By Alan Sorensen
Anyone want a good reason to widen U.S. Highway 2 to four lanes across Montana?
Try those summertime bicyclers intent on crossing the continent as one reason. I nearly took a couple out Sunday, or rather, they nearly took me out.
I was headed toward Chinook and nearing the first crest of Pork Chop Hill with another vehicle in front of me. I didn't see the first rider until the first vehicle passed and I was nearly on top of him. Instead of veering into the oncoming lane as instinct would have me do, I hit the brakes and waited to clear the crest before passing. A fortunate choice since a Havre-bound motorist crested the hill at just that moment.
The second biker was on the other side of Midway and again I didn't see him until the vehicle in front of me passed him. He was one of three in a row and there just happened to be another westbound outfit headed my way. All three of the bikers in that row were riding on the inside of the white line and necessitated my moving into the other lane. I braked and waited and we all lived.
Bicyclers are just one of the good reasons for widening U.S. 2 to four lanes. I'm not saying, though, that without bikes, U.S. 2 would be safe as it is. In summer, there are the what seem to be thousands of motor home retirees passing through, and in winter, the snow, ice and blizzard conditions just make a dangerous route really dangerous.
Back on bikes, here's another thought that I seem to repeat every year. Bikers are meant to obey the rules of the road and to proceed in the same manner as motorized vehicles. That means bikers should ride with traffic instead of against. They also should ride in the prescribed direction of one-way streets and not against the traffic.
I have, on a few occasions, nearly run down little children and adults who insist on riding their bikes the wrong way on one-way streets. When I come to an intersection with a one-way street, I have a tendency to look in the direction from which traffic is directed to flow. Since nearly running down a few wayward bikers, I have taken to looking both ways, at least on those occasions when I'm cognizant. If I'm daydreaming or slightly tired, wrong-way riders could be in trouble.
I ran into an old classmate recently and I mentioned something in passing about the work some friends at Rocky Boy were doing. The alum, who has lived elsewhere for years, kind of stood back a little, looked up at me and said, "Weren't they drunk?"
I can't imagine this person is a bigot, so that stereotypical observation was kind of surprising to me. I've been wondering ever since, how many otherwise intelligent people live under that same misapprehension?
I've been covering doings at Rocky Boy now for about 11 years and I've only seen one person drunk in all my visits there. This guy, whom I'd shot pool against in Havre many times, wasn't so much drunk as hung over. The irony was that I ran into him during a sobriety walk with about 500 or 600 other sober people. He may not have been there for what some would call the right reason, but he showed a lot of stamina and willpower to cover the entire 3-mile route as miserable as he was just to get that free lunch.
I think maybe I should devote a column or two just to my observations over the past few years of life at Rocky Boy. I have Indian friends on all seven Montana reservations and in several urban settings. But it's Rocky Boy, a sovereign nation where teasing is a compliment and people are quick to share what little they have with anyone who comes to their door, that I know best.