Monthly Archives: December 2009

When is it socially acceptable to threaten the lives of innocent people? When they are riding bicycles

bikelanewithmoss

Savannah has a well-deserved national reputation for being mannerly, a distinction local convention and tourism officials have used in marketing the Hostess City of the South. But it’s important to remember that not everyone in charming old Savannah is courteous, as a glimpse at the reader-supplied content on the Savannah Morning News’ Web site will reveal.

For instance, it appears at least one person in this “wonderfully hospitable and gracious city” feels comfortable boasting about his or her willingness to murder innocent people. From the Vox Populi section of the Savannah Morning News on Dec. 2:

“Please tell all these wannabe Lance Armstrongs to get on the streets with bike paths. One of these days they are going to pull out in front of someone, mainly me, and, ‘adios.’”

Well, at least this person said, “please.” It’s interesting that threatening the lives of cyclists, at least anonymously, is socially acceptable. Socially acceptable enough not only for a person to send this to the Savannah Morning News, but also socially acceptable enough to win the approval of the paper’s editors. Imagine if someone called in these comments:

“I hate it when people cut in front of me in the supermarket checkout line. One of these days I’ll bring my gun to the store and ‘adios.’”

“People who have loud conversations on cell phones annoy me. One of these days I’ll pull out my hunting knife and ‘adios.’”

Would the Savannah Morning News publish these threats? If not, why was the threat to kill “wannabe Lance Armstrongs” treated differently? Was it the intended victims’ mode of transportation or the murder weapon (a car) that made the threat more palatable?

Still, I’m glad the Savannah Morning News chose to publish this comment. It is a reminder that there are those in our community who wish to do cyclists harm. It’s worth noting this comment was published on the same day as this NPR story. It reports the conviction of a driver in Los Angeles, who made good on his threats against some wannabe Lance Armstrongs by assaulting them with a deadly weapon: his car.

As a cyclist, the main threat to my safety comes in the form of inattentive, impatient, impaired or inexperienced drivers. The vast majority of motorists I encounter are friendly and courteous, though increasingly distracted. However, it’s a fact that there are people in this most mannerly city who have used their cars as weapons against cyclists. Others — even if they are simply making idle threats — can easily have them published in the daily newspaper.

Project DeRenne concept provides a vision of corridor’s future

derene presentation

From coverage of last night’s Project DeRenne concept unveiling last night provided by WSAV, WTOC and the Savannah Morning News, you might get the idea that the mood  in room was particularly contentious. I didn’t get that impression. And I was sitting a couple chairs away from a local business owner, who rose during the question and answer session and demanded to know why she felt everything had already been decided. She asked why she was distrustful.

Tough questions. Explaining to a person why they feel a certain way is difficult. Naturally, reporters were lining up to talk with her afterward. Other questions centered on how the project would be funded and if “government money” would be necessary to realize some of the impressive developments depicted in drawings. Another good question.

This kind of skepticism is understandable. When you are looking at one of the most dysfunctional streets in the city, which is edged by some very shabby commercial properties, it’s difficult to imagine a safe, attractive street that’s framed by architecturally distinctive buildings and even parks and monuments. When you have an area that most people want to escape as soon as possible, it takes some imagination to think of it as a destination. Yet getting past what it is to what it could be  is the type of mental exercise that will be necessary to transform DeRenne Avenue from a community liability to a civic amenity. Savannah deserves more great places. DeRenne could be one.

Materials presented at last night’s meeting will become available on the Project DeRenne Web site in the coming days.

Project DeRenne “preferred concept” to be unveiled Dec. 3

DeRennePhotos

On Thursday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. the “preferred concept,” produced by the recent Project DeRenne charettes, will be unveiled in a former auto parts store at 131 W. DeRenne Ave. I’m interested to see what the folks from Kimley-Horne, working with city officials and citizens of all walks of life, have created. In a recent column in the Savannah Morning News, Project DeRenne coordinator Susan Broker explained how fortunate we are that previous ideas for the corridor never became realities:

“Imagine if we had built the first concept proposed to solve DeRenne’s traffic problems. The mid-city gateway into Savannah would now be an elevated expressway, greatly devaluing some of Savannah’s best neighborhoods and closing dozens of existing businesses. The second round of concepts was no better: Expanding lanes of pavement would have consumed the very neighborhoods they were intended to support. Neither of these concepts was deemed acceptable to the communities surrounding DeRenne Avenue.”

The common element between both the plans Broker mentions is that they focus on only one thing: Moving more cars at faster speeds. Cities around the country are currently spending mountains of money to undo the damage done to their communities by similar projects.

Project DeRenne presents an opportunity for our community to look toward the future, instead of repeating others’ past mistakes. It offers an opportunity to ensure that Savannah neighborhoods remain livable for years to come, instead of aiming solely to shave a couple minutes off the commutes of folks who don’t even live here. It provides an opportunity to understand that Project DeRenne has implications beyond traffic, including public health.

For more information, visit the Project DeRenne Web site.