Saturday, January 2, 2010
Not every bicycle death could have been prevented by safe bike lanes, paths and helmets. But every death resulting from a bicycle accident demonstrates how far the Lowcountry must go before bicycling is a safe, accessible, way for citizens to get around.
Last Sunday, Eduardo Gomez Ortiz was killed after he fell from his bicycle into traffic and was struck by a vehicle. According to Charleston police, Mr. Ortiz fell while trying to avoid construction obstacles on the Burnet R. Maybank Bridge over the Wappoo Cut.
The driver of the car that hit him will not be charged, and a report with all the details has not been issued.
But Mr. Ortiz’ tragic death serves as a reminder of why local municipalities should waste no more time meeting the needs of those who want to use their bikes, instead of cars, for transportation, to reduce their carbon footprints, to avoid hunting for parking spaces or to get exercise.
If there are places where it is dangerous to bike, look for ways to make them safer. Not every road can be made bike-friendly, but set a goal to provide safe ways for bicyclists to get to the places that would be most helpful to the most people.
Commit to providing bike lanes on all new roads and adding them when significant work is done on existing ones.
Educate bicyclists and motorists about how to coexist safely. The laws are on the books. They need to be enforced.
Meanwhile, cyclists should take additional safety measures. Wear a protective helmet. Bike defensively. If a route appears unsafe, don’t take it — either walk your bike until it gets safe again or take another route, even if it is longer.
The city of Charleston has some encouraging plans which, while as yet indefinite, include providing a safe way across the Maybank Bridge.
Local governments can’t guarantee safety, but cyclists need better odds than they now have.