Community will benefit from ordinance, bike lanes

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While the proposed Safe Passing Ordinance is a step in the right direction, the implementation of additional bike lanes is the only way to make residents and students feel more comfortable cycling along San
Marcos roadways.  

The ordinance, if passed, will require all vehicles to give at least three feet of clearance when passing “vulnerable road users,” with commercial vehicles such as semi-trucks having to give at least six feet of space, according to a Jan. 22 University Star article. Police officers would have the ability to ticket offenders of the ordinance. Nearby cities like Austin, New Braunfels and San Antonio have already installed safe passing legislation.

By nature, there is no doubt the proposed ordinance is a solid effort toward protecting the rights of pedestrians, joggers, cyclists, skateboarders and maintenance workers in San Marcos. It is clear that city officials acknowledge that safety must be ramped up along roadways, especially since the proposed ordinance is aimed to protect the most “vulnerable road users.”

Nonetheless, city officials cannot simply pass the ordinance and call it a day.  If they want to see a surge in the safe use of alternative transportation in San Marcos, it only makes sense to install additional bike lanes throughout the city, especially along major roadways like Hopkins Street, Aquarena Springs Drive and the downtown area.

Cycling around town is no easy feat when having to dodge cars and buses left and right while weaving through traffic. With the city’s combination of rolling hills, sharp turns, student drivers and buses galore, taking a quick bike ride to class suddenly becomes a real life “Frogger.” It is easy for some to criticize cyclists who appear to clog up traffic in busy intersections, causing some drivers to swerve hastily around them. However, if the cyclists had enough bike lanes to use, they would not be clogging the roadways in the first place.

It is important to understand some residents and students do not have the luxury of owning a car or may simply prefer to ride their bikes around the city. San Marcos is an ideal hub for alternative transportation, especially with an expanding downtown area. City officials should be doing everything in their power to funnel more money into improving these transportation options. Cyclists should not be punished by having to travel along dangerous roadways and potentially risking their lives with few or non-existent bike lanes.

Matthew Lewis, director of Planning and Development Services for the city, said bike lanes were in the process of being added around town with the goal of making the facilities safer for more riders to use, according to a Jan. 15, 2013 University Star article. However, even though a few new bike lanes were installed in the past year, there is still a large void yet to be filled for safe alternative transportation options.

Officers in cities with similar ordinances can fine offenders as much as $500 with a Class C misdemeanor, according to the Jan. 22 University Star article. City officials could easily collect some of these fines and use the money to improve alternative transportation in San Marcos. With this method, the ordinance could become a teaching tool to increase cyclist awareness among drivers while helping to build infrastructure designed to make roadways safer in the future. The proposed ordinance will support the use of alternative transportation, but much more must be done to make a lasting impact on the city for years to come.