Bicycle crash sparks debate

Cyclist remains in critical condition from collision

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Simmering tension over sharing the road has boiled over since an SUV struck five bicyclists and critically injured one rider Friday.

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Georgia Bikes is funding a project to place signs on streets where cyclists ride.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Georgia Bikes is funding a project to place signs on streets where cyclists ride.

The online reaction was swift, and comments on www.augustachronicle.com illustrate the divide:

"No one likes to get behind a slow poke much less bikes doing less than 15MPH ... The decent thing to do is for bikes to stay off such roads and if takes a law to make it happen, then I'm all for it!" poster TK3 wrote Monday.

"If you are in a large vehicle and you let your attention lapse for any reason, then you are taking the responsibility to willingly cause harm to others who may also be sharing the road," pommom38 added later.

The source of the rancor happened Friday evening as Matthew Burke, a 37-year-old orthopedic surgeon, traveled in a group of about 15 bicyclists on rural Beech Island Avenue in Aiken County. Burke suffered severe head injuries when he was struck from behind by a vehicle driven by 41-year-old Daniel Johnson, according to the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

Burke remained in critical condition Tuesday.

Regardless of people's opinions on sharing the road, Georgia and South Carolina clearly spell out the responsibilities of motorists and cyclists. Both states consider bicycles vehicles, meaning they can ride on the road and must stop at stop signs and other traffic signals.

Both states require cyclists to ride as close to the right of the lane as possible and do not allow more than two cyclists to ride abreast in the lane. South Carolina requires cyclists to signal turns or stops with their hands unless doing so compromises safety.

South Carolina revamped its law in 2008 and led the nation in adding an anti-harassment clause that prohibits motorists from taunting or throwing objects at bicyclists. That's a criminal offense, as opposed to the civil traffic citation that comes from following a bicycle too closely.

Laws won't do any good until people start changing attitudes, said Rachael Kefalos, the executive director of the Palmetto Cycling Coalition.

Kefalos is often asked what kinds of changes have come about since 2008, but she said it's still too soon to tell. Kefalos commutes to work on a bicycle and rides recreationally on the weekends. At least once a month, she has a close call with a motorist.

"Honestly, I think the last thing we'll be able to reform is perception and attitude," she said.

Peter Wilborn, a South Carolina attorney who represents injured bicyclists, said the problem is not a perceived tension on the road but a lack of infrastructure, such as dedicated bicycle lanes.

Cycling's popularity is growing along with traffic, but the roads are not built to meet that demand, he said.

When municipalities and states correct the problem, tension disappears, Wilborn said.

Angry comments only exacerbate a situation and do not represent an accurate gauge of the community's temperament, he added.

Bicyclist Johnathan Tisdale agrees with that statement, to a point. By and large, both motorists and bicyclists respectfully share the road and get along fine, he said. Twice, though, he's struck a car that pulled out in front of him because the driver wasn't paying attention.

"I don't think people have ill intent. They just don't realize the road is there to be shared," he said.

Richmond County's rate of wrecks between cars and bicycles has caught the attention of the advocacy group Georgia Bikes.

Signs will be placed on certain roadsides warning motorists that the area is frequented by bicyclists, Executive Director Brent Buice said.

Georgia Bikes is funding the project for Augusta and other metropolitan areas in Georgia through a grant from the Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety. The grant went into effect Oct. 1, and work is already under way, Buice said.

Randy DuTeau, a longtime bicyclist and sports development manager for the Augusta Sports Council, wants a meaningful dialogue to come out of the wreck that put his good friend in the hospital.

The focus should not be on pointing fingers, but on Burke and steps that both motorists and bicyclists can take to remain safe, DuTeau said.

"It's really difficult to watch his family and see the anguish it's causing them," he said.

Learning to share the road

- Georgia's bike law: www.gohs.state.ga.us/gabikelaws.html

- South Carolina bike rules: www.pccsc.net/sharetheroad.php

WANT TO WEIGH IN?

Have a suggestion that would make it safer for cars and bikes to share area roads?

Weigh in by e-mailing Staff Writer Kyle Martin at kyle.martin@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (125) Add comment
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crackerjack
150
Points
crackerjack 10/06/10 - 02:00 am
0
0
Some of the things that need

Some of the things that need to be done is make the bike riders more visible, such as bright colors and reflective material. I remember years ago when some riders had a fiberglass pole with a bright orange flag on it. I was driving down William Few Parkway the other day at dusk, and you could hardly see the two riders as they had on no bright colors, reflective material, or lights. And the automatic lights on my truck had already come on. Basically, make yourselves visible!

