Please Use Extreme Cautionby Marshall Eldred
A friend in Columbus, Ohio sent this letter about a recent fatal bicycle accident. His first-hand description of how it happened is explicit and frightening, and I am sending it to you to suggest that it might be worthwhile to print in the next LBC newsletter. I think all of us have drifted to the wrong side of narrow roads in the past, and this letter might be a strong reminder to ride more cautiously. ó Marshall Eldred
Dear ABB friends - I have some very sad news to relay, and I feel compelled to communicate this to you because I know you are all committed cyclists and I want you to make the best of the knowledge of a horrible situation.
On Saturday, a very close, long time cycling companion of Cathy and I was killed in a head-on collision with a truck. We buried him yesterday. The cycling community here is totally stunned, maybe more accurate to say weíre in shock. I want you to know that it was rider error that caused this collision. The truck driver was in no way at fault.
Our friend Mike was an exceptionally strong, smooth and steady rider. If you rode with him youíd think of Steve Haylett in terms of size, build and strength. He even owned an ONCE jersey he wore from time to time. Mike was super safety conscious. That this happened to him, and not one of the more careless riders we know, makes the need for us all to ever vigilant all the more important.
We were 20 miles into a hilly, 105-mile ride heading into the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, which is what you find southeast of Columbus. As a comparison, it would be like the first dayís riding in New Hampshire, only scaled down about 50%. The hills arenít as long, but equally steep and quite a lot of them. The road we were on was fairly narrow. We had just crested a series of rollers that got increasingly steep and higher, and were dropping down a sharp downhill that bent left, bottomed out and then sharply turned right and uphill to crest a short hill, a dip and then the major climb of that road. In heading toward that next crest were riding into a blind hill. I was second over the last rise, and Mike was behind me somewhere. I was concentrating on descending and passing slower riders on my right. I saw a coworker who is a new rider and quickly glanced over my shoulder to say hello, and when I looked back up the road I was facing a semi truck right in front of me. It seemed to appear out of nowhere. In the course of passing the slower riders I was already toward the middle of the lane, and apparently with the moment of attention turned to my coworker, I must have drifted toward the center line. What I didnít know was that Mike had come up alongside me on my left. When I saw the truck I threw my weight right and swerved to avoid it. As I initiated my turn, I felt a bump against my left shoulder, which was Mike trying to avoid the truck as well. That was the first I knew he was there. The next instant, I cleared the edge of the truck and shot past only to hear the sound of Mike hitting the truck.
Iíll never know why he thought it was okay to overtake me as he did, or if he even realized he was where he was on the road. I only know he never felt a thing, and that he died doing the thing he loved. I share this with you because I want to be sure we all take stock of our riding practices and our attention to safe riding. Yes, the idea of finding a semi on such a remote back country road is bizarre and the odds of the combination of timing and rider traffic is beyond calculation. But it happened and Mike is gone. And yes, it could have so easily been me. Please take some time to reflect on your habits and those of your riding partners. Use this story as a chance to try once more to bring that guy who loves to ride in the middle of the road over to the right. Letís get all we can from Mikeís death and maybe save a few lives.
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web posted: 3 November 2002
last updated: 4 November 2002