My fiancé, Pam Lane, was killed Oct. 3, last year near downtown Chapel Hill while riding her bike. She was wearing a helmet and obeying all traffic laws. Her birthday this year would have been on June 5.
At 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 20, local bike riders will participate in a Ride of Silence to honor cyclists, like Pam, who’ve been killed or injured while biking on public right of ways. The procession of silence is only five miles long and begins in Durham at RTP headquarters, 12 Davis Drive. I hope it will be well attended.
Our hearts go out to the other families that have also suffered tragedy in the several local cycling deaths and injuries that have occurred in the past year in Durham and Chapel Hill. To those that have shared recent tragedy, we may not know you to even say “hi,” but through our mutual empathy we feel very deeply for you.
Pam was struck by a car leaving a gas station. She was struck on the sidewalk that is part of the Bolin Creek bike trail in Chapel Hill, which some readers may know. The end of that trail leads cyclists about 70 yards down the sidewalk to a stoplight where the cyclists can cross the street. It was on this sidewalk, which crossed the driveway exit of a gas station where Pam was struck and killed.
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Pam was a cyclist with 30-plus years of riding experience. She owned six bikes for different forms of cycling. It was part of her everyday world. As an experienced cyclist, she was exceptionally careful about riding safely. I point this out for the obvious reason: you can never be too concerned about bike safety.
But I want to share with readers a shocking unfairness that Pam’s family and I experienced in the wake of our tragedy. We have heard similar stories from other families who’ve experienced a comparable loss.
I am not a cyclist, but I am here to advise all of you cyclists that you have a serious political problem.
That problem is that there is a real and innate prejudice against cyclists within the public authority structure – starting with the police through to the news reporting services. I have learned these entities hold very, very little value in cyclist-safety rights. Frankly, the police and the press initially assume that cycling accidents are caused by the actions of the cyclist. This tainted view, left unchanged, will undermine any improvements in bike safety sought by the public.
Pam’s death introduced me to police officers who, within minutes of the accident, expressed their obvious prejudice toward cyclists and their biased belief that cyclists were at fault in car/bicycle collisions. Shortly after learning of Pam’s fate, a police officer inaccurately lectured me about the law in this case. In this tragedy their lack of cooperation, lack of accurate information and lack of investigation was shocking. In turn, the information they released to news services was inaccurate and biased.
As a non-cyclist I’ve been rudely baptized by this tragedy in the cycling world. I advise bike activists to fight to change the legal system’s biased perception of cyclists. Other cyclists and family members who’ve experienced injuries or deaths in the public right of way while biking legally need to share their stories, as I’ve shared mine.
Right now I can tell you, the system is fixed against you and any change. Sadly, cyclists are NOBODIES to the authorities and the press.
Tim Flynn lives in Chapel Hill.