Last Monday, a UVA grad student, was involved in an accident on his bicycle that took his life. Read more about it here. In a comment thread I read that this is the first cyclist death in Charlottesville since 1998.
Earlier this evening, a vigil was held at the intersection of 4th and Main, where the accident happened. The ghost bike you see in the pictures above was placed there by late Monday night. The community of cyclists in town have been rallying together. It is due to this death, but it actually had begun earlier this year with the formation of a new cycling group, Bike Charlottesville.
Of course there have been many responses to this occurrence regarding the safety of the road ways for bicyclists. Sometimes motorists are fearful when they see cyclists on the road, and cyclists can unknowingly place themselves in compromising positions on the road. Today I found myself, as a driver, behind a cyclist as I drove down Water Street by the downtown transit center. There is not enough room there for lane sharing, and there were many parked cars on the side of the road. It was a busy time of day, and there were many oncoming cars. I could have tried to zoom past her during one of the brief breaks between cars, but it really would have been unnecessary, and would have made her nervous, as well as the driver of any oncoming car that might have appeared in that moment. I decided to drive about 12-15 miles per hour as we came to the next intersection, where she turned right and I continued straight. The tiny bit of extra time it took me to get to the end of that street was a small price to pay to help her (as well as other drivers and possible pedestrians) remain safe and comfortable and out of any compromising positions.
The first changes that need to occur before bicyclists and motorists can truly share the road, need to be in knowledge and attitude. It needs to work from the inside out, not from the outside in. Our physical environment is not solely responsible for these accidents. If that is the only place we focus any efforts of change, and attitudes and knowledge remain the same, nothing will truly go beyond where we are at this time regarding the safety of all road users.