Tisk tisk what is this world coming to
0
Points
0
0
It wouldn't hurt to put all

It wouldn't hurt to put all cell phones away either. It seems 99% of the time that I have a close call driving, the other driver has a cell phone stuck to their ear or better yet they are texting.

nofrillls13
0
Points
nofrillls13 10/06/10 - 04:56 am
0
0
Tell the bikers to ride roads

Tell the bikers to ride roads that can support both them and the cars,

GiveMeTheScoop
0
Points
GiveMeTheScoop 10/06/10 - 05:37 am
0
0
Tell nofrillis to not drive

Tell nofrillis to not drive the roads that the bikers are on !

airbud7
1
Points
airbud7 10/06/10 - 06:08 am
0
0
The law of physics can not be

The law of physics can not be changed... However motor vehicle law's can, until then the risk of serious personal injury exist...

GiveMeTheScoop
0
Points
GiveMeTheScoop 10/06/10 - 06:17 am
0
0
Agreed, there is an assumed

Agreed, there is an assumed risk. Not referring to this incident for I do not know the facts, but it does not give a motorist the right to maliciously intimidate a cyclist for any reason; just because he has to slow down for a few seconds, sometimes minutes.

humbleopinion
0
Points
humbleopinion 10/06/10 - 06:26 am
0
0
"Laws won't do any good until

"Laws won't do any good until people start changing attitudes". Well, this is the south and it will be a cold day in hell before a southerner ever changes his attitude about anything. The southern attitude seems to be to HATE anything or anybody that is slightly different from themselves.....Here is an idea! Every bike rider start wearing a confederate flag on their back and then all drivers will stop to salute you as you ride by!!!!

goldenboy
35
Points
goldenboy 10/06/10 - 06:33 am
0
0
humbleopinion....your post is

humbleopinion....your post is awesome....if riders started wearing confederate flags nofrills13 would probably be leading the pack......HA!......only he/she would only be allowed to ride in beech island and not the surrounding areas, since he/she cannot stand the thought of "those people from augusta" coming into his/her territory.

fish2
0
Points
fish2 10/06/10 - 06:50 am
0
0
All bikes and running shoes

All bikes and running shoes should have lables stating" Riding bikes or jogging on roadways can be hazardous to your health"

johnston.cliff
2
Points
johnston.cliff 10/06/10 - 07:00 am
0
0
Driving on a road with

Driving on a road with bicyclists is like trying to get through an area full of school time buses. Not impossible, but aggravating if you're running errands. The major difference is that you know that before school and after school, the system provides rides to and from school.
With bicyclists, you never know when you'll have to stop. You never know when the riders will go from the legal single file next to the outside line to the legal two abreast which effectively blocks the lane, removing any chance of a car to pass without moving into the opposite lane. This technique is fine on a three lane road (or wider), but it's just plain silly on a two lane road.

The three posts by nofrills, GiveMeTheScoop, and airbud7, make the most sense.
Remove the bikes from car roads and remove the cars from bike roads, or expect this type of incident to happen.
Helmets and speedos won't offer much protection if a 3,000lb car doing 50mph hits a 200lb bicycle doing 15mph.

REDRIDER
134
Points
REDRIDER 10/06/10 - 07:03 am
0
0
It will take a lot of factors

It will take a lot of factors on both parts as driver and riders. Drivers in car and so on have a responsibility that you watch out for the other guy. To not use cell phones and texting which I see still everyday while on the road. Don't be in a hurry all the time. As for bikers as I ride both bicycles and motorcycles. You know you have to be extra cautious.A pencil will cover up a bicycle or motorcycle when held up so it is so easy to miss judge the fact there even there. I ride my motorcycle everyday rain or shine. I have bad knees and can't ride my bike as much. But I have respect that that person on a two wheels is doing this for pleasure or a have to situation. I drive my truck sometimes and I look extra hard for my two wheeled friends. They are mothers,dads, brother sisters and so on. They have as much of a right to be on the road as for cars trucks or anything else. Please slow down in life. You may see something you never noticed before.

johnston.cliff
2
Points
johnston.cliff 10/06/10 - 07:09 am
0
0
humbleopinion, you seem

humbleopinion, you seem enamored enough with the "southern attitude" to remain here. Odd, one would think a fine progressive like you would move to a much more civilized area.

