Recently in Savannah a student was involved in a bicycling accident on Montgomery Street that resulted in serious injuries. The accident and its reporting have led to increased dialogue in the community on safe bicycling, including some less productive anonymous commenting on local websites.
To be sure, the most important outcome after this accident is that the student regains her health, and our thoughts are with her.
Because the dialogue on safer cycling has surfaced again, I would like to offer two quick thoughts:
Bicycle education is available to interested community members, and it is concentrated where the available resources are likely to have the biggest impact. SCAD now offers bicycle education as part of its First Year Experience (FYE) program, reaching new college students who may not have biked before coming to SCAD.
The Savannah Bicycle Campaign offers quarterly in-depth Traffic Skills workshops for the general public; the next is May 21st at the Bicycle Link. The SBC also organizes Bicycle Rodeos for children and their parents once every two months, teaching kids and their parents bike skills, and their parents bike–friendly motorist behaviors.
The guiding principle of bicycling education is that bicyclists fare best when they act and are treated as operators of vehicles. The recent accident is an unfortunate example of the outcome of wrong–way bicycling which puts a bicyclist in a vulnerable and unexpected place in the roadway.
Education is also only one tool in a toolkit for bicycle safety that also contains other “E’s”. Bicycle–specific Engineering (e.g. bike lanes, multi-use paths), creates more hospitable bicycling infrastructure for beginning riders.
Enforcement creates disincentives for bad behavior for cyclists and motorists. Encouragement creates more reasons for more people to ride bicycles.
The larger the number of bicyclists, the more the bicycle community creates self–enforcing social norms that keep cyclists safe and motorists happy. These tools together create a better shared understanding of cyclist and motorist responsibilities.
It is the holistic approach that can make bicycling better for cyclists and more predictable for motorists. It is in our community’s best interests for all groups to become safer, healthier, and more generous roadway users.
Education Chair, Savannah Bicycle Campaign