Thursday, August 13, 2015

Another Las Vegas Bicyclist Is Dead -- And Where's The Outrage?

People who know me know I bike everywhere.

I have bicycled across the country twice solo and have biked in every major city in the country except Atlanta, Dallas and Houston. There's not a place where I think you can't ride a bicycle.

So, people with good intentions are always telling me, "Be safe," when I take off on my bicycle.

Believe me, I'm trying to be safe out here.

But you can help me much better by doing this: Instead of telling me to "be safe" tell your fellow motorists when they're about to drive a car to slow down, respect bicyclists as fellow road users and traffic, focus on the road, look for bicyclists and pedestrians and stay the fuck off your cell phones when piloting a 4,000-pound bullet on wheels.

You'll have to excuse me if I feel a tad irritated these days about the state of bicycling in metro Las Vegas when an eighth bicyclist in 2015 was killed by a motorist in metro Las Vegas on August 3. Matthew Hunt, a married father of two, was conducting a bike tour for one bicycling customer on the Strip at 8 a.m. on a Monday when a 23-year-old woman driving a Ford Mustang drove into Matthew from behind.

Six days later on Sunday, Matthew succumbed to his head injuries sustained from being crashed into by the motorist.

Matthew should be leading bike tours this weekend. Instead, his family and friends will be mourning his loss and celebrating his life at a service on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Our Lady of Las Vegas Catholic Church. Then, people will move on to a Celebration of Matthew's life at the Wyndham Grand Desert Resort at 265 E. Harmon from 3-6 p.m.

Matthew's death means that metro Las Vegas is averaging one dead bicyclist a month in 2015, an outrageously high number when even one death on a bicycle is one too many. About 750 bicyclists die every year in the U.S. -- along with about 35,000 motorists.

Responses from bicyclists and non-bicyclists to Matthew's death have varied from "increasing awareness" to bicyclists shouldn't be on the Strip to "was he wearing a helmet?" (yes he was.)

Here's the thing. Handing out helmets, lights and reflectors are fine. But motorists will continue to kill bicyclists (and get away with it with minimum punishment) as long as bicyclists are not seen as regular traffic.

The fact is there is neither the political will nor public dollars to build an independent bicycle trail system to get bicyclists every place they need to go.

That means bicyclists will be on the roads and that means motorists have to treat bicyclists AS EQUAL CO-USERS OF THE ROAD.

It means making a conscious effort to be aware for a profile of a bicycle and not just a car on the road and slowing down and respecting a bicyclist as a co-user who just happens to be driving a slower moving vehicle.

It means focusing your senses completely on the act of driving your two-ton metal bullet and not messing around with a cell phone.

It means driving your car more slowly and easing off the gas pedal.

When a motorist drives into another car, that second driver is surrounded by steel, air bags and plastic.

A bicyclist is a vulnerable road user. So when you crash into a bicyclist, the impact and subsequent injuries are exponentially more devastating.

From what I've seen in the metro Las Vegas area, there will be regrettably more bicyclist deaths. I don't see any political leadership on the issue, and there have been a few media stories out there about the need for more awareness but nothing more than that.

The Department of Motor Vehicles must hammer into driver's heads that bicyclists are everywhere and that they are equal co-users of our right-of-ways. You should not be able to hold a driver's license if you are unable to safely drive a car with a bicyclist in the road and the DMV needs to teach drivers how to respect a bicyclist's right to the road.

I helped put up too many memorial white bicycles in Tampa, Fla, when I worked on bicycle issues there when motorists were killing bicyclists on Florida.

And the same damn feeling of hurt and pain is going through my gut here in Las Vegas because too many bicyclists are getting killed.


Anonymous said...

I work with Matthews wife, our heart aches for Kasey and the kids.

William Robison said...

While last year when we were in Las Vegas we had planned to rent bikes and ride out to red rock.

Still, I. am not a big fan of Las Vegas. Living in Los Angeles, I have been there numerous times.

Driving in Las Vegas is crazy.

From my perspective Las Vegas is very bike unfriendly. Almost all of that comes down to roadway design. Extremely wide boulevards that are dead straight, with very wide lanes, and long traffic light sequences, all encourage drivers to drive at very high speeds for surface streets. The streets of Las Vegas are essentially freeways with traffic lights.

The counter point of that is the traffic on the strip is so impacted as to create enormous frustration for any motorist.

Combined can at best cause a hair rasing experience for a cyclists.

William Robison said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William Robison said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William Robison said...

Sorry, don't know why my comment is in triplicate.

Anonymous said...

I bike commute 25 miles every day in Las Vegas. It's extremely important to ride defensively because of the many impatient distracted drivers.

