My Turn: Downtown parking not good for cyclists

Last modified: 7/19/2015 11:17:38 PM
The proposed fountain as a transformative element for downtown misses a more pressing need. With one-quarter of the project done, Concord has failed one of the most vulnerable users – the cyclist.

With front-in angle parking, the shared lane is a dangerous place. Experienced cyclists use their alertness and defensive riding skills to avoid danger. At any moment, a vehicle can right hook a cyclist and turn across the pathway to get to an angled parking spot.

When leaving parking, a vehicle must back into the shared lane – often blindly.

I rather enjoy the challenge. But when it comes to riding with my child of 10, the danger is too great. We ride together around Concord to summer camp, school, the grocery store, doctor’s appointments, church, parks, the pool, library, farmers market, downtown or just to enjoy our time together. She is under my voice control as I instruct her where and how to ride safely. The streets are our common space, and yet we are often exposed to the thousand-pound fire-breathing dragons that are our modern vehicles.

In the application for the TIGER grant, the city of Concord promised us a Complete Streets implementation – a Main Street safe for users of all ages and abilities. The shameful part is that the city council could fix this problem with one simple implementation of head-out angle parking. It is the safest way to park where angle parking provides the highest volume of parking. The street has been designed for the head-out parking and yet the city has failed to implement it and painted the community into a dangerous choice.

For anyone who wants to try to bike downtown with a family, or the individual who wants to try bicycling as an alternative, the engineering controls of head-out angle parking could mitigate the dangers by placing the driver to see what is approaching in the street. Entering a parking space then requires the first movement of parallel parking. The passenger doors would open to the curb and the trunk, hatch or truck bed is located for easy loading of goods. When leaving the space, the driver has full visibility and eye contact with all users to coordinate their movements.

Why are we spending this $4.71 million grant and our local match and not solving this issue? Instead we’re discussing a fountain to draw families. Our leadership needs to stop sitting on their hands. Endangering cyclists is unconscionable and indefensible. The time to fix this is now, not after there is an injured cyclist fighting for their life.

(Robert T. Baker lives in Concord.)


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