Georgiais1
0
Points
Georgiais1 10/06/10 - 07:11 am
0
0
Bikes are for kids to ride in

Bikes are for kids to ride in the neighborhoods where the speed limits are 10 mph or less. They are not made to compete with traffic on roads where the speed limit is 45 to 55 mph. You are just asking for trouble. There are plenty of ways to exercise other than riding a bike on major highways.

johnston.cliff
2
Points
johnston.cliff 10/06/10 - 07:13 am
0
0
REDRIDER, having the right

REDRIDER, having the right and being wise are not the same thing.

justus4
111
Points
justus4 10/06/10 - 07:31 am
0
0
The failure to test the
Unpublished

The failure to test the driver for impairment is the issue because an impaired driver can kill citizens even in their own home, so it doesn't matter if cyclists are on the road or in a parking lot - the problem is the DRIVER! And how can such a blatant failure be excused...oh, there must be a concerted effort to provide "cover" and keep the ignorance masses ignorant. And who cares about the highway/cyclists "laws" anyway if they are being selectively enforced, as in the law to administer sobriety tests at the scene. Where is THAT expert lawyer? What a complete disgrace to the injured and demonstrates why laws don't matter when they only target certain ethnic groups. Great country, eh? Ask the Burke family...

goldenboy
35
Points
goldenboy 10/06/10 - 07:49 am
0
0
we should seriously do

we should seriously do something about deer crossing the road too! THEY need their own road! I do not have time to slow down and wait for a deer or any other animal to cross the road. it is soooooo annoying, because everywhere I go, I need to get there VERY fast and without anything getting in MY way. slowing down is too much for ME to comprehend while pressing the gas. all wild animals should also have reflective fur, that way it makes it easier for ME to see them.

APiratesLife4Me
0
Points
APiratesLife4Me 10/06/10 - 08:05 am
0
0
Grabbing that water bottle on

Grabbing that water bottle on a bike is just as distracting as a cell phone. Drivers/riders shouldn't do either while in motion.

Lawpig
0
Points
Lawpig 10/06/10 - 08:16 am
0
0
Justus4: Dude, did we just

Justus4: Dude, did we just read the same article? What are you talking about?

Georgiais1: I'm glad that you have the proper use of a bicycle defined in your head. These guys were not riding their bikes down Washington Road--they were in the middle of the sticks on a rural road when they got hit by a negligent driver. Perhaps you should call the doctor's family and explain to them how their father/husband/brother/son was just "asking for trouble" by riding his bike down a rural stretch of road in Beech Island, South Carolina when he got hit by someone who wasn't paying attention.

jb1234
0
Points
jb1234 10/06/10 - 08:08 am
0
0
I personally don't think

I personally don't think cyclists should be allowed on roads with speed limits greater than 45mph simply because it is a safety hazard to them... I have no problem with 'Share the Road', but the cyclists should mind this too, I encounter 'road hog' cyclists quite often.

Oh, Lawpig, I think the only part of the article that Justus reads before commenting is the title, but sometimes I don't even think he reads that.

APiratesLife4Me
0
Points
APiratesLife4Me 10/06/10 - 08:10 am
0
0
I don't mind the bikes as

I don't mind the bikes as long as they obey the traffic laws and don't skirt cars at traffic lights/stop signs and go on through. A note about Hwy 278. What person in their right mind would ride a bicycle on one of the most dangerous and deadliest roads, next to I-26, in the state? Hwy 125 is just as bad from 6:00 a.m until 8:00 a.m. and then from 3:00 p.m until 6:30 p.m. Over six thousand cars/trucks/18 wheelers/logging trucks travel Hwy 125 during those times.....!

