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Popham Culture: Macon must become more bike-friendly

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Popham Culture: Macon must become more bike-friendly

Jonathan Popham

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Anything worthwhile deserves protecting. I think most rational people could agree with that. Quality of life is inarguably worthwhile.  The cities that are usually rated with the highest quality of life are generally also rated the most cycling friendly cities in the world.   Because of this, I conclude that there is likely a correlation between cycling and quality of life.  With this logic, it makes great sense to promote cycling as a means of transportation, personal wellness, and as a benefit to the environment.  Mercer University, the College Hill Corridor Commission, and the city of Macon all recognize this to some extent.
Cycling is a legitimate form of transportation, especially in urban areas. The problem is cycling can be highly dangerous for the cyclist. According to the most recent Crash Analysis, Statistics & Information (CASI) released by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) cyclists are 10 times more likely to be killed in a collision with an automobile than a person inside of a motor vehicle. A car is much different than a bicycle. While this seems like common sense, the law says otherwise. Georgia law says that regardless of the obvious differences in speed, mass, and protection, a bicycle is legally identical to an automobile.
The worst part?  Georgia Senate Bill 196 declares that (40-6-144) “Except as provided by resolution or ordinance of a local government for sidewalks within the jurisdiction of such local government authorizing the operation of bicycles on sidewalks by persons 12 years or younger, no person shall drive any vehicle upon a sidewalk area except upon a permanent or duly authorized driveway”. In plain English, this means that if you are over 12 you can not ride your bike on the sidewalk. I’m not saying that we should have all cyclists ride on the sidewalk in lieu of bike lanes; I’m saying that we should at least allow for the possibility for cyclists to share the sidewalk as well as the road.  Cyclists on the sidewalk can be dangerous for pedestrians, but until bike lanes are ubiquitous in Macon (see: never), it should be allowable in a given circumstance. Disrupting pedestrian should remain ticket-able at the discretion of police.  Would you ever ride your bike down Vineville Avenue at noon on a Monday? Would you ever take your morning jog through a minefield?
Since Macon lacks the funds, infrastructure, and political will for bicycle lanes, we should protect our citizens in the next best way. Cyclists should ride in the road for the safety of pedestrians, but on the sidewalk for their own safety. An informal poll around campus shows that not only is this the opinion of most students, the illegal status of sidewalk-riding amazed them.
Cycling isn’t going anywhere. Until Macon’s city government or the State government change their stance, I recommend Thomas Jefferson’s advice, “If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so”.

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Popham Culture: Macon must become more bike-friendly