On Saturday Afternoon, Oct. 9th – Members of the Lake Norman Area group, Street Access For Everyone (SAFE) were able to restore a BMUFL sign which had been vandalized…..for the second time. The damage was reported to SAFE on Oct. 6th by a local cyclist.
The Bikes May Use Full Lane (BMUFL) sign is located at the intersection of Grey Rd. & Shearers Rd across from Abersham park.
The vandal(s) used a can of black spray paint with intent to cover up the signs message.
The sign had been vandalized once before only 3 months prior. That sign was replaced by the Town of Mooresville. In attempt to save the town time, material and labor SAFE members wanted to experiment with a bottle of Goo Gone Graffiti remover. Upon arrival, a paint can lid was noticed lying on the ground next to the sign, and a phone call was placed to the Iredell county Sheriff’s office. A deputy came out to take pictures and examine the evidence for prints.
Thankfully there are more good people than bad in the world. The sign was cleaned of graffiti and once again serves it’s intended message. Thanks to SAFE, a bottle of Goo Gone, and a little elbow grease by a couple of Spirited Cyclist employees.
A Word to the vandal(s). If you are going to commit a crime by destroying state owned property, perhaps you should do a better job of cleaning up your evidence next time.
PRESS RELEASE FROM BIKE LAW’S NATIONAL DIRECTOR RACHAEL MANEY
In light of the recent Waller Bike Crash in Texas, and in an effort to help untangle and unpack some of the emotionally-charged comments, questions, and inaccurate assumptions being made, we want to update you on the parts that we can share. I hope that this will also help clear up any confusion regarding some of the misinformation we’ve been reading in many of the media articles that have been published and on numerous social media channels, ours included.
Bike Law Texas’ Charlie Thomas of Huber Thomas & Marcelle, LLP and Bike Law’s founding attorney Peter Wilborn of Wilborn Law, LLC were retained last Sunday, September, 26, 2021, the day after the multi-victim bicycle crash on Business 290 East in Waller, TX, to lead the civil investigation and represent all 6 of the cyclists who were almost killed while on a training ride for Ironman Texas exactly one week ago today.
Our 6 clients are suffering from horrible injuries including broken vertebrae, cervical and lumbar spinal injuries, broken collar bones, hands, and wrists- many of which require surgical intervention- as well as multiple traumatic brain injuries, lacerations, soft tissue damage, road rash, and extensive bruising. And those are just the physical injuries.
The driver of the black F-250 that crushed our clients’ bodies and left them and their bikes splashed and scattered across the roadway is a 16 year old Waller, Texas male. Through our own investigation, we’ve learned his name, his address, the names of his parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbors and family friends. We know the names of the businesses owned and operated by the driver’s family. We know where he was earlier in the day, prior to crashing into our clients while they were more than 70 miles into their USAT tri-club training ride. We know the identity of his passenger (a local 17 year old male from a neighboring town) and a pretty good idea about the role he may have played in causing the crash that sent ALL of our clients to the hospital; 2 by Life Flight, 2 by ambulance, 2 by personal transport. (Texas licensing provisions allow for licensed drivers between the ages of 16-17 to lawfully operate a motor vehicle with no more than 1 non-family member passenger who is under the age of 21 at a time.)
The driver’s family’s connections in Waller are a legitimate reason for concern, but I know that Charlie and Peter are very well versed in handling the challenges that nepotism can create.
JUDGE: WALLER “DOESN’T LIKE YOUR KIND”
The backdrop of the Waller Bike Crash is one riddled with anti-bike bias. Charlie knows all too well as he has recent experiences with judges there, one who actually lamented to him that Waller, TX “doesn’t like [our] kind.” Charlie has formerly represented several cyclists who were targeted and ticketed by Waller police over the last couple of years. He went to Texas A&M in College Station to race bicycles and he has a law office in Houston. He has been a dogged legal advocate (alongside Bike Law Texas’ partner BikeHouston) for the changes needed to make cycling safer both locally and on a state-wide scale. This advocacy includes exposing and fighting against those who choose to selectively enforce the law for only a select few.
Our clients are not only hostages to the truck driver’s behavior and their own broken bodies, but also to a criminal process that is supposed to help make them “whole” again in a place that “doesn’t like [their] kind.”
