It has happened again. Another bicyclist has died riding a bike on the highways of Central Georgia. In the early 2000s, Shape magazine voted Macon as the least fit city in the nation. Since then not much has happened to improve the opportunities for people to get out and exercise. The Ocmulgee Heritage Trail has added a few miles to enjoy the beauty of our area, but a tornado destroyed a once nice path around Macon State College. Otherwise, where do people go to run, jog, walk, push strollers or ride bicycles? They head to the streets and highways that are shared with often distracted motorists.
More and more people are turning to the rolling roads of Monroe County to enjoy the beauty of rural Georgia and get away from traffic. However, many motorists seem to resent sharing the roads with these slower moving bicyclists. If you are a motorist, please remember that your friends and neighbors on the bikes have a right to be on the roads also. Bikers are dodging the broken road edges on narrow roads with no safety shoulders, while dodging potholes, rocks, stones, sticks, snakes, critters, road kill, runners, joggers, walkers and slippery lines painted on the roads.
We are traveling between a few miles an hour on a leisurely ride to 15 to 20 miles an hour on a fast ride. Often we ride with others for fun and safety. We are not in a 4,000 pound vehicle but on a 15-pound bike with skinny tires that easily go flat. We do not have a 300-horsepower engine pushing us up hills, but a one-man/woman power set of legs doing the work. The hills can be a challenge, which often requires us to slow down and dig deep to conquer. So, please, remember to slow down when approaching us from the rear.
Unless you have your lights on, it is difficult to see you in the tiny mirror on our handlebars. Pass carefully as we are dogging items in/on the road. Give us at least three feet clearance for safety allowing for a zig or zap in our path. Please tell your teenagers, who are always late for school in the morning, to slow down and give the bikers some room. And please allow a biker access to cross the road at an intersection. It is very difficult to stop and start quickly, although bicyclists are required to obey all traffic rules. And thank you to everyone who does wave us on and passes safely.
Until our local leaders recognize the economic impact of developed recreational pedestrian paths, i.e. the 60-mile Silver Comet Trail near Atlanta or the 40-mile River Walk in Columbus that attracts thousands daily, we will have to share our roads with each other in Central Georgia. Believe me, we would love to be riding on a pedestrian bike path and off of the roads. Until then, we thank you for sharing the roads with us and ask you to drive carefully and give bikers space on the roads.
Gayle Bina, is the assistant director of International Medical Programs at Mercer University.