Dispatch Columnist Calls for Bicycle Awareness on Roads After Latest Cyclist Death

Dispatch columnist Ann Fisher called for an awareness that more people are cycling now in her latest column. All the things we've been saying for months, years, decades, are all brought out in this piece of work, spurred by the death of Tracy Corbin last week.

Motorists - you need to drive more carefully. Put the coffee down, hang up the cell phone, and eat your Egg McMuffin when you get to work. There are more cyclists on the roads than ever, and no amount of haste you feel on the road is worth someone's life.

Cyclists - you need to be careful out there. No measure you take is going to beat a 3000 pound piece of steel and plastic. Ride with traffic and be part of traffic. Take the lane, ride safe, and watch out for one another. And contact the city council to show support for the Bicentennial Bike Plan.
Bicyclist's death is a call for awareness
Friday, August 29, 2008 3:14 AM
By Ann Fisher

Tracey Corbin couldn't afford to maintain the car he needed to commute to work, let alone buy the gasoline. So he bought a bike and outfitted himself as if he were the poster child for the pedal-to-work movement.

He followed all the rules, including a private one between him and his mother, that he would call her every morning when he reached his job. Then, last week, following the rules didn't matter anymore.

On Aug. 21, Corbin didn't make that call.

Now, Columbus police are investigating whether to charge the driver whose car struck the 46-year-old Corbin from behind as he pedaled south on Alum Creek Drive near Watkins Road that morning.

Sure, the driver didn't intend to kill Corbin. But shouldn't there be some accountability? The Ohio Revised Code says that, if a driver endangers the life of a bicycle rider while violating another traffic law, a judge "may require the … motor vehicle operator to take and successfully complete a bicycling skills course" in addition to the penalty for the violation or instead of it.

This is not about retribution. It's about education and awareness, just as requiring a company to pay a large amount of money in a personal-injury lawsuit sends a message to others in the industry.

No one ever means to kill someone this way. But negligence is usually involved. What will it take to inspire drivers to pay attention?

The crash occurred early in the morning; it was still dark, yes. But Corbin had the same bad habit my grandpa used to claim: He liked to eat. And he helped support his mother.

He surely wasn't alone in biking to work. Americans drove 12.2 billion fewer miles in June than in the same month last year, according to the Federal Highway Administration. They're paring vacations and turning to public transportation, motorcycles and, increasingly, bicycles.

Ninety-five percent of 150 retailers recently surveyed by Bikes Belong, a nonprofit industry-advocacy group based in Boulder, Colo., said customers cited high gas prices as a reason for their bike purchases.

What's it going to be, a game of human pinball out there or a movement to hold both drivers and bicyclists accountable? That's right. Some bicyclists think it's cool to dodge through traffic jams, run red lights and block motorists just because they can.

The problem is that the growing power grab over the pavement is grossly imbalanced. A bicycle could be forged from kryptonite and it wouldn't protect the rider from a 3,000-pound automobile. Helmets and reflective gear are important, but nothing ever will beat mutual respect and awareness.

We winced when the price of gas hit $2 a gallon and then $3, and we twitched as it topped $4. The oil companies have us agog in Orwellian mystification as the price of crude spikes and then drops and spikes again. All we really know is that, over time, it will cost more and more, and fewer among us will be able to afford it.

More than likely, more people will turn to pedal power -- maybe even you. Let the tragic death of Tracey Corbin inspire us to make it work.

Ann Fisher is a Dispatch Metro columnist. She can be reached at 614-461-8759 or by e-mail.

People, not speed.