County flirts with unwanted bicycle accident record

Wrecks involving bicyclists approaching 2010 numbers
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
A review of the 10 most populous counties in Georgia, as determined by the 2000 census, shows Richmond County falls toward the bottom of the list for the number of fatal bicycle incidents.

Last week's fatality involving a bicyclist and another incident Monday in which a cyclist was seriously injured have pushed Richmond County closer to a number it would rather not surpass.

To date, there have been 30 accidents involving cyclists and vehicles, including two fatalities. There were 37 wrecks involving bicycles in 2010, including one fatality, according to the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.

"The general feeling is dismay," said Randy DuTeau, of the Augusta Sports Council and one of several charter members of the nascent Augusta Wheel Movement.

Foremost are the losses of two accomplished cyclists in Augusta's cycling community.

Dr. Matthew Burke died in February from injuries received in a wreck in October during a group ride in Beech Island.

A fellow doctor at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical center, Dan Dickinson, was killed Aug. 1 in the 3800 block of Belair Road while commuting to work.

"It's losing people that were close friends; that's the really hard part," DuTeau said.

On Monday evening, Ernest Tanner, 57, of Augusta, was rear-ended by a truck in the 1700 block of Tobacco Road. He remains in critical condition at Medical College of Georgia Hospital, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The latest figures on wrecks involving bicycles from the National Highway Traffic Safety only extend to 2009. A review of the 10 most populous counties in Georgia, as determined by the 2000 census, shows Richmond County falls toward the bottom of the list for the number of fatal bicycle incidents.

From 2005 to 2009, Fulton County, home to Atlanta, had six fatal incidents; a close second is Chatham County and Savannah, which had five incidents.

Richmond County had just two incidents in that time frame, both in 2007. Those two incidents, however, gave Richmond County the highest number of fatalities per 100,000 people out of all counties.

Coming Sunday

Bicycle magazine released its top 50 cities across the country that are most friendly to bicyclists. What do those cities have that Augusta doesn't? The Augusta Chronicle looks at how bike-friendly Augusta is compared with other cities.

Deadly drive

Augusta is one of the top 15 deadliest cities for auto fatalities by population.

CNBC.com reported last week the city ranked third nationally with 19.57 deaths per 100,000 population.

That ranking was based on 2008 traffic data, which appeared in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's annual Traffic Safety Facts report.

Augusta made its mark because its 38 auto fatalities in 2008 were higher than average. However, the city's 16-year average -- 32 fatalities, as calculated from data on the NHSTA Web site -- would still have put it in the deadliest-15-cities range.

More recent preliminary figures for 2009 (27 fatalities) show the city rate dropping to sixth nationally and tied with Memphis. Seven of the 2009 deaths were pedestrians.

-- From staff reports