How do you feel when you’re biking on a busy road? What goes through your mind when you cross a busy street?
Many bicyclists and pedestrians never feel truly safe interacting with busy roadways. I worry about my own kids as they bike and walk, even on the slowest streets in our county.
There are reasons for my concern. A recent analysis of Transportation Injury Mapping System (TIMS) Stanislaus County crash data, conducted by Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates, shows that between the years of 2013 and 2018, 60 percent of victims of vehicle crashes involving bicyclists and pedestrians were persons age 18 or younger. That same analysis shows that crashes occurring near schools are increasing at a higher rate than the frequency of total crashes in the region.
In response to these trends, it is vital that we eliminate unsafe roadway practices, for all forms of transportation through greater education, encouragement, and collective action. For this reason, the Stanislaus Council of Governments (StanCOG) launched the Walk and Roll Stanislaus Bike/Pedestrian Safety and Education Campaign. Walk and Roll Stanislaus efforts began in late 2019 and is supported with funding from the State Active Transportation Program.
Perhaps you have caught more than a glimpse of the billboards, bus wraps, Facebook videos, radio spots, or even ads. Or maybe you were drawn to the program’s website, walkandrollstanislaus.com. These advertising strategies are all being used with these goals in mind - to educate all road users to increase traffic safety and encourage walking and biking in our county.
To test residents’ knowledge, the project website includes an interactive roadway safety rules quiz. The answers may surprise you. For example, did you know that every intersection is a crosswalk, even if it is not marked? Many people do not and pedestrians are most frequently hit while they are within a crosswalk.
You can also educate decision-makers by using Street Story, a U.C. Berkeley-developed mapping tool that allows users to identify routes that make you feel uncomfortable or report incidents that are not recorded, like a near-miss. Street Story is an important tool that helps inform local jurisdictions to understand traffic safety concerns that traditional data cannot capture.
Community leaders are also continuously educating themselves and will discuss how to address Stanislaus’ unique transportation safety issues and needs through a Stanislaus County Active Transportation Safety Summit hosted by StanCOG for decision makers in early October.
Like so many others in Stanislaus County, I am frequently working from home and am not able to use the gym or participate in group activities due to the need to practice social distancing. Walking and biking in my community have become more important than ever to stay active and spend time outdoors with my family.
According to the British Medical Journal and American Journal of Public Health, regular physical exercise (e.g. through walking and biking) is associated with numerous health benefits to reduce the progression and development of obesity and diabetes and lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The Walk and Roll Stanislaus website also features a scavenger hunt that encourages families to explore their communities and remain active. The best part is that the objectives you are hunting can be found in almost every neighborhood, so everyone can join in, play along, and learn at the same time.
I encourage our community members to participate in the activities through the Fall. I hope that the campaign will educate our residents and help us all regain the feeling of excitement and freedom you felt as when you rode your first bike and reinforce the sense of security we all expect when we are enjoying an afternoon walk.
Each of us has the power to make all our roads safer by making more cautious, informed decisions while keeping safety in the forefront of our minds. Whether you are driving your car, taking a morning stroll with your family, or biking with your neighbors on an afternoon ride, always remember: Let’s get there safely, Stanislaus!
Hughson Mayor Jeramy Young is the chairman of the Stanislaus Council of Governments.