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Queens in-Depth Story Final Edit

Queens in-Depth Story Final Edit

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Published by sliotchev

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Published by: sliotchev on Feb 12, 2012
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02/12/2012

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Biking In Queens and Charlotte is Growing, and With ThatThe Concern for Safety is Growing
By: Stefan LiotchevLook around the Queens University campus in Charlotte, and you will see cyclistseverywhere. Charlotte is a growing city, and with that growth new trends are emerging. Thenumber of people riding bikes has grown substantially during the past decade, especially in theuptown-area north of Davidson Street, known as NODA. The number of bikers at Queens issubstantial as well. With this increased bike traffic, the question of safety arises.According to the state¶s Department of Transportation, Mecklenburg County had more bike accidents between 2000 and 2010 than any other county in the state. During that time,automobiles hit 1,221 bikers. ³There are many more (accidents) that go unreported´ says MikeZimmerman of the Charlotte Area Bicycle Alliance (CABA), Charlotte¶s biking advocacy group.CABA¶s goal is to get more people riding bikes, teach bike safety, and urge the city to create amore bicycle-friendly environment. Safety is definitely a concern.The city has made improvements designed to encourage bike riding. There are two bikeracks on every city bus. While there are no statistics on how many people actually use those bikeracks, Zimmerman estimates the numbers are high.The city and county are also expanding trails on which to ride. Twenty years ago, therewere just over ten miles of greenways and no bike lanes on city roads. Today there are some 154miles of Greenway in and around the county that makes it easier and more accessible for cycliststo get around. A rising number of bike lanes on busy roads around the city, such as Colony Road,have also made a significant improvement in bike safety, says Zimmerman. There is still work to be done to make Charlotte a truly bike-friendly city.While Charlotte could do more to improve roads for bikes, Zimmerman¶s main concern iseducation. Many people out riding bikes on the roads do not have much experience navigatingthrough city traffic. ³The city has no funding for bike safety education´ says Zimmerman. If  people are more experienced, the numbers of accidents will go down. Zimmerman says thatmany people overestimate their skills and go out on busy roads. Bike education courses wouldhelp educate people on how to become better bikers, and CABA is trying to raise funds andconvince local government to help. Neal Boyd of Charlotte Sports Cycling says that new bicyclists need to start ongreenways and residential streets. There they can start riding at low speeds with little to no trafficto worry about. Once they build up experience and confidence, cyclists can graduate to busier streets, he says.Boyd also argues that Mecklenburg County¶s high bike-car accident rate is due toCharlotte¶s relatively large population of both cars and bikers. Biking in Charlotte is safe as longas bikers are alert and safety-conscious, he says, adding that bikers should take alternative routeswith less traffic.
 
³I run errands on my bike all the time, but I don¶t use the same streets that I [would]normally drive [on]´ he said.Inexperienced bikers are only half of the accident equation. Drivers make up the other half. Zimmerman breaks down drivers into three categories; considerate drivers who are payingattention and following traffic laws, distracted drivers who are multitasking and not payingattention, and malicious, inconsiderate drivers who go out of their way to purposefully hurt andantagonize bikers. The latter two types are the most dangerous, though they only make up about10 percent of drivers.Felix Duchampt, a Queens University senior, deals with inconsiderate motorists everyday as he bikes to run errands as well as train for a Triathlon.³Just about every day I come to a situation where I may crash,´ he says. Duchampt is alifelong biker and an experienced one. According to Duchampt, who is from France, the cultureof drivers in the Southeastern United States is not accepting of cyclists.³In France, the streets are more crowded with cars and actually less suitable for biking,´he says. But ³drivers are more careful and pay more attention, so it¶s safer.´Duchampt suggests that if you are looking to ride a bike to run errands, stick tosidewalks. If looking for more rigorous exercise, head out to the suburbs (around 20 minutesfrom Queens) or ride on the ³booty loop´ which consists of Selwyn Avenue, Queens Road West,and Queens Road.³I¶ve come close to hitting bikers a few times [around campus]´ says Sarah Hoyle, aQueens junior. She says that the streets in the neighborhood just are not suitable for bikers andthat it is dangerous for drivers as well as bikers.³I do feel like that could be a good solution,´ Hoyle said when asked if adding more bikelanes in the Myers Park area would be a good idea. Jeremy Long, a graduate student who is anavid biker would also like to see more bike lanes.³I think it would ease the nerves of us (bikers) as well as them (drivers),´ he said.The Myers Park Homeowners Association was contacted several times for a comment onthe issue, however they have not responded. Not everyone is as tolerant of bikers as Hoyle is. ³I just don¶t understand why they (bikers) don¶t ride in the parks, the roads are designed for cars,not bikers´ said Queens Sophomore Benjamin Thomason who commutes to campus from hishome in Waxhaw three times a week.Zimmerman points out that on the West Coast the environment is more bike friendly,especially in places such as Portland, Oregon, and Northern California, where it is not unusual tosee thousands of cyclists on roads every day going to work or just running errands.The number of people who use biking as a primary mode of transportation in Charlotteremains small; however the number of recreational bikers is strong and continues to grow. WhileZimmerman would like to envision an environment in Charlotte similar to that of the WestCoast, he says that Charlotte still has a long way to go.

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