Wednesday, May 15, 2013

In Which A Finger Is Wagged At Dangerous Bikers

May 21 update: The posting is anonymous, but a person identifying herself as the mother of the injured biker commented on this post on May 20. If you read this post, please also read her comment.

As longtime readers of this blog may know, CR Biker has had a few close calls.

Once, I slipped on ice and banged up my knee. Several times, rude drivers have cut me off or ignored the presence of a bicycle—indeed, crossing Blair’s Ferry and C Avenue is always the most “invigorating” part of my daily commute because it’s a roll of the dice whether right-turning car and truck drivers will notice or care about a “walk” sign and a biker in the crosswalk.

And once, at night, a pair of teens actually seemed intent on trying to do me harm.

So, I’m a bit defensive about bikers and car drivers. And I was ready to take umbrage when I opened my paper this morning and there was a column with the headline: “Bicyclists, please put safety first.”

Then, I read the column. And my umbrage melted away. I don’t know Nick Gearhart (great name for a biker, by the way), but he’s right. In the column, he describes a scary accident where three bikers ignore a traffic signal and one of them is hit. We’ve all seen them, fast bikers who don’t seem to care if there is traffic or traffic controls or lights.

Somehow, it does not surprise me that the trio of bikers he saw ignoring a traffic light existed as a trio. Like teens in cars, groups of bikers don’t always behave better than a lone biker would.

This is bike to work week. I’ve noticed a few more bikes on the streets and sidewalks, although we two-wheelers are still far from a crowd in Cedar Rapids. I’ve been riding to work every day—not exactly a surprise since I commute by bicycle all year long, stopped only by rain, snow and ice on the road. This has been a good commuting week.

And Nick and his wagging finger? Frankly, I can’t find anything to disagree with in what he wrote. He’s right. CR Biker agrees—while it’s more important for car drivers to be respectful of bikers, on the theory that they can do more damage, it’s also important for bikers to recognize and follow basic rules of road civility, traffic laws and common sense.  “Share the road” goes both ways.

Nick finishes his column in the Gazette this way:  “Let’s all put safety first.” To which CR Biker can only reply, “hear, hear.”


  1. As the mother of bicyclist number 3, I would appreciate the opportunity to give you the account of the accident as I understood it from the bicyclists and other witnesses to the incident.

    As there are always two sides to a story, I believe the reporter writing his account of the accident in the newspaper failed in his journalism duties as he didn't bothered to investigate or report any other viewpoint of the accident.

    If you know the location of the accident on 42nd and Wenig, you would know it is two lanes of traffic and absolutely no room for a bicycle lane. This intersection is a very busy one where the speed limit drops from 35 mph to a 25 mph school zone. With Kennedy High School on one side of Wenig and Pierce Elementary on the other side, the intersection commands very conscience driving as it is used by many students both walking and riding bicycles through the crosswalk. After many, many close calls on previous bike rides and walks to school, I requested my son switch to the sidewalk on his bicycle and cross the street in the crosswalk. I hoped cars would be looking for pedestrians and would see the bicyclists as they crossed through the intersection. They were admittedly bicycling very fast I was told, and when the first rider entered the intersection the light was still green. I know now that it was red when my son crossed. Other than the fact that his bicycle was having mechanical problems, my son does not remember anything. So we will never know what his younger and less experienced mind was thinking, and why he choose to follow through the intersection. However, if the truck driver was sitting and waiting at the red light, I would think he would be checking the crosswalks for pedestrians while waiting and as he drove through the intersection. After all, two bicycles had to cross the street DIRECTLY in front of him before he hit my son, sent him flying up onto his truck and dragged his mangled bike quite a distance down the street.

    Please keep in mind, my son is just an eigth grader. His brain is not as developed as an adult, and and he doesn't have the experience with driving and quick thinking like an adult does. Even as adults, with all our experiences, we all have accidently run a red light in our lives.

    My son's injuries included a concussion, scrapes, scratches and fractures. Unable to see or recognize myself or my husband, he constantly called out our names even though I told him I was right next to him holding his hand. He ended up in an induced coma in the ICU. The doctor said his helmet saved his life. The nurses commented that they never had an accident patient like him at his age. When I said I didn't understand, they said "wearing a helmet".

    So much for a nice day riding the bike trail with his friends. He was a half a block from home...he made a mistake.

    So please do not classify my son as a dangerous, fast biker who does not care about road rules. I dare anyone to find three eigth grade boys all wearing bicycle helmets every time they ride a bike.

    Today the images of my son's accident race through my mind hourly...and all I can think what happened to "IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD"?

    1. I am glad to read that your son was wearing a helmet and was spared more serious injury. As a father, yours is a chilling note to read, because any parent could sympathize with your point of view. I do hope he makes a full and speedy recovery. I don't feel my blog post (or the column in the newspaper) was terribly unfair to him, since he did cross a very busy intersection on a red light, but on the other hand, I do agree with your frustration that bikers are too often unseen in crosswalks where they should be watched for. Anyway, thanks for sharing the other side of the story.

  2. I had a close call yesterday at the corner of Robins Road & Center Point Road in Hiawatha. I was on the trail approaching the crosswalk with a green light in my favor, but the little old man in the SUV decided a right on red would be just the thing at the same moment I was hitting the street. I found out that my brakes work really well, and that I don't always fall over when I have to make a quick stop. I glared at the driver who just smiled sheepishly. At least the driver behind him asked me if I was OK!