Bicycle Rides in Tyler Are Leading to Coffins — It Has to Change
Imagine a young man who decided to take a bicycle ride down the street to your favorite sandwich shop on a gorgeous summer day. The sun warms his back as he makes sure to look around at intersections and when switching lanes, but the breeze of gliding down hills cools him as he rides. Being careful to stay as far right as he can to pass the cars parked at the curb, he sees the sandwich shop less than a block up ahead.
Then ... WHAM.
He feels sudden, intense pain and a force pushing him sideways to the left. The object that has hit him is a truck headed to the construction site. He's now lodged between the pavement, his bike and the grill of the truck. The severe pain is coming mainly from his leg. He looks down to find his leg has been severed from his body. The bicycle has cut his limb like a dull sword. A crowd surrounds him trying to help, but before they or even he knows it, he is passing fast from blood loss.
The last thing this young man will see is the truck driver's face crying apologies, “I didn’t even look. I didn’t see you. I am so sorry. Please forgive me. I didn’t even look.”
Then, just like that, he's gone.
This is an idea of what happened this past summer. While I was living in Austin, I witnessed this very accident. Just two blocks away from my home, a girl was headed to lunch on her bicycle and was hit by a dump truck and died from blood loss from her leg being cut from her body. And this happened in one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the country.
Now imagine how scary it is to bike in Tyler, Texas -- that didn’t even make that list.
Tyler’s bicycle accommodations are not adequate to the growing population of cyclists and the city must create more bicycle lanes and educate its driving population on how to treat bicycle riders on the road. Changes need to be made as soon as possible to prevent more deaths that could easily be avoided.
I am a big bike rider, both for commuting and for fun. From years of riding around Tyler, I have personally seen what is at risk when I hit the roads. I have begun to start awareness programs to prevent accidents like what happened in Austin. This past spring, I organized a charity bike ride for awareness here in Tyler.
On this ride we installed a monument unique to the world of cyclists. A bicycle painted in all white is placed at the scene of a bicycle accident resulting in death. This monument is called a "ghost bike." This serves as more than just a an expression of sympathy; it is a symbol to everyone of the importance of being safe on the road.
From today forward you will all see more bicycle riders in Tyler. Not just because after this article you will be looking for them, but because there will be more and more on the roads coming soon.
As a cities population grows, so does the diversity of its people. Thus, the types of commuters changes as well. Tyler is now up to more 100,000 people. Some of these residents will not be at the top of the economic food chain. And as the economy improves at a glacial pace and gas prices continue to increase, more and more people are going to be choosing bicycles over cars and gas guzzling SUVs or trucks.
Another group of Tyler residents are the growing numbers of college students. In general, college students are a broke species. This means a lot of them are too poor to pay for gas all of the time and rarely travel too far from campus. All of this creates a perfect environment for the growth of bike riding. Also, in this section of the population, there is a growing trend of it being hip and cool to ride bikes.
The issue is for the safety all citizens of Tyler, not their complete comfort. Let me explain what is happening to the bike riders on the roads now, here in Tyler.
Bicycle riding can be a very dangerous mode of travel. BicyclingInfo.org lists these facts about cyclists crashes:
In 2010 there were 618 deaths from car versus bicycle accidents. 51,000 cyclists injuries. Which after research through hospital records, we have learned that less than 10% of bicycle crashes resulting in injuries are reported officially by police. Also, more than $4 billion are spent every year on bicycle related injury medical bills and funeral costs."
Those are scary figures. And they are not too far from home. Tyler has already had a handful of automobile versus bicycle deaths.
On April 16 of this year, a young man in Tyler lost his life while biking. Allen Hall was just 15 when he passed away. On the ESE side of Loop 323 in front of Green Acres Bowl, a man hit Allen. The man did not realize he had hit him until his backpack came flying out from behind the car. Hall died in the hospital from severe head trauma.
The picture that you see above is the "ghost bike" (donated by Elite Bicycles of Tyler) that was placed at the scene of his accident. It is a heartbreaking sight to see that someone close to him as pinned a homecoming mum there because he is no longer around to receive it himself.
The city of Tyler needs to make some changes. Preventing another family from missing moments, such as putting a mum together for their son, is a very important action.
New policies and accommodations are desperately needed. First should be the addition of more bike lanes around town. The bike lanes now are short and too sporadic to really give a cyclist a good path to and from. Also, the city needs to better educate its drivers on how to behave near bicycles.
The website SafeRoads.com tells drivers the following: not follow a rider too close, bicycles by law are to be seen as vehicles and treated accordingly, and to keep a mindful eye out for riders especially on the right side as they might pass you.
What else is city management for but to create a safe environment for its population and better the city any way that they can? I see the improved conditions for bicyclists is a move towards that goal.
Because how many more bicycle riders must be injured or killed before we can all truly share the roads?