Doctor's Appointment the Issue
Though Oconee County expects to begin soon to purchase the right of way for the widening of Mars Hill road from SR 316 to Hog Mountain road in Butler’s crossing and will include in that right of way enough space for bike lanes, clearly not all of the county’s citizens are interested in accommodating bicyclists.
One who is not is Derrek Crowe, who stepped down at the end of September as a member of the county’s Citizen Advisory Committee on Land Use and Transportation.
Crowe told that group back in January that he felt it is the committee’s responsibility to listen to the complaints of citizens, according to the minutes of that meeting.
And he had heard a complaint he wanted discussed.
Crowe, according to the minutes, said he had recently "overheard a woman at the doctor’s office who was upset and crying because she was late for an appointment."
The problem, Crowe said, was the woman got "stuck behind bicycles"–on Mars Hill road!
Crowe asked that committee chairman Abe Abouhamdan put discussion of regulation of bicyclists in Oconee County on the agenda for the committee’s February meeting.
Contrary to what some believe, Crowe told his fellow committee members in February, his legal research indicated that the county can regulate bikes on roads in the county. This is according to the official minutes of that meeting, approved by the board a month later.
"Derrek pointed out that he takes exception with recreational bicyclists being on the roadways, slowing traffic and causing dangerous situations," according to those minutes.
The minutes describe the discussion of Crowe’s proposal as "lengthy." At one point, committee member Bill Tollner recommended that cyclists should be prohibited from using roads without a "certain width of shoulder," the minutes indicate.
Committee member James Morris, however, said problem cyclists are a "minority," according to the minutes, and he felt the county didn’t really have jurisdiction, despite Crowe’s legal review.
Crowe made a motion, seconded by committee member Courtney Gale, that the committee continue its discussion of the issue at future meetings, and that motion passed 5-4.
At the March 10 meeting of the committee, Chairman Abouhamdan brought the matter up again.
Crowe was not at that meeting, according to the approved minutes, and discussion of the topic was brief. It has not appeared in any subsequent minutes of committee meeting.
According to the minutes of the February meeting, Abouhamdan reminded the committee that it did not set policy. That is done by the Board of Commissioners, and he said he would ask the board "if this is a subject they want to take up."
The matter has not appeared on the BOC agenda.
According to Dan Wilson, assistant county engineer, former Oconee Public Works Director Mike Leonas was a strong advocate for including bike lanes on the widened Mars Hill road. The four-lane wide road also will include sidewalks.
Eventually, Experiment Station road from Butler’s Crossing to Main street in Watkinsville also is to be widened to four lanes and include bike lanes and sidewalks.
The Oconee Connector Extension, which will create a half circle from the current intersection of the Oconee Connector and SR 316 back to Epps Bridge Parkway at Lowe’s, also will include bike lanes.
At present, Epps Bridge Parkway in both Oconee and Clarke counties has bike lanes, though they stop as the roadway intersects with Broad street, dumping bicycles into the heavy traffic of that roadway at that point.
The proposed widening of Simonton Bridge road from Watkinsville to the Clarke County line also includes bike lanes, meaning a bicyclist could travel from one Clark county line to another almost entirely within bike lanes. The exception would be along the streets of downtown Watkinsville.
Along most of the route, however, auto traffic would be moving at a pretty quick clip, if the present 45 miles per hour speed limits are maintained.
In many places in the world, it is normal for bikes and autos to travel on the same routes. The Netherlands is particularly sophisticated in integration of bicycles into the country’s transportation system.
Many roads there have bike lanes, which often have separate traffic signals. I shot the video above of auto and bike traffic on a busy residential street in Bussum in late September when I was in the suburb of Amsterdam on a business trip.