The Kirksville Police Department is starting a long-term community bicycle and vehicle safety awareness and acceptance program.
The program began last spring when Kevin Keith, the Missouri Department of Transportation director, came to Kirksville to speak about transportation. This presentation stemmed from complaints reported by cyclists and motorists, according to the program’s press release.
The project will begin by addressing the issue of cyclists riding on the sidewalks in the downtown area, which is a violation of Chapter 15, Article III of the Kirksville, Missouri Code of Ordinances. Signs will be displayed and sidewalks will be painted to inform cyclists of the law.
Once that is completed, KPD will begin an education campaign.
“Bicyclists aren’t really an issue, but the safety of them is an issue, and it’s something that the police department is concerned with,” Nick Panos, KPD bicycle community project coordinator, said. “It doesn’t seem like enough of that information is getting out there to them to where they can ride safe.”
The campaign will include distributing a brochure to community members, Panos said. The brochure will feature safety tips for cyclists and motorists to make them aware of the rules regarding bicyclists.
In addition to the issue with cyclists riding on sidewalks downtown, and the education campaign, plans will be developed to solve the problem of aggressive drivers. The campaign will also address concerns about bicyclists at night without lights, bike registration, drivers who fail to yield to cyclists and cyclists who do not obey the rules of the road, according to the press report.
Panos has been collaborating with other people throughout the community about the project, such as Rachel Ruhlen, community bicyclist advocate.
Ruhlen said she was contacted by Police Chief Jim Hughes after he was told by city manager Mari Macomber that he needed to address the downtown sidewalk issue.
“Really the only thing he knew to do was to put up signs downtown saying, ‘no bicycles,’” Ruhlen said.
She said she was concerned that this was a purely negative approach to the situation, instead of encouraging people to ride on the street. Ruhlen said she began researching the approaches other cities had taken to address these issues.
She said she became interested in bike safety when her family became a one-car family and she began riding a bike. Ruhlen said drivers would often yell at her to get off the road and she said she was uncertain where she should ride.
To learn the rules of biking safety, she said she took a Traffic Skills 101 class and during 2009 received a certification to teach the class from the American League of Bicyclists.
“The reason people are yelling at you is because they just don’t know,” Ruhlen said. “They’re frustrated because you’re slowing them down a tiny little bit … they just don’t know that it’s okay for bicycles to be there.”
This is where the safety tip brochures will come in handy for driver, Panos said. He said the biggest issue with bicyclists isn’t that they ride in the roads, but that there isn’t enough information available to the public for everyone to understand the laws and how to keep bicyclists safe.
Ruhlen said she would like to work with Truman students to help student cyclists learn road rules and to keep them safe.
The brochure, or a modified version of it, might be placed in freshman materials as a part of the education campaign, Ruhlen said.
Freshman Laura Chamberlain rides her bike to class daily. She said she is aware of most of the rules regarding bicycle safety, although she does not always follow them.
“[I know the rules] from word on the street pretty much,” Chamberlain said. “I do not have reflectors. That is a main thing for riding on the sidewalks. But I don’t really ride my bike at night.”
Chamberlain says she thinks student bicyclists would benefit from education programs because students would then understand the tickets they receive.