Last Modified: Friday, July 20, 2012 10:27 AM
Longtime cyclist Russell Sheldon said Sept. 10, 2010, is a day he will never forget.
Sheldon was riding his bicycle on Tank Farm Road around dusk when he was suddenly hit from behind by a car, sending him airborne.
He said he was traveling about 23 mph and could not hear the approaching car, which was traveling about 40 mph. The shaken driver — which Sheldon described as a man in his late 70s — stopped to check on him.
“I couldn’t get up,” he said. “The driver was standing over me saying he was sorry over and over again. I felt bad for the guy.”
Sheldon said he found his cellphone underneath him and called for an ambulance. He was taken to Women & Children’s Hospital, where he would spend the next four hours strapped to a backboard while doctors checked for injuries to his neck or back.
A computerized tomography, or CT, scan found no breaks in Sheldon’s neck or spine, and he left the hospital about five hours after arriving. While he did suffer abrasions, known as road rash, and lost all feeling in one of his fingers, he said he was lucky to have survived the incident.
“It could’ve been a lot worse,” he said. “Every time you ride, you are taking a calculated risk.”
Sheldon said he met fellow cyclist Mario Beltran nearly 10 years ago. Beltran, 52, died early Saturday morning after being hit by a pickup truck driven by Casey Richter, 25, on the 7800 block of Nelson Road. He said Beltran was known for riding his bicycle before daylight.
While Beltran was an experienced cyclist, Sheldon said he often sees other cyclists do things that are illegal, like passing cars that are stopped at red lights, or running red lights outright.
“You wouldn’t do that on a motorcycle,” he said.
Sheldon said some drivers also do things that put cyclists’ safety at risk, and that motorists should pay careful attention when cyclists are on the road.
Lt. Ted Trunnick with the Lake Charles Police Department said all traffic laws that apply to motorists also apply to cyclists, including stopping at stop signs and red lights. He said cyclists under 12 years old must wear a helmet.
Cyclists traveling at dusk or dawn must have a white light on the front of the bicycle that is visible within 500 feet and a red light that is either flashing or steady mounted on the back of the bicycle.
Trunnick said motorists must be at least 3 feet away from a cyclist before passing, and they have to maintain that distance until they have safely passed the cyclist.
Today, Sheldon said he still feels pain in his back, and that he has changed some of his old riding routines.
“Shortly after the time change in spring, and right before the time change in fall, I will cut back late-day riding,” he said. “I probably seek out more less traveled roads than I did.”
Posted By: Sandra On: 7/19/2012
Title: Cyclists on busy bridges
This is something that need to be addressed. There IS NO 3 FEET LEEWAY! The cyclist MUST merge with the traffic and that should never be done by anyone too young to take traffic safety courses.
Posted By: damon On: 7/19/2012
Title: Terrific article
This is an important article. I am astounded to see how many bike riders fail to follow basic traffic safety rules. While it is important to note that there are car drivers who do not give bikers an adequate right-of-way, it is also the case that there are bikers who endanger themselves with wreckless neglect of traffic laws. I no longer bike to work but when I did I followed the traffic rules, as I was supposed to.
Posted By: Chadwick Breaux On: 7/19/2012
Title: Lafayette is not a bike friendly city
With automobile traffic density in the same range as that of the Dallas, TX area riding a bicycle in Lafayette is challenging death. The only major artery that sports a bike lane is Johnston Street and those lanes are only slightly wider than a bike's handle bars. The city needs to plan for dedicated bike/walking/running paths that lead from residential to commercial areas.
A visit to Austin, TX to view their 'Green Belts' would be a good beginning.
Posted By: Macky On: 7/19/2012
Title: Laws in place, but not enforced
This is certainly a very informative article that I would hope all citizens, particullarly that ALL cyclists and motorists would read and adhere to. However, on the part of what's law and what's enforced--or in this case NOT enforced by law enforcement, when and where are the penalties enforced?
I am on the road in my vehicle a great deal of time and I'm always seeing cyclist riding at night without any of the equipment that Lt. Trunick describes here. Likewise and on a daily basis, I witness first hand cyclist riding through town on either side of the roadway; riding through red lights, stop signs, and even more some who appear to actually be speeding through neighborhoods.
But--I have never seen or heard of anyone, at anytime, being stopped for any of the suspected or evident violations noted. In fact, I was sitting at a redlight the other day and actually witnessed a cyclist go straight through a red light with a police officer stopped at the red light.
So here's my one question, and by the way I'm not doubting the credibility of law enforcement in our area; but--is there any chance that a lot of the accidents that are occuring between motorists and vehicles could be attributable to (1) a lack of knowledge of laws, and (2) a major lack of enforcement of the laws?