A Tale of Two Cyclistsby Earl Jones
This article will offend some of you. If you’re in that group, let me apologize at the outset.
Cyclist Number 1
October 12 was one of those gorgeous fall days that makes you forget for the moment that the season is almost over. But then the coloring trees, bright sun and long shadows leave no doubt that it won’t be long before you have to put on cycling tights.
The motorist blamed the sun for the accident that occurred at 6:20 p.m. that Sunday evening. According to the Courier-Journal, she told police that the sun was in her eyes and that she did not see the cyclist. Witnesses said the sun was blinding for motorists westbound on Lexington Rd. when the accident occurred... Unfortunately, a cyclist was in the road on Grinstead Drive when the motorist made the left turn from Lexington Road and was hit and killed.
The accident was all over the late-night news and was reported nationally. It wasn’t only (at all?) that a human being had been killed, it was the celebrity of the killer that attracted the news cameras and reporters. Heather French Henry, former Miss America, former TV personality and now wife of Kentucky’s Lieutenant Governor, was the motorist. She was distraught.
The KyCycList mailing list went into overdrive. The postings debated driver responsibility when conditions (the “blinding” sun) were less than optimal. There was speculation about Henry’s rate of speed. For some, the fact that she drove an SUV was all they needed to know to resolve all issues against her.
The news that the cyclist wasn’t wearing a helmet sparked a sub-blog on whether wearing one would have a made a difference in this case. Even worse for our side, some news reports suggested that the cyclist might have been crossing the road in the middle of the block or against the light. She obviously wasn’t cycling in a vehicular manner, which prompted exchanges on the merits of cyclists following the same traffic rules as cars. And then the exchanges focused on how road design and the Beargrass Creek bike path might have figured in the tragedy.
Talk radio also weighed in. Callers to the Joe Elliot Show on WHAS predictably fell into the it's-a-wonder-more-bicyclists-aren't-killed variety. And who didn't have a similar conversation at work?
Who deserved our sympathy? Henry, the every-woman blinded by the sun, whose goodness was manifest by her work earlier that day helping to raise money for a charity and whose husband had supported local cycling events? Or Karola Stede, the deceased cyclist (we learned her name the next day), a visitor to Louisville struck down by a gas-guzzling SUV driven by an air-headed beauty queen?
Should we send a card or a hate-letter to Henry? Should we place a wreath at the site of the accident or a helmet and a never-leave-home-without-it sign?
Cyclist Number 2
September 29, 2000 (as reported by SEI Communications) Jeffersonville, Ind. — A 35-year-old Louisville bicyclist riding to work was killed Thursday morning when he was struck by a car as he tried to cut across four lanes of traffic just off the Clark Memorial Bridge in Jeffersonville. Tyrone Henderson had crossed the bridge and was in the middle of a northbound lane on US 31 when a station wagon hit him about 7 a.m., police said. Henderson had been on his way to work at Bales Motor Co. in Jeffersonville. He didn't have a driver's license and the bike was his transportation to work.
If this incident caused any stir among local cyclists I missed it. No discussion of wreaths or cards. No angry KyCycList exchanges.
Is it the dead cyclist or the celebrity's involvement that will move the community and us to work together to improve the safety of cyclists? Or will this latest tragedy only become grist for the talk shows?
Copyright ©2003 Louisville Wheelmen. All rights reserved.
contact the webmaster for question and/or comment about this page.
web posted: 4 November 2003
last updated: 4 November 2003