Drivers and bike riders, watch out for each other

Published 6:33 pm Tuesday, June 4, 2019

In the past week, two terrible accidents have either claimed or threatened the lives of children in our area. Both involved bicycles.

Last Thursday, a 10-year-old boy was hit by a vehicle in the Ernul community in Craven County while riding his bicycle along U.S. Highway 17. According to reports from WCTI, the boy was flown by helicopter to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville where he was still in intensive care as of the beginning of this week.

Just a few days later, tragedy struck again. On Monday morning, a 13-year-old boy in Pamlico County was riding his bike with a cousin on N.C. Highway 55 when he was struck by a vehicle and killed. According to the N.C. Highway Patrol, the teenager was wearing dark clothes and no reflectors.

Both of these accidents are tragedies. There is really no better word.

As schools prepare to dismiss for the summer, local drivers are likely to see an increase in bicycle traffic, adding to the already busy roads of Beaufort County. With a quick drive around Washington alone, you’re likely to see many people on bikes, some as a primary means of transportation and others for recreation.

To prevent tragedies like the ones in Pamlico and Craven counties, it takes effort on the part of both drivers and bike riders to keep everyone safe.

For cyclists, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers the following tips:

  • Make sure your bike is well maintained, including properly inflated tires and functioning brakes. Wear equipment to protect you and make you more visible to others, like a bike helmet, bright clothing, reflective gear and a white front light and red rear light and reflectors on your bike.
  • Ride one per seat, with both hands on the handlebars, unless signaling a turn.
  • Plan your route — if driving as a vehicle on the road, choose routes with less traffic and slower speeds. Your safest route may be away from traffic altogether, in a bike lane or on a bike path.
  • Drive with the flow, in the same direction as traffic.
  • Obey street signs, signals and road markings, just like a car.
  • Assume the other person doesn’t see you; look ahead for hazards or situations to avoid that may cause you to fall.

While in an ideal world, these tips would prevent all accidents. However, drivers must also take responsibility to keep themselves and others safe. The NHTSA offers the following:

  • Yield to bicyclists as you would motorists and do not underestimate their speed. This will help avoid turning in front of a bicyclist traveling on the road or sidewalk, often at an intersection or driveway.
  • In parking lots, at stop signs, when packing up, or when parking, search your surroundings for other vehicles, including bicycles.
  • Drivers turning right on red should look to the right and behind to avoid hitting a bicyclist approaching from the right rear. Stop completely and look left-right-left and behind before turning right on red.
  • Obey the speed limit, reduce speed for road conditions and drive defensively to avoid a crash with a cyclist.
  • Give cyclists room. Do not pass too closely. Pass bicyclists as you would any other vehicle — when it’s safe to move over into an adjacent lane.

Above all, exercise good judgment and common sense. Let’s not have a repeat of these sad news stories in Beaufort County this summer.