02

Blog

Is There a Way to Make Knoxville Safer for Cyclists?

A year ago, on July 3, 2016, a serious crash occurred in Knoxville, when a cyclist traveling in the bike lane was hit from behind by an out of control, uninsured, SUV, driven by a man whose license was revoked in 2015. The driver was not cited for violating any traffic infractions beyond failure to have insurance or registration and driving without a license under the municipal code. The maximum penalty allowable in municipal court is a $50.00 fine, which can be paid online. The driver was free to leave the crash scene, with no investigation as to the plausibility of his story, or whether there were any other contributing factors such as drugs or alcohol involved. The cyclist was rushed to the nearest level one trauma center with serious injuries.

Knoxville Bicyclists Feel Vulnerable and Ignored

The Knoxville bicycling community was up in arms and an outpouring of support for their friend ensued. A ride was organized and the media caught wind of it.

When the ride for justice, coupled with a letter drafted to the chief of police requesting that he revisit the investigation did not produce any results, the family of the injured bicyclist started an online petition addressed to the mayor, asking for justice for the cyclist. Nothing came of the petition. The news cycle passed, and the damage was done. Beware, if you read the narrative of the crash report attached, your blood pressure may rise.

As you can imagine, this incident left a deep wound, and distrust towards law enforcement in their handling of bike crashes in the cycling community, and the arrival of the one-year anniversary of this horrible crash makes the scar tender.

Tennessee Biking Laws

Tennessee has a safe passing law, requiring motorists to give cyclists 3 feet when overtaking them. With support from several city council members and the city administration, Bike Walk Knoxville was instrumental in getting a local safe passing law passed into ordinance in Knoxville in August of 2015. Tennessee also has a general catch-all safety law, known as the due care law, which offers protection to vulnerable roadway users from distracted motorists.

Neither the state safe passing law, which lands you in state general sessions court or the local safe passing law, which lands you in municipal court with the option of paying online, have been seeing much, if any, use by the local law enforcement agencies.

Tennessee 3 Foot Law Education and Enforcement

So, why not use all of the positive energy surrounding the successful USA Cycling Pro Nationals held in Knoxville last month, to attempt to restore the Knoxville cycling community’s trust in the Knoxville Police Department to properly investigate bike crashes, and at the same time bring a proven safe passing law education and enforcement campaign to Knoxville? Bike Law Tennessee and Bike Walk Knoxville are trying to make it happen.

Bike Walk Knoxville and Bike Law Tennessee arranged for Chattanooga Police Officer Rob Simmons to come to Knoxville and give two presentations ahead of the USA Cycling national championships.  Officer Simmons spoke to a group of KPD officers about his successful campaign, the Chattanooga Safe Cycling Initiative. The Initiative involves training officers and educating motorists and cyclists ahead of an enforcement campaign which uses a 3-foot detection device mounted on a bicycle along with officer’s observations as a basis to stop motorists who pass cyclists within three feet.  Officer Simmons brought the beta model of the three-foot detection device manufactured by Codaxus with him to Knoxville and demonstrated how to use it for the KPD officers. Our own Bike Law Charlie did a great write up about Officer Simmons’ Safe Cycling initiative. Once officers have taken a mandatory training on Tennessee bike laws, and how to investigate wrecks involving bicycles, the materials are saved on their cruiser computers, so they can access the materials in the field. Officer Simmons can see when Chattanooga officers access the training materials in the field, and he reports that his educational materials are being used by Chattanooga officers who respond to bike crashes.

The Chattanooga crash data is significant; bicycle crashes involving cars decreased by 25.8% from 2014 to 2015, over the year the Chattanooga Safe Cycling Initiative took place. 158 traffic stops using the 3-foot detection device were conducted during that year, resulting in 156 verbal warnings and 2 citations. The significance of this data was not lost on KPD when they were presented with it.

Officer Simmons followed his KPD workshop with a presentation attended by members of the Bike Walk Knoxville Advisory Board. The detection device was demonstrated a second time, and it was agreed that the Safe Cycling Initiative is an education and enforcement program that we all want to see come to Knoxville. A follow-up meeting was held between City Councilman George Wallace and Police Chief Rausch on the Friday before the 4th of July holiday, and Knoxvillians may soon see the 3-foot detection device in use.  Officer Simmons is a true champion for this cause, and the data proves that his initiative has the potential to save lives and prevent serious injuries statewide.

