Folks across the country are hopping on their bikes this month, National Bike Month. Not only is biking a great way to exercise, it is a practical form of urban transportation that reduces our carbon footprint. Many cyclists will celebrate National Bike to Work Day on May 16th. Bike to Work Day is an annual event that celebrates biking as an alternative mode of transportation.
The U.S. Census estimates that about half of all Americans live within five miles of their workplace. Those who decided to bike those 5 miles every day rather than driving an average car could reduce total household emissions by six percent. Unfortunately, biking as a mode of urban transportation in Western North Carolina can be dangerous as there are very few designated biking lanes. Moreover, in North Carolina, the General Assembly and Board of Transportation has eliminated or drastically reduced funding for Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) funds which are used to create new designated bike lanes in cities and towns. This lack of funding is putting cyclists at risk of injury by motorists.
Without designated bike lanes to keep cyclists safe, many lower income citizens who have no other means of transportation are most vulnerable. According to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash Data Tool 4,889 bicyclist collisions were reported from 2008 to 2012. Of these, 111 crashes involved bicyclist fatalities. A disturbing trend indicated by the report shows that is it more dangerous to be an African-American bicyclist or pedestrian. The numbers indicate that African-Americans are twice as likely to be involved in a pedestrian or bicyclist accident; 33% more likely to die as a bicyclist in a crash; almost 2.5 times more likely to have a child involved in a pedestrian or bicyclist crash.
The mountains of Western North Carolina are rich in beauty and natural resources. Biking, when possible, instead of walking is just one way that we can protect those resources. More designated bike paths and sidewalks would ensure the safety of our citizens and make it easier for more people to be healthy and active. Let your local representatives know that this is important to you by participating in one of our community workshops, by registering HERE.