Share the Road
Sep 1, 2009
By Shoshana Hebshi
Photo © 2009 Stan Brewer
By Shoshana Hebshi
A neighbor was killed riding his bike on the Cumming Highway on Sunday. It was a hit-and-run. Witnesses said he was thrown 130 feet from his bicycle and was killed instantly. Police are looking for the driver.
It is a heinous incident like this, unfortunately, that drives the need for increased bike awareness—from a driver’s perspective and a bicyclist’s. While the smaller details of the accident are not known, like whether the driver intentionally hit the cyclist, or if the cyclist swerved into traffic, this is a tragic accident that should never have happened.
I rode my bike to work for the first time on Monday. It has been six years since I bike commuted. And when I last did it was in the loud, congested streets of downtown San Francisco. I felt safer on those streets than I do on those in Des Moines. Perhaps it is because in San Francisco, most arterial streets are striped with a bike lane. Or maybe it is that there are dozens of other cyclists on the road with you; there is safety in numbers. But I believe the answer lies in the strong coalition of bicycle activists have elbowed their way into the mainstream, politically and socially. In doing so, the streets have become safer for cyclists. Drivers and cyclists are more aware of the rules and to watch out for each other.
Of course, accidents still happen. I had a collision with a BMW’s door one morning on my way to work. Even still, I felt safer there than I do here.
I have written about this before, but this weekend’s accident brings the topic closer to home. That, and the recent news topic concerning murmurs of banning bicycles on country roads.
If you think about the benefits of cycling versus the negatives, it might put bicycle commuting in perspective. Actually, I can’t think of any negatives—other than getting hit by a car. And the likelihood of that can be reduced by taking positive steps toward bike awareness and bike safety.
So for now, I will just point out the obvious benefits:
When someone bikes to work rather than drives their car, they are saving gas, reducing carbon emissions, and eliminating their vehicle from traffic. The resulting effect is a cleaner planet, less dependence on fossil fuels, and smoother flow of traffic during busy commute times on city streets.
When someone bikes to work, they are enhancing their health and bettering their attitude. Ever heard of a runner’s high? Well, biking to work produces those same sorts of endorphins that brightens the spirit and serves as a enlivening transition from sleep to work. Forget the coffee, a 20-minute bicycle commute will jolt even the sleepiest, grumpiest anti-morning person into a chipper mood. Not only that, but there won’t be a caffeine crash at 10 a.m. that needs to be alleviated. Plus, it’s so much more pleasant to be greeted by a happy person who is excited to be at work and energized for the day at 8 a.m. than a groggy person who is waiting for that triple espresso to kick in.
Getting one’s blood pumping is good for society. Exercise promotes good health. Good health is preventative medicine. Preventative medicine keeps health care costs down. At a time when we are having serious debate about the future of American health care, bicycle commuting could and should be part of the equation for optimal health and reduced health costs.
The benefits of biking to work are clear. And I think more people would do it if they felt supported by the community. That means more bike lanes, slower traffic, bicycle awareness training for drivers and bicycle safety training for cyclists.
Imagine a healthier, happier place in the morning with more people commuting to work by bicycle. It will make the world a better place for us all if we just share the road.
It takes 20 minutes flat to bicycle downtown in the morning commute, and you can find Shoshana Hebshi on her red vintage Bianchi pedaling eastbound and at: http://shebshi.wordpress.com