Bicyclists from around St. Louis gathered downtown Monday morning to discuss bike safety.
Their concerns were heightened in light of the death of Charles Richard Beard, the bicyclist killed in a hit-and-run accident on Friday night.
“He did all the right things, it should have been enough,” said rally co-organizer Eliot Miller. Beard, an experienced bicyclist, was wearing a helmet along with reflectors when he was hit while riding along Cook Avenue in north St. Louis.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, pedestrians and cyclists account for 36 percent of all traffic deaths in St. Louis. Rhonda Smythe, a manager with the bike safety organization Trailnet, says reducing pedestrian and bicycle fatalities is a two-step process.
“We need to design roads that encourage people to drive in an appropriate manner and enforcement to make sure that people are following the law,” Smythe said.
The city partnered with Great Rivers Greenway to improve bicycle infrastructure in St. Louis. By the end of 2014, the city will boast almost 100 miles in shared bike routes and 36 miles of dedicated bike lanes.
But Miller says the city doesn’t just need more bike lanes; it needs more protected bike lanes.
“Sometimes the bike lanes end at the right side of the road,” Miller said. “If you want to go left, you have to fly out of the bike lane in front of ongoing traffic, it should be painted on the road that it’s legal for a biker to be doing that.”
Smythe emphasized Trailnet’s recommendation for the city to hire a Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator devoted to designing safer streets that meet the needs of drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.
“In my research, I was unable to find any other major metropolitan area without one of these positions,” Smythe said.
Mayor Francis Slay has stressed developing better bike lanes as a priority project if the transportation sales tax passes in August. Maggie Crane, spokesperson for Slay, says that hiring a Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator is a possibility if the tax passes.
“There are a lot of options but they take money,” Crane said.
In the meantime, Miller says the public needs to be made aware of cyclist safety concerns.
“In general, we need public safety announcements,” Miller said. “Maybe a bike week, that sort of thing.”