Captain Awesome
0
Points
Captain Awesome 10/06/10 - 08:12 am
0
0
I'm seeing a lot more bikers

I'm seeing a lot more bikers on the road these days, and they're not all recreational bikers. I see more people using the bike to get around town instead of driving. I'm speculating that they either can't afford a car now, or found they could save money in car and insurance payments by downsizing. We're going to see a lot more bicyclists soon.

carolo
0
Points
carolo 10/06/10 - 08:14 am
0
0
I guess the bike riders have

I guess the bike riders have never driven a car. Try going the speed limit on these rural roads, which is between 45 and 55 and top a hill or go around a curve and meet 4 or 5 bicyclist. Is it easy to stop? I guess we should all ride bikes or maybe drop the speed limit to 15 or 20 to accommodate bike riders. Build bike paths and use them.

humbleopinion
0
Points
humbleopinion 10/06/10 - 08:20 am
0
0
Johnson.cliff, I'm FAR from

Johnson.cliff, I'm FAR from being a "progressive". I'm more closely aligned politically with the Tea Party as I'm a Constitutional Conservative Republican American. I've lived in many parts of the country, but grew up in the midwest. I spent lots of time slowing down for farm equipment in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky and NEVER once had the opinion that they didn't belong on the road with cars. If a combine, hay baler, or just a plain tractor was in the road we slowed down until the other lane was clear, made a safe pass and WAVED at the farmer. There was never a thought of throwing an empty beer can or trash at them merely because they inconvenienced us for 30 seconds. YOU and others like YOU are what give the south a bad name. YOU have the attitude that if somebody is the least bit different than you then they don't belong. YOU need to find some peace in your heart. I'll say a prayer for you as I have for the good Dr that was struck down.

humbleopinion
0
Points
humbleopinion 10/06/10 - 08:23 am
0
0
Carolo, YOU would be the

Carolo, YOU would be the first to be screaming if gas taxes or property taxes were raised to build bike lanes. Put your cell phone down, slow down, pay attention to the road and enjoy life a bit more.

humbleopinion
0
Points
humbleopinion 10/06/10 - 08:24 am
0
0
Can Justus4 EVER comment on

Can Justus4 EVER comment on anything without bringing race into it?

goldenboy
35
Points
goldenboy 10/06/10 - 08:28 am
0
0
cyclists have been riding

cyclists have been riding this route for 20+ years. i know this because i live right off beech island ave. i ride this route myself. what kills me is this johnson guy lives on beech island ave and i am positive he is used to seeing them. where he hit these cyclists is a long, straight away. there were 15 cyclists and i believe the only way he could not have seen them is if his head was in the floorboard. and could somebody please clear the air. is he associated with the Aiken County Sherriff's Department or is he just a wannabe cop?

Big_vike
1
Points
Big_vike 10/06/10 - 08:33 am
0
0
Well according to his

Well according to his defenders he wouldn't hurt a fly, unless that fly was riding a bike right? I said it yesterday, how do you miss 15 cyclists, all with flashers, all with bright clothes, in broad daylight on a straight stretch of road? This goes well past distracted driver, to straight incompetence.

Lawpig
0
Points
Lawpig 10/06/10 - 08:43 am
0
0
Big-vike: if you're going to

Big-vike: if you're going to insult an area for being backwards, you could at least use proper grammar while you're doing it. Also, an easy google search for bicyclist hit by car yields over two million results, so I would imagine this stuff probably happens everywhere.

Also, you honestly think this area is the most backwards in the state? Please. I picked this town over other areas and I'm a left wing liberal. It's no different from anywhere else. The people who think metro Augusta somehow exists on its own and that our problems are somehow unique are usually argued by people who have never lived anywhere else--it's pathetic really. A man on a bicycle was hit by a negligent driver. It is horrible and it is tragic, but it happens everywhere. And of course, the debate begins between the pro and anti cycling people . . . and in a week no one will remember except the victims and their families.

Ah, thank you JB1234.

carolo
0
Points
carolo 10/06/10 - 08:38 am
0
0
I can tell you this. I am not

I can tell you this. I am not a bigot. Everyone in this area pays enough taxes to accommodate a bike path. There is also plenty of stimulus money that can be used for that purpose. I believe it is the arrogant attitude of the bikers that think people can stop on a dime to prevent hitting them or the car in the other lane.

Jake
33403
Points
Jake 10/06/10 - 08:45 am
0
0
I live in an area that is

I live in an area that is pretty bike tolerant with a lot of bike lanes. That being said, I do not ride a bike anymore because of the inherent danger. My wife and friends still ride and have no problems even though they confess to having "close calls" on occasion. Riding on the open road was a lot of fun but not riding in an area with traffic. Some people are used to it but it was not for me. Having ridden in the CSRA years ago I can attest to the harassment that one endures when they are riding a bike. The concept of "Sharing the Road" is hard for some people because they don't like to share anything.

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