Collision underscores pressing need to better accommodate bicyclists
Augusta Chronicle Editorial Staff
Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010
The family of the driver who critically injured a bicyclist Friday evening says praying for the cyclist is “all we can do.”
Well, it’s not all the community can do.
The crash on a lonely Beech Island road that put 37-year-old Matthew Burke in a medically-induced coma has reopened the raw debate over bicycles on narrow CSRA roads. Some motorists say the cyclists are being stupid, and wish they would ride somewhere else, some other time. Avid cyclists say they take every precaution, but that they still absorb all manner of abuse from angry motorists unwilling to share the road.
The debate has little relation to Friday’s accident. Even the driver of the SUV, 41-year-old Daniel Johnson, admits he was reaching for something at the time of the crash — and the group Johnson was with has become something of a fixture on what they consciously decided was a lightly traveled route.
If you think bicycles are the problem, and that they have no business on heavily traveled roads, this is not the case you want to point to. What this driver hit could very well have been a pedestrian, a horse and buggy or a baby carriage. This is a case, according to reports, of an inattentive driver. Period.
That said, it’s clear this metropolitan area could do a better job of meshing the needs of motorists with the pursuits of cyclists.
Ranting about one party or the other won’t get us anywhere. Bicyclists aren’t going away, and they needn’t. What they’re doing is legal, healthy and should be encouraged, not spat upon; otherwise, why else is Augusta catering to regional and national cycling events?
Instead, we hope someone — elected officials, the sports council, bicycle enthusiasts — will begin a constructive dialogue about how to better accommodate the often disparate interests between drivers and bikers.
It’s a matter of life and death.
We can do more than pray for Matthew Burke, an Army surgeon and married father. We can honor him by making sure no one else suffers his fate.