Riding bikes is no longer a simple hobby
— it’s now a political lobby.

Laura Wong

Members of the Ann Arbor Bicycle Touring Society and the
Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition are currently lobbying to
expand and pave the shoulders on many local streets. These groups
brought their concerns to the Washtenaw County Road Commission,
hoping that paved shoulders will encourage bicycle transportation
among local residents while also increasing safety. Therefore Ann
Arbor residents should support their construction.

Opponents of the project say that it would cost anywhere between
$20,000 and $200,000 to construct paved shoulders, contending that
adding shoulders to country roads is inpractical and pricy for the
county. But, in the past, local officials have continually
supported plans to encourage pedestrian activity in nearby areas,
and adding shoulders to existing roads would be far less expensive
than constructing new pedestrian pathways. In this way, paving a
few extra feet on the side of roads surrounding Ann Arbor is
financially feasible for the county government.

In areas of the county where no sidewalks are available for
nonmotorized transportation, shoulders are essential for
guaranteeing a safe area for walkers, joggers and bicyclists. There
is little room on many nearby country roads for pedestrians, and
using these streets remains dangerous. Cyclists often risk crashing
as they navigate the unpaved roadsides while trying to avoid the
speeding cars only a few feet away. Those on foot sometimes need to
vacate the road and stand among the trees or in ditches to ensure
their safety as cars pass.

With more accessible roads, non-motorized transportation would
increase. This would lessen traffic congestion and decrease
pollution. Those who take advantage of the roadside additions would
also reap the health benefits of exercise.

The suggested undertakings would not only benefit pedestrians
and cyclists. Wider, paved shoulders would also be a convenience to
drivers. With a separate space set aside, there would be fewer
pedestrian-related accidents and a lower risk for the vehicles on
the road. Also, during emergencies or vehicle trouble, drivers
sometimes need to park on the side. New roadside improvements would
help promote their safety.

Expanding shoulders would create more of a buffer between the
street and the ground outside, reducing the crumbling that occurs
at the edge of roads. Road maintenance would not be required as
often, and the community’s costs for upkeep would be
reduced.

The benefits of adding paved shoulders to roadsides greatly
outweigh the drawbacks. Should the proposed changes be adopted,
traffic and pollution would decrease. Obesity would also decrease,
while the health and safety of drivers and pedestrians would
increase. The praiseworthy goals of this campaign promise to
improve life in Ann Arbor, a goal all students and residents should
work to achieve.

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