Storm Grates Present Safety Hazard for Bicyclists
With a significant increase in the number of bicyclists around town, bicycle advocates are trying to make Harrisonburg a safer cycling community.
Reporter: McKinsey Harris
Thomas Jenkins is an avid bicyclist who rides almost everywhere.
And with safety in mind, he says a big concern right now are the city’s grates.
"Numerous grates in town that run parallel to the traffic. So it has a tendency for bicycle tires to fit right in the grates, and causes accidents and it’s a big safety concern," says Jenkins.
And bicyclist Mariana Howdyshell has experienced this first-hand.
"I didn’t get hurt real bad, but it definitely was scary," says Howdyshell.
Howdyshell says bicyclists are limited to the side of the road, being unable to bike on sidewalks and wanting to stay out of the center of the road.
"I was just biking down Liberty Street and I went to turn left and I pulled into the little side part of the road and the next thing I knew my bike wasn’t moving anymore and I was kind of flying over the handle bars," says Howdyshell.
There are at least 15 grates around downtown Harrisonburg, some worse than others.
"We would like to look at the grates, trying to get them...there’s some retrofitting you can do to the existing grates, or replace the grates so they’re not parallel, so they’re perpendicular to the flow of traffic," says Jenkins.
Mayor Kai Degner says they’re already looking into solutions.
"Appreciate the bike advocates bringing this to our attention. The grates are definitely something we want to address as quickly as possible. We have the staff looking at costs now and it’s something we need to do to make it more safe for bicycles," says Degner.
A group of bicyclists presented concerns and even pictures of bicycle accidents with grates to the city council last week, hoping to bring attention to the issue.
City officials say they are currently reviewing the city’s bike plan.