ARE YOU a college student who has chosen to make a bicycle your primary mode of transportation? I appreciate you!
People who ride bikes bring numerous public safety, public health, economic and social benefits to Savannah.
While I may be the first person to thank you for using your bike to get around, I hope I will not be the last. I’m imagining some scenarios in which others will offer their gratitude.
As you are locking your bike to a rack in front of a popular downtown restaurant, you spot a woman backing her car into a nearby on-street parking space. She walks over and offers to buy you lunch.
Why? She recognizes that your decision to ride lessened competition for on-street parking. Because you went by bike, she scored an awesome parking spot.
When you exit the restaurant and unlock your bike, a man and his two young children walk by.
“Thanks for riding your bike,” he says. “My boys suffer from asthma and I appreciate what you are doing to improve our air quality.”
Then he mentions the growing body of research linking automobile emissions to respiratory illnesses, especially in children.
Later that day you pull up in front of a Savannah College of Art and Design classroom building. SCAD administrators approach you, shake your hand and thank you for riding your bike.
Because parking lots and garages are costly to build and maintain, SCAD often requests parking requirement variances from the Chatham County-Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission. College representatives frequently cite the significant number of students who use bikes to get to class as justification.
By riding a bike you are saving SCAD money!
On the way home from class, you spot a group of city officials examining the badly damaged pavement near Chippewa Square. They smile and give you a big thumbs up.
In contrast to the cars, trucks and tours buses that orbit the square every day, your bike causes no wear and tear on streets, thus reducing spending on road repairs.
The technology does not yet exist for this last scenario, but before you graduate maybe it will.
You’re at the beach using a smart phone app that allows you to communicate with dolphins. From the surf you get a message thanking you for riding your bike.
It’s unclear how the dolphin knows about your bike, since you don’t have it with you on the beach (unfortunately the road and bridges leading to Tybee are dangerous for people on bikes). But stay with me here.
The dolphin expresses gratitude to you for not contributing to the degradation of marine environments. Runoff from parking lots and other automobile infrastructure contains toxins that are damaging to salt marshes and other crucial habitats.
Sadly, of all these scenarios, the dolphin encounter may be the most plausible. Despite the benefits locals derive from your bicycling, Savannahians you have never met may already have a negative opinion of you and your bike.
They have seen other students disobey traffic regulations and presume you guilty by association. Those students may have graduated years ago, long before you got to town, but you will be regarded as complicit in their actions.
Others will fight vigorously against new bike lanes and other street improvements that would make your trips around town safer and more convenient.
Finally, there are people in Savannah who specialize in the dark art of bicycle theft and they are already eyeing your ride.
Don’t let these people get you down.
Buy a U-lock and a cable lock and use them correctly.
Pick up a set of lights for your bike and turn them on when you are riding at night.
Understand that bicycles are considered vehicles under state law and you are bound by the same traffic regulations as drivers. This means riding with traffic, stopping at traffic signals and yielding to pedestrians.
Get a helmet and wear it.
If all of this seems like a hassle, think about the advantages you derive from going by bike.
You never have to feed parking meters, pay parking citations or fork over cash to retrieve your car from impound.
You won’t be late for class because you couldn’t find a parking place.
You will discover lovely and fascinating parts of Savannah that you’d never notice from inside a car.
You will enjoy the fun, freedom and good health that are natural by products of riding a bike.
You can rest assured that many people do know that you and your bicycle are making Savannah better, even if they forget to thank you.
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"And you deserve better."
Thanks, Jim, for my new campaign slogan.