05/24/2007

It's pretty exciting when a local bike to work, bike to school and bike to the market campaign is enormously successful -- as a local event was last week. 

Accompanied by their parents, kids rode to school and people rode to work. And although it was not obvious that there were significantly fewer cars at the farmers' market, there were notably more bikes.

With gas prices edging upwards and U.S. carbon emissions climbing ever higher, biking to work and school and the market makes more and more sense.

What does not make sense, however, is risking your life to get to school or work on your bike. Last week's event highlighted the very dire need for established and safe bike lanes in our villages.

Watching school children and adults as they made their cautious way through villages where bikes are supposed to share the parallel parking spaces with cars, adjacent to the travel lanes, demonstrates very clearly that the current situation is just plain dangerous. And it's not clear that the proposed pedestrian sidewalk/bike-lane for Waitsfield Village will make this bad situation any better.

In Moretown and Waitsfield Villages, the issue of bike and pedestrian safety is made worse by the lack of crosswalks. The state has its own very specific rules about the how and why of crosswalks and the protestations of local select boards and planners notwithstanding, permanent crosswalks cannot be installed until sidewalks exist -- a classic chicken and egg conundrum.

Perhaps as gas prices continue to rise, fewer cars and trucks will pass through our villages, leaving them safe for kids on bikes to get to school and adults to get to work. But that's unlikely. People will not use alternative means of getting from Point A to Point B if it is dangerous.

Parents will never encourage their kids to ride to school if doing so means squeezing through parked cars with traffic whizzing by, or trying to ride on sidewalks meant for pedestrians.

The bike to work and school and market organizers deserve credit for their efforts and for the success of their event. We cannot stick our heads in the sand and ignore what their successful event showed us -- it's not safe for kids to ride to school here and it's not safe to ride bikes in our villages. We need bike lanes, sidewalks and crosswalks. Period.

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