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Program to pay to improve safety for cyclists

Monday, April 21, 2008 | 10:05 p.m. CDT; updated 11:45 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
A bicyclist keeps pace with a group of motorcyclists, all going south on Ninth Street during the lunch-hour rush Monday.

COLUMBIA — Early this year, Anton Berkovich was pedaling to class.

As he reached the intersection of College and Windsor, he squeezed the brake lever on the handlebars, bringing the bike to a stop.

Some tips

Ted Curtis recommended these tips to improve safety for cyclists: — Use a helmet. “Regardless of how safe you are and how good you are and how experienced, the unexpected happens.” — Wear bright clothes. “Be as visible as you can. Wear the right clothes. Yellow or bright green.” — Behave like an automobile. “Go the same direction as cars. Follow the rules of the road. Be predictable.” — Be visible. “At night, have a headlight and taillight.” — Ride on the street if possible. “It’s not recommended, but if anyone chooses to ride on the sidewalk, then they should be very cautious and ride slow.”

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“I know a lot of drivers don’t pay attention to cyclists,” Berkovich said, “so I usually just let them go.”

After yielding to a car pulling onto College Avenue, Berkovich started off again, assuming the driver of a second car would wait at a stop sign for him to pass.

The driver didn’t stop.

The car rolled through the stop sign and hit Berkovich, totaling his bike and throwing him under the vehicle.

“I was thinking as it was happening, ‘Get out from under the car so they don’t run me over,’“ he said.

Berkovich escaped unharmed, but his crash is not unusual. From 2004 to 2007, cyclists were involved in 11 crashes with cars at or near intersections along College Avenue, according to Columbia and MU police and Missouri Highway Patrol reports.

In addition, a Missourian analysis of 2004-07 accident data from those three sources reveal the following top locations for crashes between bicycles and cars:

  • Kentucky Boulevard and Maryland Avenue: 4 crashes
  • University and College avenues: 3 crashes
  • Rollins Street and College Avenue: 3 crashes
  • Stewart and Providence roads: 3 crashes
  • Virginia Avenue and Rollins Street: 3 crashes

Many accidents, however, are not reported, said Sgt. Timothy Moriarity, supervisor of the traffic unit for the Columbia Police Department.

“I think it happens a lot more than we know,” Moriarity said. Any accident involving a motor vehicle should be reported to police, he added, but those involving both bikes and cars often go unreported.

Berkovich, whose crash data was not included in police records, said he didn’t think it was necessary to alert police.

“This was my first bike accident — well, my only one so far — and I guess I had adrenaline going, and I just got all their info and left,” he said. “I should have called the police.”

Part of a federally funded program, Bike/Ped, to encourage cycling and walking throughout Columbia targets high-risk intersections. The project GetAbout Columbia plans to use a $22 million grant to install bike lanes, raised crosswalks and other improvements at intersections and other areas of the city.

This year, work will begin on three intersections — one at Forum and Stadium boulevards, another at Providence Road and Stadium Boulevard and a third at Providence and Stewart roads.

Safety is a priority, but the main goal of the project is to increase cycling and walking in Columbia, according to Ted Curtis, the manager of the federal Bike/Ped Program. Curtis is also in charge of the infrastructure for GetAbout Columbia.

“While safety is a concern, the whole program’s about making people change their behaviors,” Curtis said.

According to Curtis, as more Columbians begin to bike, drivers should become more aware of cyclists.

As this awareness increases, drivers may be more prepared to avoid crashes, Curtis added.

When encouraging more people to ride bikes or walk, the actual safety, as well as the appearance of safety at intersections, is important, he said.

“We not only want a safe system, but we want people out there feeling safe, too,” Curtis said.

According to Curtis, community input led to an initial selection of 12 intersections to consider for improvement. From that list, traffic engineers determined which intersections had potential for change.

Curtis said some intersections with a high number of crashes, such as the one at College Avenue and Rollins Street, were considered for improvements. However, the intersections are simple, having few dangerous features such as multiple turn lanes. Because of their simplicity, Curtis said, nothing can be altered.

“We’ve invested the most resources where we felt there’s a large amount of car traffic and very complicated movements from car traffic,” Curtis said.

Although the Missourian analyzed bike crashes over a four-year period, the data does not reflect a cyclist’s chance of being hit at an intersection.

For example, cycling at MU is more common than in other areas of town, so accidents involving cars will be more frequent. Busier intersections still pose a greater risk for cyclists.

Berkovich said he’s enthusiastic about the coming improvements. “Any money going toward getting people to bike more is good by me,” he said.


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Comments

chuck hamm April 22, 2008 | 7:08 a.m.

this riding shares fault due to riding on the sidewalk and in the opposite direction of traffic

(Report Comment)
Tom Warhover April 22, 2008 | 7:18 a.m.

You're right. I have had motorists yell at me to get on the sidewalk, which is exactly the wrong thing to do. And riding on the wrong side gives me the shivers.

Tom

(Report Comment)
peggy king April 22, 2008 | 8:11 a.m.

I find it highly ironic that we are so concerned about bicycle safety when the state legislature is determined to remove mandatory helmet laws for motorcyclists. They say it's a violation of personal rights...Then what are seatbelt laws????

(Report Comment)
monique quayle April 22, 2008 | 2:35 p.m.

I think one of the biggest problems is that for many cyclists and motorists where bikes belong is not particularly clear. I only wish we had bike lanes!

In addition to cars not noticing cyclists or ignoring cyclists and causing accidents, there are far too many cyclists who ignore traffic laws and ride past stop signs or down pedestrian walkways. Rolling through a four way stop without looking - motorist or cyclist - is a quick way to get injured.

(Report Comment)
David Karr April 22, 2008 | 8:52 p.m.

I'm sorry that Anton Berkovich had an accident with a car, but using his case as the lead example in this story (and not even indicating until the animation that Berkovich was riding on the *sidewalk*) was a terrible idea. City code (~14-507) prohibits riding a bike on a sidewalk in a business district--and in any kind of urban environment, it's just a bad idea.

Where bikes belong *is* clear, at least in a downtown environment. They belong in the street, as do other vehicles. Make yourself into a predictable street vehicle--that's the only way to safely claim your right to the road.

(Report Comment)

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