Two Central Indiana residents were killed while riding their bicycles in recent days, unfortunately illustrating the need for more driver awareness, enhancement of the current penalties, and potential use of criminal penalties for inattentive drivers.
Both Indianapolis resident Erika Wells, 38, and Timothy Kelley, 68, Muncie, were lawfully riding their bikes when they were struck by motor vehicles. Presently, charges against the drivers of the vehicles have not been filed in those cases.
The Delaware County Deputy Coroner was quoted in media reports acknowledging that Kelley had every right to be on the road, but then dismissively talked about how it isn't safe because drivers aren't paying attention to the road. Both motorists and cyclists must always remain vigilant on the roads. Drivers should always be aware of their surroundings, as a moment's inattention can leave more vulnerable users such as pedestrians or cyclists seriously injured or worse.
'Accidents happen' is a common refrain following crashes involving a motorist and a cyclist. IndyCog believes that crashes involving a motorist and a cyclist would be reduced if motorists knew there were more serious legal consequences to their actions and strongly encourages law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation of these crashes to consider the application of criminal penalties in these cases.
Last year, more than 130 riders were injured in bicycle and motor vehicle collisions in Marion County, resulting in one death, according to statistics from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. So far in 2016, at least four people on bicycles have been killed.
Unless the driver was impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time, it's believed that few, if any, of the drivers involved in those collisions have been prosecuted.
In the coming weeks, IndyCog encourages cyclists from Indianapolis and across the state to contact their elected representatives to demand both a safe passing law - typically three to five feet - and a vulnerable user law that calls for expanded penalties for drivers who were inattentive or distracted behind the wheel of a car, causing the death of a cyclist or pedestrian. Indianapolis must also join other bike-friendly cities across the nation and implement a Vision Zero Plan, detailing the steps it will take to ensure no more motorist/pedestrian/cyclist fatalities in the future.
Although Indianapolis has a three-foot passing ordinance, it's rarely, if ever, enforced. Every municipality with this law on the books must provide training to educate not only their citizens, but also their public safety personnel, about the three-foot passing ordinance.
Things to remember:
Bicycles are considered vehicles by Indiana state law and are allowed on public roadways.
Both drivers and cyclists must be mindful of the rules of the road and obey them.
Cyclists should dress in brightly colored gear and have lights on their bikes when riding.
Drivers of motor vehicles in Indianapolis are required to give three feet of clearance when passing a cyclist. If you see a cyclist in front of you while driving, slow down and exercise caution, especially when passing.
The world is full of distractions. When you're driving, it's important to stay alert at all times. A second of inattention - fiddling with the stereo, responding to a text or trying to make a phone call - could be fatal. More safety information can be found on the webpage for IndyCog's education program, Riders In The Know.
IndyCog is a bicycle advocacy non-profit organization working to increase the number of people riding bicycles, improve traffic safety, develop bicycle favorable public policy and advocate for world class bicycle facilities in Indianapolis. IndyCog's mission is to promote bicycling as a safe and viable means of transportation and recreation in Indianapolis. More information may be found at our website.