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Central Valley town emerging as bike-friendly leader

Legions of movie goers of course remember the classic car flick American Graffiti, which chronicled the lives of teens and their beloved souped-up vehicles in the Central Valley region of California in the early 1960s.

As described in a recent media article, that cinema blockbuster was a "nostalgic look at teenagers in a world of cheap gas and oversized cars."

If you viewed the film, you certainly recollect seeing a bevy of hopped-up speedsters.

How about bicycles?

Even one bicycle?

Didn't think so.

The above-cited article notes that Modesto, the Central Valley town where American Graffiti was filmed, progressed similarly with other towns throughout the region over many years.

What that meant for decades was passenger vehicle-friendly streets and due attention to road infrastructure that didn't give much -- if any -- attention to other types of transport.

There is certainly much empirical evidence to denote the dismal bicycle accident statistics associated with urban areas that never accommodated two-wheel traffic. Such areas often lack bike lanes, have no downtown bike parking and are devoid of bike-designated stopping zones at intersections

Those cumulative shortcomings can lead to disaster. Indeed, they often do.

Now, Modesto city officials and planners are being hailed as visionaries for the purposeful efforts they are taking to make their municipality a truly bike-friendly place. Improvements include newly buffered bike lanes that are set off distinctly from lanes for motorized traffic; so-called "corrals" that are being built for bike parking; new road construction that intentionally narrows car lanes to promote slower speeds, while simultaneously allowing for room to build bike paths; and the construction of roundabouts to slow down traffic and introduce greater flow logic that promotes bike safety.

Readers in Southern California likely don't want to hold their breath while waiting for similar improvements to be made on a broad scale across Los Angeles County. Nonetheless, the bike-friendly news emerging from Modesto is encouraging and does provide some workable ideas for safety-enhancing improvements that can be implemented statewide.

Source: Streetsblog California, "Modesto, California: a model for a bicycle-friendly city?" Melanie Curry, May 27, 2015

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