However, these initiatives don’t take a magic wand; they require money. And money is perpetually in short supply when it comes to government in Alabama. Policymakers can legitimately argue that money is so scarce that in our recent past it’s been fantasy to plan for anything more than the most utilitarian of roads, pathways with few sidewalks and even fewer bike lanes.
The necessity of more protection for cyclists and pedestrians came into sharp relief Thursday morning when Derek Jensen was killed after being struck by a truck moving along Golden Springs Road, according to Anniston police. Jensen, who worked at McClellan’s Center for Domestic Preparedness, often rode his bicycle from his Oxford home to his workplace at the former Army fort.
According to reporting done by The Star’s Brian Anderson, it was the second fatality of a cyclist on a local road in the past five years. Anderson’s article also established that local roads are seeing more traffic from other than motorized vehicles. That means more cyclists, more walkers, more runners. More opportunities for accidents like the one we saw early Thursday morning.
This means our community needs more sidewalks, more bike lanes, more awareness of everyone on the roads and more laws meant to protect those who are most vulnerable to being hit by an automobile.
Elizabeth Kiker, vice-president of the League of American Bicyclists, told The Star, “You need more enforcement. Just like motorists will obey speed limit laws if you ticket them, there needs to be more enforcement when it comes to awareness of sharing the road with cyclists.”
A good start is the three-foot law, a measure requiring motorists to give bicycles at least three feet of clearance when passing. Even before Jensen’s death, Anniston City Councilman Jay Jenkins has been advocating that the city begin thinking of more than motor vehicles when considering transportation policies. Our hope is that others in local and state government will join Jenkins and other wise policymakers in this effort.
Bike paths, sidewalks and stricter enforcement aren’t free, and as we noted at the outset, funds are scarce. Yet, as more residents depend on means other than cars to move about, these are necessary expenses, and not frills.