This teenage driver assaulted other cyclists by “coal rolling” them before plowing into our clients just moments later. We know he did not “lose control” of his truck. We know that he knew exactly what he was doing and that Waller PD’s Officer Charles Mistric falsely stated in a report (which has not yet been provided to our clients or to us) that all of the riders were riding two abreast, according to a published article in the Houston Chronicle. Texas law allows for riding two abreast, however Mistric’s mention of the cyclists’ lane positioning seems more like the kind of victim blaming comments we see from internet trolls, and less like what we would expect from a law enforcement officer investigating the scene of a crime (plus it’s not true).
Officer Mistric went on to say that the “driver stated that he was reaching for his cell phone to call his dad and struck the bicyclists before he could react.” Given what we know from the eye-witness testimony from one of the cyclists who was assaulted by the teenage driver immediately before he drove his truck into the 6 bicyclists and the testimony of several others, we do not find the driver’s or Mistric’s statements to be credible at all. Additionally, Texas law does not allow for any driver under the age of 18 to use a hand held device while operating a motor vehicle.
We also know that this was no “accident” caused by a “new and inexperienced” driver as his criminal defense attorney would like people to believe. Rick DeToto, who has been retained to represent the teenage driver, went so far as to say that this event “did not involve any criminal intent.” After 23 years of representing bicyclists and bike crash victims, we know that when there is no real defense to proffer, turning a perpetrator into a victim is the only limp “defense” that exists.
Additionally, nowhere and at no time in the interviews Mr. DeToto has given to the media has an apology been expressed.
COAL-ROLLING IS NOT THE ACT OF A “NEW AND INEXPERIENCED” DRIVER
Charlie says, “driving recklessly, assaulting, and running down other roadway users is not the trait of a ‘new and inexperienced’ driver. If it was, we’d all be endangered by every young driver.” Peter followed Charlie’s sentiment up by saying, “This teenage driver that caused the Waller Bike Crash knew exactly what he was doing. He must be held accountable for his choices and actions that scared and injured our clients on a Texas highway.”
Elton Mathis, the Waller County elected DA, is now in charge of the criminal investigation into the Waller Bike Crash. He’s assigned a Special Prosecutor for this case, Warren Diepraam, who does not reside in (nor is he from) Waller County. He was handpicked because of his investigative and prosecutorial work across multiple Texas jurisdictions.
Mr. Diepraam was formerly a prosecutor in Harris and Montgomery counties. While in Harris, he formed the first ever vehicular crimes division in the state of Texas. Additionally, Mr. Mathis and Mr. Diepraam have hired a crash reconstruction engineer to fully investigate and understand what occurred leading up to the 6 bicyclists being struck.
Currently, victim interviews between the prosecutors and our clients are being scheduled. Waller PD did not ask for a single statement from any of them at the scene of the crash or at the hospitals to which they were transported, and all 6 bicyclists were conscious and wanted to participate in the Waller PD led “investigation” at the scene. One witness who was riding behind our clients and the other smaller group of cyclists who were assaulted when the driver coal-rolled them told us that while she was tending to two of the most seriously injured bicyclists, the only thing Officer Charles Mistric said to her (she was not asked to provide a witness statement either, nor was her contact information taken by any Waller PD officer at the scene to provide a statement at a later date or time) was that [the crash victims] would need [his business card] and that the crash report “would take at least 10 days,”as he handed the card to her with the hand-written report number on it.
In our meeting with our clients yesterday, Charlie was able to reassure them that despite the complete lack of appropriate investigating by the Waller PD, “the District Attorney’s office has expressed their concern for [all of you] and is committed to carrying out a full investigation to hold those criminally responsible accountable.” Peter added, “A charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon is proper. The driver recklessly caused bodily injury using his truck as a deadly weapon.” Such a charge is a second-degree felony.
At this time, Charlie, Peter and our team have NO reason at all to associate the earned reputations of Waller PD and City of Waller officials to Mr. Mathis or Mr. Diepraam, and in fact, we and our clients have been shown the kind of professionalism and compassion that is, unfortunately, precedent-setting in our line of work. Charlie and Peter’s request of everyone who’s expressed concern for the 6 bicyclists is to allow the Waller County DA’s office to do their jobs so that a complete and honest investigation into a Waller, TX bike crash can finally occur; maybe for the very first time.
What I ask of you is to thoughtfully consider the following: If you were in any of their shoes, could you physically, financially, and mentally afford to let the process play out while struggling to prevent the driver who almost killed you and your friends from stealing any more from you than what he’s already stolen?
