(This article was originally published in the KC Current.)
The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the lives of Kershaw County residents significantly. We’re in the midst of uncertain times, and we’re facing an unsure future. But if there is a silver lining to this cloud, it’s the noticeable increase of adults, children, and families getting outdoors in this beautiful weather. Families are taking a walk to get out of the house, and children are playing in the front yard while school is out. Walking, running, and cycling are all activities that can be done safely while adhering to the social distancing recommendations.
And getting outdoors, topping up on Vitamin D, breathing fresh air, and moving your body helps boost your immune system, which is incredibly important right now.
With the rise in the number of people on our roads, both downtown and in neighborhoods, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the safety measures we can take as vulnerable road users (i.e. those using the road who are not in a motor vehicle).
Runners and walkers should be on the left side of the road, facing traffic. Be aware of your surroundings - remember to look up from your phone, and be sure you can hear approaching vehicles even if you’re wearing headphones. Watch out for cars entering or exiting driveways, and use a crosswalk, when available, to cross the street. Consider wearing high visibility clothing, and always use a light when it’s dark outside.
Cyclists should travel on the right side of the road in the direction of traffic. Don’t wear headphones while riding your bike, always wear a helmet, and be aware of your surroundings by looking around and checking behind you. Use hand signals to indicate if you’re turning, stopping, or changing lanes. Wear high visibility clothes, if possible, and have a flashing red light on the rear of your bike, and a front white light when it’s dark outside. Obey all traffic laws like stopping at red lights, and do not ride on the sidewalk.
Drivers, we ask you to look out for us and drive around us safely. If you approach a cyclist or pedestrian, slow down, assess the situation, and then pass with plenty of room. Look out for hand signals from cyclists and pedestrians. Please don’t pass a cyclist when they’re indicating a left turn. Cyclists are allowed to use the full lane, and you may find them in the center of the lane trying to avoid rumble strips or debris, or in the left lane in order to make a left turn. It is unlawful to harass, taunt, or maliciously throw an object at or in the direction of a person riding a bicycle. Many cyclists ride with cameras and will report this to the police.
Slow down in neighborhoods. Many children are out playing in their yards, riding their bikes, or walking down the street. Speeding may save you seconds in your overall journey, but hitting a pedestrian or person on a bike is life changing.
Besides cars, one of the scariest things a cyclist or pedestrian will encounter out on our roads is a loose dog. Please keep your pets secure in your yard, for their safety and ours. Debris in the road can also be dangerous. Consider sweeping or blowing your grass clippings out of the road - grass clippings, sand, and other debris can cause cyclists and motorcyclists to skid and crash.
Governor McMaster’s Home Or Work order has kept most of us at home and out of our cars. Places around the world are measuring reduced levels of air pollution, and wildlife that was previously threatened is rebounding. People are gardening again and getting active outside.
COVID-19 has had many negative effects on our lives, but these could be a few of the positive ones.
Let’s continue to get outside and improve our health by walking, running, or cycling. Listen to songbirds, grow some vegetables, and connect with your neighbors across the fence. For those of us using the roads, let’s be kind and respectful of EVERYONE on the road.
The lack of sidewalks and bike lanes in Kershaw County is not a permanent fixture. We can advocate our elected officials for improved cycling and pedestrian infrastructure when roads are repaired, or new roads and neighborhoods built. Ask your city, county, state, and federal representatives to pass a Complete Streets policy, which takes into account multi-modal transportation for our future.
I look forward to seeing everyone out on the roads!