd to follow a few basic rules: Make yourself known, keep a safe distance between riders, give hand signals to clearly indicate when you plan to turn, and make eye contact with drivers.
“You want to make yourself obvious,” he said.
Cyclists and motorists smoothly shared the roads, each looking out for the other. At one intersection, a driver offered a friendly wave. At another, a driver stopped so the cyclists could take a left turn.
Myers, who commutes about a mile between home and work in Lihue, was pleased to see so many participate in Bike to Work Day. He knows firsthand the benefits of pedal power.
“It’s faster than driving and you don’t have to hunt for parking,” he said.
He would love to see more travel on two wheels. In cities like Portland and Seattle, cyclists are out despite often facing cold and rainy conditions.
“It’s kind of crazy the good weather we have, there’s not too many excuses not to ride,” he said.
Bev Brody, director of Get Fit Kauai, ride sponsor, said a recent survey showed more people are leaving their cars behind.
“When people say not many people bike or walk in Lihue, they actually do,” Brody said.
A count in Lihue on April 28 tallied 1,077 pedestrians and cyclists. The count was done from several locations for several hours each in the morning, afternoon and evening.
Despite being a rainy day, it was only one less than a similar survey last year.
“There really is a thirst for this type of activity in our community,” Brody said. “The more bike paths we build, the more safe routes to work, to school, to the park, we create, the more people will participate in this healthy activity.”
Brian Teeter of California completed the ride from Kapaa to Lihue.
“It was a blast,” he said.
Teeter, author of “300 Healthy Travel Tips,” is on Kauai doing research for a new guidebook. The avid cyclist said he’s “spoiled” in Southern California with an expansive system of biking trails, paths and right-of-ways.
Kauai cyclists, in contrast, have limited options and often must ride on the highway shoulder near speeding traffic, which can be dangerous.
Teeter said he was impressed with the county’s initiative regarding Ke Ala hele Makalae bike and pedestrian path in Kapaa, and liked the long-term vision to extend the path.
“Not only does that separate pedestrians and cyclists from main arterials, but it gets them close to the ocean, closer to nature,” he said. “It’s wonderful.”