Matthew Burke's fatal injury made fellow cyclists fearful on roads

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Cyclists who were riding with Matthew Burke the night he was fatally struck say their pastime has lost its innocence.

“There’s a fear in me now when I ride,” said German Cha­var­ria, who has cut back his cycling after the wreck on Oct. 1, 2010, on Beech Island Avenue in Aiken County.

Burke was one of about 15 cyclists who set out for a weekly ride from Outspokin Bicycles on that Friday night. He was riding in the rear of the group with several other cyclists when a Dodge Durango driven by Daniel John­son struck the group from behind, sending Burke sailing through the air and injuring four other cyclists.

The image of a bloody, injured Burke lying on the ground is one Chavarria still thinks about at least once a week.

“It was so horrific,” he said.

Burke was rushed to Medical College of Georgia Hospital, where he survived the night through emergency surgery. He never awoke from his coma, however, and died Feb. 6 at Eisenhower Army Medical Center.

Johnson was arrested two days after Burke’s death on a charge of reckless homicide. He has pleaded not guilty and is out on bond. A trial date has not been set.

Johnson’s attorney, Jim Huff, declined an interview about his client for ethical reasons. He said the public shouldn’t judge the situation unless they are jurors sitting in trial listening to all the facts and statements.

“Daniel is innocent unless proven guilty,” Huff said.

Johnson’s father, Daniel John­son Sr., also declined to comment about the incident.

Jeff Tilden, another cyclist on the October 2010 ride, echoed Cha­v­arria’s statements about feelings of fear and paranoia.

He never rides alone anymore and tries to be as visible as possible.

“I’m a little more wary of what’s coming; I’m constantly look­ing back,” he said.

In spite of fear, the cyclists press on.

“We have to, for Matt’s sake. He was an avid rider, and that makes me keep going and going,” Chavarria said.

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peace4784 10/01/11 - 08:36 pm
Cycling on a road with cars

Cycling on a road with cars and trucks was never an innocent past time. It is risky and foolish. What makes a supposedly intelligent adult think they are any safer than a motor vehicle operator when they are traveling on the road? Cyclist have no business on the road with automobile traffic. Accidents will occur. That's why they are called accidents. When an automobile and a cyclist collide, the cylclist will lose everytime. Usually the result is tragic. Cyclist put themselves in harms way, then are surprised when one of them end up on the tragic end of an accident. Matthew Burke is dead because he and the other cyclist put themselves in harms way. Now, German Chavarria claims he has to continue to put himself in harms way to honor the memory of Matthew Burke. What he ought to do is not be foolish and stubborn and learn what Matthew Burke had to learn the hard way. Bicycles and automobiles do not mix well on the road. Will bicycle riders ever learn?

K. Palmer

elle 10/01/11 - 09:03 pm
You'll stop your car for an

You'll stop your car for an animal in the roadway. Why is a cyclist, a fellow human being, less important. What or where could be so important, and what does it say about the feelings you exhibit, when you come upon a cyclist? What have you allowed yourself to become when you sit behind your steering wheel?

omnomnom 10/02/11 - 04:28 am
they dont seem to have a

they dont seem to have a terrible problem with bike safety in europe.

wribbs 10/02/11 - 06:31 am
I get so sick of people with

I get so sick of people with K. Palmer's attitude. Where have you got to be in a such a rush that you can't slow down for 10 seconds to safely pass me on my bike? Do you switch off your brain and eyes and stop using common sense when you get behind the wheel? Are people so self absorbed they can't consider their fellow man for a few seconds out of their busy day? Elle is right. I see people slow down for dogs walking beside the road all the time. Isn't a person more valuable than a dog?

I have every right to be on the road on my bike. I pay taxes on my cars and property that gives me that right. The only thing that makes road biking risky and foolish is people like YOU.

Cassandra Harris
Cassandra Harris 10/02/11 - 09:05 am
Right on omnomnom. They don't

Right on omnomnom. They don't seem to have a major problem with bike safety in Canada, much of Asia, much of South America or even in much of the USA. Do seem to have a safety problem here. Oh! I remember, in the other areas I've lived (which includes Europe and Canada), they have bike lanes, laws concerning bikes are taken seriously, and people don't purposely buzz or run up on bicyclists to scare them. That might be it.

IsAnyoneAlwaysRight 10/21/11 - 12:00 pm
Cycling lost its innocence

Cycling lost its innocence for me 30 years ago!

I remember the same vision in the late 80's on an Augusta Freewheeler's (the defunct Augusta cycling club) ride down Garrett Road in McCormick County.

Another soldier, Bob Murphy was hit broad side by a young man in a pickup going at least 65+ mph on a 55 mph road. However, Bob, who was leading the peloton of about 7 cyclists, turned toward the center of the road to look back for me as my chain had come off my bike's front ring. I presume this was an accident for they both were at fault.

The vision of Mr. Murphy being tossed like a rag doll over the length of a football field is one I have never forgotten.

Dr. Matthew Burke is not the first, nor will he be the last.

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