Bicycling is healthy, efficient and a good alternative to driving
Published: Sunday, March 6, 2011
Updated: Sunday, March 6, 2011 22:03
Sustainability and "going green" has been the talk of the town in recent years. West Virginians must work to ensure it does not stop at mere talk.
One of the best things Morgantown citizens can do for the environment and local economy is work to make the city more bicycle friendly.
Riding a bike in Morgantown can be a bit daunting. The City of Morgantown Bicycle Board offers a confident city cycling course that aims to teach riders safety techniques in traffic.
Unfortunately, oftentimes it is not the cyclist who needs the safety lesson. Narrow roads with no shoulders produce a dicey situation when impatient drivers get behind cyclists. Many drivers do not realize the law requires them to share the road with bicycles.
According to the West Virginia Department of Transportation website, "Every person riding a bike upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle." Cyclists are even allowed to ride two abreast on most roads.
This means a driver must wait for a safe and legal opportunity to pass a bike rider, just as if they were passing another car.
Much of the responsibility to make Morgantown a more bike-friendly city falls on the shoulders of individual drivers.
Widening roads for bike lanes is often not an option in a town where many houses sit no more than a few feet from the road.
However, learning to share the available streets will have a huge, positive impact on Morgantown.
Creating a strong cycling community would greatly reduce the amount of traffic on the roadways. As well as making commutes less miserable, fewer cars on the roads would quickly lead to improved air quality.
Driving is one of the most air polluting acts the average American commits.
Other effects bicycling could have on Morgantown include the obvious health benefits.
Commuting on a bicycle is often the fastest way in between campuses, and it is an easy way to burn calories throughout the day.
Environmental and health concerns are not the only reasons to ditch cars. AAA found in their annual "Your Driving Costs" study, based on driving 15,000 miles a year, it costs 47.6 cents a mile, or $9,519 a year, to operate a mid-sized car.
Not only is this money coming out of the driver's pocket, but most of it is also leaving the local economy.
Money spent paying for gas, insurance and finance charges is all money that leaves the city of Morgantown.
Advocating cycling will keep much of this money local and greatly improve the economy.
In fact, AAA estimated if a city could reduce car ownership by 15,000, more than $127 million could stay local. In a city as small as Morgantown, removing this many cars is a little unrealistic, however, Morgantown's numbers could still be huge.
In a society where green has become our favorite color, the transition to a cycling culture is attainable. The change will start slowly. Many Morgantown citizens are not ready to throw down their keys just yet.
For now I only ask if you must drive, please stop trying to kill me when I am riding up University Avenue.
To sign up for the bicycle safety course visit the Morgantown Bicycle Board's website at www.morgantown.com/bike-board.htm.