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Cyclist seeks respect

The Press-Enterprise: Cyclist seeks respect

Safety official injured in bicycle accident works to make riding safer

10:00 PM PST on Friday, January 22, 2010
By LAURIE LUCAS

Eric Lewis calls it "a little tale of irony."

He’s a traffic safety engineer in Moreno Valley where he works, and a volunteer on the bicycle advisory committee in Riverside where he lives.

Last month he learned the dangers firsthand of car vs. bike.

Drivers "don’t realize the frailty of a 14-pound bike" versus the weight of a heavy car, says Eric Lewis.

Three days before Christmas, a motorist suddenly braked in front of him at the bottom of a steep hill. Lewis tumbled into the gutter, breaking several bones, bruising his hip and gashing his head.

Although a longtime champion of cars and cyclists sharing the road, Lewis has since turned up the volume of that message.

"I’m trying to spin it in a positive light," said Lewis, 44. "The emergency responders were outstanding and the helmet saved my life."

Lewis, a serious biker for more than 30 years, pedals a total of 14 miles to and from work most summer days.

On Sun. Dec. 22 while Lewis sailed down Canyon Crest Drive in Riverside at 45 mph, a driver doing 50 mph "brushed by me, a couple of feet from my handle bars."

Lewis yelled something and made an offensive gesture, outbursts he said he now regrets. The motorist then swerved in front of Lewis and slammed on his brakes right after Country Club Drive at the foot of the hill.

Lewis grabbed his brakes, blew a tire, skidded and smacked the pavement. The driver stopped, but Lewis said no one called the police. He never did file a report.

"I should have," he said. "I want to prosecute that guy. But it happened so quickly."

As a result of a similar incident, a former Los Angeles emergency room doctor who deliberately braked so that two bicyclists rammed into his car in a road rage assault was sentenced earlier this month to five years in state prison.

When Lewis crashed, other drivers pulled over, called 911, and the paramedics showed up in less than a minute to whisk him to the hospital. Apparently, the driver said he hit the brakes to avoid a speeding ticket, Lewis said.

Lewis broke a rib and his shoulder blade, tore several muscles in his shoulder, suffered bruises, road rash on his back and a 2-inch gash on the back of his head where his helmet cracked, but protected him from trauma.

His $6,000 bike is fixed. Lewis returned to work earlier this month.

Lewis said he’s sick of motorists honking, throwing things and pulling in front of him when he’s cycling on the street. Mayor Ron Loveridge formed Riverside’s bike committee, which held its first meeting in September, in hopes of boosting ridership by developing more routes and making the sport safer.

"Drivers have to give bicyclists more respect on the road," Lewis said. "They don’t realize the frailty of a 14-pound bike up against a 14,000-pound car."