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.