Greasing the Wheels
Local Bicycle Advocacy Group aims at increased bike safety.
by Donna Clayton Walter
The hard-working members of the Grant County Bicycle Advocacy Group (BAG) have secured a grant from Freeport-McMoRan to further their work to advocate for Grant County's roadways, making them safer and more enjoyable for local cyclists. The group's most recent efforts, supported by the grant, will include a program to enhance a sometimes problematic but very important relationship — the one between police officers and bicyclists.
Cycling enthusiast and bike advocacy group member Marguerite Bellringer on her bicycle near a freshly applied “sharrow” on 41st Street in Silver City.
Looking over their agenda at a recent meeting, a handful of BAG special committee members acknowledged that the careless actions of a few bicyclists — weaving around traffic, bicycling on the wrong side of the road, running stop signs and the like, whether through carelessness or ignorance of the laws — can tarnish the reputation of cyclists among motorists. Such behaviors also may harm bicyclists' image among police officers, whose job it is to make cyclists safer through law enforcement.
And so, the group is using the funds — almost $10,000 — for a variety of things that will enhance bicyclists' safety and enjoyment of Grant County roadways, including a series of Officer Bicycle Safety Training sessions next month. Conducted by Sergeant Michelle Thiry of the Phoenix Police Department, the training event is designed to train police officers in Grant County how to safely and effectively enforce New Mexico Motor Vehicle Codes regarding bicycling on roadways.
"Educating police officers, who in turn educate bicyclists to follow the rules of the road, helps everyone," says Michele Giese, a nurse, public health educator and member of the Grant County Bicycle Advocacy Group. "Whether on two wheels or four, we all need to follow the laws so all of us are safe."
Members of the committee acknowledge that bicyclists who run stop signs are not behaving like vehicular traffic, as if the rules don't apply to them because they are on two wheels. This can annoy some motorists and puts cyclists in danger, whether they realize it or not.
To enhance awareness and compliance, the group also is working on an informative pamphlet that may be handed out by law enforcement officers to educate cyclists who break traffic laws and who endanger themselves and others — as a warning, rather than a ticket. The pamphlet will also include city and county maps outlining the safest routes to bicycle on as well as local amenities for bicycling tourists.
The grant will have a lasting impact on the safety of Grant County cyclists in two ways, the group says. Not only will the bicycle safety pamphlets be carried and distributed by law enforcement for years to come, but promotion of bicycle education through radio and newspaper messages will raise awareness in the community over the course of a year to reach both bicyclists and motorists alike.
The other education piece will address the younger bicycling crowd during this year's Pedalista event. The event, to be held this April in Gough Park, will involve games, educational segments, prizes and more, designed to ensure smarter, safer riders in the community and increase community involvement in and excitement about recreational cycling. (Read more about Pedalista in April's Desert Exposure.)
Though geared for all ages, the BAG committee members hope that Pedalista will encourage children to get up on bikes for fun and transportation, and that starting kids out right — knowing the rules of the road and riding safely — is an important goal of the event.
"It's a great form of exercise!" says Giese. "And it's fun!"
The advocacy group supports non-motorized travel corridors throughout Silver City by encouraging partnerships with the town and the school systems, encouraging access to public lands, making roads safe for cyclists, particularly school children, by supporting planning efforts that encourage transportation options, and by encouraging employers to give their employees incentives to walk and bike to work. The group has advocated for proper signage, safer roads and off-road pathways for local cyclists.
To learn more about the work of the Grant County Bicycle Advocacy Group (BAG), or to become a part of its work to enhance local cycling, contact BAG Co-Chairman Rebecca Summer at email@example.com or Jamie Thomson at firstname.lastname@example.org. The group welcomes your input.
Long-time Silver City freelance writer Donna Clayton Walter
now bikes in Santa Fe.
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