Do you have someone who could take countless hours and/or days off of work to drive you to your doctor’s appointments? Take you to surgery? Care for you in your surgical recovery? Do you have someone who could be there around the clock to help you stand up, sit down, bathe, brush your teeth, get dressed, and eat? If you have children, how would you explain what happened to them and assuage their fears while also managing your own? If you were lucky enough to be able to, how would you feel getting back in the saddle the first time you’re riding on the road again and you hear the growling engine of a giant truck approaching behind you?
What if your employer couldn’t afford to pay you while you’re unable to work? What if your phone calls to schedule necessary appointments with medical specialists ended with a refusal to treat you because your injuries were the result of a collision with an automobile and their office is worried that they won’t get paid?
It’s not just the driver who caused the Waller Bike Crash that has victimized our clients. It’s also the length and total burden of the processes on both the criminal and civil sides of their case to which they are also hostages. They lay in their beds, robbed of their quality of life, unable to sleep, in many different forms of constant pain, and all they want is to go back in time and not be assaulted by someone who’s lawyered up and can’t even bring himself to say, “I’m sorry.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Many of you have asked if and how you can help these 6 cyclists suffering from the aftermath of the Waller Bike Crash. The answers are YES, and here’s how you can help our clients right now. The donations to this GoFundMe will provide them with some immediate relief that will allow them to focus on what is most important: their physical recoveries.
IMPORTANT ELEMENTS OF THE WALLER BIKE CRASH
To answer some of the other questions that have been posed over the last several days, here is a list of things that we think might be helpful to understanding important elements of both the criminal and civil sides of a crash like this one:
Legal adults and juveniles have different rights and consequences within a given state’s statutory laws.
Any time a prosecutor feels it’s appropriate to charge a minor as an adult in the state of Texas, the following must first occur: 1. The potential charges must be for a felony crime or crimes. 2. A judge must officially certify the individual as an adult after considering a variety of things in addition to the felony crimes alleged. (The process for Ethan Couch, the now 24 year old repeatedly convicted criminal who is best known for causing the catastrophic multi-victim fatal crash in Burleson, TX in which he killed 4 innocent people and injured 9 more while speeding while intoxicated in June of 2013 at the age of 16, is a great example of how complicated certifying a juvenile as an adult can be.)
The involvement of a “juvenile” in any crash complicates the pursuit of justice in many additional ways; publishing their identification is definitely one of them.
In order to open any insurance claim or file civil litigation, documentation containing multiple pieces of necessary information must first be provided to the crash victims and their legal counsel if they have it.
Delays in the processes on both the criminal and civil sides of things are not always an indication of incompetence, injustice, or officials sweeping things under the rug. (But because our cycling community has too many first hand experiences where this IS the case, we completely understand the outrage and some of the inaccurate conclusions being made.)
When the control of an investigation changes from one department or agency to another, there will be an inevitable delay. If those doing the hand-off made mistakes or a mess, then those taking over have even more work to do. More work triggers the need for more time.
Sometimes, states require the involvement of multiple agencies as parts of the crash response process, all of whom may be responsible for conducting their own individual investigations. Every department and agency has their own unique internal procedures and protocols, too.
Any competent, ethical person whose job involves pursuing and securing a just outcome for any victim of a crash (including a crash caused by a crime) will be thorough in their work. The more people involved in a specific incident (i.e. multi-victim crashes), the longer it can take to gather all the facts and relevant evidence.
In many if not most places, crash reports (including those in which vulnerable road users are not involved) aren’t completed or available to anyone for a time period of up to 2 weeks. In Waller, Texas, the initial investigating officer told witnesses on the scene it would take “at least 10 days.” The number of crashes that have recently occurred in that jurisdiction matter as well.
If a crime against cyclists resulting in a crash occurs in a place with a known and documented anti-bike bias, additional measures have to be taken. No stone should be left unturned and all possible challenges and/or defenses to prosecutorial and civil arguments should be considered. Identifying and addressing those things comprehensively, and certainly not prioritizing speed or the court of public opinion over the quality and integrity of the work being done, are the marks of conscientious, experienced, and competent investigators, prosecutors, and civil attorneys.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
Below are some of the things we think you should know both for your own peace of mind and protection:
FIRST, unless expressly waived in writing at the time of purchase, if you are riding your bicycle and you are victimized in a crash by the driver of a motor vehicle, you may have insurance coverage through your OWN automotive policy. Generally you cannot purchase more UM or UIM coverage than you carry in liability, so check with your automotive insurance carrier to determine what you can and cannot purchase. We cannot stress this enough: MAX IT OUT. It could be the difference between zero financial hardship and bankruptcy.
