Several bicyclist in the Tyler area have been hit recently due to distracted or negligent driving, sometimes resulting in severe injuries. But these accidents could be easily prevented.
According to the Transportation Code, a person operating or driving a bicycle has the rights and duties applicable to a driver operating a motor vehicle
“They need to understand that bicycles and cars, according to the state of Texas, are the same,” Tyler Bicycle Club President Kelly Boucher said. “They are both vehicles. They both have the same rights the road. Most cyclist understand our use of the road and what we are supposed to do. Not everyone adheres to that, but we understand it because it’s our safety. If a car goes by you really quickly, or a big truck, and the wind hits you and knocks you off, that’s something we have to deal with. That car or truck is long gone.”
Recently, a distracted driver hit Tyler resident Kirsten Blaise, putting her in the hospital for several weeks.
“We (the Tyler Bicycle Club) have hardly had any accidents until the last six months,” Boucher said. “They’ve all just come at one time. I’ve been riding five years, and honestly I can only think of one other accident, in the past five years. They’ve all just kind of happened this year,”
Cyclist are not always hit directly, but are sometimes clipped by people driving too close, and can sustain severe injuries from an accident.
“I was riding along Highway 69 near 344 , actually it was on the overpass near 344, and a pickup truck was passing me and he hit me with his mirror that sticks out,” said cyclist Mark Cathey. “He ended up breaking seven (of my) ribs. I ended up with a broken scapula and a collapsed lung.”
Cathey was wearing a GoPro camera at the time of his accident, and caught the incident on video. The video is called “Clipped Short Version,” and is posted on YouTube.com
“It has a rear-facing camera and you can see the truck come up on me and it’s completely cross the line and hit me,” Cathey said.
Cyclist can be “bullied’ by motorists in several different ways: passing drivers sometimes yell at cyclists and, in extreme cases, throw trash out the window, causing cyclists to losing control.
“People seem to take a look at bicycle and think of it like a big metal object on the side of the road,” Cathey said. “They don’t seem to give it the same courtesy as someone walking down the road. And I wish they would look at the guy, or person riding the bicycle and don’t forget they are somebody’s father, somebody’s brother, or daughter, or sister. It’s a person, a live person on that bicycle and they deserve some kind of respect.”
A biking accident can inflict a wide range of injuries, from simple road-rash to broken ribs.
“Road-rash is a major problem, and that’s just any type of fall,” Boucher said. “You could be standing still and fall and get road-rash. I was at a red light and my feet were clipped in. I forgot my right foot was clipped in and went to move, and took out my knee because it was real rough pavement. The worse thing about road rash is you have to scrub it down when you get in the shower to get all the bacteria out, or it will get infected. You have to scrub it, and it’s extraordinarily painful.”
Accidents can have legal as well as medical impacts.
“The other part that’s really sad, and I’m going through this right now, is the insurance portion, and people have to cover for these things,” said Cathey. “The person that hit me had a lot of insurance, but not near enough. You would think that a $100,000 would be a lot of insurance, but it doesn’t even cover half of my damages.”
Distracted driving is a major problem, but Boucher said it can be easily corrected.
“Pay attention to the road and that’s for everyone, whether you’re on bicycle or you’re walking alongside the road or it’s a slower driver,” Boucher said. “Pay attention. There are road hazards in the road all the time and as a motorist, behind a car that can kill someone, you’re driving a rocket that can kill. You are suppose to pay attention to everything that goes on because your license was a privilege afforded to by the state, and it can be taken away if you cannot drive properly. And that’s what the state really should do. If people can’t handle their car, can’t drive properly then they should have their license revoked or at least suspended until they can change the way they conduct themselves behind the wheel of a car.”
The dangers of biking are not limited to distracted driving but also the attitudes of the motorist cyclist share the road with.
“I have a feeling that he was trying to get as close as he could to me and try to scare me,” Cathey said. “I think he was one of those guys who don’t like bicycle riders and that’s my opinion. What he told the police was ‘I just didn’t see him’ and I find that hard to believe. I don’t know how that justifies him driving on the shoulder because he couldn’t see somebody but that’s his story.”
Despite the accidents and dangers the number of cyclist in the Tyler area is continuing to grow.
“When you get back on the bicycle you feel like you did when you were a kid,” Boucher said. “You just go out and have fun, it’s great … I think everyone is just getting out and enjoying it. More people now are becoming mindful of their health and lets face it, cycling takes a little bit of money to get into but once you get into it, you don’t have to pay for a green fee. You don’t have all this extra stuff to pay for all the time. Once you buy it, you get on your bike and have fun.”
Serious cyclists develop a love for biking beyond looking out for their health.
“For most cyclist it’s a hobby, becomes sort of a passion and injuries don’t seem to keep us away very much,” Cathey said.
To get involved in biking join the Tyler Bicycle Club or reach out to them for advice or help.
“You can just go to our website, bicyleclub.com and there is a membership form, fill out the membership form and send it in,” Boucher said. “We have brochures at both bicycle shops. They have all that information on that there. If you wanted a bicycle go there and tell them what you’re interested in doing whether it’s trail or causal or just whatever, because there are different kinds of bikes for different kinds of riding. and then we kind of fit you in on the one the fits your type of riding.”