Battle of the Bikes: Meeting held to discuss proposed ban at Forsyth Park

Public meeting being held to discuss bicycle ban at Forsyth Park

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Bicycles and skateboards in Forsyth Park could soon be a thing of the past.

The city is considering a proposal that would ban them throughout the entire park.

A public meeting was held at the Savannah Civic Center to discuss the issue Thursday, and there's definitely a mix of opinions about the proposal.

Now, you're not allowed to ride a bike or skateboard in the center walkway of the park between the fountain and the area just south of the playgrounds. This proposed change to the ordinance would ban them from all walkways and sidewalks in and around the whole park.

The only exception would be for kids under 12 years old and under adult supervision.

WTOC spoke with a member of the Savannah Bicycle Campaign who also lives near the park. He said he doesn't see bike riders as a safety concern.

"I come with my daughter all the time. We're pedestrians as much as were people on bikes, and of course I'm looking out for her safety as my primary concern, and I have never worried about her getting hurt by a person on a bicycle," said Brent Buice, Savannah Bicycle Campaign. "It's the crown jewel. It's the center and soul of the city of Savannah. And what makes it so great and serve that function is that it's for everyone."

But Buice and a number of other cyclists who rode to Thursday's meeting believe this change would be unfair, especially since they don't see bikes as a safety concern at all.

"I have, however, been very concerned about crossing Whitaker and Drayton - on foot or by bicycle. That's a significant safety concern, because of the fast moving cars," said Buice.

And more bikes would be on those adjacent streets if they were banned from the park.

"Streets are very busy, and it definitely affects your life, because it's dangerous. Traffic is usually very heavy on those streets," said George Frank, rides through Forsyth Park daily.

A park vendor, who goes by "KC", watches bikes roll by here each day. He says while not all of the riders are necessarily dangerous, many can be.

"And some of them ride crazy and some of them ride fast. And I think that it's a detriment thing for the little children that walk through here," said KC.

City officials could not provide any data on bicycle crashes that occurred in the park, but they said they've received complaints from people who live nearby, like David Jones.

"I've been hit a couple of times, my dog has, and you constantly see, particularly around the fountain, close encounters and bumps that are going on," said Jones.

Jones is among several people at Thursday's meeting who believe the ban would be a good idea as a first step to solving the problem. He says the long-term solution includes better infrastructure. And that's something both sides of the room agreed upon. Overall, Savannah is not bike friendly and that has to change.

Another thing everyone agreed on is that it's only a small percentage of irresponsible bikers, and sometimes unaware pedestrians, who are at the root of the problem. The possible solutions and compromises discussed Thursday night will now be forwarded on to the city manager before anything goes before the council.

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