Professional development rides sponsored by ODOT

Exploring ways for expanding economic development and improving the quality of life in Marietta was the theme of four Professional Development Rides sponsored by the Ohio Department of Transportation for 13 city, county and state officials recently.

YayBikes! Executive Director Catherine Girves of Columbus led the 13 officials and business owners on three-hour bicycle ride/community economic development events throughout the historic Marietta business district and the Pike Street commercial district.

“Professional Development Rides offer those who can improve conditions for transportation by bicyclists through an on-road experience that helps them understand their work from the seat of a bicycle,” according to Girves and the YayBikes! The events have been offered in more than 35 Ohio cities, including McConnelsville, Zanesville and Pomeroy in Southeastern Ohio.

“Our Professional Development Rides are designed to provide opportunities to experience a community’s current street infrastructure by bike to better understand how to 1) engineer and evaluate bicycle-related infrastructure; 2) inform and educate all road users; 3) enforce laws governing behaviors that lead to conflicts between people on bikes and other road users; and 4)encourage active transportation.”

Marietta participants during the four events the week of Oct. 23-27 were Marietta Adventure Co. co-owner Ryan Smith, The Cook Store co-owner Ken Kupsche, David Ballantyne of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Change, Karen Powalski of Buckeye Hills, Marietta City Council Representative Roger G. Kalter, Marietta College police officer Bob Huddleston, Marietta Police Chief Rodney Hupp, Capt. Aaron Nedeff, Marietta Fire Chief C.W. Durham, Marietta City Engineer Joe Tucker, Ohio Dept. of Transportation engineer Tom Camden, Marietta Adventure Co. co-owner Hallie Taylor, and Washington County Health Dept. Administrator Court Witchey.

Girves led the event participants from Marietta College’s Hermann Fine Arts Center through historic residential neighborhoods, through the heart of the downtown and finally out Pike Street to the Kroger’s Shopping complex before returning on the Marietta River Trail. Riders stopped every mile or so for conversations about bicycling amongst other road users.

Girves explained that bicycle riders have both the same rights and responsibilities as other vehicles on public right of ways. Ohio law provides that bicyclists have every right to use a full lane for travel anytime roads are too narrow for safe overtaking by faster traveling vehicles. Ohio law in effect since March 21 requires motorists give bicyclists at least three feet of clearance when passing. It also allows the passing vehicles to cross double yellow lines when traffic allows and the overtaken vehicle (bicycles, tractors, buggies) are traveling at less than half the posted speed limit.

Ohio law provides that bicyclists are to ride as far right as is practicable. Girves explained that many vehicle operators-both motor and bicycle-are under the mistaken understanding that cyclists must travel as far right as possible. She pointed out wet leaves, sewer grates, limbs, glass and gravel along curb lines that make travel in those areas particularly hazardous.

By riding visibly and predictably, bicyclists are able to much more easily and safely incorporate into the flow of traffic.

Bicyclists riding back and forth between curbs and around parked cars give the impression to faster-traveling motorists as being erratic and unpredictable, which make other vehicle operators more nervous, Girves explained. Bicyclists riding on sidewalks are two to three times more likely to be in accidents with cars than bicyclists using streets, she said.

Motor vehicle miles driven increased every year for the first century of use, but began leveling off in 2002, she explained. Younger people, especially millennials, are not married to owning and driving motor vehicles as older people have been accustomed. Ride sharing, walking, bicycling and use of mass transportation all are options that younger people, particularly in cities, are embracing. And that is a good thing for local and historic business districts, such as Marietta.

Research shows bicyclists tend to make more trips spending money in areas that are bicycle friendly and accommodating to their needs. Bicycle parking is less competitive because 10 bicycles may be parked in the space it takes for one motor vehicle. Bicyclists can get closer to the stores they want to frequent and often, can travel more quickly by bicycle from place to place than is possible by motor vehicle.

Girves says more than 60 percent of the country’s population would like to be able to use active transportation, such as bicycling, for short trips to work, school, shop, library and other public places frequented. Many are intimidated by motor vehicle drivers, who are in much larger and heavier vehicles, and often are distracted by electronic devices.

The interest in active transportation and the nation’s health crisis of obesity and environmental degradation are resulting in both the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Department of Transportation in funding programs, such as YayBikes! which works state wide to educate and improve opportunities for bicyclists. Such funding would have been unimaginable even five years ago, Girves said.

“What is not possible today may be possible in several years,” she encouraged the local participants.