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Bicycle Transportation Coalition peddles its no-nonsense advice each week to help local riders
by: Jonathan House, Hal Ballard, chairman of the Washington County Bicycle Transportation Coalition, inspects the brake calipers on the front of a bike Saturday at the Cedar Mill Farmers Market. Ballard talks with the owner as he reviews the bike using a component diagram and checklist to cover all aspects of the free inspection.

Ryann Drougas marched over to the Washington County Bicycle Transportation Coalition's booth Saturday afternoon sporting a pink nose and whiskers.

The precocious Findley Elementary School second-grader didn't waste any time stating her business.

'My helmet - my mom doesn't know how tight it has to be,' said Ryann, who is 'almost 7' and missing five front teeth in her smile.

Taking his cue, Hal Ballard grabbed a child-friendly pamphlet and went over step-by-step instructions with the young girl on how to properly fit her pink Disney princess helmet.

After a brief demonstration, Ballard gave Ryann the pamphlet to take home to share with her mother. Ryann will be ready the next time she takes her blue 'two-wheeler' out for a spin.

'I'm totally impressed,' said Ballard as Ryann marched off.

Ryann was one of several bicycle enthusiasts to stop by the bicycle coalition's booth at the Cedar Mill Farmers Market.

For the past two years, the nonprofit has set up shop at the popular market to provide free bicycle safety inspections, helmet fittings and information, including an outline of the League of American Bicyclists' 'ABC Quick Check' and trail maps.

'Having this booth lets people know we're here and what services we provide,' said Ballard, chairman of the coalition.

Road work

The group's mission is to promote bicycle transportation, protect bicyclists' rights and improve cycling conditions throughout Washington County through education and citizen involvement.

In addition to its Saturday booth at the market, the coalition also leads bicycle education classes for cyclists 14 and older and serves on road project advisory committees.

The group also meets quarterly with Gregg Leion, a senior planner with Washington County, to discuss transportation issues and bicycle safety concerns along area roadways.

Kathy Lehtola, director of Washington County's Department of Land Use and Transportation, said the coalition provides a valuable service to the community.

'We like to get input about existing safety and striping problems their members encounter,' Lehtola said.

She also praised the group's efforts to educate cyclists about rules of the road, the importance of wearing bicycle helmets and instructions on how to perform bicycle handling skills that will help cyclists avoid collisions with other motorists.

'Education efforts are always needed,' Lehtola said. 'Education is such an important key because there are so many laws, rules and regulations. We can never have too many people trying to educate others.'

The coalition hopes to boost its community involvement in the future by opening a westside bicycle transportation center.

Ballard said the group was working with the city of Beaverton to open a community cycling center in the Beaverton Resource Center.

Because the Beaverton Resource Center is also the home of the Beaverton Police Activities League, the bike center would also be able to connect with teens 14 and older.

'That's a critical time to teach kids that they do have an option,' Ballard said. 'We realize they are going to get a car, but we don't want them to abandon their bicycle.'

The center would also be another venue for the group to perform bike safety inspections and fit young riders with helmets.

'Just a little bit of inattention can snare you and put you on the ground before you know it,' Ballard said. 'Wearing a helmet doesn't guarantee your safety, but it can protect you should something happen.'

Ballard's had a couple close calls of his own.

'I have to tell you, my helmet was trashed, but my head wasn't,' he said.

A big help

At Saturday's market, Ballard had several visitors at the booth. Nathan MacIntyre, 10, purchased a flashy new bike helmet for $10 and also received a Medical Carrier Information System emblem to place inside and outside his helmet.

The small emblem will let emergency service personnel know that inside his helmet is information to identify him, emergency contacts and any treatment or allergy information necessary in the event he is in an accident.

Shoulin Ma, a Cedar Mill resident, stopped by the booth with his 16-year-old son's Magna 21-speed.

'It needs some shop time,' Ballard informed him. 'You need to have them install a different brake cable and get a tune-up.'

Ballard inspected the bike and filled out a list of recommended repairs for Ma to take to a local bike shop.

Ma said having Ballard look it over gave him peace of mind.

'Thank you very much, you've been a big help,' Ma said.