Cyclists promote safety during trip through Augusta

 

A message of cycling safety was delivered Wednesday to high school students living in a community that has experienced recent bicycle fatalities.

The guest speakers at the Academy of Richmond County were a group of female cyclists raising awareness about cycling safety by giving presentations along a route of more than 5,000 miles from Key West, Fla., to San Francisco.

It was a poignant message for the Augusta area, where three people have died in the past year in cycling-related wrecks.

The latest was Gerald Hooker, who was killed Feb. 5 in Aiken County after a tandem bike he and his wife were riding was struck by a vehicle on Banks Mill Road. The South Carolina Highway Patrol said Wednesday that it is still investigating that wreck.

Around 8:30 a.m., five wo­men wearing reflective gear and spandex wheeled their bikes over the Richmond Academy gym’s wood floors and launched into a presentation that started with the health benefits of cycling. Each rider took a turn talking about safety gear, including helmets.

“Your brain is your biggest asset,” said Jeanie Ward-Waller, holding up a silver helmet for about 30 students to see.

Three of the women making the long trip are related: Jane Ward is traveling with her daughters, Jeanie Ward-Waller and Chelsea Ward-Waller. A friend, Stephanie Palmer, is accompanying them. Darlene Cook learned about the trip online and joined them at the Georgia-Florida border, but will return home once they reach Atlanta.

The five women arrived in North Augusta on Tuesday night and had Washington, Ga., as their final destination Wednesday.

They spoke specifically to the bicycle fatalities from this area and used them as a teaching tool about the importance of learning the rules of the road, both as cyclists and young drivers.

“If you hit a cyclist, it can mess up your whole life,” Jeanie Ward-Waller said.

Brett Audrey, the owner of Outspokin’ Bicycles on Walton Way, was one of several local cyclists who escorted the women out of Rich­mond County. He said the short-term impact of these messages is important, but it is his hope that they’re planting seeds of knowledge for the next generation.

“This is an important message to find safe routes,” he said.

Augusta-area bicycle, pedestrian plan enters final stages
Aiken cyclist who was killed on tandem bike had cut back on rides
Aiken man, 68, dies after vehicle strikes tandem bike
Doctor killed while cycling is recalled as an 'encourager'
Sentencing in cyclist wreck ends year of heartbreak for two families
Wife of fatally injured cyclist says family helped her cope with loss
Matthew Burke's fatal injury made fellow cyclists fearful on roads
Deaths of Dr. Dan Dickinson, Dr. Matthew Burke take toll at Eisenhower Army Medical Center
County flirts with unwanted bicycle accident record
Doctor killed on bicycle in car accident
Legal issues remain after cyclist dies
Tragedy brings awareness
CYCLIST DEATHS

Recent Augusta-area bicycle fatalities:

• Matthew Burke, 38, an orthopedic surgeon at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center, was struck by an SUV on Oct. 1, 2010, during a group ride on Beech Island Avenue in Aiken County. He died of his injuries in February 2011.

• Dan Dickinson, 57, a family medicine doctor at Eisenhower Army Medical Center, was struck and killed Aug. 1 by a car while cycling near the intersection of Belair and Ashbury roads.

• Gerald Hooker, 68, was struck and killed Feb. 5 by a vehicle while riding a tandem bicycle with his wife near their home on Banks Mill Road in Aiken County.

Ride for Safe Routes web site

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