In certain places in the world – most notably certain European cities – the idea of fast cars, hefty trucks, and puny unprotected cyclists sharing the urban roadways is a fact of life. In America, such a thoroughly worked out system doesn’t quite exist anywhere, but that’s not to say for a second that cycling isn’t popular in America or that there aren’t many with a bicycle as a primary means of transport.
The real-world models certainly exist, and there is no reason the road cannot be a place for all types of wheeled transport. Nevertheless, this takes some planning. Furthermore, it might be high time to get seriously working on that planning because the number of American cyclists has increased massively in recent years. Between 2001 and 2009 (eight years), for example, the number more than doubled.
The issue of pedestrians is another important one that hasn’t been figured out. Pedestrians, of course, have been around forever but that doesn’t mean this is a static issue. Setting aside population growth, the way vehicles and pedestrians interact is changing as the nature of traffic changes. With faster cars (and more of them) sharing urban spaces with millions of road-crossing pedestrians, road safety planning needsto keep up.
The Benefits of Cycling
For traversing the length of the country or travelling intercity, cycling is certainly not the preferred option. Valtir, highway safety experts, say that this is one of the reasons why highway safety rarely needs to take into account the concerns of cyclists – and certainly not pedestrians. In the large urban centers however – where cars travel a bit slower but in many more different directions and with many more possible “conflict points” on the road – this is very certainly a concern that will take more than just traditional safety features such as seatbelts or highway guardrails.
More than just this reality though is that fact that cycling is being actively encouraged, finding a highly receptive audience, and is expected to only become more popular. The main benefits are obvious and highly appealing – significantly less cost, the opportunity for exercise, and the lack of carbon emissions. On these three fronts, cycling is promoted as a huge social good – and this is not going to stop any time soon.
Moreover, as you might have noticed, these benefits also apply to simply walking.Indeed, pedestrian initiatives and the pedestrianization of certain urban spaces is another trend that seems sure to continue.
Sharing the Road
So, how can the road be effectively shared by all three of these modes of transport? A collision between a motorist and a cyclist usually ends badly for the cyclist, and so line markings which give them designated lanes is a big part of making the road suitable. This is a job involving more than a few pots of paint, however. City-wide cycling networks need to be created, first identifying the parts of the road to designate for cyclists that do not reduce the space for motor traffic too much.
Education (including road signage) is also vital. A road shared by pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists is a fairly new concept as it has only recently been a concern. Accordingly, rules about how to cycle on the roadas well as rules about how to deal with cyclists and pedestrians as a motoristare essential. Drivers need to be educated both off and on the road.
Ultimately, cycling has a key role to play in the future, and pedestrians are an ever-present phenomenon. This means that for motorists and everyone else, the rules and safety infrastructure of our roads need to adapt.