UM stands for Uninsured Motorist Coverage. It’s the part of your policy that insures you against drivers who have no insurance or drivers in a hit and run.
UIM stands for UNDERINSURED Motorist Coverage and it serves as the buffer between the at-fault driver’s insufficient coverage and your bank account. That means that if you’re hit by a motorist whose liability coverage is not enough to compensate you for the damages you incurred due to that driver’s actions, your own UIM coverage picks up where the driver’s liability coverage ends.
*If you have specific questions about your policy or about how to max out your UM/UIM coverage, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to help!*
SECOND, there are 4 states in the U.S. that apply the antiquated rule/law of Contributory Negligence to cycling in the context of crashes. If you are riding your bike in any of these 4 states and become the victim of a crash, and it’s determined that you contributed as little as 1% to your crash, you are barred 100% from ANY civil recovery for the damages you suffer from that crash. This means that if the laws don’t allow or require it and- just to give some examples of common state bicycle laws, all of which apply to these 4 contrib states- unbeknownst to you, your rear red light battery dies after dark, or you were riding with earbuds in both ears, or your lane positioning was not AFRAP (As Far Right As Practicable), or you were not using the mandated space for bicyclists, and an irresponsible driver hits you, you are likely to be ineligible to collect a penny from the coverage available from that motorist’s insurance policy. The 4 contrib states for bicyclists are:
THIRD, after a crash, the following steps should be taken IF you are physically able to do so:
Do not engage with the driver in a way that creates confrontation or unnecessary conflict. We understand why you would want to and we don’t disagree with those reasons. However, for your own physical safety, we advise that you refrain from any altercation with the driver.
CALL 911. (Or ask someone who is on scene to do so. The driver should also call, however, we don’t ever rely on them to notify law enforcement and first responders.)
Request/Document the driver’s and the vehicle’s information: Make, model and color of the vehicle; name; address; insurance carrier and policy number for the driver; visible damage to vehicle.
Go to the hospital. Don’t waive medical attention. If your injuries are not emergent, follow up as soon as possible with your personal physician or GP and document all injuries in both written and picture form.
Keep a running journal of all symptoms that did not exist before the crash.
Do NOT repair your bike or manipulate it or its components in any way if you want to recover the value of your property that was damaged in your crash.
Do NOT give a statement to any insurance adjuster until you are sure that you do not want or need legal representation.
Do NOT post on social media. In the event that you want or need legal representation and an element of that requires filing a lawsuit, anything you publish is discoverable.
Do NOT publicly identify the driver or his or her vehicle in a way that could be defined as “doxing” or considered defamatory. Not only does that open up the possibility that you could be liable for damages to the driver for saying or writing inflammatory or untrue things about them, but in the event that the consequences of your crash are litigated in court, the inflammatory public dissemination of the driver’s personal information can also be considered jury tampering.
*This is why we redact license plates sometimes. It is also why we don’t encourage “vigilante justice” after a crash. It’s not because we are “scared,” or don’t appreciate the public’s “right to know.” Our justice system is designed to protect people by considering them innocent until proven guilty. Calling someone a “criminal” before they’re convicted of a crime could be defamatory and comes with very expensive consequences.*
FOURTH, If you do not want to retain counsel, do not allow your own insurance company or the driver’s tell you that coverage doesn’t apply to you because you were on a bicycle when your crash occurred. If that happens, demand that the adjusters present you with those policies (or the proof in writing) so that you can see where your right to file a claim or claims was waived.
FIFTH, Call us. We always recommend that you reach out to us if you have a cycling related crash or need. You may not choose to retain one of our independently practicing cycling lawyers in the Bike Law Network, but you will be more informed about your rights and the options available to you after suffering a traumatic event like being harrassed, assaulted, or hit by someone operating a motor vehicle while you’re on your bike. There is no charge to you for seeking our help. We do what we do because we’re part of this community and have our own skin in the game. We’ve been protecting and representing cyclists for 23 years and are honored to be called on your very worst of days.
We had a great time making people aware of SAFE’s presence during packet pickup for the LKN Fondo. The event was on Sunday August 8th, 2021.
On Saturday August 7th we attended packet pickup at Spirited Cyclist in Davidson, NC for The Lake Norman Fondo. A charity bike ride with over 550 participants. We were able to reach a lot of people on Saturday.
Many of whom had no idea who we were, or that we existed to make them SAFE.
We met a lot of great people who were very happy to learn about us and what we were doing for the cycling and pedestrian communities on our streets.
