Friday, May 16, 2008

Editorial Can Apply To Tampa Bay Area, Too

My pal Willie Drye from Plymouth, NC sent me this edoitorial about nicycling in North Carolina. Sounds awfully familiar.

Fear of biking

A rash of car-bicycle accidents in the Triangle is a reminder that North Carolina's road-building standards make leisure or gas-saving bike riding risky at best and deadly at worst. At a time when biking to work or from there to a restaurant at lunchtime could save real money -- and when North Carolinians suffer from an epidemic of obesity -- it seems that the Department of Transportation would be paying extra attention to making state roadways cyclist-friendly.

Bicycling list serves are buzzing about the death last month of Nancy Antoine Leidy, killed when a young man, allegedly driving drunk, plowed into her bike in west Raleigh. A few days later, a woman biking with her husband in Durham County was hit from behind and landed in the hospital in intensive care. The 83-year-old driver was cited for failing to control her speed in the accident that injured Wendy Savage. Such incidents are not uncommon. A bike-motor vehicle accident resulting in injuries occurs about 900 times a year in North Carolina. In 2006, 20 North Carolinians died in bicycle accidents on the road.

Wider roads with built-in bike lanes or shoulders that could accommodate cyclists would reduce significantly the number of accidents, and those features need to be included when roads are repaved. A state highway safety committee said as much during meetings last year, where it was reported that "edge drop offs/shoulder crumble/rutting" and "narrow lanes and shoulders" were the cause of too many auto accidents. Those deficiencies make using the roads to safely ride bikes nearly impossible.

Many people who want to save money and who know the value of exercise would ride bikes more often but don't do so out of fear. Many workers in job centers such as the universities, Research Triangle Park and downtown Raleigh are among likely bike commuters if conditions were improved. Certainly the state needs to provide more education, to drivers and cyclists, about the laws and etiquette of the road. But if North Carolina is to remain the good-roads state in the 21st century, it should do it right and design its roads for both motor and pedal traffic.

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