A January 13, 2015, collision on Bridge Road in Suffolk, Virginia (VA), left a bicyclist struggling to survive. The near-fatal accident occurred at around 7 am near an on-ramp to I-664. News reports did not present details regarding the nature of the bike rider's injures, but traumatic brain injuries, broken bones and skull fractures often result when a car or truck crashes into a bicycle.
Police could not immediately determine the cause of the crash that critically injured the biker. Possible explanations include speeding, passing unsafely or following too closely -- each of which puts bicyclists at risk on roads like the rural highway in Western Tidewater that lack bike lanes and wide, paved shoulders. Even though the speed limit on Bridge Road exceeds the 35 mph generally considered safe for bicycles, the road is open to bike riders because it is not an interstate or tollway.
Virginia has been slow to take steps to make biking to work or for exercise safer. Jeff McWaters, a state senator representing part of Virginia Beach, has called for laws to increase the distances drivers must permit when passing bikes and raising the penalties for tailgating bike riders. He has not secured passage of those legislative proposals, but strategic traffic safety plans for the commonwealth and several Virginia cities include provisions for bike lanes.
Until better laws and road improvements arrive, drivers and bicyclists must rely on each other to share the road safely. People behind the wheels of cars and trucks, in particular, must watch for bikers and treat two-wheelers as they would any other vehicle -- particularly motorcycles -- yielding right of way when warranted, not passing aggressively and leaving adequate distance.