Recently, after a friend was injured while riding his bicycle in northwest Bakersfield, I sat with his mother in the hospital. "When is enough, enough?"she asked when I spoke with her in the waiting area of a local emergency room.
Her son was suffering from a broken collarbone, broken arm, broken leg, a fractured vertebra and was waiting to see if he had a punctured lung. This was every mother's worst nightmare, though I'm happy to say he is expected to recover.
"He is more than just a kid on a bike with tattoos and long hair. He is a good musician and caring person," his mother said. He's a keyboard player, and his band recently played at the House of Blues in Los Angeles. He will play again, but it will be a while.
During my half-hour visit with his mother at the hospital, she expressed her desire to see our community become more educated about roadway safety issues.
She expressed worry about the high speeds and lack of consequences for these far-too-frequent tragedies.
And she's right: Our citizens need -- no, they deserve -- a safe transportation system for all roadway users.
We at iBikeKern.com and Kern Active Transportation, along with our partners at California Bicycle Coalition, California Walks and the California Safe Routes to School partnership, rolled out Vision Zero Kern recently.
Vision Zero is based on a Swedish street safety approach which treats all traffic deaths as inherently preventable.
The Vision Zero campaign is now a national and statewide campaign to reduce cycling and pedestrian fatalities to zero within 10 years. We have a lot of work to do locally, as Bakersfield is coming off of a record year with 37 bike and pedestrian roadway deaths.
To achieve this, we will use education, enforcement, encouragement and evaluation programs throughout Kern County.
The program will begin in the spring and continue through the fall, repeating yearly and allowing for measured growth and improvement. Licensed educators, both young and old, will use League of American Bicyclists and America Walks curriculums to educate our citizens.
In addition to saving lives and improving our quality of life, creating a safer roadway experience can provide many financial benefits to our community, such as reduced health care and transportation costs and increased discretionary income.
Improving the safety of our roadways for all users is a cure for what ails us here in Kern, particularly in metro Bakersfield. State-leading obesity rates, poor air quality, high poverty levels, low educational levels and deteriorating roads are hallmarks of Kern.
The Kern Economic Development Corporation tells us there is a lack of 24-34 year-old engineer types to fill the jobs we need in Kern for our agriculture and petroleum industries.
Sixty-five percent of the people in this age group want to live in communities that have a solid, active transportation system. These types of communities have centrally located shopping and entertainment centers easily accessible by biking or walking.
Let's take Kern County and metro Bakersfield to this next level of success and sustainability. Join with your community and civic leaders in embracing our active transportation needs.
You can learn more about the Vision Zero Kern project at iBikeKern.com or visit our Facebook page. Show your community and Kern County that you want zero cycling and pedestrian fatalities by 2025.
Zachary A. Griffin of Bakersfield is a bicycle advocate and licensed cycling instructor. Community Voices is an expanded commentary of 650 to 700 words. The Californian reserves the right to edit all submissions for length and clarity.