Drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists must learn to get along
By Ginger Owen
COLUMBIA, Mo 02/18/15 (Letter) -- I attended a PedNet Coalition meeting about an upcoming Columbia City Council vote for additional bike roads, aka the Rollins Street to Shepard Boulevard Connector.
It is my opinion the project be abandoned completely.
The information Pednet presented estimated only 1.97% of Columbians use pedways and bike roads for non-motorized transportation purposes. I've started asking people if they ride their bicycles to work or school or the market, as the non-motorized transportation grant funds are intended. Most people ride for recreation only.
The speaker representing PedNet said he is afraid to use the pedways painted on the streets.
I understand non-motorized transportation grant funds (GetAbout Columbia) were used for these pedways. It concerns me that additional non-motorized transportation grant funds will be spent building more of these bike roads.
Instead, I would like to see the GetAbout grant used for motorist, bicyclist, and pedestrian education, on the cooperation of each to share the roads. Bicyclists and pedestrians get hit and killed by motorists; likewise, bicyclists do their share of motorist harassment.
I would also like to see education for city/county government officials, business and corporation employees, before the GetAbout funds are exhausted.
I met a young man who moved back to Columbia from Ft. Collins, Colorado -- a very bike friendly city -- to be with family. He will not ride his bicycle here because motorists throw things at him. It is too dangerous.
Family and friends, as motorists, talk about the bicyclists in and around the City of Columbia, the University and Boone County.
That conversation is never pleasant.
They tell me bicyclists don't obey traffic signals, causing cars to brake suddenly with children or pets, especially around the Mizzou campus, downtown, and parks.
Bicyclists slow down traffic in narrow driving lanes during peak travel times. When passed, they sometimes yell and even hit the passing vehicles, scaring the drivers and creating unnecessary additional danger.
I have had my own confrontations with bicyclists, who carry sticks to ward off dog attacks, training on my rural, rough, gravel road. Grant-funded education could better inform these cyclists of the following:
1) The whirring noise bicycles make as they pass hurts dogs' sensitive ears. Aggravated dogs warn neighboring dogs -- including my German Shepherds -- of the approaching interlopers.
2) The non-paved roads where my dogs and I live are not prepared or suitable for traffic from many types of bicycles.
3) Some of the bicyclists we see out here are drivers with DUIs and lost licenses. They bicycle when they can't get rides, and are often hazardous in their own right. "Do you know what they call a bicyclist with a buck strapped over the handle bars? A hunter with a DUI!"
If I have to pick a Rollins-Shepard Connector option, I would rather see the GetAbout grant funds improve the bridge over the Hinkson Creek to accommodate safe pedestrian and bicycle traffic, aka Option 4.
But more importantly, I would like to see the money spent on something that will benefit people in all parts of town: motorist, pedestrian, and bicyclist education.
Ginger Owen is a Columbia resident