It has been four years since Goldsboro tried to address the idea of providing better and safer access for bicyclists, but riders still have few designated areas to ride.
Although the city has plenty of suburbs with quiet streets and slow traffic, bicyclists still have to be aware of the dangers they face.
Each year about 2 percent of fatal vehicle crash victims in the U.S. are bicyclists, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The majority of deaths associated with bicyclists are caused by serious injuries to the head, highlighting the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet. It’s estimated helmet use reduces the odds of head injury by 50 percent, and the odds of head, face or neck injury by 33 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
North Carolina state law requires helmet use for anyone younger than 16 when riding a bicycle on a public roadway, public bicycle path or other public right of way.
Mike Wiggins, owner of Bicycle World at 137 N. Center St., agrees helmets are important when cycling.
“Helmets are the No. 1 safety
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item,” Wiggins said. “Most kids and their parents wear helmets. I think it’s state law that kids under (16) must wear helmets when riding a bike. It’s not widely enforced though.”
It is also important to know the rules of the road and to obey those rules just as a motorist would, Wiggins said.
Jesse Sanchez, bike technician at Bicycle World, said what some people don’t realize is that the rules of the road apply to bicyclists just as they do to motorists driving a car. A bicyclist at fault during an accident can be issued a ticket just as easily as a motorist, he said.
“Ride with the traffic, not against it,” he said. “The same rules apply on a bike as they do in a car. So, if you see someone riding against the traffic and riding in the turn lanes as their own personal lanes — you’re not supposed to do that. You’re supposed to ride with the traffic.”
Although the popularity of cycling has grown in cities with urbanization, it still has a ways to go in Goldsboro.
“This town is not really bike friendly,” Sanchez said. “They don’t really have bicycle lanes other than this small one down Center Street (there are also bike lanes on Harding Drive and Parkway Drive). Other than that, there are really no bicycle lanes to ride around Goldsboro. The city is trying to work on a greenway plan, but that is going to take some time. They’ve been working on it, but it’s a slow process.”
Even while riding during daylight hours, whether on the road or designated bicycle lanes, bicyclists need to be safety conscious and should consider flashing lights on the front and rear of the bike, Sanchez said.
“Most people, when they think of lights, are like: ‘Oh, I don’t ride at night,’” he said. “Well, you blend in a little too well during the day. So, if you have something strobing — a red, rear light — it catches people’s eyes all the time. Well, most of the time.”
Bicyclists should always be on the defensive, he said.
“You’ve got to anticipate what other people are going to do,” Sanchez said. “Same thing with a person on a motorcycle — you don’t have much protection — so you’ve got to be more on the defensive side. You’ve definitely got to be aware if you’re going to be on a bicycle in the road with cars.”
The city has been working to address the lack of safe riding areas for bicyclists and more walking access for pedestrians since 2015 when a Goldsboro Metropolitan Planning Organization Bicycle, Pedestrian and Greenway Plan was proposed that includes Pikeville and Walnut Creek.
The plan is required through the Federal Highway Act of 1962 once a city’s population reaches 50,000 people and is considered an urbanized area to be eligible for federal transportation funds.
“Goldsboro lacks on-road bicycle facilities on most of its streets, and Pikeville and Walnut Creek do not currently have any on-road bicycle facilities in town,” according to the Metropolitan Planning Organization report. “Many bicyclists choose to ride on the sidewalk to avoid sharing the road with cars. In Pikeville, Walnut Creek and rural areas of Wayne County, there is a lack of shoulders or signage to direct bicyclists. Those who choose to ride must share the lane with cars, even on high volume and high-speed roads.”
Goldsboro does have quiet neighborhood streets that have low volumes of traffic and automobile speeds. Many of them are parallel to busier roads and provide access to downtown and other popular areas. Some include Mulberry, George, Palm and Holly streets and Madison and Audubon avenues.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 835 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles in 2016, which represents a 1 percent increase from 2015 and is the highest number of bicyclist deaths since 1991.
Every year since 1975, more male than female bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles. The decline since 1975 among female bicyclists (28 percent) was larger than the decline among male bicyclists (15 percent), according to the IIHS.
Most bicyclist deaths in 2016 (87 percent) were those ages 20 and older. Deaths among bicyclists younger than 20 have declined 87 percent since 1975, while deaths among bicyclists 20 and older have more than tripled, the report shows.
In 2015, the IIHS reported 37 bicyclists 14 and younger were killed and 5,000 were injured. The average age of bicyclists killed on U.S. roads was 45, the report said.
A “typical” bicyclist killed on roads would be a sober male older than 16 not wearing a helmet riding on a major road between intersections in an urban area on a summer evening when hit by a car, according to the IIHS.
Last year and so far this year Goldsboro police records show no reports where motorists and bicyclists were involved in crashes, said Maj. Dwayne Dean of the Goldsboro Police Department.
However, from 2007 to 2011, the N.C. Department of Transportation recorded 51 crashes, including a fatality, involving a bicyclist and motorists in the Goldsboro MPO.
Most of the accidents were on the U.S. 70 Bypass and Ash Street, where eight accidents occurred in each location. Six accidents occurred on William Street, three on Berkeley Boulevard, and four each on Slocumb and Elm streets. U.S. 117 Bypass, Wayne Memorial Drive, Olivia Lane, Mulberry Street, U.S. 70 Bypass/Wayne Memorial Drive and South Slocumb/East Elm streets all had two accidents each.
Other crashes involving bicycles and motorists between 2007 and 2011 occurred in the Pinewood Square Shopping Center parking lot, William Street and East Hooks River Road, Olivia Lane and Poplar Street. Each of those incidents involved one crash, according to the Greenway report.
The places where the accidents occurred were likely areas that have a high level of walking and bicycling and a need for safety countermeasures, such as sidewalks, bike lanes, or crossing improvements, the Greenway report concludes.