The Risks of Road Cycling

In February this past year, Governor Corbett signed into the HP 170 Safe Passing bill requiring drivers to must keep a 4 foot distance between a cyclist and their vehicle.   More information can be found here: http://bike-pgh.org/blog/2012/02/03/governor-corbett-signs-safe-passing-bill-hb-170-into-law/.  Despite this law, we are still seeing cycling accidents.  I have even seen potential vehicle accidents as cars do not want to slow down when approaching a rider and instead pass the rider trying to maintain the 4′ distance and almost side-swiping an oncoming car.

In the month of July, there have been several cycling fatalities in Pittsburgh.  In the Point Breeze area, a man was out doing his daily morning ride and was struck from behind by a hit and run driver. Police and paramedics responding to the accident tried to resuscitate him, but were unsuccessful and he died a half hour later at the hospital. He was wearing a helmet and had both front and rear lights equipped on his Raleigh 3.0 bicycle.  He was an experienced rider.  The newspaper reported he had lost over a 100 pounds in the last 2 years from cycling improving his health and his diabetes resolved.  The route he was riding is a busy 4 lane road used by many bike commuters to get from other outlying communities into the city.  A week later another in the same area, a cyclist is hit by driver attempting to pass and hits the rider head on.   This cyclist died a few hours later of his head injury.  This time, the driver did not hit and run because they hit a pole damaging their car.  An outcry from both cyclists and motors for a solution could be heard around the city.  These accidents occurred a few weeks before the city’s biggest bike ride event–Pedal PGH.  The city, county, PENNDOT and our local bike advocacy group–Bike-PGH are working together to make this commute safer for cyclists as well as other areas of cycling crashes.

Until a remedy is implemented such as installing bike lane, signs, or an alternate and safer route, a digital sign displaying car’s speed was placed at the scene of these accidents along with a motorcycle patrolman.  Well, wouldn’t you know, a car hits the Police office while sitting on his motorcycle.  Fortunately, he is lucky, survives his injuries and walks out of the hospital.  Often times, it’s thought that cyclists are careless and are the cause of most cycling accidents.   As per a recent article suggests in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette this is not the case. http://bike-pgh.org/blog/2012/08/16/pg-in-pittsburgh-accidents-bicyclists-not-always-to-blame/

There is time when a cycling accident occur and no one is to blame.  For example around the same time of the above cycling fatalities, a well-known Pittsburgh business developer was cycling out-of-town in Maryland with his son in a cycling event and was killed when he hit a mailbox after rounding a bend a 30mph.  Other details of the accident are unknown other than he wore a helmet, but maybe he hit gravel or had  bike malfunction or was going to fast for the bend  using poor judgement.  If you ride enough, any of us have experienced a near miss accident, but came out uninjured.

As I read about bicycle accidents, I think about the risks I am taking by being on a bike and road cycling. Regardless of where I ride, drivers pass to close, honk their horn or are yelling obscenities at me when the road doesn’t permit the 4′  minimum required when cars are passing cyclists.  I, like these cyclist, enjoy riding my bike.  I am aware of the risks, but I continue to ride.   I feel that riding my bike allows me to advocate for cycling and some day I will see improvements in driver’s mentality of sharing the road and being more cautious of cyclists.  My heart and prayers goes out all the family members of these unfortunate cyclists.

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