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More Tragedy in Michigan: Please Help.

Post-Kalamazoo, things looked up for Michigan cyclists, but this week saw the death of one cycling leader and serious injuries to another.

On June 7, 2016, Charles Pickett, Jr., while under the influence of an unidentified controlled substance, drove his pickup truck into a group of cyclists in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  In doing so, he killed 5 people, and seriously injured 4 others.  The tragedy gained national attention, and there was an outpouring of support for the cyclists and their families.  Lance Armstrong even travelled to Michigan for a memorial ride to honor the lives of the cyclists.

In the days, maybe even weeks, that followed this tragedy, things seem to be different for cyclists, in Michigan.  There was a certain camaraderie among cyclists.  As we passed each other on the road, there was a somber wave, or nod of the head, as if to say, “be safe and enjoy the ride.”  

The Michigan Legislature, who, for years, didn’t seem very concerned about the safety of cyclists, began to focus their attention on passing the very legislation that bicycle advocacy groups have been asking for – a safe passing law and a vulnerable roadway user law. Finally, motorists seemed to be behaving differently.  During my first few rides following the Kalamazoo tragedy, it seemed as though motorists were going out of their way to let me know that they saw me on the road, and that they respected me as a human being.  They slowed while passing, and gave me a wide berth.  I spoke with other cyclists around the State, who agreed, and also observed a new respect from motorists in the wake of the Kalamazoo tragedy.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for it to start feeling as though motorists had forgotten about Kalamazoo, and forgotten about the damage that 4,000 pounds of steel, traveling at 55 mph (or even 25 mph), can do to a human being sitting on a bicycle seat.  I couldn’t help but wonder if my observations that drivers were back to texting while driving, driving at faster speeds, and passing at distances that were dangerously close was simply my paranoia.  

Scott Elliott

However, on Saturday, July 23, 2016, tragedy in the Michigan cycling community struck again.

Scott Elliott, Tour Director for the League of Michigan Bicyclists was on a 90-mile ride near Coldwater with members of the Detroit Randonneurs.  They were 80-miles into the ride, when, with only 10 miles to go, Scott was struck by a truck which was reportedly traveling 55 mph.  The driver fled the scene, but thankfully witnesses followed her, were able to identify the vehicle, and the driver was arrested in Indiana. Reports confirm that she was under the influence of alcohol, and that her blood alcohol content greatly exceeded the legal limit.  The case continues to be under investigation by the Branch County Sheriff’s Office, but it is anticipated that numerous felony charges will be brought against this driver.

I will do everything I can to make sure of it.  I will update this post with any and all news.

Scott was airlifted to Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo, where he was diagnosed with numerous serious injuries, including fractures to his face, clavicle, scapula, 8 ribs, 2 vertebrae, femur, and pelvis.

After news of Scott’s collision became public, the League of Michigan Bicyclists immediately began receiving inquiries from people wanting to send flowers, donations, and cards.  Scott’s wife, Meredith, encouraged the those wishing to show their support to make donations to the League of Michigan Bicyclists and as a result, the League of Michigan Bicyclists agreed to use any funds donated to help offset the costs for ongoing advocacy and education efforts.

Scott Elliot Michigan Bike Crash

Contributions can be made directly to the League of Michigan Bicyclists, 416 South Cedar Street, Suite A, Lansing, Michigan 48912, or at www.LMB.org/donate.  

I will update this post with news of Scott’s recovery.  Let it be sooner than expected.

R.I.P. Eric Snider

On Tuesday, July 27, 2016, within 20 minutes after visiting with Scott and his wife, I received a message that tragedy had struck yet again.  Eric Snider, a mid-Michigan cyclist and a former elite racer, was killed while commuting to work.  He was on a straight country road, and was struck from behind.

I am honored to represent Eric’s family, and I will update this post with more news as I get it.  I am on my way to the funeral now.

Eric was the Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs at Lansing Community College, a husband, father of two adult children, and a friend to all cyclists.  Funeral services will be held at Redeemer United Methodist Church in DeWitt on Friday, July 29, 2016, at 2:00 p.m.  Eric’s family has requested that those wishing, make a memorial contribution to the League of Michigan Bicyclists, in memory of Eric.  

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Contributions can be made directly to the League of Michigan Bicyclists, 416 South Cedar Street, Suite A, Lansing, Michigan 48912, or at www.LMB.org/donate.

Demand Legal Reform

During times like these, it‘s hard to remain positive.  It’s easy to focus on the tragedy, the loss, and the lack of respect for human life. We need to remind ourselves that most people do care about others.  Most people want everyone to be safe.  While the Kalamazoo tragedy may have faded from the minds of some motorists, it continues to unify the Michigan cycling community.  It also continues to serve as motivation for the Michigan Legislature to take action to protect cyclists.  

A vulnerable roadway user bill has been introduced to the Michigan House and Senate, which provides for enhanced penalties for motorists who injure or kill a cyclist or pedestrian.  However, no action will be taken on these bills until September, at the earliest, when the Legislature returns to session.  A safe passing law, which requires motorists passing a bicycle to ensure there is at least 5 feet between their car and the cyclist,, has been introduced in the Senate, and it is anticipated that a similar bill will be introduced in the House, when the Legislature returns in September.  

Finally, there is interest in a bill that will require all driver’s education classes to have a minimum amount of time spent on educating new drivers about bicycle safety and awareness.  

Michigan cyclists, their family members, and anyone who cares about the lives and safety of Michigan cyclists are encouraged to write their State representatives, senators, and the Governor in support of this legislation.  The League of Michigan Bicyclists, in conjunction with the League of American Bicyclists, has created an “Action Alert” that will streamline this process for you.  Please take immediate action and let them know you care about protecting cyclists.

Michigan cyclists, and cyclists from around the Country, are encouraged to contribute to the League of Michigan Bicyclists in honor of Scott Elliott and in memory of Eric Snider.  More than ever, we all need to work together, to make Michigan a safer place for people who ride a bicycle.

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