Cyclists remember others who have died on the road

05/21/2014 10:27 PM

05/21/2014 10:30 PM

The bright pink bicycle and its rider stood out in the crowd of about 200 other cyclists Wednesday at the Ride of Silence.

On the top bar of the bike were pictures of a smiling Megan Baab, 19.

In a purple scrawling print was Baab’s name, and in shining gold, her date of birth followed by the date she died— Dec. 15, 2011.

“She was riding high,” said her dad, Chris Baab, the rider of the pink bicycle, as he described the Euless native and L.D. Bell High School graduate who was attending Lees-McRae College in North Carolina. Pink was her favorite color.

Megan Baab, a nationally competitive cyclist and an Olympic hopeful, was killed by a motorist during training in Altamont, N.C. The 19-year-old driver fell asleep, lost control of his vehicle and struck her.

She and hundreds of other cyclists were honored Wednesday across the country in the Rides of Silence, which are meant to raise awareness of cycling safety and to urge motorists to “share the road.”

“It is really sad that motorists just don’t care. I think some of them do, but they are just so busy. … They just need to slow down, breathe a little bit and put the damn phone down,” Chris Baab said. He has been cycling for 36 years and said he himself has been hit.

Fort Worth’s 9.5-mile ride, which started in Trinity Park, was organized by local cyclist Scott Strom, who met Chris and Megan Baab when he was learning how to ride himself.

Megan Baab “was just having so much fun out there riding and you could tell that as a racer she could have left us all behind,” Strom said. “She was a much better rider. But she was a team player with all the beginners.”

The riders stayed silent, in honor of the lives lost, with only the clicking of pedals and the spinning of wheels audible as they left Trinity Park.

Right to the road

Cycling fatalities in 2012 totaled 552, according to a report released Wednesday by the League of American Bicyclists. Of the riders, 40 percent were rear-ended, 10 percent were T-boned and 8 percent were hit head-on. Only 2 percent of deaths resulted from a cyclist’s failure to yield the right of way.

By state law, cyclists have the same rights and rules on the roadway as cars, which means that they travel in the same direction, do not have to use the sidewalk and are required to have a white headlight at night. They must also have working brakes, cannot make passage of traffic unreasonably inconvenient, must signal turns and cannot ride three abreast.

Baab said it is just as important for motorists to watch out for cyclists as it is for cyclists to follow the rules to be safe and not make motorists angry.

“If you want to cycle, be responsible. You aren’t just responsible for yourself, but you are responsible for other cyclists down the road,” he said.

Fort Worth is quickly becoming one of the better places to cycle, he said.

Mayor Betsy Price, an avid cyclist, has been hosting Rolling Town Halls for residents to come out, cycle and chat with the mayor. Though she has never been hit, Price said she has “come mighty close.”

“We have lost far too many cyclists and people need to realize cycling is another mode of transportation and cyclists have a right to be on the road,” she said.

Safe passing ordinance

Fort Worth does have a safe passing ordinance, which requires motor vehicles to give 3 feet of passing space for cyclists and pedestrians, and it requires 6 feet of space for commercial trucks passing cyclists and pedestrians. Children under 18 are also required to wear a helmet.

“That would be the No. 1 safety thing we have is to provide that legal requirement for motorists to pass safely,” said Julia McCleeary, a senior planner in the planning and development department .

She said the city also provides signage for safety, such as “Share the Road” signs and those that remind motorists that cyclists can use the road.

“That is just a notice to motorists that a bike could be occupying the same lane and it also gives cyclists some confidence that motorists are aware,” McCleeary said.

The city has also dedicated $1.26 million to bike infrastructure in the 2014 bond program and has re-striped arterials such as Forest Park Boulevard to provide bike lanes.

The Bike Fort Worth plan, approved by the council in 2010, calls for about 1,000 miles of both off-street and on-street bike trails, but McCleeary said it will probably take 20-30 years to meet that goal.

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