When the weather begins to warm up, bicycles are more visible in Delaware County.
As owner of Breakaway Cycling and an avid cyclist, Dan Negley said he sees both an increase in business and more riders.
“Since I ride all year, I start to see a transition when we have a nice day,” he said. “Suddenly, I’m not the only one. There’s 15 or 20 (other cyclists).”
In the store, business picks up beginning April 1, two to three times that of the winter months, he said. Those sales continue until October. He said two years ago, he saw seven times the amount of business from the slow winter months.
But the increase in interest in cycling means cars and bikes are sharing space. That creates danger and tension if cyclists don’t know their rights and responsibilities, Negley said.
“People don’t realize under the law a bike is a vehicle – same as a car – and has a right to the road,” he said.
The increase in bikes on the road is a time to focus safety, said Delaware General Health District safety coordinator Jackie Bain.
“Better weather not only brings out roadway bicyclists, but also an increase in the number of children bicycling in our neighborhoods,” Bain said. “More children ages 5 to 14 are seen in emergency rooms for injuries related to biking than any other sport.”
In 2013, cyclists sharing the roads with motor vehicles took center stage when two separate cases involving roadway accidents were prosecuted in Delaware County.
A Radnor man accused of causing a group of bicyclists to crash on Troy Road Aug. 27 and then assaulting one of the cyclists pleaded no contest to the charges and was ordered to pay $1,180.56 in restitution and $300 in fines Dec. 10 in Delaware Municipal Court.
William Hamilton, 52, was also ordered to serve nine months probation, during which time he must complete anger management courses he voluntarily started and 15 hours of community service.
Hamilton was accused of causing a group of cyclists to crash into each other when he abruptly stopped in front of them after passing, causing cyclist Joseph Coleman injuries, before exiting his vehicle and punching cyclist David Chambers of Powell.
After the incident, Hamilton was charged with misdemeanor assault, misdemeanor aggravated menacing and disorderly conduct.
Mary Kathryn Paul, 36, of Westerville, was sentenced to four and a half years in prison Feb. 24 for the death of a Columbus teacher in a Sept. 15. hit-skip accident. She pleaded guilty Dec. 16 to charges of third-degree felony involuntary manslaughter and third-degree felony failure to stop after an accident.
Paul was accused of striking and killing Robert Lennon, 64, with her vehicle before leaving the scene less than a mile from her home. She was also sentenced to pay $20,000 in court fines and $8,715.65 in restitution to Lennon’s family. She was also issued a lifetime suspension of her Ohio driver’s license.
The two cases gained attention in a county where bicyclists are appearing more and more on the roadways, and new developments are being planned with dedicated bike-paths. Sharrows, a pavement marking signifying a shared-use lane, were added to Pennsylvania Avenue in Delaware.
Both motorists and cyclists must understand the traffic signals, signs and laws for safety, said Lt. Kevin Knapp of the Ohio State Highway Patrol Delaware Post. “They are both responsible for the same laws in the Ohio Revised Code.”
Knapp said while areas such as Powell and Liberty Township are installing bike trails, bikes are not required to use them as an alternate to the road.
So, he said, bikes and cars will be sharing the roads of Delaware County.
“It’s a fact of life,” he said. “Both sides need to accept it.”
Negley said he commonly sees cyclists who don’t wear helmets, ride on sidewalks in the city, ride on the wrong side of the road or do not use a light at night.
“There is a misconception that if a bike has a reflector, that’s legal to ride at night,” he said.
He said the responsibility to know the laws of cycling is on the cyclists because the laws aren’t just a safety issue.
Bain said awareness of safety issues and laws for both motorists and cyclists is important.
“The key point is these things are going to continue to happen,” she said. “What people need to do is look at their attitude about their use of the road and their use of a vehicle, whether it be a bicycle or a motorized vehicle.”
She said simple safety measures are lifesavers: helmets can reduce the risk of severe brain injuries by 88 percent – yet only 45 percent of children 14 and under usually wear a bike helmet. She said its important that parents teach young cyclists the right way to ride by being models for their children. She said cyclists should wear bright clothing, use lights and be aware when riding. Parents should always know when and where their children are riding.
“Do you want to be that person who dies?” Bain said. “Do you want to be the person who injures someone? I think if everyone asks themselves that question before they pull out of the driveway, we’d have safer roads.”