I wonder how many cyclists realize that the AAA (American Automobile Association) was started in collaboration with cycling clubs. Both groups were trying to gain access to and improve roads that were primarily used by horses, buggies and wagons. Most road users wanted neither bikes OR cars on the road. Funny how little things change. There has been a change in the players, but the issues are the same.
With the current ranting that goes on between cyclists and motorists in this community (it really happens everywhere) not much gets accomplished. On most days I see cyclists run through stop lights, riding the wrong way and other heinous acts; as well as motorists who drive in bike lanes, don’t signal turns and yell or honk to get bicyclists off the road. Laws are not going to change this type of behavior, but maybe the kind of roads we design will.
Ever since Patrick Sawyer’s death (he was a nursing student at IU South Bend) our Dean of the School of Nursing, Mary Jo Regan-Kubinski, has taken an interest in bike safety. I approached her about attending a conference in Indianapolis called Balanced Transportation for Healthier Communities and she agreed to cover my costs (thanks Mary Jo!). This conference was about making streets accessible and safe to all those who use them: the disabled, pedestrians, bicyclists and CARS! The focus was not on one group needing access but all needing access. With this type of approach everyone benefits and everyone is at the table.
The concept of “Complete Streets” was introduced at the conference by Randy Neufeld the Chief Strategy Officer of the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation in Chicago. Chicago has made tremendous strides in making their streets bicycle friendly. He reviewed how “Complete Streets” works and how to politically make it happen. One of the benefits of this for a city like South Bend is that there are fiscally responsible ways of integrating this method into tight city budgets. “Complete Streets” is a national organization with lots of resources available to communities. Their web site is definitely worth visiting. http://www.completestreets.org/
I would encourage anyone with an interest in bike safety to take a look. Perhaps this is something that we can approach the city with. By making everyone beneficiaries of better streets, we will be able to change the transportation culture in South Bend.
Director Health and Wellness, Indiana University South Bend
(And avid cyclist for a long, long time!)