Have you seen lone white bicycles showing up in your area?
The city of Waco, Texas has a strong and vibrant cycling community, and some of them feel more like family than like unrelated people who simply share a common form of transportation.
But like every family, the Waco bicycling community has its joys and sadness.
Recently, Waco Bike Club Advocacy Director David Morrow shared memories of Air Force veteran Tim Eaton, who was killed at age 66 when he was hit by a car while riding his bike on Chapel Road in Waco in January.
To honor Eaton, the cycling community used a recycled bicycle from a Bike Club member’s home, painted it white, and decorated it with colorful flowers and some of Eaton’s personal items. The bike was then secured with a chain to a telephone pole near the spot where Eaton was killed.
This is called a “Ghost Bike,” and bike clubs across the country have erected these memorials in order to honor the deceased, but also to remind drivers of the importance of sharing the road and being mindful of bicyclists and pedestrians.
Waco bicycle accidents
Tim Eaton rode his bike out of the parking lot of the Community Bank and Trust at 8820 Chapel Road and was struck by a Jeep just before 5 p.m. on Saturday, January 2, 2021.
Sadly, Eaton wasn’t the first cyclist to be killed on Waco roads in recent months—and he certainly won’t be the last.
Taking a look at local news headlines over the past several months, it’s clear that bike accidents are a definite problem in Waco and across the state of Texas.
Here’s a breakdown of Texas bicyclist injuries in 2019:
- March 4, 2020: Around 6:45 a.m., a Woodgate Intermediate School student was injured near the intersection of Woodgate and Real Drive as he rode his bike to school. The Waco Fire Department reported that it used a ground ladder and hose bundle to lift the car off the child, who was pinned to the ground. The child was hospitalized for his injuries. (source)
- April 20, 2020: A dirt bike rider lost control of his bike along State Highway 195 and died after falling from his bicycle. (source)
- June 11, 2020: A Waco educator was indicted after the hit-and-run death of a college student who was killed while riding his bicycle on Franklin Avenue in 2016. (source)
- August 5, 2020: A Waco bicyclist was hospitalized after being hit by a pickup truck at the Franklin Avenue and New Road intersection. This was the second accident in 2 days at that intersection. (source)
- September 18, 2020: A 77-year-old man was pushing a bicycle in the center lane of westbound U.S. Highway 190/Interstate 35 in Killeen when he was hit by several vehicles and killed. (source)
This sampling only looks at the serious accidents involving fatalities or severe injuries. It doesn’t account for all of the bicycle accidents that happen every day that might be less newsworthy because they “only” resulted in a concussion, broken bones, or other lacerations or contusions.
And, as you can see from the pie chart above, the majority of bicycle crashes are non-injury accidents or result in non-incapacitating injuries.
It’s also worth noting that more people than ever before are riding bikes. Hesitance to ride public transportation during the pandemic, a need for socially distanced exercise, and a desire for outdoor recreation have driven an increase in bicycling.
Primary causes of bicycle accidents
Before you can begin to solve a problem, you have to know what caused it.
According to the City of Waco, the top 5 causes of bike accidents are:
- Failure to yield right of way
- Driver inattention
- Riding on the wrong side of the road
- Disregard for stop signs or traffic signals
- Improper or unsafe turns
Bicycle safety tips
There are ways for bicyclists to protect themselves, and also things that motorists should be doing to prevent collisions with bikes.
What drivers can do to prevent bicycle accidents
A driver can take these steps to avoid an accident with a bicyclist:
- Yield to a bicyclist as you would another motor vehicle. Don’t underestimate the speed a bicyclist is traveling, and avoid turning in front of a bicyclist who’s approaching on the road or sidewalk.
- Be alert and aware. Look around you for bicyclists, especially at stop signs, backing up, parking, or opening your car door.
- Look to the right before turning right on red. Make a complete stop and look left-right-left before turning.
- Obey the speed limit. That includes reducing speed for road conditions and driving defensively.
- Give a bicyclist their space. Allow a bicyclist at least 3 feet of space when passing. Handle passing a bicyclist just as you would another vehicle — only pass if it’s safe to move into the adjacent lane and provide enough distance between your car and the bike.
Tips for safe bicycling
- Be visible. If you’re riding at dawn or dusk, make sure your bike is equipped with the correct reflectors and lights, and that you’re wearing bright, reflective clothing.
- Follow road rules. In addition to riding on the correct side of the road and following traffic signals, you should also use hand signals. Being predictable to other road users will go a long way in keeping you safe.
- Know your route. If you’re riding to a specific destination, have it mapped out ahead of time. This will help you to remain aware of the traffic and conditions around you rather than having to navigate as you ride.
- Wear a helmet. Helmets save lives. Texas law doesn’t require a helmet if you’re over 18, but it makes riding safer.
If you were in a bike accident, you might need to seek help from a knowledgeable bike injury attorney. Your attorney can help negotiate settlements and try cases for accident victims to get the compensation you need to financially recover from your injuries.