It's just as important to ride offensively. A bike has the right to operate on a road so OWN THE LANE! By riding in the lane a bike is more visible and a rider's intentions are more apparent to other drivers. When a car pulls right into the sidewalk when entering a road the driver is NOT expecting a 10-20 mph rider to be coming down the sidewalk.

Use turn signals and get in the turn lane when turning and stay out of it when not.

Be courteous, make eye contact and be patient.

Remember, a driver who honks at a bike, sees the bike. Let drivers get used to seeing bikes operate legally and logically and they'll know what to expect.

Do I have to mention get a helmet and some lights? I hope not!

ArizonaVelo said...

Rest In Peace, Matthew. It's truly sad that more onus is placed on the rider of a 20 lb bicycle than the operator of a 3000+ lb car in today's society.

WW1968 said...

I live in South Portland Maine. And it blows me away on a regular basis the number of bicyclists who regularly blow through stop signs and stop lights. I've been yelled at and flipped off by bicyclists who were running stop signs and stop lights. Getting mad at me for having the right of way. I also encounter cyclists riding in groups or pairs down the middle of the street. I'm all for sharing the road with everyone, but that only applies if everyone agrees to obey the laws. I go through a four way stop on the way to work and back a few times a day. Last week I counted 13 bicyclists who blew through those stop signs with not so much as glance. It angers me when I hear bicyclists complain about drivers when they have little to no concern with the traffic laws. And it's not just Maine, the last time I posted about this on Facebook I got over 100 comments from all over the country about this same problem. It's completely awful for anyone to die in a traffic related accident. I think it's one of the worst ways to die, but if we all start obeying traffic laws this wouldn't happen so often.

WW1968 said...

I hope my comment doesn't get deleted, but it seems the author is deleting a lot of them. And mine is the only one that appears to take bicyclists to task for not obeying traffic laws. Not a very fair way to run a comment section, but you own the blog.

Anonymous said...

I am very saddened by Matthews death, I didn't know him long but I was offered a job at his company and that was a very nice gesture.

Until the death of a cyclist or a pedestrian counts the same in the eyes of the law as killing someone in a car this will unfortunately continue. A lawyer got killed by a cop in Southern California last year and the cop got away scot free because he needed to use his cell phone for work. This is a fucking joke and it has to stop.

On the other hand US as cyclists need to use some common sense. If you ride your bike on the strip amongst the drunk, distracted, high as fuck, ect, ect you should know that death is on the list of possible outcomes. Operating a bike tour of the strip is asinine, plain & simple.

Most of the cyclists that have died in Las Vegas have been commuters, many of which are using the sidewalks to ride and crosswalks to cross as pedestrians would. Education is key here.

If there is a heaven I hope you are enjoying the dirt up there Matthew.

Anonymous said...

Saying that " operating a bike tour on the Strip is asinine " is as poorly thought out as it is cold and heartless to say , knowing that your comment could be read by the family of the person who just tragically died , not due to some error on his part, but the lethal error of the driver , who did not take the potentially lethal risk of piloting a 4,000 lb missile
seriously enough. ALL drivers everywhere need to think seriously about the potential harm they can inflict on unsuspecting victims around them when they drive. One second of not paying attention at the wrong moment can easily spell death for a pedestrian or cyclist, or anything that is unfortunate enough to be in or adjacent of the path of that vehicle. Driving without proper caution and not having the proper mindset of being as responsible as one is required by law to be when engaging in the most dangerous activity most people will ever engage in in their lifetime ( DRIVING )is what killed Mathew, and until society realizes that educating everyone on the real dangers of driving , which are not just driving impaired with drugs or alcohol , but being impatient and speeding up when it isn't safe , and becoming too distracted with things like GPS displays , cell phone conversations ( even hands free call can take too much attention away from the driver's concentration of the task at hand ), or driving an unsafe vehicle , with bad tires or worn brakes, or a filthy dirty windshield that hinders the drivers line of sight. If every driver took driving as serious as fighter pilots take flying their aircraft do, does anyone out there think the number of vehicular deaths would still be around 36,000 a year in the U.S. ??? Driving is a privilege, NOT a right... it's time people stop taking the privilege for granted.

EnjoyRides said...

Anonymous said...
Most of the cyclists that have died in Las Vegas have been commuters, many of which are using the sidewalks to ride and crosswalks to cross as pedestrians would.

My Reply to that is: they were on sidewalks on the right, where they can get right hooked or rear ended. I use bike for errands about 2 times a week, the safest in Vegas, I found is going against traffice on the left sidewalk, I can see on-coming car turning right in front of me, can see car turning left from the right of me, and don't have to worry about being rear-ended since I'm going against traffic. Riding this way,, I have dodged countless drivers that don't look carefully before they turn or move into traffic. Now, I know most cyclist will say this is wrong, but this way has saved me more than enough times from all these callous drivers in Las Vegas.