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Procession aims to show how bikes, cars can co-exist

WSBT South Bend: Procession aims to show how bikes, cars can co-exist

JOSEPH DITS
South Bend Tribune
April 27, 2012

SOUTH BEND — Bicyclist Steven Carey’s death on Feb. 19 sparked advocates to create a procession that will usher cars and bikes — together and without police escort — down Indiana 23 at just 10 mph Wednesday.

This won’t be a memorial, they say.

But it will pass the site near the Indiana Toll Road overpass where Carey was riding his bike, wearing a helmet and riding with the flow of traffic, when a car struck him from behind. He died of head injuries.

Yatish Joshi said the point of this event is to urge cyclists, motorists and pedestrians to co-exist safely. And to be more aware of each other on the roads.

He doesn’t want the safety issue to pass with the news cycle for one fatality.

“We have to make sure that five minutes of news is a lifetime of news,” said Joshi, co-founder of the local Bike the Bend ride, who is spearheading the procession.

“To make a change,” added Glenda LaMont, Bike the Bend’s co-founder.

“We want to demonstrate sharing the road,” she said of the procession, titled “Share the Road … Every Life Counts.”

They welcome the public to join. From the opposite end of the procession, people on foot, wheelchair and stroller will follow sidewalks until the two groups meet at the County-City Building in downtown for a 7 p.m. press conference with public officials.

The walkers, strollers and wheelchairs will start gathering at Howard Park at 5:30 p.m., then depart at about 6:30 p.m. Organizers ask them to wear bright clothing, to not block traffic, to yield to others who aren’t in the procession and to obey all traffic signs.

Cyclists and motorists will start gathering at 5 p.m. in the parking lot of the University Commons Medical Plaza, the former Kroger store on Indiana 23 across from University Park Mall. They’ll depart at 6 p.m.

Police won’t provide an escort or block off streets.

“They (organizers) know what the laws are, and they’ve demonstrated that,” said South Bend Police Capt. Robert Hammer, who notes that similar processions have been held in other parts of the country. “As long as they follow the laws, they have just as much right to be out there.”

The cyclists and motorists in the procession will have to negotiate some tense and tricky spots. Hammer said this give-and-take exercise will be no different than any other day, except that there will be a lot more riders.

On Indiana 23, which is a four-laner, the procession will stick to the right lane. There will be cars and motorcycles at the front and back of the procession, Joshi said. Groups of bicyclists will ride two abreast, interspersed with cars in front and back of them, he said. Where there’s room, bicyclists will ride beside the cars.

After Indiana 23 crosses Edison Road, the cyclists will have to make their way to the left lane so that they can turn left onto Twyckenham Drive.

From there on, the cyclists will ride single-file in the bike lanes that take them into downtown, and motorists will ride beside them.

All parts of the procession will stop at stop signs and stop lights, Joshi said.

He said they deliberately chose a weekday evening when the after-work car traffic is busy, feeling that people should be able to walk or bike “any time of the day.” It also would allow more people to partake.

Many cyclists, including LaMont, say they normally avoid riding bikes on Indiana 23. Ripe with fast traffic, it has wide lanes but no shoulder, except for a sidewalk up on a curb. But LaMont said that “the only reason” it was chosen for this event was because it was the site of Carey’s accident.

“The question now is how do we minimize the accidents,” Joshi said, noting that the area has several bike-interest groups who will join the procession. “It’s only going to happen if we work together as a community. … We are not blaming anybody. Accidents happen.”

LaMont said safety will follow if every user of the roads and roadsides — from cyclists to joggers to motorists — respect each other. She urges all of them to dial down attitudes like, “I belong to be here and you don’t.”

“Put yourself in the other person’s shoes,” she said.

“We know that we’re not going to change everyone’s mind with one procession, but people will look at this and say, ‘Oh, there’s people in wheelchairs,’” she said.

LaMont recalls an accident four years ago in which a man in a wheelchair was killed when a pickup truck hit him as he crossed LaSalle Avenue at Hill Street. The man in the wheelchair, Keith Coros, had the go-ahead from a walk signal, and the truck’s driver was turning right with a green light, The Tribune had reported.

“By coming out in numbers we want people to see the majority of the community does believe in sharing the road,” LaMont said.