By Kaliegh Benck / Editor-in-chief
It should be no shock to Corpus Christi residents that bicyclists make up a very small demographic of the city. Those who choose you use more environmentally and health-conscious modes of transportation are few and far between, and their avenues for using these eco-friendly vehicles of choice are even slimmer.
Many residents are not aware of the rights of bicyclists and the laws for street travel. Many accidents have been caused in Corpus Christi not only from the negligence of drivers, but also the bicyclists who are unaware of their surroundings and the rules of sharing the road.
What many people don’t realize is that bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle drivers. Each rule and regulation in place for motor vehicle drivers applies to cyclists as well. Those riding bikes alongside traffic must also travel in the same direction as vehicle traffic, stop for red lights, stop signs and they must obey all traffic laws.
According to the 2012 National Survey on Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behaviors, almost a third of all injuries are caused when bicyclists are struck by cars. Of course the risks of injuries varies based on the time of day, the experience level of the rider, where the cyclist is riding and outside factors such as alcohol or other distractions.
So is it the motor vehicle or the bicyclist who is responsible for these collisions? The lack of information being spread about sharing the road with bicyclists could be the underlying factor.
With out designated bike lanes on high-traffic roads, confusion between motor vehicles and cyclists is abundant. This may be one of the underlying reasons why Corpus Christi hasn’t adopted a more “bike friendly” atmosphere.
Choosing alternative transportation such as riding your bike has many benefits. Money spent on gas will be saved, it’s a healthier alternative for the environment and let’s not forget the health benefits.
According to Sparkpeople.com, a 20-minute leisure bike ride burns about 150 calories. Of course factors such as an individual’s weight and the speed at which you’re riding affects the total calories burned.
Ocean Drive is one of the few streets in Corpus Christi that provides a bike lane alongside regular traffic. McArdle Road is currently under construction in an effort to provide a bike lanes for each respective flow of traffic. The project began in April of 2014 and according to the city will take at least two years to complete. By turning such a high-volume street bike-friendly, this will hopefully entice more people to trade in their cars for 2-wheels and fresh air.
However, providing bike lanes on just one road won’t help the cyclists cause. Not to mention these lanes won’t be available for another two years. The purpose of bike lanes is to protect both the cyclist and the driver. By establishing boundaries, safety is also established. With out these safety boundaries, miscommunication is inevitable. The only other solution is to start providing more information on these two modes of transportation and how to respectfully travel together. Texas currently has no legal mandate for teaching bicycle awareness to drivers during a Driver’s Education or Defensive Driving course. It’s up to the discretion of the owner of the school or the classroom teacher to cover during instruction.
With the increase of local incidents involving cyclists and motorists, something’s got to change soon. According to the Corpus Christi Police Department, over 1,000 hit-and-run incidents occurred in 2013 and over 100 of these involved cyclists colliding with cars. The police department suggested that cyclists start attaching cameras to the back of their bikes in order to catch the hit-and-run drivers but this doesn’t solve the initial problem at all. The key to dodging (pun intended) these accidents is informing both parties of the legal standards of sharing the road.
Although the number of collisions seems steep the fact remains that there still aren’t many cyclists on the road. Ultimately it’s a matter of personal preference to choose between the cozy, gas-guzzling, environment-endangering 4-wheeled vehicle or the slightly-sweat-inducing, free, eco-friendly 2-wheeled mode of transportation.
Let us not forget the shameful scarlet letter we received in 2010 for being the “Fattest City in America.” By reducing the dependence on motor vehicles and actually putting in effort to get from point A to B, maybe we can shed this title as well as a couple unnecessary pounds.
While there are clear problems to riding a bicycle around Corpus Christi, the benefits completely shatter any preconceived opinions. The only way to get more of the community on bikes instead of cars is for the city to get more involved. Give the cyclists better road conditions. Inform the community of how to safely interact and travel with cyclists. Remind the people of Corpus Christi of the benefits to alternative means of transportation. This city has a bad reputation of shying away from change but if something’s broken, shouldn’t we fix it?