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As Cycling Deaths Increase, Riders Hope to Remind Everyone to Share the Road

May 15, 2019 10:37 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- It's the time of year and more and more bicyclists hit the roads for commuting and leisure, but each year, hundreds of those riders never make it home. With the number of cycling fatalities on the rise, dozens of Mason City bicyclists took part in the annual Ride of Silence to share a simple message: share the road.

Seventeen years ago, the first Ride of Silence took place in Dallas; three years later, Steve Schurtz organized the first ride in Mason City.

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"I've always been interested in bicycle safety advocacy," he said. "When I was working, I didn't have a lot of time to do that, but in retirement, I was able to spend a lot more time doing it."

This year's ride saw around 80 cyclists loop around the city Wednesday evening, including Mason City Police Chief Jeff Brinkley, himself an avid bicyclist.

In his day-to-day job, Brinkley has seen crashes in which drivers are at fault as well as those in which cyclists take the blame.

"The things we typically see are people -- drivers -- not being used to sharing the road with bikers," he said. "We actually had last year a couple of accidents where the cyclists were at fault for failing to yield coming onto roadways from alleys."

When those collisions do happen, they can have devastating results. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 783 bicyclists died due to crashes in 2017, a slight decrease from the year prior but part of an overall upward trend over the past decade. 

Many of those crashes are caused by both drivers and cyclists not knowing the rules of the road. The Ride of Silence hopes to change that.

Before heading out on two wheels, Brinkley said bikers of all ages should do a few things.

"Wear a helmet; if you're out at night, put some lights, headlights, tail lights, strobe, something so that you can be seen. Wear some kind of clothing that obviously might be reflective," he said.

Tragedy has already struck the Hawkeye State and impacted the Mason City biking community; on May 6, an 83-year-old Iowa City man with ties to northern Iowa was struck and killed on Old Highway 218 south of Iowa City.

"The woman who hit him said she couldn't change lanes and so she ran into him," Schurtz said.

The victim, David Schuldt, was formerly a Methodist minister, Schurtz said. Up until a year ago, his daughter lived in Mason City.

When it comes to preventing further tragedies, both Chief Brinkley and Schurtz said safety is a two-way street.

"Just remember to share the road. That's the simplest message that I can give," Schurtz said.

More than 300 communities across 47 states and multiple countries took part in this year's Ride of Silence.

NHTSA has more information about bicycle safety and safe driving around bicycles on its website

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