Get rolling with some solutions

Collision underscores pressing need to better accommodate bicyclists

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The family of the driver who critically injured a bicyclist Friday evening says praying for the cyclist is "all we can do."

Well, it's not all the community can do.

The crash on a lonely Beech Island road that put 37-year-old Matthew Burke in a medically-induced coma has reopened the raw debate over bicycles on narrow CSRA roads. Some motorists say the cyclists are being stupid, and wish they would ride somewhere else, some other time. Avid cyclists say they take every precaution, but that they still absorb all manner of abuse from angry motorists unwilling to share the road.

The debate has little relation to Friday's accident. Even the driver of the SUV, 41-year-old Daniel Johnson, admits he was reaching for something at the time of the crash -- and the group Johnson was with has become something of a fixture on what they consciously decided was a lightly traveled route.

If you think bicycles are the problem, and that they have no business on heavily traveled roads, this is not the case you want to point to. What this driver hit could very well have been a pedestrian, a horse and buggy or a baby carriage. This is a case, according to reports, of an inattentive driver. Period.

That said, it's clear this metropolitan area could do a better job of meshing the needs of motorists with the pursuits of cyclists.

Ranting about one party or the other won't get us anywhere. Bicyclists aren't going away, and they needn't. What they're doing is legal, healthy and should be encouraged, not spat upon; otherwise, why else is Augusta catering to regional and national cycling events?

Instead, we hope someone -- elected officials, the sports council, bicycle enthusiasts -- will begin a constructive dialogue about how to better accommodate the often disparate interests between drivers and bikers.

It's a matter of life and death.

We can do more than pray for Matthew Burke, an Army surgeon and married father. We can honor him by making sure no one else suffers his fate.

Comments (15) Add comment
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jgvose
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jgvose 10/06/10 - 12:04 am
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It's sad to see that so

It's sad to see that so little has changed in the attitudes towards cyclists in the five years since I left Augusta. For an area with a storied cycling history it's shameful to see such ignorance and carelessness make national news. Countless times, even as a lone cyclist out on Old Jackson and Beech Island Avenue I was shouted at, pushed off the road, and threatened without any provocation by irrationally angry people. Even with the tragedy of Dr. Burke and four of his companions getting hit on a wide, straight road with little to no traffic during daylight hours, based upon the prior article comments I doubt anything will ever change. Elected official interest or not, the attitude to accommodate the activities of others into our busy lives has to start at home with people who care.

Techfan
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Techfan 10/06/10 - 07:31 am
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One solution would be to

One solution would be to place minimum speed limits on roads, similar to what we have on an interstate. If you can't maintain the minimum speed, stay off the road. Another would be to tax and tag bicyclists, and use the funds to increase the number of bike lanes.

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 10/06/10 - 08:54 am
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Well said Techfan. 3000lb

Well said Techfan. 3000lb vehicles doing 60mph come up on a bicycle very fast. Putting them on the same road makes no more sense than having bicycles ride on sidewalks where pedestrians are moving so much slower.

Roads can't be deemed safe for bicycles. They're convenient for the self-propelled joy riders, but they're a huge gamble.

It's pretty clear that money allotted for road building and maintenance should be split to build and maintain bike roads. Any other effort will keep the potential for death and injury that exists now.

corgimom
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corgimom 10/06/10 - 09:27 am
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It doesn't matter how lightly

It doesn't matter how lightly the road is travelled. All it takes is one distracted driver.

And anyone that says they are never distracted,ever, is lying.

This accident could've happened to any of us.

megnarn
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megnarn 10/06/10 - 10:01 am
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Thank you for this editorial!

Thank you for this editorial! I love riding my bike and I will do so forever. I follow the rules of traffic, make eye contact with drivers, smile and respect traffic. Carpe diem!

jrbfromga
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jrbfromga 10/06/10 - 10:15 am
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I can't believe the arrogance
Unpublished

I can't believe the arrogance of some of the comments posted here. We are talking about people who have just as much right to the road as those in motorized vehicles. Provided the bicyclists are themselves following the rules, it is really no issue to share the road. No different from farm vehicles, children, etc. Do those who suggest that bicyclists should stay off the road also support prohibition of pedestrians? The speed of the bicyclists is not the issue, it is the attentiveness and courtesy of the drivers.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 10/06/10 - 10:21 am
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It's just too dangerous. I

It's just too dangerous. I know Matt Burke. He is one of the good guys and one of the most skilled hand surgeons anywhere. He spent many years studying and perfecting his skills. I'm sickened.

dichotomy
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dichotomy 10/06/10 - 10:59 am
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I think common sense dictates

