Arizona bicyclists advocate awareness
The Tucson Citizen: Arizona bicyclists advocate awareness
by Ofelia Madrid on Apr. 24, 2012, under Arizona Republic News
Shawn McCarty was riding his bicycle on Thompson Peak Parkway in Scottsdale last month when an SUV hit him in the bike lane, causing him to fly into the air about 30 feet and land on a sidewalk about 20 feet from his bike. The cyclist, a 53-year-old from Scottsdale, was dead an hour later.
The driver of the black Chevrolet Tahoe, Amy Sue Alexander, was cited for unsafe passing of a bicycle and driving in the bicycle lane. For the two tickets, Alexander, 41, paid a fine of $420 in Scottsdale City Court.
For years, members of the cycling community have advocated for stronger penalties if a motorist hits or injures a cyclist or pedestrian on the road. They point to the March 11 crash as another tragic example of what happens when a driver is distracted for a second.
In Alexander’s case, two civil charges were all that the law would allow, a Scottsdale police spokesman said.
In 2008, Sterling Baer and Dara Schulenberg founded the Not One More Cyclist Foundation, which works to educate the public on cyclist safety, pushes for legislation and helps families of injured cyclists hit on Arizona roads. According to the most recent state data available, 19 bicyclists were killed on Arizona roads in 2010.
Organizers tried to draw the attention of Arizona legislators to pass a bill to protect “vulnerable users” on the road, such as bicyclists and people in wheelchairs — basically, anyone who can encounter a motor vehicle.
“If we institute a distracted-driver law, there will be more awareness in the mind of people driving behind the wheel,” Baer said.
“In an instant, a nanosecond, for looking down at your GPS, three people’s lives are forever altered,” he said, referring to the three bicyclists hit by an SUV in Mesa on April 7. All three suffered serious injuries but survived. Baer and his foundation have been working with the families to provide meals and support.
They also are organizing a Ride of Honor on May 19 that starts at Tempe Town Lake and ends at the state Capitol, where there will be speakers talking about the importance of protection against distracted drivers.
McCarty’s friends say they are left with feelings of anger and loss.
“Shawn was a truly amazing individual,” said Scott Evans, who met McCarty almost 20 years ago. “He was into fitness and working out, and cycling was just one more facet of his workout regime.”
McCarty was always a cautious bicyclist, Evans said.
“When we rode, we always rode single file,” he said. “He always rode with a helmet and was always cognizant and picky about where he rode. Thompson Peak was one of the routes we took quite a bit. We felt Thompson Peak was safer.”
According to the Scottsdale police report, witnesses who were in a car behind Alexander’s SUV said they saw a bicyclist in the bike lane. They said they saw the SUV “slowly fade into the bike lane and then hit the bike rider from behind.”
Alexander told police that she was going about 40 to 45 mph and was not in any hurry. It was about 4:30 p.m. She and her two children were returning home from a visit to their grandfather’s home. Scottsdale police said Alexander was not talking on the phone or texting. There were no signs of impairment.
Evans said he imagines that striking and killing a man would weigh heavily on anyone, but he still believes the driver’s inattentiveness caused his friend’s death.
“When we get behind the wheel, it is the responsibility of the driver to operate the vehicle behind the letter of the law,” he said.