FOR THE last few years, I have avoided riding my bicycle, because every time I found myself on my bicycle I’d end up hurt.
I eventually came to be terrified to get on two wheels.
The traffic, the roadways, and crossing pedestrians seemed to make each experience more troublesome than the last.
Every new ride presented more obstacles, and continued to throw my bike more out of tune to the point I could no longer ride it.
Frustrated by conditions and a heightened concern for my safety, I let my bike sit, and didn’t touch it for quite some time.
Things changed a few months ago, when I decided I wanted to travel around town by bicycle. I needed a form of transportation and exercise. Getting back on the two-wheeled horse seemed like the best bet.
A friend of mine, an avid cyclist and a member of the Wolf Pack bicycle group, repaired it for me. While doing so he told me more about the Savannah Bicycle Campaign, which you might know from executive director John Bennett’s regular column in Connect.
So I did what most in our technology-driven society does, and started following the Savannah Bicycle Campaign on Facebook. Recently an event popped up in my notifications from them: A public meeting at the Civic Center.
The purpose was to introduce an amendment to current city laws, banning all foot powered vehicles in and around the perimeter of sidewalks in Forsyth Park.
I immediately shared the information anyway I could, and to anyone with an ear that would listen. I knew that if I was uninformed, others probably were as well.
The day of the meeting, a large group of cyclists met in Forsyth Park and caravaned to the Civic Center, hoping to have their voices heard. As everyone walked in, the event organizers quickly realized that attendance was more than expected, and quickly moved to accommodate the crowd.
When the City finished showing the proposed amendments to the current law, one by one, people stood up and spoke.
One of the first things requested was the actual number of how many accidents that had been documented between bicycles and pedestrians.
The number was surprising: a staggering big fat zero.
One man stood and voiced his concern for his safety as a pedestrian, and how unsafe he felt with bicycles in the park.
The same man blatantly admitted he pushed people off of their bicycles if he felt they got too close, and this gentleman has been known to throw rocks at riders as well.
The percentage of law-breaking cyclists is a low 5-10 percent. The removal of our safety measures currently in place will only hurt the ones who already follow what the law, and for those that break the law, will continue to do so.
Cyclists would be placed in very dangerous conditions; that no one can argue with. The main roads in and out of downtown can be scary in a vehicle, and even more so on a bicycle.
As we all know, riding a bicycle down Drayton and Whitaker streets is a near impossible feat. Cars constantly speed, tour buses go to slow, and traffic congestion happens all the time, leaving unsafe conditions for not only cyclists, but motorist and pedestrians alike.
Suggestions started flowing in, and included some very smart solutions. This process could be started by placing reflectors along the lanes already in place to help motorist and cyclists to clearly see the boundaries laid out by the city.
Another great idea was to put bicycle lanes around Forsyth’s sidewalk to have a designated safe place for all to enjoy.
The possibility of taking Drayton and Whitaker streets down to one-lane roadways and adding bicycle lanes on Henry and Anderson streets would allow people to have a way to safely travel east and west as well.
This discussion opened the door to move forth in a positive way. Education was deemed as the first place to start.
Since the meeting I have sought out information, opinions of those in the community, and current laws set by the city and state. This has not been an easy task.
Finding public information was frustrating. I made phone calls, sent emails, and used the internet to try and locate what I was looking for. I found with each attempt I was directed to another department.
This cries out for a need on a larger scale, a revamp on the infrastructure in Savannah. The City’s website is extremely difficult to navigate on a computer, but the mobile site is almost impossible to weed through.
The knowledge shared between departments could be more universally sound. How are we as a community going to find what we are looking when City employees have a hard time as well?
The time lost searching could be used more productively, to accomplish more.
In my research, I went to The Savannah Bicycle Campaign to equip myself with knowledge. Pamphlets are available, chock full of things you need and want to know in order to safely ride in Savannah.
Monthly classes will be resuming soon for Safe City Cycle. This is a Bike 101 course, for new and returning riders.
In the near future, a full day course will be available to teach Hazard Avoidance. This is for anyone who wants to take their bicycle knowledge to the next level. This will also be the prerequisite needed to be on your way to a certification from The League of American Cyclists.
If you have any questions or would like to volunteer, contact the Savannah Bicycle Campaign. They are always looking for help from any skill level. They can be found ate bicyclecampaign.org.
You may also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
For issues concerning changes to the cycling laws, or concerns you may have, emails may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
And of course keep reading John Bennett’s column in Connect!
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"And you deserve better."
Thanks, Jim, for my new campaign slogan.