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City can make cycling safer

On Wednesday at 7 p.m., local cyclists will take part in the Ride of Silence, an annual, worldwide event to memorialize cyclists killed or injured on public roadways.
Today, Salisbury City Council can take a step to make at least one local road safer for them.
At its 4 p.m. meeting, the council will consider an agreement with the N.C. Department of Transportation to add a mile of bike lanes along Newsome Road between Stokes Ferry and Bringle Ferry roads. If the project goes forward as proposed, the city would pay for it using $1.1 million from a federal program to reduce congestion and improve air quality, along with $279,250 in local matching funds.
May, National Bike Month, would be an appropriate time to OK such a project, though it wouldn’t be the city’s first venture into cycling safety and friendliness.
Using a grant from the N.C. Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation, the city and a consultant produced a comprehensive bicycle plan in 2009 with a stated goal of making Salisbury “a better place to live and bike in the coming years.”
That effort has met with resistance.
In 2012, city officials floated a proposal to add bike lanes on Statesville Boulevard while reducing the space for cars, as suggested in the comprehensive bicycle plan. Motorists loudly opposed, and the proposal was scrapped.
More recently, consultants have recommended slowing traffic and adding bike lanes on Long Street near East Innes Street. A January public meeting echoed the Statesville Boulevard uproar, but a February meeting drew more bike lane supporters. No decision has yet been made.
Salisbury is playing catch-up with some of its neighbors. Concord has bike lanes on its downtown streets while Kannapolis has included them on newly constructed roads and is developing a bicycle plan that may add bike lanes along the loop that surrounds the N.C. Research Campus and downtown.
“Share the Road” signs are good reminders that cyclists are out there; unfortunately, a lot of motorists don’t heed them or don’t think they should have to share. The evidence is in the numbers of cyclists injured or killed by motor vehicles each year — 726 in 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In North Carolina, the bicycle has the legal status of a vehicle. Bicyclists have full rights and responsibilities on the roadway and are subject to the same regulations governing a motorist.
Unfortunately, they don’t have the same protection a motor vehicle provides in an accident.
While bike lanes closer to downtown might be more useful, the ones proposed for Newsome Road would be a step in the right direction, giving cyclists more of their own, safer space to ride, even if it is just a few feet.
More information about the local Ride of Silence can be found through a link on the Skinny Wheels Bike Shop website at www.skinnywheels.com . For information on the larger event, go to www.rideofsilence.org.

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