Bicyclists Respond to Safety Issues in Columbia

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COLUMBIA - Bikers in Columbia are coming together to promote bike safety this year to try to decrease the rate of bike accidents.

Nina Wajrowski doesn't have a car and must rely on rides from friends. She travels Columbia on her bike.

"You can't just worry about yourself," she said. "You have to worry about other cars and, you know, fitting in with traffic."

According to Columbia Police Department, in 2010, one person was killed or injured in a bike traffic accident every 15 hours in Missouri.

According to The Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation, bicycling and walking make up for 7.5% of fatalities and 15% of injuries per year in Missouri. Just in the last month, 3 bicycle accidents have made headlines, including a fatality on Interstate 70, a hit and run on Forum Boulevard, and one involving a 9-year-old in Jefferson City.

Wajrowski organizes critical masses to help make drivers more aware of bikers on the street. Critical masses are when a group of bikers get together and bike a certain route in the middle of the road.

"The critical mass really solidifies the group and makes bikers and drivers both more aware of their safety," Wajrowski said.

Columbia Parks and Rec Forester Dave Dittmer also rides his bike to get from point A to point B. He said Drivers have to give bikers at least three feet between them, but he said it usually doesn't happen.

"Being passed too close of a distance is nerve wrecking," Dittmer said.

He said missing bike lanes are one of the most crucial things in Columbia that need to change. He said he would like to see a bike lane on College Avenue.

"There have been a lot of improvements as far as bike lanes go and as far as alternate transportations go, you know, that GetAbout Columbia and PedNet have been promoting," he said.

Dittmer also said he would like to see a bike lane on the busy road that is College Avenue. Although there are missing bike lanes, he said Columbia has improved in the past few years.

Dittmer said if bikers were more aware of the rules, accidents could be reduced. According to the Columbia Police Department, bikers are essentially meant to act as drivers.

Bikers are supposed to bike either in the bike lane or in the middle of the road for safety. If bikers ride on the sidewalk, the fine is of $49. They must make a full stop at any and all stop signs and traffic lights. If they don't, the fine is also of $49.

Some Columbia drivers have had close encounters with bikers and think they should follow the rules of the road more often.

"I've been frustrated with cyclists," driver Scott Wilson said. "Especially when you don't see them and they're out of your peripheral, and you look and you're getting ready to make a right turn and they whip around you on the right hand side."

"If they're going to be in the road I prefer they abide by traffic laws at all times," driver Erin Barner said.

For now, Dittmer said GetAbout Columbia and PedNet are working to make Columbia safer for bikers and pedestrians.