Do you text while driving? Do you sometimes find yourself distracted by other things while behind the wheel? If you answered ‘yes’ to either of these questions, then you are a cyclist’s worst nightmare.
VCU is known for the number student cyclists it puts on city roads. Everywhere you turn, you see someone on a bike– whether they’re riding to class, work, or just to a friend’s house. It’s the most convenient way to get around when living in the city, but it can also be the most dangerous.
The majority of cyclists in Richmond share the road with other cars. It beats taking a sidewalk that’s cluttered with slow-walking pedestrians. But riding on the road with other cars is a scary thing, especially for new cyclists like myself.
Riding your bike on the road means dealing with impatient, frustrated and distracted drivers. Nobody wants to drive behind a pedal-driven single track vehicle when they’ve got somewhere to be. It becomes an inconvenience to most people, who then rush, putting bikers in danger.
According to the State of Cycling Report at VCU, one in five cyclists have been involved in a traffic crash in the VCU area. 35 percent of the accidents were caused by driver inattention, meaning the vehicle came into contact with a cyclist through no fault of the cyclist. Collisions with pedestrians account for 10 percent of accidents and infrastructure issues such as potholes or uncovered metal plates cause 20 percent of crashes. These statistics could be a bit of a shock or it could make perfect sense considering the hectic morning rush hour commute on campus.
Fortunately, the VCU Police Department has started to take more notice of the dangers that cyclists face while on the road.
Since the beginning of the semester, police officers have been handing out brochures around crosswalks, informing students about the importance of sharing the road. They stress the idea of awareness being critical to being a good driver, bicyclist or pedestrian while sharing the road.
The brochure notes that about 80 people died in 2011 walking or cycling on Virginia roadways, and around 730 bicyclists and 1,700 pedestrians were injured. It also gives some pointers to pedestrians and bicyclists on the responsibilities of sharing the road.
The City of Richmond has also taken some steps to ensure bike safety in the city. The new Bike Connector Route and the Leigh Street Bike Lane Project will open on Oct. 3. The project includes the installation of pavement markings, signal heads and signage.
As a cyclist in the city, it’s great to hear that people are taking initiative to ensure my safety on the road.
In addition to these safety measures, I also think that VCU should sponsor more bicycle education classes for undergraduates, particularly focusing on safe riding. These types of classes could help inform students (especially freshmen) on the main tips of how to be a successful bike rider in the city.
Riding your bike in the city is nothing like riding it in suburban or rural areas. Here at VCU, there are pedestrians, vehicles and bicyclists everywhere you turn.
It doesn’t matter if you’re handling a two ton vehicle or pedaling a fixie, the important thing to remember is to be aware of your surroundings.
Especially if you are the one driving, pay attention to the road and remember: Cyclists have the same rights on the road as drivers do.