Georgia Highway Safety Officials, Bicycle Advocates Call For Safer Cycling Year In 2013

Monday, May 20, 2013

Highway safety officials and cycling advocates are calling on Georgians to make 2013 a safer year for cyclists in Georgia.

Cyclist fatalities increased by 28 percent  in 2012, while traffic deaths continued to decline overall in Georgia last year.

Highway safety officials and bicycle safety advocates attribute the increase to the growing numbers of cyclists on the road as more Georgians seek cleaner and healthier commute options.

"Bicycling will only to continue to grow in Georgia, both as a healthy recreational activity and as a sensible, enjoyable means of transportation,” said Brent Buice, executive director of Georgia Bikes!. “To ensure that all of Georgia's road users can return home to friends and family safely, we must respect each others' right to our public roads, obey the law, be attentive, and work together to build safe facilities for all."

Crashes involving bicycles took 18 lives in 2012, compared with 14 in 2011. The 2012 fatality count for cyclists made up less than 2 percent of traffic fatalities in Georgia in 2012.

Still, Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, says Georgians can do better in 2013.

“We are always striving toward zero deaths on Georgia roads,” Mr. Blackwood said. “With cyclists, we must strive harder for that goal, as this section of the transportation population can be much more vulnerable in a crash.”

Nearly 75 percent of all bicycle-involved crashes reported in Georgia in 2012 resulted in injury, according to data released by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Monday, and cyclists’ vulnerability in a crash makes a hit-and-run situation even more dangerous.

Hit-and-run crashes accounted for 15 percent of the total number of bicycle-related crashes in Georgia last year. Of those, 47 occurred in the metro Atlanta area.

While hit-and-run crashes did not result in any fatalities for cyclists in 2012, Rebecca Serna, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, worries about their potential.

“Hit-and-runs are more likely to result in the vulnerable user - the pedestrian or cyclist - becoming a fatality, because no one was there to call for help,” Ms. Serna said. “While crashes can happen to anyone, leaving the scene of a crash turns it into a crime. We are calling on all Georgians to drive or cycle with care and attention, and to always stop to render aid when they see someone in need.”

Cyclists were one of a few sectors of Georgia commuters who had a deadlier year in 2012 than in 2011.

Pedestrian fatalities also increased in 2012, as did collisions between cars and trains.

Despite the increase in cyclist deaths last year, Ms. Serna said she believes Atlanta has become a safer place for cyclists in recent years.

“This is partly due to the growing numbers of people riding bikes in the city, creating safety in numbers,” Ms. Serna said. “The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition works towards this vision by advocating for better bikeways that are safe and welcoming, and by working with our partners at the Governor's Office of Highway Safety to educate drivers and bikers on how to interact safely on our roadways.”

The city of Atlanta is working with engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology to better understand Georgia’s cycling population. Through the Cycle Atlanta app, cyclists in the city can map their routes and infrastructure issues that trouble their commutes.

"Atlanta has made great strides to be a bicycle-friendly city," said Atlanta City Council President Ceasar C. Mitchell. "I am committed to working with Director Blackwood and his team to do my part to make cycling safer in the city."

Recent changes in state policy should also improve cyclist safety in and outside of Atlanta.

In 2011, Governor Nathan Deal signed a law that requires motorists to give cyclists three feet of space on the roads, and last year, the Georgia Department of Transportation adopted a Complete Streets policy that seeks to “incorporate bicycle, pedestrian, and transit (user and transit vehicle) accommodations into transportation infrastructure projects as a means for improving mobility, access, and safety for the traveling public.”

Some local governments, including Athens-Clarke County, have adopted similar measures that will include cyclists and pedestrians in future infrastructure projects.

“BikeAthens has long envisioned a comprehensive transportation network all Athenians can use with confidence and ease,” said BikeAthens executive director Tyler Dewey. “Transforming streets into Complete Streets is necessary to make that vision a reality.  It will make Athens’ streets vibrant streets.  It will make Athens’ streets safe streets.”

Likewise, the City of Atlanta plans to use the data collected from the Cycle Atlanta app to prioritize infrastructure improvements in the city.

“Safety is the number one measure of success for creating a bike-friendly environment. Through deliberate actions from motorists and cyclists alike, we can all come together to share our streets and respect the use of multiple modes of transportation,” said Atlanta City Councilman Aaron Watson.

Until those improvements are made, Kari Watkins, an assistant professor at Georgia Tech and a co developer of the Cycle Atlanta app, says that simply having more cyclists on the road will improve safety for cyclists.

“As the number of cyclists on the road grows, the number of crashes will increase, but not at the same rate as before,” Ms. Watkins said. “We theorize that as more cyclists are on the road, those driving vehicles will get used to seeing cyclists and begin to restructure how they drive, and eventually, sharing the road becomes second nature.”



Kayak Tour From Chattanooga To Brown’s Ferry Set For Aug. 31

The public is invited to participate in a free, four-hour, kayak tour with a ranger on Friday, Aug. 31 at 9 a.m. National Park Partners and the Friends of Outdoor Chattanooga will sponsor an event where visitors will paddle down the Tennessee River, around the tip of Moccasin Bend, while learning about the much needed supply line to help lift the Confederate siege of Chattanooga. ... (click for more)

Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park Seeks Volunteers For Annual National Public Lands Day On Saturday, Sept. 22

Join volunteers across the nation on Saturday, Sept. 22, taking part in the 25 th annual National Public Lands Day - the largest single-day volunteer effort for public lands in the United States. This year the effort is being made to recognize NPLD events that highlight restoration and resilience. At Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, we will focus on a section ... (click for more)

Dallas Bay Baptist Church School Evacuated By Bomb Threat Tuesday Afternoon

Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office personnel responded to a bomb threat at Dallas Bay Baptist Church School on Tuesday.  As a precaution, all staff and children were evacuated from the building. They were moved to a secure location off-site near the school.  An all clear was given several hours later. All students at this time of been accounted for and have been ... (click for more)

Federal Appeals Court Rules In Favor Of Family With Down Syndrome Child Who Sued County Schools

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of a couple with a Down syndrome child who sued the county schools. The parents of Luka Hyde objected when the county schools tried to move him from his zoned school to a segregated school. The ruling says under federal law that students with disabilities are supposed to be placed in the least restrictive ... (click for more)

Thank You For Cleaning Up Brown's Tavern

Thank you to whomever is responsible for the massive clean-up project that began yesterday at Brown's Tavern in Lookout Valley.  It already looks 1,000 percent better. Ricky and T.J. Hendricks Smith  (click for more)

Roy Exum: One Person Every Hour

After the first weekend in August, the United States was shaken to its core as every major media outlet reported that 67 people had been shot in Chicago, 12 of them dead in the senseless carnage. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel pleaded for calm and announced an additional 600 police officers would join other law enforcement in the five most troubled districts. This past weekend, which ... (click for more)