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New bike lane, new complaints 

Immediately following the redesign of Price Street to include a bike lane and on–street parking, some folks offered grim forecasts.

Automobile traffic would snarl, they predicted. Bicyclists would be hurt daily, they warned. Parked cars would be damaged, they fretted.

Now people are starting to complain, not about what might happen, but about what hasn’t happened yet.

“Cyclists aren’t using the new bike lane.” Your mileage may vary, but I’ve travelled on Price Street numerous times by bike and by car and have seen cyclists on every trip. And, I know from personal experience, plenty of people don’t see bicyclists even when they are there.

Studies confirm that bicycle facilities, like the new Price Street lane, encourage more people to ride bikes. But it doesn’t happen overnight.

Some cyclists may still be unaware they have this option. Others, having learned to avoid the high speed traffic on Price Street, may be apprehensive.

It’s worth noting that because our bike route network is far from complete, the Price Street bike lane does not intersect with any other pavement marked bike lanes. Connectivity is crucial to maximizing use of bicycle facilities, and despite very important progress in recent years Savannah has a long way to go.

“Cyclists are still using other streets.” While the new lane will attract cyclists who previously took other routes, not everyone will use it. Some people complain they still see cyclists mixing with high volume and high speed car traffic on other streets

Here’s a fact that often eludes people who don’t ride bicycles for transportation: Motorists and cyclists are similar in that they often choose the fastest and most direct route.

While many cyclists will go out of their way to use Price Street like I do, others don’t have that luxury. Sometimes cyclists are required to use bike–unfriendly streets.

And really, asking why cyclists use dangerous streets distracts us from more important questions. Shouldn’t we be asking how to make these streets less dangerous for all users?

“Cyclists are still misbehaving.” Predictably, the topic of scofflaw cycling has crept into discussions of the new Price Street lane. Will cyclists ride the wrong way in the Price Street lane? Without a doubt, just as distracted, aggressive and impaired drivers will use any new roads built in Chatham County.

The interesting thing about Price Street, however, is how blame is assigned. Motorists who ignore the presence of pavement markings, bike lane signs and, ahem, bicyclists and attempt to drive in a bike lane that is clearly too narrow to accommodate their cars are cast as victims of poor street design.

Cyclists who ride against traffic on Price Street, on the other hand, are called idiots or worse.

Riding against traffic is one of the most dangerous things you can do on a bicycle, that is for sure. However, some cyclists are not aware of this.

Surprisingly, many of us were actually taught to ride against traffic as children and continue the practice today. Others mistakenly believe they are safer when they can see oncoming traffic.

Being passed too closely by a car is terrifying and potentially deadly, so it’s understandable that some cyclists like to keep the cars where they can see them.

Shortly after Price street was redesigned, police traffic units were dispatched to stop motorists who were driving in the bike lane and advise them about the dangers of that practice. In some jurisdictions, police stop wrong–way cyclists and dispense education instead of a citation, at least for the first offense.

Similar initiatives, if adopted locally, would surely help point cyclists in the right direction.

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About The Author

John Bennett

John Bennett

Bio:
John Bennett is executive director of the Savannah Bicycle Campaign.

More by John Bennett

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Connect Today 09.28.2016

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