Story and photo by Chelsea Hunter
LOGAN – Bicycles on the roadway, by law, have the same rights and responsibilities as motorized vehicles – but it’s not always on the road that bike accidents happen. Utah State University student Eric Anderson was riding his bicycle down Old Main Hill on the grass just before 5 p.m. Aug. 26 when he hit a four-foot-high recreational slackline. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
“I don’t like the word accident normally,” said Dave Griffin, shop manager at Aggie Blue Bikes. “But this was just straight-up a freak accident.”
As an avid mountain biker himself, Griffin has some suggestions about how to be cautious and remain safe while riding a bike. The first is to stay on designated paths for bikes. On campus, bikes ride on the same walkways as pedestrians, which could cause some issues.
“It comes down to being courteous,” Griffin said. “Because the biggest issue on campus is that there are a lot of pedestrians around. So being courteous, taking it easy, and if you’re within 20 feet of any pedestrian you’re actually not supposed to go more than double the speed of that pedestrian. So slow down.”
While on campus it may be necessary to ride on the walkways, but it’s best to stay on the road when you can. Griffin said there was a Utah survey done in 2008 that found 75 percent of accidents that involved a motor vehicle and a cyclist occurred on a sidewalk or crosswalk, because cars aren’t looking for bikes in those locations.
However, the biggest thing he mentioned that could be related to any biking situation is to make sure your bike is in good repair. This has been made easy for students on campus because they can go to the shop and fix their bikes for free.
Mike Degener, a Logan bike racer, also emphasized the importance of having your bike in good shape, and the importance of safety gear.
“The key thing would be to wear a helmet,” he said. “Everything else can heal, everything else can be altered to be repaired, but cranial damage can’t. If you’ve ever cracked a helmet, you respect that that saved your life.”
Degener has been in multiple serious bicycle accidents where he has cracked seven helmets, gone through three sets of body armor, and four sets of gloves. In his most recent crash he admits he was not wearing gloves and scraped up his hands so badly it took 6 weeks before he could even hold a cup.
“Time and time again we see accidents,” said Lieutenant Brad Franke of the Logan City Police Department. “Where because someone had a helmet on or safety gear, they walk away with light bumps and bruises versus something very serious.”
He said they don’t see a lot of bike accidents, but they do see some, although a majority of them are not very serious. The most common accident they see is when a car doesn’t see a bike and pulls out in front of them causing them to either hit the bike or the bike to run into the car. Not many are very serious, but still traumatic for the people involved.
“When you’re traveling you need to be responsible for your own safety,” said Franke. “You’ve got to be aware of your surroundings, you’ve got to be watching. Because even if you have the right of way, you’re the one that’s at risk for getting hurt.”
He recommends practicing extra caution when approaching high speed roads, busy intersections, and driveways.
“I was not involved in the case at Old Main,” said Franke. “But my heart aches for the family involved in this and for all of the people involved. I guess bike safety should be something we think about all the time, not just when we are part of an experience where we see something awful happen.”