I think common sense dictates that as long as bike riders mix with faster, heavier vehicles on the roads that we will occasionally have these kinds of accidents. The laws that give bikers the same rights to the road were put on the books during safer, slower times and there were the same kinds of incidents even back then. Besides the true accidents, nowadays you can throw in a mixture of road rage drivers and bikers that intentionally antagonize motorists by riding abreast and slowing traffic more than necessary. There is never an excuse for an irate motorist to assault a bike rider, but unfortunately it does happen. The bikers cry fowl and rightfully so. However, many of us have also experienced the group of arrogant bike riders who purposely block the entire lane and militantly insists on their rights to the road when they could have gotten in single file and allowed traffic to safely pass. They seem incredulous that the motor vehicle drivers stacking up behind them become irritated and aggressive. The fact is that fast, heavy vehicles were never intended to mix with slow two wheeled bicycles in modern traffic and as long as they do there will be deaths and injuries. Sometimes accidents just happen and sometimes accidents are set in motion by actions we take. I used to like to ride my bike and I had a motorcycle too. But I reached the age of wisdom and realized that I don't heal so fast anymore. I would not expose my unprotected body to the drivers on the road today for anything. The odds are just too much in the car's favor. The bikers have a fine legal case that they have a right to share the road, and they do by current law. But when a 2 ton car whallops you from behind that legal right suddenly becomes academic. I hope for the best of outcomes for Matthew Burke and his family. Unfortunately he is representative of the type of young, intelligent, healthy, full of life individuals who are typically victims of bicycle/motor vehicle incidents.

run4yrlif
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run4yrlif 10/06/10 - 11:52 am
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Techfan: re. minimum speeds.

Techfan: re. minimum speeds. On rural farm roads that tractors and combines use, a minimum speed limit would prevent them access. How would you deal with that?

Big_vike
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Big_vike 10/06/10 - 02:24 pm
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How about you just follow the

How about you just follow the laws that are already on the books. How about you don't talk on a cell phone and drive, how about eating when you get home or at a restaraunt and not while your driving, how about using your turn signal, stopping at red lights and stop signs. There are cyclists who don't always follow the rules, but they are outnumbered in spades by the amount of drivers who don't follow the simplest laws in the Highway code.
You want to tax and tag us, ok, I'll buy that but here is my stipulation:

Driving with a cell phone: $1000 fine, 1 year loss of license
Driving while texting: $2000 fine, 2 yr loss of license
Driving while drunk: $5000 fine, lifetime ban from driving
Super speeding (20mph above posted limit): $2000 fine, 2yr loss of license
Failure to wear a seatbelt: $500, 6 month loss of license
Minimum age to operate a motor vehicle: 21
Maximum age to operate a motor vehicle: 70
Mandatory drivers retesting every 5 years
Mandatory driving testing to re-instate license after revocation
Mandatory driving skills testing following an accident you were judged to be at fault of
Mandatory annual vehicle inspections

That's just a start but it ought to generate enough money for bike lanes and sidewalks on every street in this area.

TheArmyWife
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TheArmyWife 10/06/10 - 03:20 pm
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Bikes and cars sharing roads

Bikes and cars sharing roads is a nation wide problem, read the article in this month's Philadelphia Magazine. My thoughts and prayers are with MAJ (Dr) Burke, his family and friends.

wribbs
435
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wribbs 10/06/10 - 04:13 pm
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Techfan = unbelievable.

Techfan = unbelievable.

gaspringwater
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gaspringwater 10/06/10 - 08:16 pm
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I'm not a bike rider but I

I'm not a bike rider but I can understand the appeal. But bike riders and even motorcyclist can never forget they're small flyweights among the leviathans and the big beast are not always paying close attention. It's risky fun and the many dead animals along the road is a testament to how dangerous it is. I know bikers want their legitimate road rights but it's unlikely they'll get them on this side of heaven. So ride single file and be ever alert to approaching vehicles.

JimL1
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JimL1 10/06/10 - 08:24 pm
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I have two questions: 1) Does

I have two questions:
1) Does this state have a law requiring motorist to provide 3 feet of clearance when overtaking a bicyclist?
2) Is anyone aware of any citation that has ever been issued to any motorist in this state for violating the 3 foot clearance law, if so where and when was that citation issued by what police department.
I have yet to find any instance of any Law Enforcement Officer ever writing a citation to any motorist for violating the 3 foot clearance laws. Is it any wonder that motorists ignore the law?

Shacklet
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Shacklet 10/12/10 - 08:01 am
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Techfan is does not know the

Techfan is does not know the law.

There is no minimum speed limit on state and county roads. If there was then the postal carrier will have to stop delivering. Maybe Techfan want to go to the post office to pickup the mail. This accident could have been a pedestrian or someone checking their mail box, or walking their dog.
Bicycle riders need to adhere the road rules just as vehicle drivers should be doing. Vehicle drivers need to get off the cell phone, quit text messaging or being engaged in some activity that distracts them from the task of attentive driving. A far as taxes, the bicycle riders paid taxes on the bicycle when they bought it. They pay taxes on their personal vehicles that they transports their bicycles. Now if someone wants to have taxes and tags placed on bicycles, fine. The bicycle riders I know will pay and still ride on the road. Will the taxes collected from bicyclist fund larger paved shoulders on the road and keeping then clear of debris? Do you want to have to pay tag taxes on your children s' bicycles so they can ride in the street? Keep that in mind, tax laws cut both ways.

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