Friday, April 20, 2012

Bike Lanes from the Sea

Between Savannah and Tybee Island
When we visited Savannah, GA in March, we stayed on the east side of Savannah, putting us between the City and the Beach. We drove out to Tybee Island several times along Hwy US 80. Hwy US 80 runs through the Savannah Historic District, out to Tybee Islands and ends at the southern tip of the coastal key. It’s a pleasant roadway that is the major route between the two destinations, it’s a major arterial for the coastal neighborhoods and juts across beautiful marshy backwaters. It’s a scenic and relaxing drive.

There are two bike routes I saw along US 80 – the Old Rail Trail that runs along the coast for 6 miles paralleling US 80 and bike lanes. The trail looked lovely, as it was dotted by palm trees and benches. The bike lanes are, what I will call, interesting. They are there in form, function and signed. However, there are many things that make this route really unsafe. 

Bikeway on US 80
The bike lanes parallel highway traffic going 45 – 60 mph. They were wide, but a visible restriping effort in the past makes the bike lane/shoulder/bike lane buffer infrastructure a confusing mess. They also look like they haven’t been swept to remove debris in 6 months, leaving large chunks of rocks, pavement, metal and other things in a bicyclist’s travel path. Several different times, I saw pedestrians using the bike lanes as a travel path. Since there were no sidewalks along the route, and I thought it was interesting that pedestrians were willing to walk so close to highway traffic. The bike routes – the trail and lanes – also appear to fall short in connecting the two communities together. 

The bikeway was also called the Joy Kleeman Bikeway. Assuming this was named after a bicycle crash victim I did some digging and found her story. Bringing awareness to bicycle crashes via infrastructure yis one way to elevate biking, but creating a safer environment for cars and bikes to co-exist is another. I would say that these bike lanes aren’t the kind that most people would feel safe to ride on.

Where did this all this observation take me?  I’m not looking to be a hater in all of this, but rather point out that creating a safe bikeway is better than creating any bikeway.  It’s clear that safety is an issue along US 80. Driving along this bike route for several days made an impression on me, and I took this to be a lesson in considering the degree of safety along with connectivity when developing bikeways and bike routes. It's a good lesson for the community of the Upstate to consider.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Few More Reasons to Bike

Recently I've had a few more experiences that have shown why biking is good to do - in some unexpected ways. 

Riding home last week, I saw a football fly out into traffic on Hwy 93 about 20 yards ahead of me. I noticed 3 kids looking from atop a hill, down at the football in traffic. The kids were looking anxious and I could tell that they were considering the possibility of getting that football. They were about 7 or 8 years old.

Instead, I hopped off my bike, grabbed the football in an opportune on-coming-traffic-free moment and hoisted the ball up to some grateful kids. I'd hate to consider what the alternative may have been.

The previous week, I came upon a robin who was still very much alive. He had gotten caught in traffic at an intersection. You could tell he was freaking out - he was trying to hunker down as cars passed over him during the morning commute. Waiting for the light to turn green, I reached down to persuade him out of his panicked daze, and he flew off. It was a cool moment, and I was happy to have him go on with his day.

Maybe not quite the answers you were expecting? That's okay. There are many. There are always a few more reasons why biking matters.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What I learned in Savannah, GA

In March, I ventured to Savannah for some much-needed time away from home. But I couldn’t stop thinking about or seeing bicycles. Luckily, I had my camera on hand, extra batteries and a loving husband that didn’t mind my “wait, I gotta take a photo of this” moments. We explored many different parts of Savannah and neighboring areas, and that enabled some interesting biking-related thoughts, photos and stories.

A Bike Route sign in Historic Savannah
In the next couple of months, I’ll dig deeper into some of the bike-related things I came across while in Savannah. The time away and things discovered enable good cross-pollination of thoughts and ideas. Exploring different places can help you see old things in new light and inspire bring new ideas. Some of the posts to come include the following topics:
We saw some pretty cool things, met some pretty cool people and had some pretty cool conversations, including our host, Jonathan. We stayed in his house. We found his place to stay through this neat company, AirBnB.

As a small aside, our stay was so fantastic, here’s where I plug this up-and-coming company. I found them on my own through some "old fashion" internet searching. In fact, through our stay, I got to meet and have a great conversation with a guy name Peter from the Netherlands about biking on a Saturday morning over breakfast! It was a great time.

And so was our trip in Savannah. Here are a few photos of some of the places we visited. Stay tuned for the upcoming posts. Enjoy!

On the North East corner of Forsyth Park.

In the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge.

Stormy Skies. Savannah Wildlife Refuge.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

People on Bikes - The Domino Effect

Within days of moving here in early August 2010, I met Eddie. One evening, on the back roads between Seneca and Lake Hartwell, my husband and I were driving at dusk. In the distance, we saw a red flashing light. As we passed a church parking lot, I begged to my husband to turn around to talk to this dude - the first guy I saw on a bike in the Upstate.

In Madison, especially in downtown, guys and gals on bike were the norm - not the the rarity. During my first days in the City Between Two Lakes, I saw young, old, spandex-ed, families of all races and classes on bikes. On bike paths. On bike lanes. To me, I had found a place that honors transportation choice and simple recreational opportunities.

Because I saw people on bikes in Madison, I got the distinct, immediate sense that I could bike safely around the city for fun as well as transport. When I met Eddie, I wanted to know his story because we were in a new place and I had not yet seen anyone on a bike.  He said he road 20 - 40 miles a day. The mountain bike he was on was his main form of transportation, and he loved to ride anywhere and everywhere. "It's my therapy."

Comparing the South Carolina Upstate and Madison, Wisconsin is admittedly like comparing apples to elephants, however, both are beautiful places that people are drawn to - to live, work and play. And both are within 2 hours of major US cities. In the Upstate, it's Charlotte and Atlanta. In Madison, it's Chicago and Milwaukee.

Seeing Eddie on a bike indicated to me that it might be alright to bike here. Now that I've lived here for a year and a half, my opinion on biking in the upstate is less black and white, but I do bike here. Daily. (I'm back to biking to work.) Seeing people on bikes inspires others to do so. The more facilities we have that serve the biking population, the more we create a better, livable environment for everyone.