I wanted to correct a misstatement concerning “complete streets” and bicycle safety in the June 8 Mailbag. Bicycle safety is not just about motorists following the law, although that’s a huge step in the right direction (as befits being the most dangerous thing on the road). Bicycle and pedestrian safety is also about “paint on the pavement,” and about how that pavement (the road system) is designed to accommodate all users up front, not as an afterthought.
Motorists have to obey the law, and police have to enforce it, but if the road system isn’t properly designed and marked in the first place so all the users — walkers, bikers, mass transit, cars and trucks —have a place, laws and their enforcement won’t make that roadway safe.
An example: One road where I regularly run — facing traffic, as the law requires, in a narrow at-grade lane designated by paint only (no sidewalks) — typically accommodates bikers, motor vehicles and the few people like me on foot without major incident. Recently this road was repaved, which naturally obliterated the lane markings. Since then, I’ve seen a jump in instances when cars are either getting close to my little slice of roadway along the edge or creeping into the center to the dismay of oncoming traffic. Why? No “paint on the pavement” to let them know where they’re supposed to be.
Design is really key to making a street “complete,” accessible to all users. That means walkers have a sidewalk, bicyclists have a lane or path, buses have a place to safely pull in to pick up and drop off passengers, and people trying to cross a street have a way to do so safely. Everyone has a clear line of sight to see what everyone else is doing, and vehicle traffic moves along just fine, likely better than on some old-style roadway where the only goal is to move traffic and all other users be damned.
“Complete streets” goes hand-in-hand with smarter drivers and better law enforcement. But without good road design and the right “paint on the pavement,” that road still won’t be complete — and it sure won’t be safe for bikers and walkers.
Ken Gooderham, Fort Myers