On Sunday August 8th, 2021 we were right back at it. The tent was us and ready to go on the Green in Downtown Davidson for the event. Once again we met a lot of great people who were happy to know we were working for them behind the scenes to make cycling a little safer.
Thanks to everyone who stopped by to see us and chat.
During 2020, I spent quite some time in the saddle, and already riding more than 3500 miles this year. While working inside during the COVID pandemic, riding outside helped me keep my sanity and also gave me many opportunities to reflect on the incredible joys of cycling while sometimes also being challenged with concerns for safety.
Culture cannot be delegated. The truth is that our “values” should drive our behaviors. Connecting the way we act with those values is something we strive for. Only with forces more powerful than the forces that keep it the same can cultural transformation occur. Behaviors are observable, describable, and recordable whereas culture is ultimately evidenced in behavior.
What we experience all throughout life impacts the perceptions we carry. The longer we carry those perceptions the more they become the truths we believe, live by, operate under, and use to help us navigate life today. This phenomenon impacts everyone and can create positive and negative biases we carry with us about life and anything in it. Thus, it is clear that it also impacts how we behave on the road; the good and the bad; and that it influences unconsciously every road user. As we all know, you don’t control what others do in this life, but you do control how you show up.
This means a couple of simple things: It means that during every bike ride, every run or walk, every car ride,… you make a difference. You might only impact one person but you never know who’s watching and learning from you. So my message to you is simple: Ride with a smile, have fun, be a friendly and inclusive rider, wave to car drivers, thank them for doing the right thing in sharing the roads with you (even if according to you that’s what they should be doing anyway; don’t take things for granted). It’s my personal belief that every inclusive act we do as cyclists will make our world a safer place!
Hope that things will change is the melody of the future. Having the faith that things will change is dancing to that melody right now
In late 2019, I thought advocating for bike and pedestrian safety in Cornelius was going to be relatively easy given the death of a cyclist and pedestrian deaths in a nearby town! Given these recent events, I was expecting the Cornelius Town Mayor and Commissioners would see bike and pedestrian safety as a priority requiring immediate attention. I was naive about Town priorities and vastly underestimated the length of time it takes to get priority action and funding from a town growing exponentially at an overwhelming rate.
I believe that the low frequency of bicycle and pedestrian deaths or serious injury has led to complacency in considering funding for preventive safety measures in the Town Strategic Plan. The prevailing funding strategy appears to wait for projects to be funded by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) when road improvements are planned, scheduled, and implemented. After seeking safety improvements for cyclists and pedestrians alike while working closely with the Town Planner and other Town officials in early 2020, I became frustrated by the length of time required to get safety projects vetted, approved, and funded. In particular, projects requiring multiple approvals (e.g., reduced speed limits, installation of warning signs for cyclists/pedestrians on Town roads, installation of warning signs at known dangerous intersections) take even longer.
A strategy to expedite safety projects was needed! In January, 2020, I developed a plan not long after the Town’s official “cycling advocate, who was the Town Planner, left his position to oversee Charlotte’s bicycle planning.
As a first step, on March 8, 2020, I brought in the Street Access for Everyone (SAFE) Board and interested citizens to speak to the Town Commissioners about the dire need for corrective and preventive actions, given the recent death of a cyclist just north of Davidson, and complaints within Cornelius about the number of near-miss incidents involving cyclists. It was my hope that this newly founded, multi-town citizen group and the presentation of my Six Point Plan would persuade Town officials to embrace the plan and initiate a Town strategy to implement my plan. While the urgency to act on my plan received tacit approval from the commissioners at the March 8 Town Commission meeting, it was dismissed as a priority for continued action. Discussion of my plan among the members of the Town-mandated Transportation Advisory Board (TAB) was not seriously considered for almost 5 months due to COVID-19 restrictions. There was little support for any cyclist safety road improvements. Discussion for road improvements by TAB focused entirely on motorists and pedestrians. On July 20, I spoke again before the Town Commission urging them to revisit my March 8 request to adopt my cycling safety plan options. On July 30, I was asked to speak to the TAB members regarding the urgency for action on my plan. Despite my passionate presentation, it was obvious that the TAB members did not see my request as an imperative. About a month later, I learned l that the TAB did not recognize bicycles as a State-mandated “vehicle”, thus should not be included in priority planning.
