For cyclists, the prospect of additional infrastructure brings subtle suggestions

bicycle infrastructure

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.

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About John Bennett

Transportation, land use, local farming and green building are all potential topics for Sustainable Savannah. The goal is to aggregate content about local events and projects, so there will be a central place to review everything that’s happening. The site is aimed at encouraging collaboration and information sharing between groups and individuals currently engaged in sustainability efforts. The site can also provide a snapshot of Savannah for green-minded people who are considering visiting or moving to the area.

4 thoughts on “For cyclists, the prospect of additional infrastructure brings subtle suggestions

  1. Stuart

    And you never see drivers wearing their motoring helmets even though 10,000 Americans die of head injuries in car crashes every year. I fret about this largest cohort of fatal head injuries needlessly endangering themselves.

  2. Arte Rahn

    John Bennett brings up some very good points. Mayhem on our highways happens daily and very seldom does anyone stop to consider how much danger our car-centric culture simply accepts as a given. Driving a motor vehicle seems to be viewed by a great many drivers as some god given right and not as a privilege that requires each of us to be responsibile for the safety of ourselves and those around them. Maybe that’s why officials don’t talk about safety when dedicating motor vehicle facilities. They simply know most drivers never see themselves as a problem. Why bum people out when you’re discussing what you consider a transportation “improvement”. Never mind all the mayhem.

  3. a georgia cyclist

    Motorists:
    “We’ll only support cycling infrastructure when all cyclists obey ALL the rules (real and imagined) that we can think of.”

    Was there ever a similiar requirement for automobile infrastructure?

  4. MikeB

    There’s an article on the bicyclist who was hit in Bryan County.
    http://savannahnow.com/bryan-county-now/2010-04-26/bicyclist-struck-truck-south-bryan-county

    One of the commenters says:
    “You can’t expect a driver of a vehicle to be at fault when he is travelling straight and an obstacle (person, vehicle or in this case bicyclist) impedes his travel.”

    That sums up the attitude of most drivers. Although, the commenter is generous, many drivers seem to feel the same way about turning right or left into me while I’m on my bike.

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