Plan aims to improve local biking safety


    Chances are, while cruising around town, all drivers encounter bicyclists on the road. Drivers may even come across an accident where a bicyclist has been injured, or worse, killed. What residents might be surprised to discover is that 60 to 85 percent of these accidents are caused by the negligence of motor vehicle drivers, according to the Cyclist Defense Fund.
    Ten years ago,  Manhattan, along with Kansas State University, created and attempted to execute a City of Manhattan Bicycle Master Plan. With this plan in place, bicyclists in the Manhattan community were to have a better sense of safety on the road with the creation of designated streets and biking areas.
    The original plan took into account the current conditions for cyclists on the K-State campus and around Manhattan, user profiles and route recommendations, according to the city Web site.
    This blueprint was to give a solid start to improving the trek of bicyclists and set up a good foundation for improving bicycle facilities in the community.
    Unfortunately, the Bicycle Master Plan in 1998 had its shortcomings, especially implementing it into our street system.
    Recently, area bicyclists have been attending City Commission meetings, encouraging city officials to revamp the plans so that changes in our community could actually take affect. This act has led to the 2008 Bicycle Master Plan.
    “I think the proposed plan is great,” said Chris Combs, a Manhattan area bicyclist. “When I ride my bike around town, I don’t feel like motorists even notice me, especially around the school.”
    In order to make these plans a reality, the City had to first perform a Bicycle Safety Index. They took into account traffic speed and volume, street width, and parking, which led to a rating of all Manhattan streets. Currently, specific routes are being mapped-out, with the help of ESRI’s Network Analyst Software, a geographic information systems firm. There will also be a map available to cyclists of these special routes.
    After the plan is completely put into affect, many hope the injuries and deaths of cyclists because of traffic accidents will decrease by 10 percent.