Sunday, October 5, 2008

Solid steps on bicycle safety

Saturday, October 04, 2008
Huntsville Times
Since I wrote about local bicycle safety issues in last Sunday's column, some things have changed - and all for the better. But there's a lot of work to be done.

In the wake of the bicycling death of a 20-year-old University of Alabama in Huntsville student on Sept. 15, Mayor Loretta Spencer held a news conference last week. She announced that several city initiatives on bicycling and bicycling safety are being speeded up.

The city is rushing into production a new bikeways-greenways map. It's adding more bike-route and bike-safety signs. It's preparing a series of public service announcements. And it's adding bike racks (those, too, tell motorists that cyclists are in the area) downtown and in Five Points, the latter the home to three of the city's four bicycle shops.

Most important to me is the formation of a committee of bicyclists that will work with city departments, including the police, on safety issues.

In the long run, the work of that committee could determine the success of the whole effort.

As a bicyclist, I have a few recommendations for the committee and for others who might be interested:

Bicyclists are riding the public roads and will do so far into the future. The new committee should recognize that the issue is communitywide, not just confined to Huntsville. The May 2007 death of a young woman engineering student occurred outside the city limits. The new committee should include a representative of the Madison County sheriff's office.

The public, cycling and noncycling, must be informed about traffic laws and dealing with bicyclists and safety issues in general, and that information must be widely disseminated: on any Web site appropriate and in the form of easy-to-read brochures distributed to bicycle shops, car dealerships, high-school driver's education classes, county license department offices, automobile insurers and the like.

The dangers inherent in bicyclists and cars sharing the same road are not confined to North Alabama. I suggest the governor create a statewide task force that would include the Huntsville-based bicycling advocacy group the Alabama Bicycle Coalition ( and the state departments of public safety, transportation and travel and tourism, among others.

Any and all efforts to raise public awareness should recognize that the world is not divided into two camps - motorists and bicyclists. The vast majority of cyclists also drive cars, and a lot of drivers have bikes in their garages even if they don't ride them often. That can always change.

My ideas aren't necessarily new. But I'm pleased that - with the exception of the brochures - they can be implemented at little or no cost. It just takes the will.

To repeat, bicyclists will use the public roads. Their safety affects the safety of everyone. Bicycling is healthful, energy efficient and nonpolluting. If it's promoted properly, it can be a significant source of tourist dollars.

In other words, something that the Huntsville area and the state as a whole view as a problem can be converted into an advantage - and even as a reason people might visit (or even move to) Alabama from other parts of the country.

It's happened elsewhere. It can happen here.

John Ehinger's e-mail:


beardsarefun said...

Good article and good news, though I liked the last six paragraphs better when i wrote them two weeks ago.

Anonymous said...

Did you read the letter to the editor from the Big Cove area? She's facing near death experieinces having to pass bicycles on blind curves! Poor thing.

(pasted from

Friday, October 03, 2008
Huntsville Times

Find safer routes

Two recent bicyclist deaths prompt my writing this letter to the editor. We live on the section of Old Big Cove Road that runs right past the Domino's on U.S. 431 South up to Sutton Road.

A few years ago, bicycle signs went up on this section apparently designating it a bicycle path. For the life of us, we can't figure out why people in their right mind would want to ride a bicycle on this very dangerous, two-lane road.

There are several blind curves and low shoulders on it and no space on either side for a bicyclist.

-----> We could have had a head-on collision a few months ago with a van attempting to pass a bicyclist on a blind curve. <------

A resident on this road was killed a few weeks ago trying to cross it and get his newspaper.

My husband and I experience anxiety every time we pull out of our driveway or retrieve our mail because of the blind curve on one side, the blind hill on the other and all the cell users, those sending text messages and speeders who ignore the 30 mph speed limit.

I ask the bicyclists to please take a safer route for their bicycling enjoyment, even though you have as much right to the road as they do. It's not worth risking your life on this road with 4,000-pound vehicles against which you don't have a chance.

Deborah A. Campbell,
Owens Cross Roads, 35763
Read some of the comments on on's Huntsville Forums regarding bikes. Will SCCC will destroy all our chances for positive cycling changes?

clintpatty said...

I read that as an oncoming van that was trying to pass an oncoming bicycle, not the person writing the letter trying to pass a bicycle when she shouldn't have been. I think the SCCC should be represented on the committee.

Bello Velo said...

clint they are over represented 6 of of them. lets not confuse alabike too its pretty much the same people.

We need new ideas also or it will be more of the same.

trying to change a hick town won't be easy:)

beardsarefun said...

if we put more huntsvillians on track bikes, would they be hicksters? jk that was horrible

beardsarefun said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
clintpatty said...

Who are the 6? It was my understanding that only 1 person, Sharon Bayler, would be representing SCCC. Or maybe Jamie representing SCCC and SR2S. Because someone is a member of SCCC does not mean that they will be pushing an SCCC-specific agenda. And if the roads are safer for SCCC members, they will be safer for non-members. AlaBike's focus is advocacy; SCCC's focus is not. I would expect people on the committee to care more about it, though. Being a member of both organizations doesn't mean that you should be excluded or count as over-representing because someone else is a member and representing SCCC.

beardsarefun said...

well put Clint

Anonymous said...

Who says the constitution of that group can't change now that we have a new mayor? Let's see what happens.
I agree, SCCC and AlaBike are over-represented and do NOT by any means represent an accurate cross section of cyclists in Huntsville.

Bello Velo said...

I think the group is fine lets let them get to work and see what happens.

Lets move forward....

Bello Velo said...

I think the group is fine, let them get to work and see what happens.

Lets move forward....

Anonymous said...

I try not to look at these but there are some nasty people here. Is this the Southern Hostility I hear so much about. Someone should kickster this hickster.

Anonymous said...

This one balances it out

I like this person

Anonymous said...

maybe read the whole thread

Anonymous said...

those links don't work. which thread/posts are you talking about?

Concerned Commuter said...

Here you go. I have a question and I hear this a lot around town why is there so much hate pointed at SCCC? I have been in a quite a few other places and I have never seen so much negativity pointed at a Bike Club? I am speaking about cyclists more than motorists. What gives?


Anonymous said...

Good question. IMHO there is a disgruntled former member on a witch hunt, playing upon others' similar disdain for attitudes of some SCCC members.

beardsarefun said...

I agree that there seems to be a lot of negative feeliings towards SCCC. The club i was formerly in, DCBC in Tuscaloosa, was great and I never heard anything but praise towards them. I know several SCCC members. not well but well enough to form an opinion. I think there are a few particularly mouthy members that come across as representing the group and ruin it for the rest of the club. Over all, I like most of the group but don't pretend to know all their agendas. Like Clint said, i think they are pro-bike and I remain optimistic. My one complaint is that a couple of them are very opinionated and dont seem open to new ideas that may differ from their own.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a huge supporter of spring city, but I know a lot of members and many of them do not represent the close mindedness I keep on hearing so much about. I have to say that their presence in the cycling committee needs to be minimal though just because they as a club represent racing and group riding, which function in different parameters than commuting and have a certain feel of elitism with them, but this elitism is not by any means a mindset of each individual in spring city.

Basically they are what they are, a club, and clubs are elitist in nature.

Sometimes I want to walk into a shady motorcycle bar, but much as the sccc goes, I don't think I'd fit in well enough to hold the opinions and drives of of the majority.