Blinkies raise awareness, safety for cyclists

Cyclists in the Queen City don't want any more "ghost rides," to commemorate fallen peers like Ronald Richardson, who died after being hit by a Metro bus. So as they ride tonight to honor him, supporters will also launch a new version of a proactive program they hope will raise awareness of the importance of sharing our roadways.

Queen City Blinkies, an initiative to provide free front and rear bicycle lights to riders, revives an effort started in 2008 by 7 Hills Racing. In its new incarnation, QC Blinkies, supported by Queen City Bike and the local cycling community, serves as a way to express the importance of safe riding, and safe driving, especially in the wake of recent deaths.

"This has been a really trying time for bicyclists in Cincinnati," says Nern Ostendorf, executive director of Queen City Bike. "The urgency for safer roads has never been more apparent. Bicyclists across the city are grieving, organizing and supporting one another."

Adding lights, often more than one or two, is one way cyclists can make their presence known on city streets. But no matter how conspicuous the rider, a sense of conflict remains. (Just read the comments section of any story about cyclists and drivers and you will see it.)

She notes that while Queen City Blinkies and other educational efforts, such as billboards, are important, the bigger issue involves how we, as a community, want to live. "Right now, most of our streets are designed to move cars across the city as fast as possible, with the greatest volume possible," Ostendorf says. "Of course that will create problems between cars and cyclists."

That speed-focused design, she contends, does little to increase quality of life for any citizen. "I want my city, my neighborhood, and my street to be a place to visit and enjoy rather than somewhere to move through, and I believe that most people, cyclists or not, want those things for their communities, too," she says.

One simple, though challenging, answer is to lower speed limits—as with pedestrian accidents, high-speed collisions with cyclists tend to be more serious and more often fatal.

And it turns out that slowing down may help more than cyclists. A pilot project study in Philadelphia showed that lowering speed limits not only made streets safer for motorists and cyclists to co-exist, it lowered the rate of car accidents overall.

"We need to be creative and experimental even in how we understand and move traffic," Ostendorf says. She advises neighborhood groups to take action on their own, to request lower speed limits and speed bumps when necessary to make streets and sidewalks safer for all residents, whether they are 8 or 80.

Do Good:
• Support Queen City Blinkies by donating to buy lights.

• Obey the law. Driving a car? Remember, it is illegal for cyclists to be on the sidewalk, so give them time and space as they share the road. Cycling? Remember, if you coast through a red light, you're reinforcing the kind of stereotypes that can hurt your riding peers.

• Enjoy good food and conversation at the Hyde Park Farmers Market Bikegarten.

By Elissa Yancey
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