TAB took no action to adopt any part of my plan for when a Town Commissioner inquired about their activity concerning cycling safety. For months, I continued to meet and discuss cycling safety needs with the Town Planning Director, two Town Commissioners (one was the liaison commissioner to TAB), and one TAB Committee member. However, in May, 2020, I was able to get the liaison Town Commissioner to introduce changes in the TAB Bylaws to acknowledge that bicycles were indeed “vehicles” mandated by NC Statute! This was my first hint of success after months of effort. The TAB appointed a “cyclist advocate” to the committee membership. The role of the cyclist advocate was to inform and assist committee decision-making regarding cycling and pedestrian safety road improvements. While dismayed at that time with the lack of responsiveness from Town officials and offices, I was not going to be deterred from my goal to improve the safety of cyclists on our town roads. At that time, my plan was focused on cyclists rather than pedestrians so that cycling safety would not be derailed.
My Six Point Plan was a fairly comprehensive starting point to address cycling safety in Cornelius. It included enhanced virtual education presentations by police, police enforcement of traffic laws, education of motorists at the time of the traffic stop, enhanced signage on roads frequented by cyclists and pedestrians, revision of the 2017 BIKE! Cornelius Bicycle Master Plan (https://www.cornelius.org/466/Bicycle-Master-Plan) and road improvement recommendations for NCDOT. To help implement my Six Point Plan without adding a new Bicycle Advisory Board, I suggested that I work closely with the TAB. In retrospect, a separate Bicycle Advisory Board, recommended in the 2017 Bike! Cornelius Bicycle Master Plan, should have been implemented.
The Police Department is the local authority whose advice and action are required for any successful street safety plan. In March, 2020 I met with the Police Traffic Supervisor to discuss the portion of my Six Point Plan related to police education and enforcement. Police engagement was identified early in the SAFE discussions as being critical to effect change in motorist behavior regarding cyclists on the road. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic and
and changes in police supervisor and officer turnover and new hiring of officers created a schism in communication and implementation of the police actions noted in my plan. In my opinion, the ongoing lack of commitment for police involvement, alignment of priorities, and, especially, interest in cycling safety, has resulted in a delay of step one of my Six Point Plan. In my opinion, the continuing discussion of motorist, cyclist and pedestrian safety improvements, with Town budget implications, has not been achieved.
I have worked since early 2020 with the Town Police Department and Commissioners, the TAB, and the Assistant Town Manager toward adoption of the plan I presented on March 8, 2020. Only approval and funding for the dangerous intersection signage and the cyclist MUFL (May Use Full Lane) signs has been completed as part of my 6 Point Plan. I credit a Town Commissioner and our Town Managers with these important road improvements. Police Department engagement in improving cycling safety remains a high priority. The quarterly online educational presentation has not resonated with the target audience. I continue to request meetings with the new Cornelius Traffic Supervisor.
A more informed and instructive voice is needed to protect our cyclists and pedestrians! We need a regional, Lake Norman area body comprised of town, county and state law enforcement, town planners, bike shop owners and citizens to meet regularly to discuss street safety, develop plans and goals to improve existing infrastructure and education, and to consider funding options to accomplish the identified goals.
Citizen advocacy for cycling and pedestrian safety is hard! It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to generate lasting and consequential results. I have been disappointed in motorist and cyclist complacency regarding safety improvements on our streets and intersections, and the failure to appreciate the need for advocacy for safer streets. In addition, there is no agreement by towns and groups, such as SAFE, about safety actions to be taken now and in the future to prevent additional tragedies on our busy streets. My observation is that motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians ignore safe practices and laws. Sadly, the death of a citizen resonates with all, but seldom results in change.
Scott Higgins, Board Member, SAFE
Chair, Park, Art, Recreation, And Culture (PARC) Commission
When you learn how to cross the road safely as a little kid or drive a car as a teenager, the hardest part is learning how to correctly anticipate what other road users are going to do. The easiest environment to accomplish that in would be when all road users would be providing each other insights in their upcoming actions.
As cyclists we can play a very big role in helping other road users (including our fellow cyclists!) understand our plan of action by using hand signals. Most common used hand signals, that every cyclist should know and use, are:
To signal a left turn, fully extend your left arm out to your side. Make this signal approximately 100 feet before you turn, to alert others and so that you can get your hands back onto your bike as you turn.
To signal a right turn, fully extend your right arm out to your side. Make this signal approximately 100 feet before you turn, to alert others and so that you can get your hands back onto your bike as you turn.
