Monday, August 11, 2008

More bicylists on the road -- good news?

Guest Editorial

I'm not sure how broad the readership is on this blog, but hey, if I'm preaching to the choir so be it. I've been wanting to get some discussion going and this blog seems like a good forum for it. Ok, so ....

Anecdotally, I think most people have seen that there are more bicyclists on the roads these days. Here in Charlottesville it is very apparent due to the small population and geographic area, but across the country most cities are reporting substantial increases in bicycling as a mode of transportation. This is the good news. And, from what I have read, most reasonable people see this as a positive development.

There are however, a significant number of people that see bicyclists as an irritation. This is the bad news. My sense is that as the number of cyclists on the road increases, driver frustration will increase as well. There are some reasons to be worried about this as the combination of inexperienced cyclists and hostile (even homicidal) motorists comes to a boil.

This is my first post to this blog (or to any blog for that matter), so I intend to tread lightly here. But, I'm curious, how other Cville cyclists are feeling these days out on the road on their bikes. Are the drivers the same as usual or have you noticed things getting better or things getting worse? My own experience has been a little worse here in Cville. Inattentive and hostile drivers. What about other folks? Leave your observations in the comments section.

Its an interesting time for cycling in general. This summer a young woman was killed by a garbage truck while riding legally in a bike lane in Washington, DC in the Dupont Circle area. The reaction was impressive. There were vigils, news reports, and an ongoing investigation. My sense is that cycling has reached a new segment of people in big cities that previously had ignored cycling as a hobbie or sport. These people are professionals with influence and they are getting behind cycling as a legitimate mode of transportation. I would like to see more of that here in Charlottesville. If you have thoughts on how to broaden the reach of cycling here in this community beyond enthusiasts please also leave your thoughts.

Ride safe.

4 comments:

Andy Kinley said...

I agree with you that there is an apparent increase in cyclists in town, but I have no numbers to back that up. I have only obeserved this anecdotally. As far as safety in town, I have been treated well by motorists 90% of the time. Like cyclists that don't obey traffic rules, there are always cars that disregard the laws of the road or drivers that want to yell at you. Also, in general, motorists stuck in traffic hate it when they are passed by cyclists or you slow them down when you need to make a left hand turn. As far as getting more support for cycling - join ACCT and send your city council email supporting cycling and commuting by bike.

Rob said...

It definitely feels like there are more bikes being ridden around Charlottesville.

Riding here feels mostly safe. I have to laugh at some of the "Share the Road" signs around town. Dump a vehicle going 12mph on a 35mph roadway and wonder why people in cars get angry and frustrated. I generally choose to go longer distances on less traveled roads to avoid these scenarios.

I have a few suggestions that might help broaden the reach of cycling to more people.

- Make showers mandatory for any new office space build outs.
- Provide secure weatherproof bicycle storage facilities.
- Pass some sort of "complete streets" law in town. Add bike lanes to any and all streets where major work is being done. This one will do more to help auto / bike relationships than anything else I can think of. If cars / bikes don't have to share space there is significantly less conflict. Problem with this one is it costs major $$.
- Eliminate free parking (yeah right).
- Get a grocery store in town that is bike accessible. Reed's is OK, but doesn't quite cut it as a full-time grocery store for us.

-j said...

Definitely more bikes, hard to argue that. If we want it to stick, we have to make it SAFE for folks. It's definitely a war zone out there, and, like it or not, 2 tons of Hummer is going to protect you more than 25 pounds of reynolds 853.

We, as the enthusiasts, have to make this happen and set the example. This means following the traffic rules and not running red lights and stop signs, yielding when we don't have the right-of-way, wearing our helmets, reminding our friends to do the same, etc.

I, however, also know that a good example only goes so far. I read an article lately where Portland's road-repair budget was legally required to set aside 1% of that budget for bicycle improvements. It doesn't seem like a lot, until you realize how big the road-repair budget really is, and 1% could be literally millions of dollars. Can c'ville step up and put it's money where our tires should be?

I'd love to see c'ville have not just MORE bike lanes, but better connected bike lanes and bike routes. Trying to commute by bike anywhere near 29N is just asking for trouble. It's also important to note that within c'ville, the bike commuting options often aren't too bad. Main street, Cherry Ave, 5th Street, McIntire, Rugby, etc all have pretty decent bike facilities. Where the system breaks down is getting into or out of town. At commuting hours, Old Lynchburg, US20, US29 (north and south), Earlysville road, and Barracks roads are basically death traps for bikes. Surprisingly, US250 isn't nearly as bad simply because of the turn lane, traffic can get safely get around a bike without slowing.

People can and will bike-commute from Earlysville, Crozet, Ivy, Shadwell, Forest Lakes, etc, if they can safely get INTO and OUT OF town. My thought is this is where we should focus our bike improvement efforts.

Carey said...

I have read all the posts and I agree. We should follow all the rules, get involved in local gov't, be the "good example". Another suggestion for us and newbies is always be vigilant when riding your bike, especially when you get used to commuting. Pay attention to your surroundings, pedestrians and motorists alike. I have noticed the increase in cyclists. I also think we should change the picture on the "share the road" sign to have a person on the bike to "humanize" the sign. I'm sure I have more thoughts but I have to get back to work!