A number of recent deaths have affected the bicyclist community in the Permian Basin, and members of that community are coming out of the woodwork to find ways they can make the streets of Midland and Odessa a safer place to ride.
The Permian Basin Bicycle Association held a call to action meeting Monday night to gather public input from the cyclists who use the roads and city officials who help take care of them. PBBA member and Cyclefest organizer Jasha Cultreri said this is one of the largest meetings they’ve had for some time, after only seeing about seven people show up to meetings for several months.
At the beginning of the meeting, group members raised their hands nearly unanimously when asked if they were angry and scared about the situation in Odessa following the deaths of three cyclists: Cameron Stotts, Mike Mestas and Brandey Ackerman.
“Stop getting people killed,” Cultreri said was the end goal of their plans.
Ackerman, 39, of Midland was killed more than a week ago after being hit from behind while riding her bicycle on the Highway 191 service road. Stotts, 42, and Mestas, 47, were killed April 25 after being hit by a truck while riding on Highway 158.
PBBA Secretary Shauna Saxton attributed the crashes to a lack of awareness from drivers.
“Drivers are not aware or they just don’t care,” Saxton said. “I think the motorists need a little bit of a nudge.”
That nudge Saxton would like to see includes several changes to Highway 191, including dispatching police onto the road to ticket anyone going even a mile over the speed limit.
“The speed limit on the service road is 55 mph, there is no reason to go 80,” Saxton said. “People will stay away from that road if they think they’ll get a ticket on it.”
Saxton said she would also like to see a bicycle symbol painted onto the lanes every 200 yards, and a sign stating “bikes may full use lane” to serve as a reminder to people that bicyclists are allowed to and may be riding the streets.
During the meeting, two groups were formed by the club, one to discuss how to increase driver education, and one to discuss how to make more safe places to ride bicycles.
Various means of increasing awareness were discussed, including plans to increase bicycle riding education in primary schools and driver education courses. They also talked about possibly starting an advertising campaign with billboards and signs for yards and shirts with sayings like “I’m a cyclist, please don’t run me over.”
Solutions to creating safer places to ride included creating more designated bike lanes onto the sides of roads and adding more biking and hiking roads.
But any goals that PBBA hopes to accomplish to making road changes in the city would require approval from the city council.
“We are obviously very willing to discuss a number of different things with the bike association,” Odessa City Manager Michael Marrero said.
Marrero said the safety of bikers and pedestrians is important to the city, and they are open to looking at options that would make sense to the community.
The city’s comprehensive plan overview lists several goals to improve safety for bicyclists, including greater bicycle and pedestrian networks around the city, more bicycle facilities in downtown, and near Odessa College and UTPB, and to make downtown more walkable and bike-friendly.
Odessa already has a few designated bike lanes on parts of 22nd Street, Maple Avenue and Oakwood Lane, and has signed bike routes on 17th Street, and parts of Maple Avenue, Tanglewood Lane, University Boulevard, Billy Hext Road, East Ridge Road, Rocky Lane and Faudree Lane.
No official plans or proposals have been made by PBBA yet. The group will meet again July 16 at the Beal Ranch House, 5200 Wall St., in Midland.