The most common hand signal used by cyclists is the “stop.” This signal is necessary because – unlike motor vehicles – most bikes don’t have brake lights. To indicate that you are stopping or slowing down, simply extend your left arm out, and bend your arm down at a 90-degree angle, with your hand open.
Optional call: “Stopping!”
Some others that can be useful at times are
With your arm outstretched, palm-down, and slightly behind you so cyclists behind you get a clear view of your hand, move your hand up and down at the wrist to indicate that you’re about to slow. Use this indication when you’re confident that you’re going to be pulling the brakes in order to significantly slow your speed.
Optional call: “Slowing!”
POTHOLE OR HAZARD ON ROAD
If you are approaching a hazard in the road, for example a pothole, manhole cover or drain cover, outstretch your arm on the side that the upcoming hazard will pass your bike and point to the floor. This will sometimes be accompanied by a circling motion – if there’s time.
Optional call: “Hole!”
GRAVEL / DEBRIS
For specific hazards where the effect will be a potentially slippery surface, take your outstretched hand, palm down and wave at the floor. This can also be used for a broken or unconsolidated road surface.
Optional call: “Gravel!/Loose!/Ice!/etc.”
Other things you can do as a cyclist to improve safe cycling with others is the use of specific calls. Some commonly used ones are:
CLEAR LEFT / RIGHT
Used when attempting to join the flow of traffic from a junction to indicate that the road is clear and the group can begin to move through the junction without stopping but, crucially, after slowing to check for traffic. As a result, this call should only be used when the junction offers a clear line of sight in both directions.
ON YOUR LEFT / RIGHT
For use between cyclists, this warns a rider in front of you where you are in relation to them on approach. For example, calling “on the right” as you approach a slower cyclist from their right flank, and vice versa.
Warns of a car approaching from up the road, usually actively travelling towards the group. This call is used when the road is narrower than a dual-direction single carriageway with enough space for vehicles to pass each other without avoiding action.
Warns of a car approaching from the rear of the group, which means it’s also the only call which originates from the rear of the group.
Before you start a group ride, it is always beneficial to repeat these to ensure there is a common understanding of these signs and calls and getting everyone on the same page.
Remember, you are the easiest person to influence, and working on how you show up yourself is likely to have a far greater impact on others than anything else you can ever do. If you can understand how your own behaviors can and are contributing to the behaviors of others we can make a true change in road safety for everyone!
As a long-time cyclist there have been a few times I wish I would have had video of a close call or a confrontation with a motorist. Fortunately, for me personally, I haven’t had a lot of those and of those I have had, nothing major happened.
I did think it was important; however, to have video of my rides, so I purchased front and rear cameras for my bike. In addition to the hi-res cameras on each unit, they also have bright lights (white in front and red in back) to make me more visible to motorists.
It’s important that motorists know a large number of cyclists these days are recording their rides. When you pass a cyclist or a group of cyclists there’s a really good chance you’re being recorded by one or more cyclists in the group.
Take the motorist in the attached photo for example. Passing on a double yellow line with oncoming traffic and endangering me and the other cyclists that were riding in our small group. The series of photos taken from the video that shows the license plate number as well as what happened will be given to the police department and they will be contacting this motorist. Let’s all try to be on our best behavior.
Among our top priorities since forming the Street Access for Everyone advocacy group this year has been our efforts to encourage the replacement of all “Share the Road” signs with the more effective, easier to understand “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs. These BMUFL signs also indicate law as opposed to the yellow Share the Road signs which are simply caution signs.
Thanks to our efforts the town of Mooresville has been granted permission by the NCDOT to replace all signs within it’s boundaries. Beginning around the middle of October the current Share the Road signs will begin to be replaced, and we could not be more excited.
We do not intend to stop with Mooresville either. We want these signs replaced in the entire area including Davidson, Cornelius, Huntersville, Statesville and Troutman.
During quite some time in the saddle in 2020, riding already more than 3500 miles this year (which I tried to do mostly outside to keep my sanity of working inside my house most of the time during this COVID pandemic), I have had many opportunities reflect on the amazing joys of cycling while sometimes also being challenged with concerns for safety. While most people tend to look at situations from their own perspectives, I often try to put myself in others’ shoes and ask myself the question “what can I do?”… Not always easy for sure, but most often the best way to reach results… At the end of the day when we address bike and road safety it doesn’t matter who is right when it means we can’t all get home safely. Some general life guidelines to remember that might help all of us while riding our bikes but probably also in life in general:
Preparation is everything: Know where you are going! Know the route and be prepared for any potential unknowns. Make sure you are well prepared with the route (know the tough places, intersections, … and if you don’t know them, be prepared to slow down to assess them correctly), decide on your time of day (what are the busy moments?), come with charged lights, bring sufficient fueling (food and drinks) and also wear brightly colored clothing so you are easier to be spotted on the road.
