On my ride, there are several different things that are common biking and pedestrian concerns (obstacles, barriers, weaknesses) that appear in communities across the country. Using my daily commute, I'd like to address a few of issues as a forum to engage dialogue, explore ideas and learn. (If you're interested in following this series, the posts will begin with the titled "Daily Commute.")
Here is one of the first intersections that I come across:
It's actually kind of peaceful. There are a lot of trees and rolling hills (as you can see). To the right, there's a small park where a stream trickles by and a baseball diamond where the local little league plays. To the left, the road dips under the railroad, and intersects with Highway 93. The intersection in the photo is rarely congested, and it is the only way to get across the railroad tracks without having to wait for the train for miles. It's a pleasant crossroads.
But. But there are a few major connectivity and safety issues.
- Where the sidewalk ends. The sidewalk ends, abruptly, on the near right side of the road, and picks up, across the street, on the far left side. There are no sidewalks on the near left or far right. For pedestrians (joggers, families, daily walkers, little leaguers, etc) this isn't safe. There is also a lack of a curb or clear boundary where the road starts and the sidewalk begins. This area could use a little spit and polish.
- Head and Shoulders. The shoulder appears to be quite wide (and is) in the foreground. Traveling by a neighborhood to get to this point, the wide shoulder is ideal for cyclist (as long as it's kept clean of road debris.) But, after the intersection, the shoulder disappears, forcing the cyclist to into the flow of traffic, creating a dangerous opportunity for a auto/bike crash. This area needs to be examined, and some decisions need to be made about widening shoulders, putting up signage or other ways to get ride of the cycling barrier. I often find myself riding on the shoulder, and then jumping to the roadway. Please Note: Cyclist generally have a choice when riding in an area that does not have disclosed or apparent bikeways (lanes, paths, etc). They can ride on the shoulder or on the road. In South Carolina (as in many states), cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities to be on the road as an automobile. They can take up the same space or spot as a car, but that also means all traffic laws and signals must be obeyed.
- Rights versus Invites. Does this area look bike-friendly to you? For being next to a neighborhood and just off of downtown ("downtown" Central, SC, that is), this area does not appear to be safe or inviting to many bike riders. Would you allow your children to bike here? Would you feel comfortable crossing this intersection? Even though cyclists have rights to the road, sometimes the area is not inviting. Communities can take steps to address the comfort level of cyclists, automobile drivers and pedestrians, making the location (intersection, park, neighborhood, path) a safer place for everyone.
Where are the places like this where you live or work? How might they be improved to address pedestrian, bicycle and automobile safety, health and wellness? Talk with friends and neighbors, local officials and planners to help plan for a better community.