Valdosta steps toward 'bike friendly' streets

Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News
July 17, 2019

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- South Georgia transportation officials are counting crashes in the area, and it could create some changes.

The Valdosta-Lowndes Metropolitan Planning Organization has released its annual crash report. It analyzes crash data across the VLMPO coverage region across South Georgia.

According to the report, more than 18,000 crashes occurred throughout the region between 2014-2018, including more than 90 fatalities.

More than 20 of those fatalities were of pedestrians, motorcyclists or bicyclists. Officials with VLMPA said these numbers show that these vulnerable commuters are disproportionally affected by fatal crashes.

The City of Valdosta is looking to change that.

There are now several different construction projects under that the city said is an effort to make the area more bicycle and pedestrian friendly.

Some of those include the Patterson Street streetscape project, and sidewalks being construction on Williams Street and Lee Street.

City officials said several more sidewalks projects are in the works.

"Like any place, we want to promote pedestrian safety, quality of like, those kinds of things. We want to make the city a pedestrian-friendly city," said Kevin Tolliver, Engineering Projects Manager.

Tolliver said as these projects are developed, safety for pedestrians is one of their top priorities.

But some bikers said it may not be enough.

"There's a lot of people who ride just for the fitness of it, then you have a lot of people who have to use their bikes to get to and from work, and then there's a lot of people who are just neighborhood recreational riders," said Blake Waagner.

Waagner owns Valdosta Bike Center. He said even with some improvements, many bikers avoid riding in the city because of traffic, and safety concerns around drivers.

But as the community, and Valdosta State University, continue to grow, many bikers hope more improvements will follow.

"It would be beneficial for everybody if there were a few more bikes on the road. It would reduce traffic, it would just be easier for everybody, and hopefully the infrastructure starts getting changed for that," Waagner said. "There's a big disconnect, because I've had, my friends, customers, my friends, we've had incidents with drivers who don't think bikes should be on the roads, but I think it's a lack of knowledge when it comes to that kind of stuff, or maybe just a little bit ignorance."

Waagner said it could be as easy as installing more signs that read, "share the road," to raise awareness of how bikers should be treated on the roads.

VLMPO officials said, while engineering improvements can help reduce crashes, it's also important for drivers to make sure they're paying attention to their surroundings, and watching out for vulnerable commuters.

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