The annual Dump the Pump commuting challenge is designed to demonstrate that riding a bicycle or taking the bus can often be just as fast as driving. And in the case of bicycling, even faster, as was proved for the fourth year in row on June 21.
First time competitor Kristin Mulzer arrived on her bike at City Hall just ahead of Sean Brandon, who drove, and Bill Broker, who caught a CAT.
Mulzer’s cycling skill and stamina no doubt helped her compete against opponents travelling in vehicles capable of higher top speeds. In addition, the playing field was leveled by — well — a level playing field. That is to say, Savannah’s flat terrain removes one of the most daunting obstacles cyclists face in some other cities: hills.
Savannah’s lack of hills makes going by bike a viable option for people of all ages and fitness levels, a situation that is not the case in many cities. We possess an asset here that can’t be bought at any price.
That doesn’t mean we can forgo investments in making Savannah more bicycle friendly. To the contrary, we’d be foolish not to capitalize on our considerable topographic advantage.
That’s why it’s all the more frustrating when critics contend that paying for infrastructure that helps Paul the cyclist, effectively steals money from projects that would serve Peter the driver.
This is simply not true. In fact, Peter the driver accrues benefits from every dollar spent on projects that help Paul the cyclist.
For example, I recently read a complaint that the meager sum devoted to creating the new Price Street bike lane would have been better spent repairing potholes. First, and believe me when I say this, no one is more sensitive to poor street surface conditions than cyclists. I’ve been driving for almost three decades and I’ve never hit a pothole that ejected me from my car.
On the other hand, on my bike I’ve narrowly dodged many that would have easily sent me over my handlebars. If anyone has a right to complain about potholes, it’s people who ride bikes.
And what degraded the streets in the first place? While the elements surely take their toll, our cars and trucks are responsible for much of that wear and tear.
Imagine how long we could go between re–pavings if more trips were made on vehicles weighing tens of pounds instead of inside of vehicles weighing thousands. I suspect the left lane of Price Street will require resurfacing long before bicycle traffic wears down the right lane.
Next, how about the suggestion that instead of creating lanes for bikes, we should be creating more lanes for cars? It turns out encouraging bicycling can significantly reduce the need for additional car carrying capacity.
League of American Bicyclists Policy Analyst Darren Flusche examined the most recent statistics for vehicle miles travelled in the United States and noted that due to the economy, “Americans drove slightly less in 2011 than they did in 2010,” yet this created a “striking result: Congestion decreased 30 percent.”
What Flusche is driving at is the idea that replacing even a small number of car trips with bike trips can drastically reduce gridlock. After all, you can’t be stuck behind a car that’s been left at home in the garage.
Drivers who are weary of hours lost sitting in traffic or who are tired of coffee spills caused by driving over potholes should be leading the call for a safe, convenient and connected bicycle infrastructure in Savannah. Some of which could be achieved through projects listed in the upcoming transportation referendum (more on that soon).
Once the network is in place, don’t worry — cyclists will take it from there and make good use of these bikeways.