Last week, I detailed why bicycling to the new Ludington Elementary School would be dangerous on any regular day.  But today wasn't any regular day, it was May the Fourth and the annual bicycle to school day in Ludington.  Third through fifth graders were scheduled to meet at Trinity Church this morning, less than a block away from where Monona Street intersected with Bryant Road.  Here the speed limit is 55 mph for vehicle traffic once you make that right turn at the stop sign to the left in the picture below which also shows where the cars were bringing the kids and their bikes for this event.

Normally, parents wouldn't throw their kids and their kids' bicycles in the back of their SUV, travel at 25 mph through town to a church across town just to have their young kids ride the last half mile on a busy road with normal speed limits, but today was special and to their credit the school district, the local police, the local fire department, the sheriff's office and state police were there to make that half mile as safe as they could with their vehicles, without closing the road to other vehicles.  Radio station WMOM covered the event, DJ Chris sitting with City Manager Mitch Foster in WMOM's own trademark Humvee, following along aside the bicycle peloton.  

You will notice, the school district's truck to the far right in the picture above, alerting traffic that something's going on.  A sheriff's patrol car was about a block ahead to the right in the picture, allowing bicycles and other wheeled devices (a skateboard and roller skates were noticed) enough room to pass them on the right.  

Despite school officials, and the large police presence (which included a state trooper on his own bicycle) one thing I noticed was that the bicyclists proceeded past the stop sign without nary a stop, they just kept right on rolling through.  Most didn't even slow down, maybe a couple actually looked to their left and saw the parked school truck blocking their sight line.  

One of my biggest concerns with these organized, one-time events is that the kids are being taught bad habits.  Under normal conditions, a bicyclist coming to that intersection would want to slow down, perhaps even stop, and look to their right to make sure it's safe to proceed onto this busy, fast-paced road.  No need to today, the gendarmes present won't even write you a citation for disobeying that stop sign, they will just do the same on their own bicycles.  There's that state trooper to the right doing just that below.

At this point, Chris from WMOM was trying to figure out from the city manager about why the schools didn't put in any sidewalks or other bicycling infrastructure out in this area so that children could ride or walk to school safely.  Mr. Foster, a bicyclist himself, apparently doesn't think it was an oversight by the city, PM Township, or the school district, but something that will eventually be taken care of.  

Sorry, if you actually care about kids having safe routes to school rather than just worry about whether you qualify for federal Safe-Routes-to-School funding, you make this as part of your plans.  Unfortunately, the school let their architects and project managers ignore this basic safeguard; nobody in the city (south of Bryant Road) or township (north of Bryant Road) thought this was an issue worth addressing either in the two and a half years between when the bond passed and the school was declared operational.  

As we point our camera east, we see the sheriff's patrol car and the PM Fire Department truck running interference further on.  Such vehicles would become even denser as the bike convoy got closer to school.  The planners of this event were very prepared to make this a safe ride.

Nevertheless, two vehicles from the sheriff's department kept side-by-side for about 20 seconds creating a bit of a hazard and blocking traffic behind them until the car moved on ahead.  I was close enough to hear that they weren't discussing important operational information.  It appeared that they were wanting to keep traffic backed up so that they wouldn't pass the bicycle stragglers just ahead of them.

By the time I was able to walk up to the school, the ride was over but the backup was still noticeable looking west on Bryant Road.  I counted at least seven separate vehicles used from the various agencies previously mentioned, all used to make this a safe ride-- which is a good thing-- but one needs to remember that if your child liked this experience and wants to do it again, all those traffic cones and all of those support vehicles will not be around.

And if they want to do this in the fall, you have to realize that they will be riding on a very dark and dangerous road over their last half mile. 

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Replies to This Discussion

Thanks for the information X. Just imagine some thoughtless person driving toward this parade while texting or looking at their cell phone. Or what if one of the kids accidentally crashed or hit something with their front tire and flew off their bike into traffic? This could have been a disaster. I see a deep lack of common sense by those in authority and It seems that there is an obvious lack of maturity involved with some parents and leaders now days. All I can add is that they should stop putting their energy into projects such as this and focus on providing safe off street bike paths  located a safe distance from the road so the children can ride safely. X, I'm sure you are aware of the bike paths constructed on MSU's campus which affords a safer ride for students to travel around the university?

Sure do, when I was getting my master's degree from MSU I rode my bicycle 5 miles from my apartment at roughly the Pennsylvania and Miller Road area in the deep south of Lansing I was able to utilize an off-street bike path after the first couple of miles, and I'm sure they have improved since that time over 30 years ago. 

They actually put some thought into bike paths there, have you noticed how some cities have put in crazy bike paths that serve mostly to confuse and make bicycling more dangerous?  Usually these come in the form of paths that put bike traffic in between thin lanes made for motorists and parked cars, making bicycles vulnerable to being 'doored' or to right-turning traffic where the motorist doesn't see the cyclist. 


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