Monday, July 30, 2012

Is it Safe to Cycle anymore?

While the weather outside may beckon for us to lace up our running shoes or get in the saddle (with helmet, of course), sometimes the dark side of our sport takes over.
Today is one of those days in Rochester.
One of our local MIMs (Moms in Motion) was killed by a hit and run driver yesterday morning at 7:45 am.
The driver was drunk.
On a Sunday morning.
Less than a quarter mile from where I grew up, and have ridden several times.
Playing a dangerous game of tag with her boyfriend on a motorcycle, the motorcycle passed the car on the right, hitting the local triathlete from behind.  The car then ran her over when she hit the road.
Tribute to our local loss, photo by Laura Knights
Both fled the scene.
Sadly, the triathlete did not survive, leaving behind two children and leaving our world one less bright, smiling face.
I didn't know her personally, but competed with her last month in my half ironman.  She enjoyed it so much (her first!) that she posted on facebook to the race organizers about how she loved it and couldn't wait to do another.  When I saw that, I cried.
What is wrong with people??
This is the third bike/car accident this summer in which the cyclist was hit from behind-doing nothing but following the rules of the road.  Two have died, one lost his leg.  And this weekend, a mother of two, training early in the morning (when it should be "safer", right?) lost her life by getting out and being active, doing something she loved. 
It's a sad, sad situation. 
And becoming way too common place.  These are extreme examples, of course, but there are very few cyclists that I know that have not at least had a brush with a car.  I got hit by a car back in 2008. (Thankfully, my brain bucket saved me, and I escaped with only a separated shoulder).  The hubster has ended up in a ditch by bailing out of the road to avoid being hit by a car.  And I know we aren't the only ones.
What can we do about it?  Try to enforce stricter laws?  One of the drivers (the motorcycle driver)  has been convicted twice for reckless driving/endangering others.  And he's only 22.  Something tells me that this won't be the last time he endangers someone if it's happened 3 times in 6 years.  Is this a case for 3 strikes and you're out?  I don't know.
Should we look into altering the way cyclists ride?  These were all accidents that occurred from being hit from behind.  I know that I personally have had several brushes with oncoming cars while riding, and because I can see them, I have the ability to bail and jump in a ditch.  But what can you do to prevent getting hit when someone is coming at you from behind?  Nothing.  (Of course, I would be nervous going against traffic at 20mph as well, but at least you would be able to see the car.  Hmm).
What about dedicated bike lanes?  We have a few in Rochester.  One happens to be on a busy four lane road....which always makes me shake my head and laugh.  Who would ride there??  (441).  We also have a canal system.  Unfortunately, 80% is unpaved, which means that road cyclists can't train.
What is the answer?
I don't know.  I do know that situations such as this make me realize even more why 90% of my rides are done on my computrainer.  Say what you will about being stuck in the basement and have it be "boring".  It's safe.  I can train with any terrain in the world and not be at risk.  Ask Andy Potts and Jordan Rapp.  They'll tell you the same.  (And in no way am I in their league, but I like to think we have some small thing in common :-))
As for now, I'll stick with running outdoors.  At least I can see reckless drivers coming.
And send all my prayers to Heather's family, and hope that somehow, some way, something good will come from a community united in the wake of this tragedy.


  1. When I read about this, I cried. And along with the tears, came an increased blood pressure from pure rage. What the hell is wrong with people, and what can we do to make it stop?

    As you mentioned, this woman was only following the rules of the road, at a time of the day when we're told its "safer" to ride. She was simply getting out, being healthy, and staying active. And now these poor children have lost their mother, a husband has lost his wife, etc.

    This has to change.

    Great post, thank you!

  2. Rae, thanks so much for writing about this. I don't know what the answer is, I'm just praying that at some point people start respecting the shared road. Enough is enough.