Thousands of bicyclists and vehicles took turns sharing the Lewis and Clark Bridge on Sunday — capping a busy weekend of cross-river traffic without many hiccups.
About 10,000 cyclists pedaled through town as part of the 32nd annual Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic. Cars backed up along Industrial Way as waves of 100 bikes were ushered onto the bridge every few minutes.
"It’s been pretty darn good today," bridge captain Ron Gehring said Sunday. "People are pretty well behaved."
Gehring, a volunteer with the Gold Wing Touring Association, was in charge of making sure traffic moved along as quickly as possible on the bridge and the bikers were safe. Other volunteers from the association rode behind groups of cyclists on motorcycles to make sure everyone made it across.
Dennis Dicken, 70, Auburn, Wash., volunteered with his wife Jeanie to ride behind the cyclists.
"Anybody we see stopped we just check them out to make sure they’re OK," he said. "One we get them over the bridge, they’re on their own."
While things are going smoothly, Jeanie said some problems do crop up. She said nails left on the road had gotten stuck in some tires in the Kelso/Longview portion of the route.
The bridge can be daunting because of the backed-up traffic, said race participant Brad Carnine, 30, Seattle.
"It’s a little ominous because of the other riders and the buildup," Carnine said.
Beyond Cowlitz County, one rider was in critical condition after being run over by a flatbed truck in Chehalis (see related link), and The Oregonian is reporting someone spread tacks on a stretch of Highway 30 near Scappoose, Ore.
Carnine was pedaling through Longview on Sunday with four other people in his group — this is his second STP — and said things had been going smoothly on the course.
"Most of the drivers seem courteous," he said.
In years past, local tempers have flared over the race. Three cyclists were injured in a hit and run accident on Highway 30 during the 2007 race. Pro and con letters to the editor and online comments about the STP in The Daily News flew back and forth. Drivers stated their frustration with the long wait times and the difficulties in sharing the road with bicyclists riding four or five abreast. In response, STP organizers implemented safety measures in 2008 like encouraging single file riding and increase traffic control at key intersections.
This year, race participants highlighted the opportunity to support local charities and organizations. Carnine said his group camped out at Castle Rock High School, which was renting gym floor space and providing dinner and breakfast to bikers as a fundraiser for their booster club. The race acts as a fundraiser for the Seattle-based Cascade Bicycle Club — the event’s organizers — as well as numerous other groups on the way to Portland.
Erik Nielsen, 46, Kirkland, was enjoying his first time on the 204 mile course Sunday, describing the race as a fantastic ride. His three person group tackled the whole event with little training or experience.
Tara Jensen, Lynwood, was riding with Nielsen and while she lamented some of the lack of preparation, she was determined to finish.
"There’s more hills then they tell you," she said of the course. "I’ll do it, it’s all mental."