A week ago Friday, cyclist Gail Kline of Salina was struck from behind and killed by a hit-and-run driver while riding. The driver, who was later found, left her to die beside the road.
Her tragic and untimely death bring into focus the delicate balance between bicycle riders and motor vehicle operators maintain on the miles of roads that criss-cross the state. The Salina Journal ran a surprisingly insensitive and obtuse editorial saying this accident was a good time to warn cyclists to stay off the roads during harvest, lest they be mowed over by farm machinery. After all, the editorial noted, these riders aren’t training for the Olympics and should cede the pavement to their motorized counterparts.
First, Kline’s death had nothing to do with farm implements. Second, global competition or not, we all have to learn to share.
Sure, this is a time of year when many rural roads see more, and heavier, traffic. And, sure, those who opt to pedal their way around the countryside must be extra vigilant. It doesn’t take an engineer to predict the outcome of a 20-pound road bike colliding a multi-ton John Deere.
However, cyclists live and work in these areas just like everyone else. They most likely also own cars or trucks and drive occasionally. They pay taxes to help maintain those endless ribbons of asphalt.
They may not be headed to Rio in 2016 for the Summer Games, but they are cranking away to train from some local race, stay in shape, shed those winter pounds or stave off the affects of diseases like diabetes or cancer. They all have their own reasons for riding.
They have just as much of a right to the roadways as anyone else, even though they have fewer wheels and don’t have a throttle.
On Friday morning, the Barton County Health Department, Barton County Sheriff’s Office, Great Bend Police Department and the Barton County Landfill teamed up to sponsor the sixth-annual Bicycle Safety Rodeo. Free bikes and bike helmets were distributed, along with advise on how to stay safe.
These kids, ages 5-14, were excited about riding their new machines. They were actually excited about getting outside and being active instead of holing up in a basement playing video games.
Perhaps, some of these youngsters may find a passion for cycling and wind up in the Olympics or at the Tour de France. Who knows.
It is unconscionable to blame a cyclist for incidents such as the sad crash that ended Kline’s life. Instead, we should learn from it and continue such events as the rodeo to foster a better understanding between motorists and those who want to use pedal power instead of gasoline.
There are plenty of roads and miles to go around, regardless of the month.