Awareness leads to understanding: Whether you are riding alone, with a few people or in larger group, being aware of your surroundings is key. I personally prefer to ride with cyclists I know as the ride becomes more predictable as you know/understand their “style”. Critical will always be to communicate your intentions while trying to understand as well the intentions of your audience (all other road users). Just as you would seek eye contact with others, a good communicator should be monitoring the audience for their views and intentions and adapting communications accordingly. It’s everyone’s responsibility to take safety seriously and do whatever you can to keep yourself and others safe instead of solely depending on others to do that for you. We all (need to) share the road, we all share the ownership for safety together.
Timing is key: If you don’t communicate your intentions on the road at the right moment, you can either create an issue by raising a change in your course too early or react too late, leaving your intended messaging without anticipated reaction and creating potentially an (unintended) unsafe situation. Taking the right action at the right time and making sure that your communication is clear and visible can make a huge difference and create positive impact on all road users.
Respect rules the world: If we step back and remind ourselves that there is a person driving the car, then we are already removing unnecessary friction, can hopefully respect a different view and seek to build compromise in our communications to diffuse potentially tough and/or unsafe situations. If we still would get concerned by another road user’s behaviour, the best response is to take a deep breathe (and maybe a short break), and refocus and reconsider your strategy. Too often, as emotional beings, we let the heart dominate the head. Try to be a second
ahead by remaining calm and taking a moment to focus and center in on your message and meeting the other road user where they are at. It pays off in life in general and will hopefully contribute to creating a safer outdoors for everyone… Bike happy! Bike safe!
We currently have several things going on. This group has been working hard with local town offices, businesses, and police departments to bring safer streets to the Lake Norman area.
Here’s a list of some of the things we’re working on right now:
Our board of directors have been nominated and voted in.
President – Kevin Elder
Vice President – Jason Happe
Secretary – Jennifer Senos
Treasurer – Jean-Pierre Riou
Community Liaison Officer – Nicole Van Baelen
Vice Secretary – Ruth Yoash-Gantz
2nd Vice President – Scott McConnell
We have applied for nonprofit status through the IRS and the State of North Carolina and are currently submitting information as needed for that process. We’re hoping to complete this within 2-3 months time.
Our website is still undergoing updates and changes but is up and running at https://safelkn.com
We’re still working with local towns to replace the confusing “Share The Road” signs with the clearer “May Use Full Lane” signs. Towns have been very receptive to this idea.
ICATS has donated the use of the back of one of their busses for a wrap we can use to advertise our cause and we have secured a sponsor to pay for the cost of the wrap. We’re currently working to bring that to fruition.
We are working to partner with Livable Meck. Who is Livable Meck? Livable Meck is bringing together residents, local governments, nonprofits and businesses in Mecklenburg County to develop a unified vision that gives voice to our commonly-held aspirations. Together, these public and private stakeholders have worked to develop a unified plan that presents a community-driven, stakeholder-vetted and local-government-endorsed blueprint designed to support the livability of Mecklenburg County now and in the future.
We’re organizing the 2020 Ride of Silence to honor our friends who have been killed or injured while riding. This ride is a nationwide event and will be held on May 20, 2020 at 7:00 pm. More details on this ride will be made available soon. Check our website often for updates.
We are working with local schools to educate future motorists on how to properly pass cyclists safely. The most effective way for us to change the perception of pedestrians and cyclists on streets is to teach our youth.
At the last town meetings in Mooresville and Davidson we presented our justification for replacing “Share The Road” signs with “May Use Full Lane” signs. We also shared crash stats for Iredell county and Mecklenburg counties respectively.
We will continue to attend town meetings every month and present new facts and requests of our town managers to make our streets SAFE for all users. We would encourage you to attend your local town meetings as well. Make yourself seen and heard. Change happens when you stand up.
Keeping Up To Date
We will post an update like this on a regular basis to keep you informed of what this advocacy group is going and to let you know what you can do to help as well.
WHO WE ARE
WHAT WE DO
Streets are not just for motor vehicles. They are transportation pathways used for many types of vehicles, motorized or otherwise. We exist to make these streets safe for all users including bicycles, pedestrians, motor vehicles.