Shocking Statistics Show Need For Bike Safety Plan

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Here’s a shock: Payson has one of the highest bicycle accident rates in the state. The Arizona Department of Transportation statistics lead to two sobering conclusions.

First, cyclists in this town need to get much smarter much faster, to avoiding becoming a statistic.

Second, the town council must make the development of a comprehensive network of bike paths a top priority once growth resumes.

The daunting statistics suggest that Payson’s rate of car-bike accidents remains a shocking five times higher than Prescott’s and well above most other communities in the state.

So, clearly, riders need to drive with far greater caution — especially on roads without shoulders or bike lanes.

Driveways and intersections account for most crashes, especially when cars make turns that cyclists don’t expect or notice.

Those same statistics show that the best way to eliminate accidents requires the commitment of the town council. Accidents rarely take place on streets with well-designed bike lanes.

Now, back before the crash, Payson had made some solid progress in implementing a visionary plan to develop a dense network of bike paths that made it possible for cyclists to move throughout town — and to connect to a much larger network of mountain bike trails in the surrounding forest.

Perhaps we could also have classes for school-aged bike riders. Learning the rules at an early age might help these riders avoid a crash. Police and civic groups could work together and offer a bicycle inspection and training day for adults and youth.

The town’s plan relied heavily on requiring developers to add key links whenever they built a new subdivision. Unfortunately, the plan has lapsed into a memory as a result of the seemingly endless building slump.

Advocates for that network of hiking and biking trails have rightly stressed the role such a system can have in a town that depends so heavily on outdoor recreation for its livelihood.

But now the council has an added reason to continue work on that vital plan when growth resumes: It will not only help save our economy, it will help save lives.

Forest needs solutions, not heedless enemies

Pogo said: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” True enough. Seems like most of our worst problems are self-inflicted.

Just consider the plight of the forest, from the trash strewn by heedless weekenders to the human-caused fire at Water Wheel a couple of years ago that nearly consumed both Beaver Valley and Whispering Pines.

But real citizens can easily enough turn Pogo around.

So as Ogop might have said: “We have met the solution and he is us.”

At least, that’s what forest rangers Chelsea Muise and Rachael Hohl are hoping.

The Payson Ranger District optimists have organized a cleanup day at the Houston Mesa campground Saturday morning starting at around 9 a.m. They hope people who love the forest will show up to help repair some of the damage done to those precious public lands by the crush of visitors — the campers, ATV and bike riders, and hikers on which so much of the local economy depends.

Perhaps tomorrow the weather, which has frustrated previous cleanup efforts, will actually cooperate.

We’re delighted that the Payson Ranger District is making this effort to enlist community support for the vital task of protecting the forest, which sustains both our souls and the local economy. Clearly, the Forest Service can’t handle the job alone, given the handful of employees and the 3 million acres in the Tonto National Forest.

Already, volunteers from Whispering Pines have played a vital role in protecting their own community by helping rangers educate campers about fire safety and look for abandoned campfires after the weekend rush. The Water Wheel Fire graphically underscored the grim reality: Wildfire remains the single biggest threat to the survival of all Rim County communities.

Now, Muise and Hohl are working to expand the concept to the Payson area.

We wish them well, knowing that the health and safety of our community depends on how well they succeed. If you need information on the effort, call either ranger at (928) 474-7900.

Or you can just show up tomorrow and prove that at least some of us aren’t the enemy — we’re the solution.

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