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Wheels & Heels: Avoiding Bloodshed on the Roads

Whether we push a bike pedal or a gas pedal, we've all got to practice safety measures to avoid injuring others on the road.

Memo to all bicyclists everywhere: Let's be careful out there!

The perils of two-wheeled transportation have been all too evident this week. Decatur's biking attorney Ken Rosskopf broke nine ribs after riding over a nasty Avondale Estates pothole, just weeks after noting how dangerous white road turtles are to a bike tire. 

Decatur Metro reported that a teenager on a bike was hit by a car near Decatur High School last Friday and treated for minor injuries. 

I pedaled out to Avondale Estates to try to locate the pothole and was hyper-aware of road hazards. I even pedaled over the offending pothole -- deep enough to rattle my teeth, but not deep enough to cause more than a minor nuisance to a car or truck.

More alarming, as I pedaled home, I began to note all the other cracks, crevices, grates and other road imperfections that might take down a cyclist who wasn't alert enough to avoid them.

Bicycling CAN be dangerous, but so can driving a car. What cyclists know, or ought to know, is that it's up to us to practice safe riding skills whenever possible. Don't blow through that stop sign; wear a helmet; signal your turns; tighten your brakes; inflate your tires.

And still I see people on their bikes risking life and limb. Riding at night in black clothing without lights. Riding on the wrong side of the road.

I just want to scream at them sometimes, but I don't.

But then, I also notice automobiles doing dangerous things, daily. On a recent bike ride, I was the ONLY vehicle on the road that pulled over to the right when an ambulance passed. And I've concluded that some drivers have forgotten how to use their turn signals, and think that slowing at a stop sign is good enough. They must be too busy talking on their cell phones.

Other than riding safely, here's two other things a bicyclist can do to make bicycling safer in your area.

One is to comment on Decatur's Community Transportation Plan, which offers a great opportunity for cyclists and pedestrians to comment on pedestrian safety improvements to the Clairemont Avenue-Commerce Drive and Church Street-Commerce Drive intersections and for bicycle lane improvements on Church Street in downtown Decatur.

 A community workshop to discuss plans for these improvements will be held on Monday, Sept. 26, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the City Commission meeting room of Decatur City Hall, 509 North McDonough St., in downtown Decatur.

Go take a look at the Bike Suitability Map prepared by Decatur bikers, ride the routes and send your comments to bikedecaturmap@gmail.com. Decatur hopes to have the map finalized and available in both digital and print versions later this year. A 2011 Decatur Craft Beer Festival Grant is helping pay to print the maps.

And if you think sidewalks and bicycling paths ought to be part of our nation's transportation plan, as I do, then you might heed the call of Decatur City Commissioner and bike shop owner Fred Boykin. Boykin is alarmed that a Republican senator is planning to block extension of the SAFETEA-LU transportation bill unless Congress eliminates funding for the federal Transportation Enhancements (TE) program. That's the program that has been the primary source for sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, trails and more. Read more about this from the national Safe Routes to School site.

Both of Decatur's Senators are Republican, but I've always admired Johnny Isakson for his ability to compromise. The numbers to call are Sen. Saxby Chambliss at (202) 224-3521 and Sen. Johnny Isakson at (202) 224-3643.

In a world of rising fuel costs and a nation desiring to break the grip of foreign oil, I don't understand why anyone would want to make it harder to get around on foot or bicycle. Neither uses gas, and both are healthier. Furthermore, not everyone out there can HAS a car, even folks who have jobs, so why would we NOT want to spend a small portion of our transportation funds to help encourage healthy, gas-free methods of transportation?

But what do you think?

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