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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bike lanes are a growing need

It’s hard to know where to begin.

The most logical place is the sorrow.

But it’s not merely sorrow over the loss of Geauga County Probate/Juvenile Court Judge Charles "Chip" Henry.

It’s sorrow, too, that I never got to meet him. In death you learn so much about how people lived.

As an area resident, I only knew Henry as a judge. But his impressive past, which included work in the Peace Corps, will remain for me a footnote in a horrible story about the way he died.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d love to sit and listen to him tell the story of how he met his wife in South Africa all those years ago.

The sorrow extends to knowing how difficult these weeks will be for those who worked with Henry.

Their respect for the judicial leader speaks volumes about the man he was, starting with their desire to go to work the day after he died.

They easily could have closed the court, using their grief as a crutch. But, citing Henry’s work ethic, they went in and performed their jobs.

The sorrow extends to the future, with a look to the past. Henry’s work to reduce auto crashes involving teenagers and to create a mental health program at Ravenwood Mental Health Center are bright spots in a career spent policing area children.

Henry’s efforts to not only adjudicate but improve the lives of youngsters is incredibly impressive. Here’s hoping whomever follows him onto the bench will keep that vision moving forward.

As I acknowledge the sorrow over Henry’s death, I, too, must admit the fear.

Henry’s death, which occurred on a bicycle as he rode along Rapids Road in Troy Township, elicited a gasp when I heard the news.

Sure, I was shocked at the identity of the victim. We all were. Those kinds of incidents always happen to "someone else." Rarely do you know the person when you hear the name.

But, a bicycle rider getting struck by a car brings such fear to mind.

I know I’m not alone here — I’m sure we all worry when we see bicyclists pedaling along the roadway with the traffic.

My response is probably the wrong one, but it’s based on concern.

I go out of my way to avoid getting too close, because I always figure they’re as scared of me as I am of them. But, in doing so, I sometimes cross into another lane, or into oncoming traffic.

I’m risking getting hit so I don’t hit them. Who’s right? Who knows.

Over time, I’ve slowly come to the realization that bike lanes are a necessity. But, respect for the bike lanes is even more a necessity.

As what once was the rural part of Northeast Ohio now is becoming more and more populated, and that brings people out into the community.

Some go for walks, others head out for a run, and more are biking.

Runners and walkers have the sidewalks to complete their exercise. But bikers are forced to compete with traffic on the roadway.

I don’t begrudge them their corner of the road to get their exercise in. In fact, I admire their bravery as they complete their fitness routines.

I just wish they had someplace where they not only could get in a good ride, they’d know they were safe doing it.

At the paper, the first question we ask when we hear an idea such as this is "who is going to pay for it?"

I don’t have the answer. I know necessary services can’t be cut. But I also know how necessary this space has become.

Here’s hoping that after we get used to the sorrow and overcome the fear, we focus on the safety of cyclists everywhere and find a way to provide them a safe place to pedal.

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Twitter: @lauranh


Blogger Chris said...

Hey Laura,
I read another post earlier today in the same vein as yours - it seems that building bike infrastructure could very well make the roads safer for everyone - so when people who don't ride bikes want to know why they should pay for bike lanes, it's in their interest as well, they'll be safer, and with more bikes and fewer cars, there'll be less traffic. You can check out the post I'm talking about here, if you're interested.

October 24, 2011 at 9:19 AM 

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