Safe cycling an issue as cycling grows in the Miami Valley

Brent and Meg Anderson ride their tandem bicycle along the new stretch of the Little Miami Scenic Trail following the ribbon cutting ceremony for the trail Friday. Bill Lackey/Staff

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

The Dayton region is home to the nation’s largest network of paved, off-street bike trails, and biking opportunities have grown significantly over the past 10 years.

But with that growth, residents are concerned about safety issues and are hoping that communities are preparing to add measures that will promote safe cycling.

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Bike Miami Valley Executive Director Laura Estandia said the region is doing more work to grow the “nation’s largest, paved trail network.”

“Making those on-street infrastructure improvements to help people safely bike to the trails or other destinations is certainly a growing area,” Estandia said. “Xenia being a place that has invested in some on-street protected infrastructure to help people connect through their downtown.”

She said it’s important when discussing cycling safety for people to remember that cyclists have a right-to-the road.

“What we champion a lot, is visibility on the roadway,” Estandia said. “I think their is a common misperception is just like a horse-and-buggy, or any other slow moving vehicle, is that they are meant to be passed by the faster moving vehicle and it’s the cyclist’s job to get out of the way. It’s actually the responsibility of the person to safely pass them.”

Bike Centerville, a chapter of Bike Miami Valley, a grassroots movement that promotes cycling for people of all ages in Centerville and Washington Twp., is putting bike safety on its radar to discuss this year, according to the organization’s Executive Director, Steve Mays.

“It’s really safety awareness,” he said. “In my opinion, certainly inexperienced or infrequent bikers need some pointers to make them safe. I wish there were still public service announcements on TV like there was when I was young.”

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Mays says it is also important for motorists to learn about cycling safety and that could help avoid many accidents. He says that infrastructure improvements have helped provide a safer environment for cyclists.

“I am really encouraged by what downtown Dayton has done with the dedicated bike lanes,” he said. “Springboro also has dedicated lanes, and Kettering has marked lanes and Centerville wants to be at that level - that is our goal. I think by making the lanes clearly marked, motorists see the lanes and help them be a little more vigilant in looking out for bikers.”

Kettering has more than four miles of separated, shared-use paths, 4 miles of shared-use paths along roadways, and 10 miles of signed, on-street routes that connect to the largest network of paved, shared use paths in the country.

Kendall Draeger of the Kettering Bike Committee, which consists of volunteers and city staff members, said much has been accomplished in the past year to make the city more bicycle and walking friendly.

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“We have partnered with the parks department to add a bicycle ride to their tree fest event,” he told council. “We also initiated the city donating impounded bicycles to the local non-profit group called Bicycles for All. The committee also completed bicycle parking recommendations for all 21 of our parks.”

More than 340 miles of paved trail connect 10 regional counties. Many of those path users are not only walkers and runners, but families out on their bikes or competitive cyclists. Whether using the trails for recreation or transportation, safety on the paths is a top priority for the city.

“Kettering is fortunate to have two of the regional trails pass through our city,” Draeger said. “This year there are two small rest areas that are planned on those trails near the city border. These ‘Welcome to Kettering’ areas are a great opportunity to give trail users a good impression of our city.”

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He added that there are several good things that local communities are doing to make bicycling safer in the Dayton area.

“We are fortunate to have over 340 miles of multi-use regional trails in our area and several communities are working on leveraging that valuable asset,” Draeger said. “Kettering has a Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) that provides recommendations to the city for ways to improve both walking and bicycling in Kettering. As we talk with residents we often hear that people feel safe riding on the off-street regional trails but they are uncomfortable riding from their home to and from the trails.”

There can be several factors that cause people to feel unsafe riding on the streets but a lot of it can be overcome with education and encouragement. Many times people are not aware of good safe routes to ride in their neighborhood or they need a little motivation or incentive to get the bike out of the garage, according to Draeger.

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