Tragedy brings awareness

Death of bicyclist has made motorists attentive to riders
Sales associate Ben Hyler (left) shows new bicycles to Julie and Doug Oglesby at Andy Jordan's Bicycle Warehouse. Store manager Drew Jordan said there has been an increase in business at the store recently as bike enthusiasts prepare for the coming of spring and the excellent riding weather it provides.

Trends come and go, but bicycling apparently is here to stay.

"The number one reason people ride is because it's a lot of fun," said Drew Jordan, manager of Andy Jordan's Bicycle Warehouse. "We all started as kids and had fun, and it's why we keep it up as adults. The health factor is just icing on the cake, so to speak."

The hobby has received a lot of publicity recently. A cyclist, Matthew Burke, was struck by a motorist in October on Beech Island Avenue. Burke, a surgeon at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon, died of his injuries in February. The motorist, Daniel Johnson, has been charged with reckless homicide.

"The publicity has made motorists more aware we are on the road," said German Chavarria, a longtime bicycler and manager of Outspokin' Bicycles. "They give us more room, and we get a lot of friendly honks and friendly waves. I attribute that directly to what happened. It seems to be a really, really good trend."

Jordan agrees.

"It seems like people are a little more aware, like the tragedy was a wake-up call," he said.

Also in February, three bills were introduced in the Georgia General Assembly to make cycling safer in the Peach State.

House Bill 180 would require motorists to pass cyclists from a "safe distance" of 3 feet. House Bill 101 would clarify and amend the existing traffic laws concerning bicycles on Georgia roads. And House Bill 71 would allow residents to petition their local governments to allow them to ride bicycles on sidewalks.

"Anything positive for bicycling is going to help the business," Jordan said, adding that his store "has been really, really busy" recently.

"I think the weather has a lot more to do with it," Chavarria said, "but business has definitely gone up."

Both store managers said they've seen an increase in the sale of safety equipment. Chavarria said lights and reflective vests "have definitely been on the upswing," and Jordan said he has seen an increase in sales of bright-colored clothing for spring.

"We just did a new, custom safety orange that went over real well," he said.

Chavarria said group rides, meaning 10 to 25 riders, will increase after daylight saving time begins Sunday. Jordan said his shop averages three to four group rides a week.

"And the attendance has been no different this year than it was last year," he added.

The down economy also is helping the bicycle business. Jordan said the spike in gas prices has made people consider riding bicycles to work.

"Bike sales are up, too," Chavarria said. "We have people we've never seen before coming in and buying new bikes."

Staff Writer Kyle Martin contributed to this story.

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