Healthy Savannah is sponsoring a community forum on April 29 at 6 p.m. at the Savannah Civic Center. The forum takes an important, but not often examined (at least locally) angle on community health. Instead of focusing entirely on personal nutrition and exercise, the forum will examine the health impacts of infrastructure — specifically related to transportation — along with physical activity, nutrition and smoking.
A press release describes the goal of the forum “is to help people understand what factors have the greatest impact on our health in Savannah. Keynote speaker Dr. Evelyn Lewis will provide an opportunity for citizens to learn about how their health is affected by factors like public policy and the environment in which we live. Participants will also engage in active dialogue around actions we can take to improve our health individually and within the communities where we live.”
Healthy Savannah — coalition of businesses, nonprofits, healthcare agencies, governments, schools and neighborhoods — is an initiative of City of Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson formed in 2007. It is a public/private collaboration of over 65 community organizations and growing. The community forum is sponsored by the Junior League of Savannah, The 100 Black Men of Savannah, The City of Savannah, St. Joseph’s/Candler Health System, Memorial Medical Center, GeoVista Credit Union, Savannah State University and the A Phillip Randolph Institute.
Thee vent is free and open to the public. For more information, visit the Healthy Savannah Web site or call Kimberly Pannell at (912) 658-8769.
The students at Islands Elementary School are holding a Recycled Art Festival, which will include an art exhibit, performances by a recycled band, a recycled pre-K marching band and a chorus, and a fashion show. Doors open for the exhibit at 5:30 and the fashion show begins at 6 p.m. The concert starts at 6:30 p.m. The school is located at 4595 US Highway 80 East on Wilmington Island.
I attended two public meetings yesterday and heard two expressions of concerns about the safety of Savannah’s cyclists. One was from an elected official, the other from a citizen. Each called for education and awareness programs aimed at reducing unsafe practices.
The elected official worried about wrong-way cyclists and those who operate their vehicles at night without lights. I worry about this, too. The citizen fretted over the threat posed to pedestrians by cyclists riding on sidewalks. I fret about this, as well. Both concerns are completely valid and I agree we need education and outreach to cyclists, who needlessly endanger themselves and others. I am pleased to report that both individuals were supportive of cycling and I’m certain both were truly sincere in their concern for the health and safety of cyclists. I’m grateful for their comments and I support their ideas.
Still, I couldn’t help notice the context within which the comments were made. Both were offered within larger discussions of new facilities for bicyclists. Are similar suggestions about combating unsafe driving ever prompted by discussions of new roadways? I can’t remember a single instance. All sorts of elected officials had all sorts of things to say at the groundbreaking for the fifth phase of the Truman Parkway last month, but did any mention the need to educate motorists about speeding or aggressive driving? Car crashes, too often resulting in fatalities, are a regular occurrences on the existing portions of the limited access freeway. Wouldn’t a groundbreaking ceremony present an excellent opportunity to warn about the dangers of distracted or impaired driving and call for new programs to better educate motorists who use the Truman Parkway?
Again, I appreciate any concern expressed for the most vulnerable road users, but I’m curious about the requisite safety discussions that accompany our conversations about bicycling. Is there a subtle expectation that as cyclists we must earn, through good behavior, any new infrastructure made available to us, no matter how small? Is this expectation self-imposed? I must admit, I’ve caught myself thinking (and sometimes saying) things along these lines. Meanwhile, as motorists we are invited to enjoy colossal new facilities ($67.5 million in the case of Truman Parkway Phase Five), without being asked to consider how to ensure their safe and responsible use.
The streets are filled with happy bicyclists, unconcerned about the threat of aggressive or districted drivers. Handlebar bells ring cheerfully as hundreds of people move through a city, unique in its beauty because it was designed long before the needs of cars came to dominate the built environment. People of all ages are present, enjoying the freedom and fun of traveling under their own power and at their own pace.
A utopian fantasy? Not on Saturday, April 17 at 4 p.m.
It’s difficult to describe how special the Savannah Bicycle Campaign’s Earth Day Wheelie bicycle ride has become. Not only is it the first event organized by the group after its founding in 2008, the Earth Day Wheelie truly has become a part of the local culture for the reasons described above.
If only for a one afternoon, it provides a glimpse of what our community could be like if more people felt more comfortable getting on their bikes and riding for recreation. And as studies have shown, recreational cycling is a gateway drug to transportational cycling and a mindset that looks for opportunities to ditch the car and go by bike. Sometimes this shift in thinking starts with just one bike ride, in the company of a couple hundred other people pedaling along for moral support.
The ride will depart from the south end of Forsyth Park. There is no charge to participate. Helmets are strongly encouraged.