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.


  1. It is always a bummer when bike routes don't actually connect. It's such a tease. It's pretty common around where I live though, so what I've started doing is riding my folding bike a lot - it makes it easy to connect the unconnected areas via bus, if I have to.

  2. Much agreed! Areas esp. like these have so much potential.