Leslie Shirley loves living near Lake Tyler, but said the past few years, weekend drives to Tyler have become increasingly dangerous as she and other motorists encounter cyclists on curvy, hilly, roadways obscured by the sun’s glare.
Mrs. Shirley, a surgery/procedure scheduler at a local physician’s office, said she has nothing against cyclists, runners or anyone else out exercising to get fit or maintain fitness, but she is worried about her family’s safety and that of cyclists riding on highways and small country roads.
“They get out there, and they clump up in groups to ride and you can’t get around them. It is 50 mph in this area, and there is no way they can maintain that speed,” the 49-year-old said. “It is dangerous for them and dangerous for me. Sometimes I get behind them, and I cannot pass because there is not a safe place in the road.”
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, there have been 29 cyclists killed in 2014 in 1,371 crashes involving pedacyclists and motor vehicles in the state.
Last year, there were 2,400 motor vehicle crashes involving a pedacyclist in the state last year and of those 792 crashes resulted in an injury with 48 being fatal for the cyclist.
In East Texas, there have been cyclists hit this year with the latest a Tyler woman, who was hit while riding out on a Farm-to-Market Road between Troup and Mixon earlier this month.
Joe Self, 29-year-old manager of Elite Bicycles in Tyler, said he has been riding for five years and safety and cycling etiquette are discussed before every group ride he participates in.
“We have to remember that we also must follow all of the laws and be courteous to the motorists. I have had some motorists buzz (get close to) me, but we all share the road,” he said.
Self said he often looks behind him on solo rides to check to see if a vehicle is closing in, and he makes adjustments to allow for the vehicle to pass safely.
“I will wave them on to let them know I see them and when it is safe for them to pass, and I give them a thumbs up to let them know everything is good,” he said.
Self said cyclists should be sure to follow the traffic laws and said anyone who does not, should expect to be fined if caught by law enforcement.
Tyler Police Chief Gary Swindle said he has personally witnessed cyclists run stop signs and red lights and wants cyclists to know they can be ticketed and the costs are the same as if a person commits a traffic violation in a motor vehicle.
“We as a city are working to create more bike lanes, and we want our cyclists to be safe and able to enjoy their sport, but we also want our motorists safe and our roadways operating at safe speeds,” he said.
Swindle and Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Jean Dark, the area’s media relations officer, pointed to the Texas Transportation Code section detailing the regulations on bicycles and operators.
The code states cyclists have the same rights and duties on roadways and travel with the flow of traffic as far right as possible unless there are hazards preventing them from riding there safely.
The code also states, “persons riding two abreast may not impede the normal and reasonable flow of traffic on the roadway. Persons may not ride more than two abreast unless they are riding on a part of a roadway set aside for the exclusive operation of bicycles.”
Mrs. Shirley said she does get upset when she is stuck behind cyclists traveling 20 mph in a 50 mph zone.
But she added what worries her even more is the fact she has seen cyclists run stop signs at busy intersections.
Trooper Dark said she also has witnessed cyclists run stop signs as well.
She said some roadways may not be ideal for cyclists due to limited sight and high traffic volume areas.
“It would be beneficial to them to pre screen the route and determine if the road is one they could ride on safely,” she said.
Self agreed saying there are certain roads he will not ride on in Smith County.
“There are roads I will not ride on because I do not feel comfortable on them. Either the visibility is not optimal or the speeds or too high. I often drive roads to check them out before I set out on the bike,” he said.
Recently, area cyclists rode together through the streets of Tyler to raise awareness for bicycle safety, and more than 200 joined in the ‘Vigilance Ride’ escorted by Tyler Police officers.
The local cyclists also have placed billboards in several areas across East Texas promoting safety which puts a face on cyclists as being residents who live, work and raise their families in the area.
Self said the campaign is to raise awareness that cyclists are on roadways and that the sport is growing, and Trooper Dark said awareness is the key to safety.
“Safety is our No. 1 concern. We suggest motorists keep a watchful eye for bicyclists as we tell them for motorcyclists. Bicycles and motorcycles are much smaller than other vehicles as sometimes they get lost in blind spots. We urge both the cyclists and the motorists to be more vigilant in paying attention to the roadways and those using the roadways,” Trooper Dark said.
Swindle reiterated Trooper Dark’s thoughts and said, “We really want harmony for everyone.”