Cyclist’s death a potent warning [Dispatch]

Experts say the death of a bicyclist last weekend during a charity ride should be a reminder to take even a leisurely trip down the Olentangy River trail seriously.
Columbus resident Charlie Y. Shu, 48, died Saturday when he lost control of his bicycle as he sped through a curve on a road and struck a guardrail during the charity Steve Barbour Memorial Tour in Pickaway County.
The Barbour Tour itself was named in memory of an Upper Arlington cyclist who died in 2009 when he was hit by a pickup truck in Hilliard.
There were nine fatal collisions between bicycles and motor vehicles in Franklin County from 2006 to 2010, according to the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. But there were nearly 1,300 less-serious crashes involving vehicles and bikes.
And despite the city’s Share the Road campaign — a plea for motorists to slow down and make room for cyclists — local cycling enthusiast Jess Mathews said some people don’t think the road is big enough for both.
Mathews said she was hit by a truck about a month ago as she was crossing the street in Harrison West. Luckily, she said, she walked away with only a few bruises.
She said drivers, and sometimes riders, can be dangerously impatient on the road.
“I’m not sure what the issue is and why we need to speed,” Mathews said. “(Waiting) 10 seconds isn’t going to ruin your day.”
There are tips for cyclists to safely share the road.
Cyclists should ride in motorists’ field of vision and not too close to parked cars or debris on the side of the road. About a third or a quarter of the way into the right-hand lane is adequate, said Bryan Saums, program manager and cycling instructor for Consider Biking, a local biking advocacy group.
Under Ohio law, bicycles are considered vehicles. Bikers are required to signal turns, obey stop signs and ride only on roads and marked trails, not sidewalks.
That means no running stop signs or weaving to the front of a line at a red light, a mistake inexperienced riders make that frustrates motorists and can cause accidents, Saums said.
He said that also means motorists have to give cyclists the same space and respect as they do other vehicles.
Columbus-area bike coach Alan Martin said motorists have honked at him, made obscene gestures and even thrown ice cream cones at him while he was riding.
Still, Martin said he would rather ride alongside cars than on trails, which can be clogged with pedestrians, dog walkers, skaters and skateboarders.
Large organized rides, such as the Pelotonia or Barbour tours, pose their own challenges, Saums said. He suggests novices ride with a local cycling club to learn group etiquette before entering a ride with lots of participants packed together.
Some crashes are unavoidable, but experienced cyclists say that slowing down, riding in a straight line, obeying traffic laws and staying cautious can minimize the dangers.
Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, has three main tips for safe biking: Wear a helmet, wear a helmet and wear a helmet.
“The severe injuries associated with bicycles are injuries to the head and to the neck for the vast majority,” Smith said. “ ... If you’re wearing a helmet in a bicycle crash, it will prevent almost 90 percent of serious injuries to the head.”