Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Dispatch Reports on Bicycling Danger Zones on City Streets

The Dispatch is reporting on the most dangerous portions of our city's streets for bike/car accidents today, and it's probably no surprise that the most dangerous street is High Street.
Car-bike crash study
Danger zones lurk for cyclists
Wednesday, October 3, 2007 3:48 AM
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Annie Hollis says she feels safe as she makes the daily trek down N. High Street from her home in the University District to her job Downtown, even though the route is part of a stretch with the highest number of bicycle-vehicle crashes in the city.

But Hollis, a 21-year-old Ohio State University student who works at the domestic-violence shelter CHOICES, says bicyclists need to be alert.

She is familiar with some of the trouble spots on the route, identified in a recent study by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.

Recently, a car ran a red light and almost struck Hollis as she turned from Lane Avenue onto High Street.

High Street near the South Campus Gateway, which has several restaurants, an ice cream shop and a movie theater, is another area where you need to be mindful.

"I see people on bikes with iPod headphones on," Hollis said, shaking her head.

"I would never do that because you really have to pay attention."

The roughly 7-mile stretch of High Street from Downtown to Morse Road had the most bicycle-vehicle crashes, 105, in central Ohio over a five-year period beginning in 2000, according to the MORPC report.

The agency's 2006 Regional Bicycle Transportation Facilities Plan identifies 10 areas with the most crashes and crashes per mile. Between 2000 and 2004, there were more than 1,500 bike-vehicle crashes in Franklin and Delaware counties.

The remaining nine streets and the number of crashes included stretches of: Cleveland (39), Sullivant (35), Livingston (30), Parsons (29), Champion (15), and 5th (14) avenues, along with W. Broad (67), E. Main (49) and W. Mound (12) streets. The worst spots were intersections near destinations such as schools, parks, restaurants, shopping and libraries.

According to the state Department of Public Safety, bicycle crashes have fluctuated between 270 and about 300 each year from 2002 to 2006. Four bicyclists have been killed during that period; a fifth, Michael T. Sonney, was killed in July as he commuted home from work on his new bicycle.

A national firm is developing a bikeways plan -- a draft is expected next month and the final plan next year -- for the city of Columbus that will include recommendations on making the area more bike-friendly.

"We are not even there yet," said Steve Tweed, a transportation planner for the city, when asked about possible solutions to some of the high-crash streets.

"That is one of the things that is going to go into the formulation of this master plan for the city of Columbus. What comes about and what to do about it. We are still waiting for recommendations coming from the draft plan."

A combination of wider streets or bike lanes could go a long way to helping bicyclists and motorists coexist.

"It all boils down to room," said Bernice Cage, MORPC transportation planner.

"You talk to any cyclist who rides on the streets and they say 'We just need enough room.' "

Another thing that is needed is education, and not only for drivers.

The data show a leading contributor to bike-vehicle crashes was bicyclists who improperly crossed a street or failed to yield to a car. That occurred in 29 percent of the crashes.

Motorists failing to yield to bikes contributed to 14 percent of the crashes.

"We need cyclists, especially young ones, to be taught how to ride properly in traffic," Cage said. "Instead of weaving all over the road, there is a certain way we ride in traffic that makes it safe."

Rachael Jones, the mother of two teens and an 8-year-old, until recently lived on the South Side, not far from Parsons Avenue, a street that made the Top 10 list.

She sees bicyclists and motorists who often are distracted.

"A lot of kids on bikes in this area have their iPods, MP3 players and headphones on," she said. "And you have drivers on their cell phones not paying attention."

Jones moved to the West Side about three weeks ago. But when she lived on Cline Street, just a few blocks from Parsons, she allowed her children to ride their bikes in the street only in front of her house or around the block.

"I don't let them ride through the busy intersection," she said pointing to Parsons and Whittier Street. "It is too much traffic and too many things can happen. A motorist not paying attention or the kids get distracted."

I personally question the statistics of who is at risk here. Our police have been shown in the past not to know the city traffic code as it pertains to bicycle use so I'm personally disinclined to trust the statistic that places cyclists at fault. At the same time, though, there are plenty of people who have simply no clue how to ride in traffic.

But the point is true that education is needed for both sides. Every time I hear a driver yell "get on the sidewalk" that point is driven home (no pun intended).

I will continue to say, though, that if the police would simply ticket people for disobeying the traffic code on ALL counts we'd see much less of this. And I mean this for both cyclists and motorists.

People, not speed.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the post. I posted a comment on considerbiking fourum.

    Jeff

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  2. if you will note where these accidents happen (and visit these locations), you will see that this is where unsupervised kids, punks, juvies, etc... jump out into the street, ride the wrong way, ride double on a single bike, ride along the sidewalks and into intersections, etc... these are not commuters, but yes, they are on bikes, and yes they are statistics.

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