The Chainlink

Infrastructure Can Make a Difference Between Life and Death

Before I jump into this, yes, I do very much believe we need to be careful and defensive cyclists. Some of the most helpful advice I received when I started bike commuting over 8 years ago was to always assume you are invisible to the driver. They don't see you and once they pass you, they quickly forget you are there. Ok, got that out of the way. Now I really want to address the matter of infrastructure.

There are some beautiful roads in the less-populated areas of Maryland. I spent this fall doing some intense leaf-peeping with my dog, exploring many areas for the first time. There are many roads that squeeze in cyclists to share the road. Roads that are busy because they lead to popular destinations like Great Falls (on the Maryland side of the Potomac). It is popular because it leads to the C&O. It's also been very popular, especially recently, because many of us go there to hike and see the falls. It's a National Park and after going there countless times this summer on both the MD and VA sides, I can highly recommend it as a great, local destination for MD and VA. 

On the Maryland side, two cyclists very recently were hit by motorists turning and not looking/seeing them in the daytime. One of the cyclists died and I want to share the article. Just to warn you, it's terribly written, with a headline that sounds like he fell over randomly when he was hit by a driver that didn't do a good job of sharing the road (there are signs all along the road warning to watch out for cyclists and walkers).

When you look at what some European cities like Amsterdam have done to make it safe for cyclists, it is about creating bike spaces separate from cars. In other words, building protected bike infrastructure. I used to think it was best to keep us all on the same road to give us options but statistics don't lie. When there is an option, we need to commit to safety of cyclists and pedestrians and build safe spaces for our most vulnerable road users. I realize there is still the matter of driveways and turning vehicles and that needs to be addressed with signage, painted walks, blinking signs. 

It is shocking to me that the road going to a popular National Park has made no safe accommodations for the most vulnerable users especially when there are so many of them using this narrow road.

When I couldn't get on the Metra train back to the city, I would ride my bike back home. The suburbs of Chicago only have occasional bike lanes and don't really connect with each other to make it truly useful in keeping people safe. I remember times I would scream as a semi roared past me, coming closer than the 3 feet the law dictates. Those are the memories that stick out the most about that commute. Being terrified. 

We have critical mass - many cyclists on the roads. We have a global warming crisis, needing to get reduce our dependence on vehicles. There is no reason not to address this head on and do it right. Build infrastructure. Maintain infrastructure. Enforce infrastructure. It isn't a hobby and shouldn't be treated as one. 

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