Cycling allows one to experience new adventures, freedom, speed, exploration of new places, shared experiences with others and achieving personal challenges.
Unfortunately, sharing the road with cars has become more stressful and dangerous for cyclists especially in the past 15 years due to cell phone use, and more and more it seems drivers are distracted and in a hurry. In addition, since the pandemic started, it also seems that some drivers are just bored and want to go fast on wide-open roads.
I have been fortunate to live in Claremont where we have access to some great road riding in the local mountains and also easy access to dirt trails that can be easily accessed by riding North on Mills Ave. Mills Ave. is a nice wide street with a bike lane in both north and south directions. On paper, it seems like a perfect and safe road to ride on for cyclists and technically it should be.
Sadly in the last two years, we have lost two cyclists, Leslie Pray and Terri Wolfe Ingalls, who were both riding North on Mills Ave where they were both killed by reckless drivers that had no regard for someone else’s life.
On November 3, 2018, Sandra Wicksted of Claremont, intentionally hit fellow cyclist Leslie Pray as she was riding northbound in the bike lane enjoying a nice weekend ride. Wicksted who was driving southbound drove across several lanes straight into the northbound bike lane. Wiksted also tried to run over two other cyclists before hitting and killing Leslie Pray.
Two years later, on November 10, 2020, it was announced that Wicksted entered her plea to one count each of voluntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon, and two counts of attempted murder and was sentenced to 16 years in state prison.
With the sentencing of Wicksted finalized it felt like there was finally some justice for Leslie Pray.
Sadly, just a few days later from Wikstead’s sentencing, Terri Wolfe Ingalls was hit by a car that lost control while she was riding north on Mills Ave. just a few blocks away from her home.
According to the Claremont Courier, “Cheryl Becker, 38, of Claremont was driving south on Mills. Ms. Becker reportedly tried to overtake another car and lost control of her vehicle, which skidded across the street, striking Ms. Ingalls, according to Claremont Police Sergeant Robert Ewing. Speeding may also have been a factor, but the incident remains under investigation.”
I have been riding Mills Ave. several times a week for the past thirty years and for the most part have felt really safe, but these two senseless acts of recklessness have left a hole in our hearts as we mourn the loss of our fellow cyclists.
A Ghost Bike Memorial for Terri Wolfe Ingalls
In December, our cycling community also suffered a massive loss in December when a driver in a box truck hit a group of cyclists as they rode south on Highway US 95 south of Las Vegas, killing five cyclists and injuring 4 cyclists. After an investigation of the crash, by NHP, the driver Jordan Barson who is from Arizona was charged with a DUI and found to have methamphetamine in his system.
Tragically, far too many cyclists’ lives have been lost or have been seriously injured due to being hit by a car each year.
The American Safety Council has stated:
Healthy has become trendy and now bicycles are hitting the roads as people make a more economic commute. With this influx, a new element has been adding to driving safely, and both cyclists and drivers must work together to keep the road safe.
On average, 19,000 cyclists are injured and 100 die while on the road each year. Reducing this statistic can happen through safer driver and following these safety tips.
Motorists have a responsibility to share the road with bicycles while driving. Driver should note the vulnerability of cyclists and remember how fatal a collision with a cyclist can be. While many drivers wish cyclists would use the sidewalk, that is, in fact, prohibited by the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) unless the cyclist is under the age of 10. Remember that the driver is not entitled to the road: cyclists have as much of a right to the road as a vehicle.
For cyclists, we must ride safely, defensively and try to anticipate what a driver may unexpectantly do, in addition to knowing and obeying the traffic laws.
With more people discovering the joys of cycling, especially in the past year during the pandemic, it is our New Years’ hope that drivers and cyclists can share the road safely which will help save cyclists and pedestrians’ lives. Stay Safe!
By Christy Nicholson, SoCalCycling.com