As the one year anniversary passes, we should recall the injustice which occurred in the handling of the crash in the Henley Street bicycle lane, but rather than using it as an excuse for holding on to anger or grudges, we should instead feel hope and determination to work together with Knoxville Police Department as we move forward.

Comments

Bruce Hagen Jul 17, 2018

On July 11, 2018, a very experienced rider and friend to many in the Rockdale County area, Albert “Ab” Roesel, was killed while out on a rural road doing a ride that he no doubt had done many times before.  Ab was 75 years old.   The police investigation concluded that Ab had been headed Southbound, […]

Read More
Brendan Kevenides Jun 04, 2018

At sea a boat under power must give way to a more vulnerable craft.  The law requires that a power driven vessel give way to a sailing vessel.  A sail boat must give way to a craft engaged in fishing. These simple rules are consistent with the maxim that with greater power comes greater responsibility. […]

Read More
Commuter Bike
Bruce Hagen May 29, 2018

Recently, my wife and I moved into a new home that’s closer to my office, which has allowed me to start commuting by bike.  I rode my bike to and from my office 4 consecutive days before my schedule forced me back into the car. My hope and plan is to commute by bike at […]

Read More
Pat Brown May 10, 2018

Strength, ambition, and courage are just a few words that come to mind when we think of Anthony Lue.  Growing up, Anthony enjoyed playing competitive sports such as baseball, volleyball, basketball and mountain biking, but his true passion was discovered on his high school track.    After winning gold for 100m hurdles at the provincial championships […]

Read More
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Apr 30, 2018

Following a horrific bicycle crash in 2016, Dr. Michael Rifkin has become a new type of bicycling advocate — one who is deeply committed to ending distracted driving. Read his op-ed on Making Distracted Driving in Maine Taboo here. Dr. Rifkin’s piece reminds us that we can be distracted by our phones and other electronic devices even […]

Read More
Brian Weiss Apr 26, 2018

On November 21, 2017, I saw a TV news story about how the Broomfield District Attorney’s Office was routinely offering lax plea deals to drivers that injure cyclists.  In bicycle crash cases with injuries, the DA was offering plead deals to “broken headlight” or “defective vehicle” charges. A “defective vehicle” sentence is one of the […]

Read More
Atlanta's Bike Czar
Bruce Hagen Apr 19, 2018

Who is looking for a great job in a dynamic city with a great opportunity to make bicycle advocacy not just a passion, but a full time, rewarding and well-paying job?   The City of Atlanta is in search of a a new Chief Bicycle Officer to replace the outgoing CBO, Superstar Becky Katz, who after […]

Read More
Joe Piscitello Apr 04, 2018

Piscitello Law – Bike Law PA is pleased to share highlights from the third annual Vision Zero conference, held March 17 in West Philadelphia.  The event was hosted by Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition and opening remarks by the Executive Director Sarah Clark Stuart encouraged 250 participants to “listen, learn and be inspired….”   Mayor James Kenney […]

Read More
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Apr 03, 2018

The first issue is that many bicycle crashes are not being reported into the State of Maine Crash Database, which leads to incomplete and inaccurate state-wide crash reporting data and arguably also leads to uninformed priority setting and budgetary decisions.  The crashes that are unreported and/or underreported on a state level are sometimes, but not […]

Read More
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Mar 25, 2018

Foundational Principles Bicycles are Traffic and Belong on Maine’s Roadways In Maine, bicycle riders are included within the definition of “traffic” and should be treated as part of Maine’s traffic system.  See 29-A M.R.S.A. § 101 (82).   Rights and Responsibilities In general, a person riding a bicycle in Maine has all of the rights […]

Read More
Joe Piscitello Mar 20, 2018

Vision Zero (VZ) is multi-nation initiative with a guiding principle that death and serious injury should not be an acceptable outcome of transportation.  Vision Zero plans often draw attention to flaws within the transportation system such as dangerous traffic patterns, speeding and a lack of sufficient protected bike/pedestrian lanes.  VZ action plans utilize data to […]

Read More
Danny Feldman Mar 15, 2018

I will not pretend to speak for all cyclists, but I feel pretty confident in saying that being passed by cars on the road is a primary area of concern. Most of the time there is no problem and the vehicle passes safely. Nevertheless, I personally have been “buzzed” more times than I wish were […]

Read More
Load More